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Practice Notebook: Bruins Building on the Positives as they Prep for 2 vs. Penguins

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTON — The Bruins may have dropped a point to Edmonton on Monday night at TD Garden, but by no means was Head Coach Claude Julien disappointed in their effort.

Sometimes, he said, games like that — games where your team controls possession, gets tons of chances, seizes the momentum late but still falls in the end — happen. It is that simple.

“You can’t ask players for much more in those kind of games,” Julien said following Tuesday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “We had lots of chances; they didn’t get many, but they scored, and it’s just some of those games that happens once in a while, where you’ve got a good goaltender at one end, and every little break they got, they made the most of it.

“So we’ve just got to kind of move on here and focus on the next game because not disappointed with our effort last night.”

Boston certainly didn’t make life easy for Oilers netminder Cam Talbot, starting for the first time since Nov. 27. The Bruins fired 49 shots on net in three periods plus 34 seconds of overtime, and he thwarted all but two of them.

There were still plenty of positives for the Bruins to derive from Monday’s effort. For one thing, there was just that — the effort — which was certainly not lacking. The B’s admitted they could have done a better job getting to loose pucks in front of the net, but other than that, they created plenty of opportunities for themselves consistently over the course of 60 minutes.

“I think last night, we didn’t get the rebounds or the loose pucks, and a lot of shots from the outside there a few times, too,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “So we got a lot of good looks, but I think it’s about bearing down when we do have chances.

“I think tomorrow’s [game] is the same recipe — if we have as many shots, hopefully, we can finish a lot more.”

Just as they did two weeks ago when they faced Edmonton for the first time this season, the Bruins once again pulled out their now-trademark resilience. They fought and fought, they didn’t get discouraged and they finally struck for the game-tying goal with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.

The equalizer came off the stick of Brad Marchand, on his ninth shot of the game.

“Obviously, we’ve came back in a few games here as of late, and I don’t think that was happening at the start of the year,” said forward Brett Connolly. “We were having those good starts, but we weren’t playing a full 60, and now it’s kind of changed a little bit. But I think for the most part, we played a pretty solid game last game. Just a couple goals against early hurts, but for the most part, we played a pretty good game.”

Those two first-period goals were ultimately what sunk the Bruins. They put themselves in a 2-0 hole by the 14th minute of play, and they spent the rest of the game fighting to get those two goals back.

Eventually, they succeeded. But it took a lot out of them.

“It’s hard to fight back like that, especially against a hot goalie,” said forward Matt Beleskey. “But I think if we play the same way we played in the second and third of that game, I think we’ll be doing pretty well.”

The Bruins refused to succumb to any frustration down the stretch on Monday night. They kept firing away, even as the clock ticked down. They were calm, and they were confident that as long as they kept doing the same things — as long as they kept being relentless — they would be rewarded.

That is precisely the approach they know they must continue to take moving forward, particularly as the playoff race heats up later in the season.

“It just shows you if you keep shooting the puck, keep going to the net,” Beleskey said, “eventually, it’ll get in there.”

On to Pittsburgh

Until Friday, the Bruins’ sole focus will be on one team: the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Boston will face the Pens twice in the next three days, once at TD Garden and once at the Consol Energy Center.

It is second time this season the Bruins will embark on a home-and-home, having beaten Toronto twice in three days in November.

“I think this is the first year I’ve seen that, where you have a back-to-back against the same team, but it’s one of those where it’s huge points,” Bergeron said. “When you play the same team twice, especially a team like Pittsburgh that’s close to us [in the standings], you want to make sure you keep pushing them back, and playing two games in a row, it’s a big four points.”

The Bruins, with 36 points, are currently in position of the first wild card spot in the East, one point behind Ottawa and two behind Detroit. The Penguins, meanwhile, are lingering three points below Boston, in ninth place in the conference.

Both teams can make major progress with four points in this brief series. But it won’t be easy for the Bruins against an offense stacked with some of the most explosive players in the game.

“Obviously, they’re a big time, explosive offensive team, and that’s something where you’ve got to play a good, tight defensive game,” Beleskey said. “Don’t give them any space in the neutral zone and kind of be all over them.”

The Penguins are likely to have some extra motivation, too, as a result of the fact that they are playing under a new head coach as of Saturday. Following a slow start to the season, the Penguins fired Mike Johnston and replaced him with Mike Sullivan, who coached the Bruins from 2003-06 and has been at the helm of Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre.

“A lot of the guys will be proving themselves,” Connolly said. “Whenever you get a new coach, you want to play well early when he gets there. So they’ll be playing hard, and playing for some trust in their new coach, and we’ve got to be ready.”

In the only game they have played thus far under Sullivan, the Penguins fell 4-1 to the Capitals. But that, Julien said, was a result of Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby’s strong play in net more than anything else.

“I think, again, this is a team that, I guess right now, they feel they’ve underachieved,” Julien said. “What I saw last night is probably the clearest I can give you as far as giving you some indication as to what they’re all about: I thought they competed hard. I think under their new coach, they had a chance to win last night. Even though the score doesn’t indicate that, they had some great chances. I think Washington’s goaltender looked like Edmonton’s goaltender last night. Washington probably deprived them from a better outcome.

“But there’s potential there, and you hope that potential doesn’t start coming through against us, but there’s potential there to be a very dangerous team.”

Bergeron has some pretty fond memories of Sullivan, the coach who gave him his first NHL shot in 2003.

“I’m really happy or him; [I had] a great experience with him,” Bergeron said. “He’s the one that gave me my chance, and as a rookie coming in — a second-round pick — a lot of coaches could have just sent me back to junior and not even gave me a shot. He gave me some exhibition games to prove myself, and I’ll always be thankful for that.

“So I think he’s a great coach, and it’s well-deserved. I think it’s taken a long time for him, but at the same time, he’s got some experience over the years, and that probably makes him a better coach now.”

Bergeron said Sullivan is the kind of coach who expects the best from every player during every practice and every game. He knows Sullivan will evoke that from a Penguins roster stacked with dangerous players — regardless of the fact that Pittsburgh currently ranks 27th in the league in goals per game.

“Obviously, you need to be aware that they have that lethal offense,” Bergeron said. “Maybe they didn’t get the puck luck this year so far, but they definitely have the players to have that, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

Beleskey Finding His Groove

When Julien evaluates Matt Beleskey, he doesn’t necessarily look at the numbers — or the goals, at least.

He looks at the effort — the compete level — on the ice, night in and night out. And what he has seen thus far in Boston’s premiere offseason acquisition has very much impressed him.

“I think that’s what we’ve known him to be, even last year and the years before — he’s a hard-working guy,” Julien said. “Some guys have natural talent, and they can score goals and not even have to do much during the game. You don’t see them at all, and at the end of the night, they’re on the scoresheet. A guy like [Beleskey] just competes hard all the time and works hard to get his goals, but at the same time, he’s guy that you know what you’re going to get from him, game in, game out, and that’s a good effort.”

Julien is confident that the goals will come for Beleskey. He creates chances for himself every game. Lately, he’s been capitalizing on some of them — like on Monday night, when he drove the net and deflected a puck into the net from behind the goal line to cut Edmonton’s lead in half.

After the game, Beleskey lamented the fact that not one of his four goals this season has come off his own stick. But he knows if he keeps working as hard as he is, they will, eventually.

And until then, he’s happy to be making an impact.

“I got a bounce last night, which was nice,” he said. “But offensive chances are coming, the shots are coming, and I feel like a roll, hopefully, is coming.”

For the bulk of his 27 games thus far, Beleskey has played with David Krejci, and slowly but surely, the chemistry is developing. That, Beleskey said, should help his offense more than anything.

“I’m starting to figure out when he knows where I am, and I’ve just got to stay in that open area and he’s going to find me with that puck,” Beleskey said. “I think playing together for a while now is starting to pay off.

“I’m just trying to get open for Krech, especially in the offensive zone — high slot — and just moving my feet on the forecheck to create some space, and when I get that puck, move my feet off the cycle and get those pucks to the net.”

Maintenance Day for Rinaldo

The only player missing from Tuesday’s practice was forward Zac Rinaldo, who took a maintenance day, per Julien.

Rinaldo played just under nine minutes against the Oilers on Monday night and had five hits plus a fighting major, as he dropped the gloves with Edmonton’s Matt Hendricks in the first period.

For the second day, forward David Pastrnak — still recovering from a fractured foot sustained in late October — practiced with the team. He skated in a red sweater in Rinaldo’s place.

Tuesday’s Practice Lineup

White Jerseys: Matt Beleskey, David Krejci, Loui Eriksson

Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Brett Connolly

Gray Jerseys: Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes

Red Jerseys: David Pastrnak, Max Talbot, Landon Ferraro, Tyler Randell


Zdeno CharaAdam McQuaid

Dennis SeidenbergColin Miller

Torey KrugKevan Miller

Joe MorrowZach Trotman

Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson

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