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Practice Notebook: Bruins Looking to Build on Good Habits as Homestand Continues

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BOSTON — Everything about Boston’s performance against the Red Wings on Saturday night revolved around one mantra: Keep it simple.

In the offensive zone, with and without the puck, shorthanded and with the man advantage, the Bruins were focused on doing the little things right, and it paid off. But the area in which it paid off the most was defensively.

“I thought defensively, we were doing a good job throughout the game,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien following Monday morning’s practice at TD Garden. “And we had to be a little bit better in the third [period] because of how hard [Detroit] pushed back, but no doubt, defensively can also be the neutral zone, and I thought we did a better job in the neutral zone minimizing their speed and their space that they like to have. Obviously, in the zone, we kept them on the outside for the most part.”

There have been plenty of instances this season in which the Bruins have been good in chunks but then have let up somewhere along the way. Particularly at home, the Bruins were quick to discover that was no way to win a hockey game.

Although the B’s had one or two momentary lapses against Detroit, they nipped any problems in the bud. That’s how they seized the W.

“I think we played a solid 60 minutes, and everyone was doing the little details we talked about before the game,” said forward David Krejci, who scored what proved to be the game-winning goal on Saturday. “[We] played good defensively and got a few breaks, a few goals, and I guess we learned how to play with the lead and got the job done.”

No, Boston wasn’t perfect on Saturday night. They did allow one goal on the penalty kill, and there were moments — a few of them — when they relied upon goaltender Tuukka Rask to come up with a big save.

But the Bruins were better defensively on Saturday, much better, and they needed to be in order to pad their home record.

“It’s not just the Ds in the back; it’s also the forwards skating their routes, especially on the forecheck, in the neutral zone, preventing their guys from entering the zone with a lot of speed,” said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. “So all that stuff plays a huge role in us being able to break out the puck or retrieve the puck, being first to pucks — and on Saturday, for the most part, we did a pretty good job of that.”

Inconsistency has plagued the Bruins a bit this season. Coming off a strong defensive performance, it will be up to them to prove they can submit that night in and night out, starting with their next game on Tuesday night at the Garden.

“I know it’s early in the season,” Krejci said, “but it kind of seems like a lot of up and down. We played a good game last game, but we have to show that we can do it more than just once.”

Sharks Up Next

The Bruins don’t see the Sharks very often, but they will have to be prepared nonetheless when San Jose pays its first and only visit of the year to Boston on Tuesday night.

Most of their preparation, however, will be focused on their own play — their own game, their own foundation — as they get ready.

“We just kind of worry about ourselves here,” Krejci said. “We’re going to watch some videos, but most importantly, focus on ourselves and play our game plan.”

There are plenty of familiar faces on the Sharks — particularly former Bruins first-round pick Joe Thornton — and Boston is well aware of his capabilities offensively. The Sharks got off to a good start in 2015-16, and though they have cooled off of late, their speed can still cause problems for teams that give them too much time and space.

That being said, the Bruins’ first priority on Tuesday will be ensuring that they carry over the same perspective that led to success on Saturday.

“I think the mental mindset we had — just being focused and doing the little things right, being smart in the neutral zone and just being smart positionally — I think that’s the most important part against a team that’s very smart, skilled and can score goals,” Seidenberg said.

If they do those things, the Bruins are confident that they will be able to continue making TD Garden a difficult place for opponents to play.

“Obviously [we want to] build on that win,” Krejci said. “We played a solid 60 minutes and we have to do it again [Tuesday] if we want to win.”

Milestone Approaching for Seidenberg

A mere two games into his 2015-16 season, Seidenberg is approaching a significant career milestone.

His next game will mark his 700th career NHL contest.

“It’s a nice feeling,” Seidenberg said. “Getting to play 700 games in the NHL — longevity-wise, there were some bad injuries, but I think for the most part, it’s been pretty good hockey.”

The 700th game is no easy milestone for any player to reach, and it certainly hasn’t been an easy road for Seidenberg, who missed half of the 2013-14 season with a torn ACL and MCL and who missed the first seven weeks of this season with a herniated disc in his back.

Two games into this season, the 34-year-old defenseman is beginning to feel like his old self. He has gotten that first big hit out of the way, he has seen his minutes increase from his first game to his second, and despite being unable to participate in training camp, he is feeling nearly up to speed physically.

“I think it’s going to take more time to see him at his best,” Julien said, “but that’s not to say he hasn’t been good. I think a player who misses training camp and misses a month and a half of the season is not expected to come back and all of a sudden see him, after two games, being at his best, but his physical presence, his experience and all that, has helped our back end already.”

For Seidenberg, the difference he felt physically from his first game on Nov. 12 to his second on Saturday was significant. That improvement figures to continue as he moves forward into his ninth NHL season.

“He felt good [after the first game] — I talked to him the next day,” Julien said. “He felt OK, and that’s what you want to hear as a coach. But again, it’s a little more minutes, it’s about judging [him] game game-by-game and adjusting.

“But we’ve been cautious with him to start off. We’ve talked about it. It’s a big jump for him, having played his last game in April last year and having to jump in in the middle of November when teams have 15, 16 games under their belt.”

No matter how many minutes he is playing, Seidenberg said it sure beats watching the action from press level.

“It’s a good feeling to be back, and it’s definitely different [from] just skating on your own every day,” he said. “It’s a lot more fun to be back with the guys and being part of it.”

C. Miller Back at Practice

Colin Miller
was a welcome addition on the practice ice after he missed Friday’s session and Saturday’s game with an undisclosed lower body injury.

“He’s heading in the right direction, from what I’m told, and we’ll see [Tuesday] what the trainers have to tell me,” Julien said. “But today, he had no restrictions on doing whatever needed to be done.”

Zach Trotman replaced Miler in Saturday’s lineup, skating primarily on the top pairing with Zdeno Chara. During Monday’s practice, Miller skated with Joe Morrow, who was the healthy scratch on Saturday.

Miller indicated that he could play on Tuesday night, but ultimately, that decision will be up to the training staff and the coaching staff.

“Today felt good,” he said. “It was a good skate. It was good to get back out there with the guys. 

“I feel good. I feel fine. So we’ll see come [Tuesday] what happens.”

A healthy Miller leaves Julien with options as far as his lineup is concerned, but on Monday, he was not willing to speculate on whether there will be any changes, particularly following a strong performance by his defensive corps.

“I think it depends on circumstances,” Julien said. “If guys are playing well, that’s fine. If there’s guys that aren’t playing as well and you think a guy can come in and help, you’re going to make those decisions. I don’t think it’s necessarily a clear decision on my part.”

Monday’s Practice Lineup

Gold Jerseys: Matt Beleskey, Patrice Bergeron, Brett Connolly

White Jerseys: Frank Vatrano, David Krejci, Loui Eriksson

Gray Jerseys: Brad Marchand, Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes

Red Jerseys: Zac Rinaldo, Joonas Kemppainen, Tyler Randell

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Zach Trotman, Dennis Seidenberg, Kevan Miller, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Joe Morrow, Colin Miller

Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson

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