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Pregame in Edmonton: Bruins Not Underestimating Oilers

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

EDMONTON, AB - The Bruins have garnered three straight wins, even with injury woes, as they prepare to continue their Western Canada road swing in Edmonton tonight against the Oilers.

Without Loui Eriksson, Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille, Dougie Hamilton and Adam McQuaid, due to injuries, Boston still sits atop the Eastern Conference with 44 points.

They've found ways to win, but are still looking for a more consistent game.

"Not that easy," cautioned Head Coach Claude Julien, when it was suggested by a reporter that they keep rolling along.

"I don’t know if we’re playing well; we’re winning hockey games but they are struggles…Sometimes the experience of our team and the guys that we have that are healthy certainly helps."

"We know that we can be much better and sometimes you have to be honest and you look at the standings and be realistic with the assessment of your team and it’s maybe not the same. We’re happy to be where we are, but we know we should and have to be a lot better."

And they'll need their best against a speed-infused team like the Oilers, which boast young guns in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, among others.

Edmonton may have gotten off to a slow start this season, but the last thing Julien wants is his team in Black & Gold to underestimate the team ranked last (15th) in the West.

The Oilers are 11-18-3 overall, but are about even against the East's Atlantic Division teams, with a 4-4-1 record.

"To look at a team because they’re lower in the standings and think you don’t have to ready for them is a lot of crap in this league and I think if you lose respect for any team that you play, you’re in the wrong business," said Julien, echoing the same sentiment he'll likely give the Bruins prior to the matchup.

"They’ve got a lot of talent here and you’ve heard probably every coach come in this building and tell you the same thing; lot of talent, lot of skill."

"We have enough of our struggles right now to make sure that we need to be ready to play a team that has a lot of skill, a lot of speed, lot of talent and just, again, waiting for them to explode at some point."

"We’re not good enough right now to start looking at the standings and decide how we should play and how much effort we should put in our games; that’s not our style to start with. So we’re just kind of getting ready for a tough game and hopefully come with the right outcome as we did [in Calgary]."

Boston Always Poses a Test

With every game, every matchup, no matter the opponent, Boston has positioned itself as a team that is "tough to play against."

It's a brand of hockey that they've established over recent years, and it usually means they'll get the opposition's best, no matter what a team's record or position in the standings.

It also means there is plenty of praise from opponents and their bench bosses, on how they've gotten to that point.

"When I think about Boston, I just think about winning. Win," Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins told reporters pregame. "And it seems they're able to do it, however you want to play it."

"You want to play big and nasty? Fine. You want to play with some skill? That's fine. Want to play a 6-4 game? Good. If you want to go 1-0, we'll do that, too. So they've got their team structured that they can play any game that you would like."

"They've got great discipline, they're very comfortable in any game, but their structure to their game is incredible, and how it's been over the last number of years."

Oilers captain, and former Bruin, Andrew Ference is well-versed in Boston's ways.

"It's no secret that if you don’t show up and you’re not ready for a tough game, you’re going to get kind of rolled over."

"I think that’s why a lot of people use the Bruins as a measuring stick is because you get to see what kind of character individuals on your team have; if they’re ready for a tough game or if they shrink into the corner. So I think it’s, like I said, a great test and a simple message of make sure you show up."

Starting Goalie?

Tuukka Rask did not practice with the team on Wednesday in Edmonton, as he became the latest Bruins hit by the flu bug.

His backup, Chad Johnson, was actually supposed to play the game in Calgary, but was sidelined by the flu and Rask ended up being between the pipes for the Bruins' 2-1 win in Jarome Iginla's return.

With the Bruins not holding a morning skate on Thursday prior to the game against the Oilers, the best indication of tonight's starter will be during Julien's pregame availability, or when the teams hit the ice for warmups at 9:00 pm ET (7:00 local). Follow @NHLBruins for the latest lineup information.

Paille Back in Boston

If you missed Wednesday's update from Edmonton, Julien told reporters that Daniel Paille flew back to Boston to be evaluated by team doctors. Paille is sidelined by an upper body injury (undisclosed), that kept him out of Tuesday's game against the Flames.

In his place, Nick Johnson was recalled from the Providence Bruins, and made his Boston Bruins regular season debut against the Flames. Johnson was signed as a free agent over the summer.

Heading into tonight's game in Edmonton, the Bruins only have 12 available healthy forwards, and six defensemen. Adam McQuaid started skating on Wednesday, prior to the Bruins' practice, but remains on injured reserve as he recovers from his lower-body injury. The only question mark vs Edmonton is the starting goaltender.

Projected Boston Lineup vs Calgary

Milan Lucic-David-Krejci-Jarome Iginla

Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Matt Fraser*

Carl Soderberg-Ryan Spooner-Reilly Smith

Jordan Caron-Gregory Campbell-Nick Johnson

Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk

Dennis Seidenberg-Torey Krug

Matt Bartkowski-Kevan Miller

*Right after David Krejci's power-play tying goal on Tuesday night in Calgary, Julien made a line switch, swapping Matt Fraser and Reilly Smith. Some apparent instant chemistry with Soderberg, Spooner and Smith paid off, with the trio connecting on their first shift for Reilly's game-winner.

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