The standings are tight. They change every day.
The intensity will be high. The Bruins will have to bring their A-game.
All of the above will be true as the Bruins kick off a tough back-to-back in Southern California on Friday night in Anaheim against the Ducks, before facing the Kings in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Game time is set for 10:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. local - NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
Though the Bruins let two points slip away in San Jose in a 3-2 loss on Tuesday night, they can continue drawing confidence from their strong road record.
The buildings in California aren’t easy places to play. The Ducks’ 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday marked their first regulation loss at home in 11 games.
“[We] just seem to be real focused and play well on the road, there’s a confidence there that’s been built since the start of the year,” Head Coach Claude Julien said following the team’s pregame skate at the Honda Center on Friday mooning. “And [it] just seems to be a good place for us right now.”
The Bruins’ bench boss has answered that same question all season long as his team has carried their strong road play from rink to rink.
Seven of their next eight games — including the back-to-back to end the California trip — are on the road.
“I don’t think we’ve been this strong for quite a while,” said Julien. “Right now, that’s probably what’s saved our season.”
Boston had picked up points in seven straight games before falling to San Jose in regulation on Tuesday night. They’re focused on not heading home empty-handed.
The race in the Atlantic Division isn’t loosening up. With a 4-1 win over Toronto on Thursday night, the Panthers jumped three points above the Bruins, who sit in second place with Tampa Bay just one point below them.
“It gets to this point [in the season], you’re looking every night,” Landon Ferraro said of the standings. “You want to see what’s going on, you want to know what position you’re in. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you’re sitting, you need points regardless.”
“We need to make sure we have a good start [tonight] to try and put in a good spot to get two.”
In the West, the Ducks are in a similar situation, sandwiched between Los Angeles and San Jose in the Pacific Division.
“They’ve had three days off since their last game and they’re the best road team in the league — I’ve got to believe that they’re going to come out like the Rangers did and play as good a game as they can possibly play,” said Ducks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. “They’ve proven that they could be the No. 1 seed coming out of the Atlantic.”
“And with Claude, who’s very structured, and they play the same way all the time, they’re very patient. I think it’s going to be a tough game.”
The last time the Bruins faced the Ducks, they dropped a 6-2 loss in Boston on Jan. 26.
“They came into our building and played really well and we weren’t happy with our effort,” said Ferraro. “We want to correct that tonight, but then on top of that, Florida wins again, they’re three points up. Tampa’s right there and we need points right now. You can’t let any slip away.”
“We need to make sure we start strong tonight and give us a big chance here.”
The Bruins will be on guard for the Ducks’ firepower that can strike at any time. They’ll have to play a consistent game and not let up.
“That’s a big part, playing a full 60 minutes,” said Matt Beleskey. “They’re a big team, they’re going to play hard, they’ve been playing great lately. I think we’re going to have to be on the top of our game, we’re going to have to be ready to play right from beginning to end. Hopefully this team’s ready to do that.”
Beleskey Returns to Anaheim
The feeling is always strange for a player — walking into a rink that used to be his home, but on the opposing side.
That was Beleskey’s experience on Friday morning at Anaheim’s Honda Center. The last time he was in the visiting locker room would have been a couple of years ago during their training camp.
“It’s different,” said Beleskey. “It felt good to get out there this morning. Some familiar scenery. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be an exciting game.”
The winger, who signed with the Bruins as a free agent in the offseason, spent seven years playing for the organization after being drafted in 2006.
“Tons of good moments. Just even walking into the rink, it brings you back to the playoffs last year, doing that walk before games,” he said. “There’s been some big games, there’s been some big wins, some big losses. It’s all pretty good memories.”
His best play came in the postseason.
“He was great. All the years I had him here, I thought the playoffs Matt came to the surface even more,” said Boudreau. “He was a good player. He was physical, he scored important goals, and he was responsible.”
Beleskey’s hard work is evident every night — he’s the same player he carved himself out to be in Anaheim.
“I think when I came here [to the Bruins], they didn’t want me to change anything, that was a big thing, just play my game,” he said. “I feel like it’s fit what they’ve wanted and what they were looking for out of me. Obviously it’s been a good year, but this is the fun part now.”
Miller Proud to Be California-Born
As a native of Southern California (Valencia), Kevan Miller joins a hefty handful of California-born players currently playing in the NHL. Included in that group are Matt Nieto, Emerson Etem and Brooks Opik.
This California swing makes him feel at home, even if New England has become his home base for most of the year.
“It’s cool. It’s a different experience, but it’s good to come home and see my family and kind of be a representation of California player I guess, if you will,” said Miller, who will have his parents, uncles and younger brother at the game in Anaheim.
He has been proud to see the game grow as well.
“Hockey’s grown a lot in the last 10 years, for sure,” said Miller. “It’s awesome. There’s rinks everywhere now and the game’s actually gotten a lot better out here.”
“It’s a huge state, so you’d think when it caught on, there would be a lot of guys coming out of here.”
Line Rushes During Pregame Skate 3/18
Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—Lee Stempniak
Loui Eriksson—David Krejci—David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey—Ryan Spooner—Brett Connolly
Landon Ferraro—Noel Acciari—Jimmy Hayes
Defense Pairs During Thursday’s Practice 3/17*
Zdeno Chara—Kevan Miller
John-Michael Liles—Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug—Adam McQuaid
Joe Morrow—Zach Trotman
Expected Starting Goalie: Jonas Gustavsson** // Backup: Tuukka Rask
*The Bruins did full-ice line rushes to start pregame skate without defense pairs.
**Gustavsson was the first goaltender off the ice at pregame skate, indicating he is likely to start between the pipes against the Ducks.