BOSTON - Fresh off a much needed three-day reprieve for the NHL All-Star Break, the Bruins returned to practice at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday afternoon, working to kick off the second half on a high note Tuesday night in Tampa Bay against the Lightning.
The Bruins have won both matchups against the Lightning this season by a combined score of 8-4.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Here is what you need to know:
The Bruins (25-21-6, 56 points) enjoyed a weekend off after a spirited 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden last Thursday night, their second win in a row.
After Monday's practice, Claude Julien and his players honed in on the need for consistency throughout their final 30 regular season contests.
"The goal and mindset is still the same," said Zdeno Chara. "We've got to keep working on things we need to work on and keep getting better and fight for every point the rest of the way."
This season's compact, unbalanced NHL schedule has seen the Bruins play 52 games in 106 days before the All-Star Break, tied for the most of any team along with the Flames and Jets.
Julien spoke about the challenges he has faced coaching with such a busy slate of games.
"I find this has been one of my toughest years, with the schedule," said Julien. "Every coach that I've talked to around the league, the word that comes out is consistency. Every team seems to be struggling with consistency. That seems to be the theme."
With only ten games in the upcoming month of February, the Bruins may be in a prime position to take advantage of the lighter schedule and put consistent points on the board before a hectic finish in March and April.
The Lightning (22-22-6, 50 points) have had an unfortunate run of bad injury luck this season, most notably losing captain Steven Stamkos until approximately mid-March with a meniscus tear in his right knee.
In addition to Stamkos, gritty forward Ryan Callahan and goaltender Ben Bishop have missed considerable amounts of time due to lower-body injuries. Though Bishop is now back playing, Callahan will miss Tuesday night's contest against the B's.
As Tampa Bay has found, games don't stop for injuries. With so many core pieces missing, the depth of the Lightning has been tested, resulting in many players stepping up.
Leading the offensive charge for the Lightning will be forward Nikita Kucherov, who has logged 44 points (19 goals and 25 assists) in 43 games. Kucherov, who is only 23 years old, leads the team in points.
Trailing Kucherov in the Lightning point department is superstar blue liner Victor Hedman, whose 38 points (seven goals and 31 assists) rank third in the NHL among defensemen.
Despite missing their power-play quarterback in Stamkos, the Lightning man advantage is still clicking at a rate of 22.8%, good for a tie for fourth in the league. Forwards Jonathan Drouin and Tyler Johnson have 15 and 14 power play points, respectively, figuring to try and take advantage of a lack of discipline by the Bruins.
The Lightning are 16th in scoring (2.68 goals per game) and 22nd in goals allowed (2.88 per game).
Wait, There's More
- Tuukka Rask and Brad Marchand did not practice with the team on Monday. They meet the team in Tampa Bay after their appearance at the NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles over the weekend.
- Brandon Carlo logged a full practice with the team after leaving Thursday's game with a lower-body injury. Carlo said he "felt good" and appears to be ready for Tuesday's contest against Tampa Bay.
- Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin was recalled from Providence over the weekend and traveled with the team to Tampa Bay. He went 6-3-1 for the P-Bruins with a 2.86 goals against average and .892 save percentage.
- Tuesday will mark the 92nd all-time meeting between the Bruins and the Lightning. The B's hold a 58-23-9-1 record against Tampa Bay, outscoring them 304-233.