Three games remain in the regular season, all at TD Garden. Win all three and they qualify for the postseason.
But for now, the Black & Gold are focusing on one game – not three. Tuesday night’s tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes is the only thing that matters.
“We’ve got a big week ahead of us,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said following Monday morning’s practice at TD Garden.
“All we’ve got to do is win our games and we’re in. Our focus has to be on that and that’s what we’re going to do this week – one game at a time.”
Despite a stretch in which the Bruins have dropped seven of nine games and fallen out of the playoff structure, they are remaining confident.
“It’s obviously not an ideal situation,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “But I don’t think anybody is giving up. We know what we’re playing for and we’ve got to be ready to go.
“We don’t look at it as three games, we look at it as tomorrow night is the biggest game for us.”
At this time of the year, with so much on the line, embracing the pressure – not succumbing to it – is crucial.
“It’s a good thing if there’s pressure,” said David Krejci. “That means you’re a good player, you’re a good team. It just depends how you’re going to take it. But for us, we’ve just got to go out there and play our game, just control things you can control. Just go out there and play our best.”
Playing their best includes believing in the game plan. In recent games, that has been a struggle, at least for a full 60 minutes.
“When a team wants to get itself back on track, which we have to do this week you’ve got to trust your game plan, your system; you’ve got to trust it, you’ve got to respect it and go and do it so that everybody is on the same page,” said Julien.
“That just minimizes breakdowns. I think that’s the focus that we have to have this week, trust our game plan and our system here and let’s execute it as best we can and the rest will take care of itself.
“We’ve got enough talent to score goals, we’ve got enough talent to defend. It’s just about making sure we minimize the mistakes.”
Tightening Things Up
Entering the weekend’s two-game road trip to St. Louis and Chicago, the Bruins had scored just 10 goals in their previous seven games. The Black & Gold matched that total in those two contests, potting six against St. Louis and four against Chicago.
At the same time, the Bruins allowed 11 goals. Tightening things up in their own end will be a focus entering Tuesday’s game against Carolina.
“That is good news,” Krejci said of the uptick in offensive production. “But at the same time, we have to clear up our little mistakes, our defensive game, especially in our D-zone.
“Sometimes we were everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Kind of worked on that a little bit today and hopefully we can keep the goals away from our net and keep scoring.”
It did not help that the Bruins were without veteran defensemen Dennis Seidenberg, who missed both weekend games, and Kevan Miller, who left Friday’s game against St. Louis and did not play Sunday against Chicago.
“It’s going to happen that you’re going to miss some guys due to injuries,” said Chara. “It’s a challenge for everybody, but at the same time we have to fill the spots and play in a system.
“We’ve given up some outnumbered situations, some scoring chances that they’re getting. We need to be tighter defensively. I think that’s key.”
A Strong Voice
Chris Kelly has not played since November 3. A fractured femur has kept him out of game action and only recently did he begin skating.
Despite not being a part of things on the ice, Kelly’s role as a veteran leader and alternate captain has not lessened.
He has tried to remain an outlet for his teammates, especially during the ups and downs of the last month.
“Maybe it’s nice to get an – I don’t want to say an outside voice, I like to think I’ve been part of the group all year long – but a guy maybe seeing things from a different perspective just to tell them that maybe things aren’t as bad or aren’t as good, whatever, just as words of encouragement to try and help where I can,” said Kelly, who skated with the team during Monday’s practice.
Julien, too, recognizes the value of Kelly’s presence in the dressing room.
“The players enjoy having him around,” said Julien. “He’s a good body to have around our room and on the ice. He’s intense, he’s focused – as we said when we lost him, he’s an important part of our core group. We’ve missed him.”
Seidenberg Practices; Miller, Connolly Miss
Seidenberg participated in practice, while Miller (he remains day to day, according to Julien) and Brett Connolly missed the session. Julien said Seidenberg’s status for Tuesday’s game against Carolina is still “unknown.”
“There’s no time I set of when I’m going to come back, so it’s really tough to say,” said Seidenberg. "I was moving my legs, doing what I had to do and then got off. But I was OK.”
Monday's Practice Combinations
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Loui Eriksson
Matt Beleskey - David Krejci/Chris Kelly - David Pastrnak
Frank Vatrano - Ryan Spooner - Lee Stempniak - Seth Griffith
Landon Ferraro - Noel Acciari - Jimmy Hayes - Tyler Randell
Zdeno Chara, John-Michael Liles, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman, Dennis Seidenberg
Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson