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Pregame in Tampa: No Changes to Lineup, as Bruins Prep for Bolts

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

TAMPA, FL - The Bruins are first in the Atlantic Division, with an eight point lead on Montreal, and just three points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top of the Eastern Conference.

Coming off three straight wins and a dominant 3-0 shutout performance against the Capitals, Head Coach Claude Julien is going to be sticking with what works as his squad begins their road trip against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

"I think right now and tonight [in Tampa], we're going with the same lineup we had the other night because of how well we played," Julien said pregame in Tampa. "So you don't change a lineup just for the sake of changing it."

With a healthy group of 13 forwards and eight defensemen, the Bruins will want to get new blueliners Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter into game action, but that won't be coming on Saturday night.

"At one point, we have to see those guys play. You know, we have to see what we have and how they fit in and everything else and give them a chance to fit in with the rest of the team," said Julien, of the two new additions.

"But, I mean, these trades just got done a few days ago and they've had one practice with us. They understand the situation and they've got be able to be patient and we have to be able to keep an eye on this situation and make the right decision as we move forward here. But we will see those guys."

Juilen likes the sense of competition that has developed now on the back end, after rounding out an eight-man corps with the two depth players, but was impressed with his blueline's performance game against the Capitals. And Meszaros and Potter will be given some more time to adjust to Boston's system.

"Our six guys played pretty well, so it might be a little bit tough to take those guys out. But at the same time, we’re not going to let [Andrej and Corey] just sit and not find out what they can give us before we get to the playoffs. So it’s important to look at that aspect as well and make decisions accordingly as you go, game by game. That’s all I can do right now."

Peaking at the Right Time

The Black & Gold's current lineup is jugging along just fine towards the top of the East with 20 games until the playoffs. That's when the team wants to really hit their stride and their peak level of performance.

"You always strive to have that level and you want to maintain that level," said defenseman Matt Bartkowski. "You never want to have a peak, but now with 20 games, you want to get as close as you can, if not at the playoff level."

"I really like the way we've played the last few games," said Julien. "And even in New York, we had a real tough first, but you know, after that I thought we started finding our game again."

"Washington, I thought we played extremely well on both sides of the puck and we're going to need that again tonight against [the Lightning]. This team can score goals and is clawing to stay in the playoff position."

While the Bruins are cruising along, Tampa Bay finds itself just one point behind Toronto in the Atlantic Division and pushing to get into the postseason.

"They need this win as much as we want this win," said Julien. "But I need to see our players continue to to play the way they did last game [against Washington] - you know, take pride in both sides of the puck with and without."

"It's just a matter of being able to do that, and the challenge will get tougher and tougher as we move on because with the more games we play in this short span, the more tired the guys will get, whether its physically or mentally."

Defenseman Torey Krug knows that it will be a challenge - but not a problem - with this group.

"There's a lot of time left to build your game, there's a lot of time left to lose your game, so we want to make sure we're on top of things and not let things slip," said Krug. "It's a good group of guys, with veteran leadership, so I don't think we have any issues with that."

Optional Pregame Skate in Tampa

With the Bruins holding a full team practice on Friday, the team held an optional pregame skate on Saturday morning. We'll likely see this a lot as the regular season wraps up, with 20 games packed into the next month.

Heavy minute-loggers Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk stayed off the ice (with Zee likely forced to stay off, since he'd be out there for every skate if he had it his way), along with mostly every Bruin on the top three lines. Chris Kelly, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Jordan Caron were the only forwards on the ice, and Chad Johnson was the only goalie.

Matchup: Cruising Bruins Can't Rest Easy Against Bolts

While the Bruins head into Saturday with three straight wins, the Lightning come in with three straight losses, most recently suffering a 3-1 loss to Buffalo.

The Bolts recently saw the return of Steven Stamkos to their lineup, who was named team captain following the departure of Marty St. Louis in a trade with New York that brought in Ryan Callahan.

It's been a hectic week for the club, but it also gives the resilient team all the more motivation to turn their game around against the Bruins.

"There's no time for losing streaks at this time of the season," Stamkos said pregame. "We are in a rut. We've been fortunate not to go through that so far this year. Every team probably has to go through a little something. You know, time is running out right now, so this is going be a good test against one of the best teams in the league, and we have to find ways to kind of scratch and claw and get points."

"Every point is huge right now, so obviously you want to win, but you want to find ways to keep getting points at this time of year."

The challenge of facing is desperate team like Tampa Bay is never lost on the Bruins.

"I always tell the guys never to take anything for granted and there’s no team in this league that you should go in there assuming that it’s going to be an easy game or an easy win," said Julien.

"You’re looking for consistency in your team, and you hear me say that all the time. We want to come out and play every game with an opportunity to win. Whether it happens or not, you know, that’s another story, but we have to give ourselves that that chance and that opportunity."

Boston's Projected Lineup vs. Tampa Bay

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith

Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson

Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton

Matt Bartkowski - Johnny Boychuk

Torey Krug - Kevan Miller

Starter: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Chad Johnson

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