– The Bruins enjoyed a day off in sunny Florida on Friday, but were back on the ice Saturday at BB&T Center, in preparation for Sunday’s matchup with the Panthers.
Sunday begins a torrid stretch in the schedule; the Bruins will only have one more two-day stretch without a game - coming on March 28-29 - for the rest of the regular season, and will play 34 games in 63 days. Knowing that, the Black & Gold realized the importance of enjoying the last couple of days and getting some much-needed rest.
“I think that’s why yesterday was so nice,” said Milan Lucic of the the schedule picking up. “We kind of get that one day to relax before we get hit with a lot of games here. It’s been important for all of us to get our rest and make sure our nutrition is good and all that type of stuff.
“There will be days when we don’t get much rest and we’re going to be playing a game again. We’ve got to do everything in our power to stay on the same page, as far as our team game. The coaches and players have to work together to stay successful.”
Head Coach Claude Julien is prepared for the possibility that injuries and the need for rest, could mean he will have to do some lineup tweaking from time to time, over the final two months of the season.
“I would have to say that I’m more convinced than not, we’re going to have to use them out of necessity, more than just having to keep them fresh,” said Julien of maybe having to mix in the likes of Lane MacDermid, Jay Pandolfo, and Aaron Johnson at times. “We don’t want guys sitting around forever, but at the same time, the guys that they’d be replacing are playing well enough right now, that you just can’t pull them out.
“Certainly, we’ve got some good depth and we plan on using that depth.”
The Bruins will, essentially, play every second night for the remainder of the season, creating a situation very similar to the playoffs. As a result, Julien says practices will be more limited, just as they are during playoff time.
“Well, kind of,” Julien said, when asked if the upcoming schedule creates a playoff-type mentality. “Kind of, because even for a coach, how do you manage the practices and when to skate and when not to skate and everything else? Every second day, it’s just like a playoff series. There’s a lot of times where you didn’t practice between games, you just had the morning skate or vice versa. You’re probably going to see some of that stuff coming up, too.”
The Bruins know it is vital to bank as many points as they can now, with the games starting to come fast and furious.
“It’s very important to take the points when they’re there,” said Patrice Bergeron, following Saturday afternoon’s practice. “When you have days in between to rest, practice hard and make sure you’re ready for games and make sure you take advantage of that. Down the road, teams are going to get very tight, the standings will get even tighter. Every game is important.”
With points at a premium, the B’s won’t be overlooking the Panthers, despite the fact that Florida has lost six of seven, and is third from the bottom in the Eastern Conference.
“Well, I didn’t know they lost six of seven,” Tyler Seguin acknowledged. “But, obviously, this is big for us right now. Having a few days off, you want to take advantage of that and make sure you get the two points. It’s an important game.”
Julien pointed to the fact the Panthers’ have played well in recent games against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, as an example of why not to overlook what they bring to the table. The B’s bench boss also said that it’s important for his team to focus on their own play and not their opponent’s.
“They played strong against Pittsburgh, they had a real good game against Philly There still a good hockey club and they’ve got some good talent there,” Julien explained. “They’re a team that’s been kind of rebuilding. Right now, they’ve had their ups and downs and sometimes that’s the toughest thing for teams, coming in, you don’t know what to expect going in.
“When that’s the case, you’ve got to make sure you’re at your best and we’ve just got to keep playing a consistent type of game and try to keep getting ourselves better as we move on. As we talk, there’s still lots of room for improvement, but we’ve got to at least keep that consistency that’s been with us since the beginning of the year.”