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Practice Notebook: Experienced Bruins Nearing Playoff Mode

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTON, MA - When the Bruins hit the ice at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday for a rare practice day amidst their 17-game month of March, they were an intense, competitive group.

After a day off Tuesday, the B’s were right back at it.

Though their recent 12-game winning streak took a halt with a 2-1 shootout loss to Montreal on Monday, there wasn’t a single Bruin thinking about that - which wasn't surprising.

“Well, again, we didn't worry so much about the streak, more than game by game, so I guess nothing changes,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said after Wednesday’s skate. “We've got to go back next game and get back on our horses and work to win a game. I thought we played well enough to win that last one, but their goaltender played well and we just couldn't score when we had those opportunities.”

Even before the winning streak began, the Bruins had adopted a one-game-at-a-time approach that clearly has served them well. Since mid-January, they haven’t suffered a regulation loss on the road, and even though their winning streak came to an end on Monday, their points streak lives on. Boston is 20-2-4 in their past 26 games.

It wasn't just about streak. The Bruins have been focused on building the kind of consistency that will last throughout April, May and June.

“We've been taking every game one game at a time, like we've been saying for the past couple of years,” said defenseman Johnny Boychuk. “It didn't really feel like a win streak; it was more of just taking it as the next game, that we had to focus in and do our jobs.”

Boychuk's reference to "years" is exactly why the Bruins are where they are, and why they are already beginning to prepare themselves for the postseason.

“It's maturity. Maturity and experience,” said Julien. “Our guys have gotten older, our guys have had more experience. I just find that they're handling themselves better every year, and right now, with the schedule that we've had, I think our guys have done a real good job of balancing the effort that's being put into games and the rest that comes in between.”

“I think they realize how important that is right now, where maybe a few years back, it didn't seem as important. That's just, with time and as you mature and you get more experience in certain situations, you just get better.”

On the ice, that means easily putting Monday’s loss behind them and focusing on the next challenge up on the docket - the Chicago Blackhawks (and then the Washington Capitals, and then the Philadelphia Flyers, and so on, and so forth).

“[You] keep doing the same thing,” Boychuk said. “You try to do the small things, get it in deep and forecheck.”

Off the ice, the mentality in the room doesn't necessarily shift, but there's one aspect that is further emphasized.

"Just say positive," said Boychuk. “Even last game, even though we lost, you just want to stay positive. We did play a good game and sometimes that happens, and you just put it behind you and keep playing the same way.”

Bruins Embracing Challenges Down the Stretch

With Monday’s shootout loss to the Canadiens far behind them, the Bruins are primarily focused on conquering the next challenge, which will come in the form of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The last time the Hawks visited TD Garden, they left with the Stanley Cup in hand. The stakes won’t be quite as high on Thursday night, but still, the B’s are eager to set the tone and compete hard against one of the best teams the Western Conference has to offer.

“I think it's going to be fun to play another team that we know is a great team,” Julien said. “Right now, we need to continue to get these challenges that we're getting, and that's what's going to keep us on our toes. I don't think we're looking for any easy games; it doesn't suit us as a team. We like the challenges. We like the games that are intense and have meaning to them, and certainly that one [Thursday] is going to give us that.”

Though there are certainly going to be some lingering emotions stemming from last year’s dramatic conclusion to the Stanley Cup Finals, Julien stressed the the Bruins need to stay focused on the present — and getting two points — instead of on what happened almost a year ago.

“Nobody in the dressing room is going to forget that we played them in the Finals last year,” Julien said. “No one is going to forget any of that, but I think tomorrow is not about remembering that, more than knowing it's going to be a good game between two good teams, and we should look forward to it.”

The last time Boston saw Chicago, it was mid-January, and they had just started the road points streak they are still riding to this day. The team’s play has spoken for itself over this two-month stretch, so right now, their approach is just to keep doing what they’ve been doing in order to prepare for a postseason.

“It's not really tough; it's a challenge,” said Boychuk of the upcoming schedule, beginning with Chicago. “And that's what you want coming into playoffs; you want to be playing those kinds of games for this time of year. It's just fun.”

“I like where our game's going," said Rask. "And we just have to keep going the right way."

McQuaid Update

Adam McQuaid has now been sidelined with a quad strain for more than two months, since January 19 against Chicago. The defenseman had been close to returning after the Olympic Break, but he re-aggravated the injury and was subsequently shut down for 2-3 weeks to rest it and begin rehab again.

McQuaid continues to build his workouts, but Julien said on Wednesday that there is "nothing more than that" as this point.

"Still working out off-ice but he hasn't been on the ice yet," Julien said.

Practice Lineup

White Jerseys: Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla

Gold: Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith

Gray: Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson

Merlot: Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton, Jordan Caron

Defense: Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, Johnny Boychuk, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Andrej Meszaros, Corey Potter

Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Chad Johnson

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