The goaltender was first off the ice at pregame skate, as Boston prepped for a bounce-back outing following their 4-2 loss to the Senators in Ottawa on Friday. Tonight also marks the first game of a road back-to-back that sees the B's face the Rangers Tuesday night in New York City.
Rask didn't think his performance was up to par in the loss to the Sens, when the B's squandered a third period lead and allowed three straight goals. He ended the night with 27 saves on 31 shots.
Some may have pointed to backup goaltender Chad Johnson to get the start, with the B's saving Rask for Tuesday against the Blueshirts.
But Rask is the starter, he's rested, and he likes to come right back with a strong outing following a less-than-mediocre one. So it's no surprise that Julien is giving him the nod, with the Bruins aiming for an all-around, full-60 effort in front of him to break a streak of three straight road losses.
"I feel like, every once in a blue moon as a goalie you get one of those games where you feel like there’s a soccer net behind you," Rask had said in Ottawa.
"And [this] was one of those games, but still, I don’t think we played a really good third period as a team but then again, I would like to make a couple of saves there, keep the game tied."
"We have to make it easier for him," said Dennis Seidenberg, who had been swift to not let Rask take the blame. "And that’s on us."
Back to Simple Road Hockey
The Bruins have been a predominantly strong road team, but after starting the season with four straight wins on the road, have lost three straight away from the confines of home.
"I think we need to simplify things; especially on the road," said alternate captain Chris Kelly. "We know teams are going to come out and play hard in front of their home crowd and we want to get off to good starts."
"I thought in the previous road games that we have played and had success, our starts have been good - and now they’ve kind of slipped. So I think a good start is important tonight."
The B's outshot the Sens 22-13 through 40 minutes on Friday night, and 11-3 at one point in the first. The key is to come out firing on all cylinders and try to continue that for all 60 minutes. With the B's rested, that shouldn't be an issue.
"Maybe we got a little complacent," said Kelly. "I think it’s just being consistent and knowing that when you do have a good period, you want to follow it up and continue to play well."
Loui Eriksson may only be in first season with the Spoked-B, but he knows "consistency" is the benchmark among this group.
"We have to play more consistent to win games. We play really good sometimes and really bad sometimes," said the soft-spoken winger. "We just have to clean that up and play better full-60 games so that’s something we’ve been talking about."
"Maybe keep it a little bit simpler and play smarter. We know we’re a good team if we play the way we should, so I think that’s what we have to do tonight."
The Bruins and Hurricanes have had similar trends around their hockey clubs in the past few weeks. Following a span of four losses in five games, the B's picked up nine of 10 points during their homestand before dropping Friday night's 4-2 loss to Ottawa on the second leg of a back-to-back.
Meanwhile, after five straight losses, the Canes picked it up at home, with four wins and points earned in five consecutive games. On Saturday, two shorthanded quickfires tied it up in St. Louis, 2-2, before they dropped a 4-2 decision after a hard fought 3-2 shootout win the night prior.
"We were building a lot of momentum, went into that back-to-back, and we’ve done a lot of good things and things that we want to keep building on," said Jordan Staal, the Canes' second line pivot, who leads the team with 11 points. He's scored twice in his past two games.
"We’ve done so many good things as of late. We’re playing a lot of good teams and sticking right with them so we have to continue to do that and keep finding ways to win games."
Carolina is 28th in the league, scoring only 1.9 goals per game, but their consistent team defense hasn't given up too many opportunities for their opponents to get rolling offensively.
"When you've got 20 guys committed to the game plan, you give yourself a chance to win every night," said Canes coach Kirk Muller. "And I think that's what we've been able to do, is hang in there, hang in there. We're not scoring a lot but we're not giving up much, and the result gives us a chance to pick up some points each night."
The Hurricanes are a team that collapse, and doesn't give up much around the net.
"I think it’s one of those nights where we’re going to have to work for our goals," said Julien.
"They’re a very aggressive team. We have to be able to handle the pressure that they’re going to put on us and make the right plays. It’s never an easy game in this building, for our team anyways. So I don’t expect that to be any different."
The Hurricanes have won five of the past seven meetings between the two teams.
"You want to bounce back there from a loss that you felt you let get away from you at one point. So it’s up to us to kind of be better all over."
Cam Ward Back From Injury
Canes netminder Cam Ward plays well against the Bruins, despite only a 12-11-2 record against the Black & Gold.
He'll be in nets on Monday night, opposite Rask, but he's coming back into their lineup after missing 10 games due to injury.
"He’s a good goaltender and I’ve always seen him as a good goaltender," said Julien. "It’s his first game back and from our end of it, you hope he’s a little out of sync and for their sake, they’re hoping differently."
"We need to win ourselves a hockey game here, so if he’s going to be good, hopefully it’s after tonight," he smirked.
Ward's return marks the start of an upswing injury-wise for the Canes, who are still without Jeff Skinner, who has missed 10 games due to an upper-body injury.
As the Bruins made their warm-up rounds on the ice, a familiar face popped out to the Carolina bench to say hello.
Former Bruin Anton Khudobin signed a one-year deal with the Hurricanes in the offseason. He appeared in three games, with a 2-0-0 record, before leaving the game against Phoenix on October 13 with a lower-body injury.
He won't have the chance to suit up against his former team on Monday, but that didn't stop him from sitting out on the bench for the beginning of the skate, taking high-fives and handshakes from the Boston players and coaches, as they stopped by to catch up with him.
"I saw Dobby there and it’s good to see old teammates and it’s unfortunate that he’s hurt right now but I think he’s doing extremely well here and he’s happy," said Chris Kelly.
Khudobin was acquired by Boston in February of 2011, along for the ride as the B's won the Stanley Cup that June. He suited up in 15 games as a Bruin, serving as Rask's backup in 2012-13.
"Yeah he was a really good player and even better person for us," said Julien. "Things like that happen during a career, with players moving on and it doesn’t mean you lose respect or you lose that friendship that you had with them."
Puck drops at 7:00 p.m. ET. You can catch the game on NESN, on the radio at 100.7 WZLX (instead of 98.5 The Sports Hub, with the Patriots game on the airwaves at the same time), and by following updates on Twitter @NHLBruins ^CS.
Boston Projected Lineup
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Loui Eriksson, Jordan Caron
Carl Soderberg-Chris Kelly-Reilly Smith
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Dougie Hamilton
Dennis Seidenberg-Torey Krug
Matt Bartkowski-Johnny Boychuk
*During pregame rushes, Chara, Hamilton and Boychuk all rotated at one end, with Seidenberg, Krug and Bartkowski at the other. Adam McQuaid still remains back in Boston, recovering from a lower-body injury. He began working out last week, so we should see some good progress when returning home.
Starter: Tuukka Rask
Backup: Chad Johnson