BOSTON - The Bruins have 19 games remaining in the regular season. With just over a month to go, it no doubt feels like the final push to the playoffs.
But the best approach they can take is to focus on the opponent in front of them.
The phrase "one game at a time" gets used all throughout the season, and it's true now, too.
"Keep it one game at a time," smiled Interim Head Coach Bruce Cassidy, when he was asked what the key was to keeping a 7-1-0 stretch rolling.
"We've had success doing it that way, and we're going to keep it that way."'
That one game for the Black & Gold on Thursday night is against the New York Rangers at TD Garden (7:00 p.m. EST - NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
"We've got our hands full - the Rangers are a good team and they have a tremendous road record," said Cassidy.
The Rangers are 21-8-0 on the road. No other team has 20 wins or above on the road this season. The Bruins haven't played them since Nov. 5, which ended up in a 5-2 loss at TD Garden. Boston also lost 5-2 in New York in October.
"They've played us well the first two games, so our focus, I don't think it can afford to be on anything else other than the Rangers," said Cassidy. "We got through the game the other night, a lot of teams go through it coming off the road, it worked out in our favor at the end, but we need a better 60-minute effort."
The Bruins pulled out a 4-1 win over Arizona on Tuesday night at TD Garden after a strong 3-1-0 out West. With the victory, they now sit in third place in the Atlantic Division. The Rangers are in the first Wild Card spot in the East.
"It's almost postseason feel already with how tight it is, you're playing for your life every night," said David Backes. "A missed opportunity to get two points at this time of year can be devastating to your opportunities to make the playoffs and with so many teams battling and such a tight knit group there, every night's going to be crucial."
"And when you're playing teams like the Rangers that are a great team, you need your best efforts, and we're able to take an optional skate this morning to save up every bit of energy that we have so we can win a game, and that's our focus, and then we'll move on to whatever's next on the schedule."
Video: Bruins pacing themselves as stretch run approaches
Stafford Set to Arrive in Boston
New Bruins forward Drew Stafford was set to fly into Boston on Thursday, after being acquired at the trade deadline from Winnipeg in exchange for a 2018 conditional sixth round draft pick.
Stafford will not play on Thursday, and will get in a good practice with the team on Friday before possibly suiting up on Saturday against New Jersey.
"We'll get a look at him [Friday] in practice," said Cassidy. "We know about him. He's a veteran player in the league, so a skilled guy, but he'll get his chance to play to his strengths. Right now, I don't want to get ahead of myself but assuming he's healthy, ready to go, those are things we'll find out and he'll probably be with us [on Friday] and obviously if he's available Saturday, then he'll most likely play."
"He's got size, he's a guy that scored goals in this league, he's experienced and can add offense and can still play a 200-foot game," said Cassidy. "We've got to talk to him first - he may be a guy who's comfortable on his off side, those are some things we've got to find out as well, and until we do, it's not fair to say where exactly he'll play but he's a skilled guy that can score goals and we'll find a spot for him."
Backes Helps Welcome Stafford
Backes and the Bruins were content to not see any departures from the team at the trade deadline.
"Yeah, no departures from the team, and we're adding a piece that I'm pretty familiar with being a Minnesota guy," Backes said of Stafford. "And he's excited to come here, after chatting with him a bit last night."
"Other than the fact that his wife is pretty pregnant with twins and expecting any day, so other than that little logistical hiccup, he's excited to join the crew," Backes smiled. "We're excited to have him and just another piece of the puzzle that will come in and bring all of his skills and talents to helps us win more games."
"We need to assimilate him into the group and from knowing his character, he'll fit in just fine. And again, another talented player that can produce offense and help us win games, and that's what we're all about, especially this time of year, with under 20 games to go to and in the playoff mix."
Video: Backes talks about relationship with Stafford
Projected Lineup vs. New York Rangers March 2
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Backes
Peter Cehlarik-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Frank Vatrano-Ryan Spooner-Jimmy Hayes
Matt Beleskey-Dominic Moore-Riley Nash
Zdeno Chara-Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller-Colin Miller
Starting Goalie: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Anton Khudobin
Scratches: Tim Schaller, John-Michael Liles, Joe Morrow, Drew Stafford