Since ending their pre-break schedule with a disappointing 6-2 loss to Anaheim, Boston has earned five of a possible six points against Toronto and Buffalo. The B’s have moved into third place in the Atlantic Division and fifth place in the Eastern Conference, and they find themselves just a single point behind the third-place Rangers.
If they earn another two points against Los Angeles on Tuesday night at TD Garden, they could pull themselves back up to .500 at home before they head out on a season-long six-game road trip.
“We’ve gotten five out of six points after the break, so it would be nice to finish strong and get seven out of eight and go on the long road trip,” said forward David Krejci following Monday’s practice at TD Garden. “It’s going to be a big game for us. [The Kings] have a really good team. They’re big and strong. We have to bring our A game.”
The Bruins know that in the Kings, they will find a measuring stick of sorts. L.A. is in fourth place in a very strong Western Conference, and their tough, physical style of play will certainly present challenges for Boston.
“It will be a good challenge, for sure,” said defenseman Kevan Miller. “We’ve talked about it, and we need to make sure we bring our heavy game tomorrow.
“We’ve had heavy contests before with different teams, and we just need to make sure we do the same tomorrow.”
The last time the B’s engaged in one of these measuring-stick type games — in their final outing before Christmas at home against St. Louis — they were disappointed in the result, but not in the effort. Still, they went home for Christmas with a 2-0 loss hanging over their heads, and this time around, they want to make sure they get both the effort and the result — especially at home, where they have seen an uptick in their own play of late.
“It’s all about mentality right now,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “We have to continue our play and make sure we’re still taking steps in the right direction and continue to work on it. It’s always a work in progress — little baby steps — and tomorrow will be a great test for us.”
Facing the Kings will be challenging enough. But facing a Kings team that features former Bruin Milan Lucic will be an entirely different beast.
“If you want to use the term ‘big bad Bruins,’ he was the definition of that, and a rare breed,” said defenseman Adam McQuaid. “He’s a guy who can get 30 goals and still fight the toughest guys in the league. So there’s not too many guys like that. It’s a pretty rare combination.
“I’m sure he’ll get a nice ovation, given how much he was loved here in Boston, and it’ll be good to see him again.”
The fans won’t be the only ones happy to see Lucic, who spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career in Black & Gold. His former teammates and coaches are just as happy to see the bruising power forward return to Boston for the first time since being traded this past June.
“He’s been such a good player for us that’s been part of the success that we’ve had here in the past,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “He didn’t leave here on bad terms. He left here because of the situation, and he’s got a lot of friends in that dressing room, including us as a coaching staff, who always liked Milan.
“Tomorrow, during the game, as usual, you can’t look at him as one of those persons, I guess, more than he’s on the other side, and we need to play hard. We need to do what we have to do, against him and his team, but the off-ice respect is always going to be there. He was a pretty classy individual, when you look at what he did when he left. He enjoyed it here. Shortly after he was traded — and I mean shortly after — he reached out to me to thank me. He thanked the fans.
“So there was no animosity on his part, and there was none on our part either. So it will be nice to see him — Milan Lucic the person — and hopefully, by the end of it, we’re a happy team.”
Krejci spent the bulk of his Bruins career with Lucic on his left side, and life without him has perhaps been more of an adjustment for Krejci than for anyone else on Boston’s roster.
But the area in which Krejci misses Lucic most isn’t necessarily on the ice.
“He’s a good friend of mine — we stay in touch,” Krejci said. “[We] text each other a lot. Obviously, we like to support each others’ careers; if he’s doing well or I’m doing well, we’ll text each other. So it’ll be really good to see him. It’s been a long time, so looking forward to that.
“In the hockey world, you kind of get used to guys coming in and out, but you just kind of hope that the friendship stays. Obviously, I miss him on the ice, but I like the team we have. The most, honestly, is kind of having him around in the dressing room and hanging out off the ice.”
And if playing against his former linemate means taking a couple of hits on Tuesday night, so be it.
“It’s alright; he’s got to do what he’s got to do,” Krejci said. “I’m going to go out there and play him as hard as all the other guys on the ice.”
Lucic’s calling card has always been that he is tough to play against. He is aggressive, intense, physical, and he has certainly been known to throw his weight around on occasion.
But his former teammates aren’t scared of him. In fact, they embrace the challenge he will doubtlessly present.
“It will be fun to line up against him, and can’t wait to go into the corner with him,” Krug said with a smile. “I like going to battle. It’ll be fun. He has a big presence when he’s on the ice, and he does good things for his team, and we’ll see what he brings tomorrow. I’m sure he’ll be pretty excited to play, and we’ll be up to the task.”
On Sunday, the Bruins announced that Providence goaltender Malcolm Subban will be sidelined indefinitely with a fractured larynx, sustained during warmups prior to the P-Bruins’ game against Portland on Feb. 6.
Subban was struck in the throat with a puck and was transported to Maine Medical Center, where he remained overnight before being transported to Mass General Hospital on Sunday for further evaluation.
“He is in stable condition and will be sidelined indefinitely,” the Bruins announced in a statement on Sunday. “The team will provide additional details when they become available.”
Following Monday’s practice, Julien did not have any new information regarding Subban’s condition, particularly with regards to the immediate future.
“From what I’m told, he’s out indefinitely, so I don’t know whether that means they’ll find out later,” Julien said. “I think he got transported to MGH there [Sunday], so they were going to get, I think, the specialist to look at him. So that’s what we’re waiting for details on right now.”
Forward Patrice Bergeron was the only Bruin missing from Monday’s practice. Afterward, Julien confirmed that Bergeron was simply given an extra day off, given the fact that he didn’t get much of an All-Star Break, as he was in Nashville serving as the Bruins’ representative.
“Because of the All-Star Break, he wasn’t able to get a few days off, so we decided for a guy that plays so much, [he] could definitely use an extra day off besides [Sunday],” Julien said. “Gives him a chance to recover and relax with his family.”
McQuaid Getting Closer
Defenseman Adam McQuaid continues to progress in his recovery from an undisclosed upper body injury that has kept him out of game action since Jan. 5.
There is still no projected return date, but ever since resuming on-ice work about a week ago, he has made significant strides.
“Every day is a better day for [McQuaid],” Julien said. “So we’re going to keep obviously looking at it that way, and when he’s ready, we’ll look forward to putting him in.”
McQuaid, who has missed Boston’s last 14 games, is encouraged by the progress he has made and is hopeful that his return could be imminent.
“I’m getting there,” he said. “I think I said it today — another good step in the right direction, being out there with the guys and being in some more game-like situations and stuff, and obviously still some room for improvement and some rust to shake off, but I’m working towards getting there.”
Monday’s Practice Lineup
White Jerseys: Loui Eriksson, David Krejci, David Pastrnak
Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand, Brett Connolly, Tyler Randell
Gray Jerseys: Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes
Red Jerseys: Zac Rinaldo, Max Talbot, Landon Ferraro
Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Zach Trotman, Dennis Seidenberg, Joe Morrow, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, Adam McQuaid
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson