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No Matter What, Bruins Have Something to Play for on Saturday Night Against Bolts

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

TAMPA, Fla. - The Bruins and Lightning both have something to play for on Saturday night, when the puck drops on Game No. 82 of the season for both sides.

The Black and Gold's "something" just happens to have greater consequences.

With Pittsburgh dropping a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Friday night, the Bruins had three scenarios on Saturday that would put them into the postseason.

The first depends on Ottawa's Saturday afternoon game in Philadelphia (which was a 2-1 lead for Ottawa after the second period as these hands were typing at 2:20 p.m. ET). With an Ottawa loss in regulation, and a Bruins win in fashion on Saturday, they would clinch.

The other two scenarios depend on the Penguins, and their matchup against the Sabres in Buffalo on Saturday night (a 7:00 p.m. start, with Boston's game against Tampa Bay set for 7:30). Regardless of the outcome of the Ottawa game, the Bruins would clinch a playoff spot if: Pittsburgh loses in regulation and they win in any fashion, or if Pittsburgh loses in overtime or a shootout, and they win in regulation.

No matter the scenario, the Bruins have something to play for on Saturday night.

"We have to take that mentality into tonight that there's still a lot on the line," Milan Lucic said following the team's pregame skate at Amalie Arena. "And we need to win a hockey game in order to hopefully end up in the playoff picture."

"Obviously, some things have to happen and you know, not the situation we want to be in, but again, some good things can happen. We always have to do things the hard way, and here's one of these situations again."

"I think the biggest thing about last night’s results is that no matter what, you know you’re playing for something, and had that not been the case, then we would have relied on this afternoon, and maybe the outcome would have had no bearing on that situation," said Head Coach Claude Julien.

"So I think it’s great that we have that opportunity, and like I said, when we controlled our own destiny, it was great. Now, we don’t, but what we can control is our game tonight to give ourselves a chance."

While it would be naive to think that the Bruins won't be checking the score of the Ottawa game this afternoon, maybe when waking up from a pregame nap, they'll still maintaining their focus.

"Regardless of what happens this afternoon, we know come game time, we've got to play our best hockey and focus on ourselves, really," said Chris Kelly. "Obviously we need some outside help, but that's out of our control. All we can do is go out and play well tonight."

While the Bruins are hoping for the best, with their season on the line, the Lightning have their own reasons to get up for this game.

"We’re sitting at 49 wins, so it would be pretty cool to get 50," said Bolts Head Coach Jon Cooper. "Ultimately, as a staff, how are we going to best prepared to put our best foot forward in Game 1?"

"We can practice all we want, but this is our last game situation that can help us for that time, so we are trying to round out our game and be better today than we were yesterday and make sure we put ourselves in the best position to succeed in Game 1."

The Lightning's 49 wins this season is already a franchise-best mark. With a postseason berth already clinched, the Bolts are playing for the Atlantic Division title, which they could earn with a win over the Bruins, coupled with Montreal losing in regulation to Toronto on Saturday.

Steven Stamkos is also two points shy of 500 in his NHL career.

"There's some milestones on the line, I mean it would be nice to finish here with 50 wins, it would be nice to give ourselves a chance to win the division," said Stamkos. "We obviously don't know what's going to happen with Montreal tonight, but we win and they don't, it's ours."

"And obviously Boston's playing to get in and we want to measure ourselves against a team that is competing for their lives, just like how it's going to be come playoff time, so there's a lot at stake, and I think we realize that."

While Stamkos mentioned knocking out one of the East's perennial contenders in recent years out of the playoff picture would make teams a "little happier," the Bolts have their overarching reasons for wanted to put their best effort forward before the postseason.

"Am I sitting here saying, ‘Oh my God, we want to eliminate Boston’? That’s probably the least thought in our minds," said Cooper. "Whether we’re playing Boston or Toronto, this is Game 82 for us."

"I like where we’re sitting more than I like where Boston’s sitting, but I don’t think there’s a thought in our minds like we’re going to put our foot on Boston. That’s not it at all."

"We just want to play well, and that’s it. If we win the game, then we win the game," Cooper added. "Would we like to get some of these, I guess, statistical goals? Sure. That would be great. But ultimately, what’s putting us in the best position to put our best foot forward in Game 1?"

"We’re going to play hard and try and win the game. That’s what we’re going to try to do. I’m sure they’re going to do the same thing, so we’ll see what happens."

The Bruins are prepared for a physical, hard-fought matchup with the Lightning, as is always the case. The last time the two teams met in Tampa, the Bolts snapped a 10-game winless streak against Boston with a 5-3 win. Amalie Arena has been a tough building for visitors this season, with the Bolts owning a 31-8-1 record at home.

Boston has to find a way to come out hard, and never let up.

"We know that there’s no team that wants to do us a favor, and we know that they’re going to bring their best game," said Brad Marchand. "They played well at home the last game against us, and I’m sure that — we’re a good playoff team, I think we’re kind of built for that - and any team would be happy to knock us out."

"We know that we’re going to get their best game, and that means that we’re going to play even harder and make sure we lay our bodies on the line and sacrifice for the team."

"Probably no better team to play to get into that playoff style than a team like Boston because of the style that they play," said Stamkos. "So we've got to be ready, because if we're not, things could get out of hand if we're not ready to play."

No matter what happens at the end of the night, the Bruins have to put forth their best game of the season.

"You're playing for so much - these are the games that you want to enjoy," said Zdeno Chara. "And make sure you do whatever you can, and leave everything out there."

Projected Lineup April 11 vs. Lightning

The Bruins did not do line rushes in morning skate, and with the lines switched around at the end of the game in Sunrise, here's the best guess as to what they could like when the puck drops against Tampa. Daniel Paille was the only skater to stay on for extra time, indicating he'd be a healthy scratch, with either Gregory Campbell or Max Talbot slotting into the lineup.

Tuukka Rask is set to make his 70th appearance between the pipes, with Ben Bishop in goal for the Lightning.

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Krejci

Milan Lucic - Ryan Spooner - David Pastrnak

Loui Eriksson - Carl Soderberg - Reilly Smith

Chris Kelly - Gregory Campbell - Brett Connolly

Zdeno Chara - Adam McQuaid

Torey Krug - Dennis Seidenberg

Matt Bartkowski - Zach Trotman

Starter: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Niklas Svedberg

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