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Pregame Notebook: Bruins Ready for a Challenge vs. Datsyuk, Red Wings

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BOSTON — The Bruins have made no bones about it: Their performance at home this season has been unacceptable.

That was Head Coach Claude Julien’s word of choice on Friday. On Saturday, Patrice Bergeron echoed the sentiment.

“It’s something that we definitely need to fix quickly, and it’s unacceptable, obviously, to have the home record that we’re having,” Bergeron said. “It’s one thing to say it, but we have to go out there and actually do it and take care of it. I think that’s the bottom line now: It’s about going out there and responding.”

Since a season-opening homestand in which they went 0-3, the Bruins have talked the talk regarding their play at TD Garden. Now, they said, it’s time to walk the walk.

“For a long time now, we’ve had a good home record, and this year, for whatever reason, it’s been a place that teams like to come in and play, and we have to change that,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “It starts with us as players going out and executing the coaches’ game plan, and that’s what we have to do.”

There have been theories abound as to why Boston has been so strong on the road (6-2-0) yet weaker at home (1-5-1). Most frequently, the Bruins have said they shown a tendency to overthink it at home. Rather than keep their game simple and do the little things right, they have made the extra pass or the fancy play, and it has cost them.

“There’s a lot of details that go into a game,” Krug said. “[You have] to make sure you stay on top of it and you don’t forget about the little things that help you win. As a defenseman, there’s things we talk about in the D zone that we do, like cutting off pucks and making sure we’re crisp on our first pass out, and if you pay attention to detail throughout the whole game, it helps you.”

There has also been a collective lapse in focus at home. Perhaps it’s the desire to put on a show for the home crowd that causes those lapses. Perhaps it is a tendency to relax after scoring .

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to really try to focus on pushing [back] right away,” said defenseman Zdeno Chara. “We’ve just got to make sure we maintain that pace that we started games with, and we don’t crack. We’ve just got to make sure we stay patient and focus on every little detail and make sure the other team cracks before we do.”

The Bruins knew they were entering the season with a young team, and they knew it would take some time for them to click. Now, as they look to rid themselves of some bad habits that have cropped up as of late, they know it is on the veterans to lead the charge toward rectifying those issues.

“When the older players are showing the way and we’re leading by example, everyone seems to follow, and it’s the same thing if you’re not doing the right things,” Bergeron said. “The younger guys will pick up on it and think that it’s OK to do the same things. So it’s definitely on us to right the ship moving forward.”

Mental Toughness

In the last handful of games, the Bruins have made some mistakes they believe are uncharacteristic of their group. They have lacked discipline at critical times. They have let down their guard and, as a result, have seen the puck end up in the back of their net.

Most of those mistakes, they say, are mental.

“It’s up to [the players] to take the responsibility to focus for longer than what we have been focused in some of these games,” Julien said. “It’s about being prepared to put in 60 minutes of hockey. And when you dissect it, you’re talking about 24 minutes to even 10 minutes of hockey, so that’s not that hard to do. I think that’s what we have to realize, here — that there’s a certain way that we play, and when we play that way, we’re successful. When we don’t, we’re not.

“So they just have to embrace the idea of that and do it properly for the amount of time that they play, and if we do that, we’re going to improve as a team.”

Particularly in their own building, the Bruins have struggled to play for a full 60 minutes. They have done it on the road — most recently in a 2-1 win over the Islanders in Brooklyn last weekend — but they have yet to get that kind of effort at home.

“Obviously, we’ve shown that we can play for 60 minutes, that we are able to maintain that pace and focus,” Chara said. “It really comes down to being accountable for that, and every individual has to make sure that before, during and all the way till the end, they’re focused on the task.

“We all can skate, hit and score — we’ve just got to be really paying attention to the details.”

And that focus must remain, even if the other team seizes hold of the game’s momentum.

“There’s going to be ups and downs throughout a season and throughout a game,” said defenseman Kevan Miller. “There’s going to be times where we push or when they push, and in the past, we’ve been really good at not only just weathering the push, but being able to respond to that, even if it’s a good penalty kill, a good power play, a big hit.”

This season’s team, however, has been a bit different in that regard. This team is still trying to find a way to answer if and when the opponent surges.

“There’s never been a game where one team’s been in control the whole time,” Krug said. “For us, it’s about being able to manage that and realizing they have a big shift and we need to come back with another big shift and respond to it.

“Especially on home ice, you have to be able to do that and keep your crowd into it and score some goals.”

This five-game homestand, which began on Thursday against Colorado, should be the perfect opportunity to work out those kinks and implement solutions.

“It’s about us finding a way to sustain the pressure that we have in our starts,” Bergeron said. “I think that’s been our strength this year; we have to keep that going, obviously, but from there, we have to find a way to sustain it for the full 60 minutes.”

A Worthy Opponent

Ever since the 2014 NHL Playoffs, the Bruins have been good against the Red Wings. Dating back to last season, they have won their last four straight against Detroit.

The Red Wings are a difficult test for the Bruins, bringing speed and offensive creativity to the table. But for the last couple of seasons, Boston has been very successful against their Atlantic Division rival.

“I think there’s a big amount of respect that goes toward that team because of their skating ability, because of their skill ability with the puck,” Julien said. “There’s a lot of experience there. They’ve always been a good team, and they continue to be a good team. I think there’s been a real great amount of respect, so that we’ve prepared ourselves in regard to that.

“We know we have to have our A game. We’ve been able to have, more or less, our A games against them, or beat them. And that’s been probably the biggest key to trying to beat the Red Wings.”

In the recent past, there have been times when the Bruins have struggled to be opportunistic. Not so against Detroit. Against Detroit, for the most part, they have been able to consistently capitalize on their opportunities.

“We seem to find ways to create some good pressure on them on the defensive side of things, and offensively, we’re taking what’s there,” Bergeron said. “I think it’s a team that’s got a very good system,and they play within that very well, and we’re trying to find ways to create some speed off transition, especially offensively.”

Certainly, the Bruins will need to have their A game on Saturday night, particularly in light of the fact that Pavel Datsyuk made his season debut for the Wings on Friday night in a 3-2 loss to the Sharks.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s offensively or defensively; I think he’s so deceptive also with the puck and without it,” Bergeron said. “He’s always going to battle to get it back and find ways to take it away from you. [He’s a] very smart player, and I think that’s his biggest attribute.”

The Bruins may have been good against the Red Wings in the last handful of matchups between these two teams, but not much has come easy for them at home. Obviously, they aren’t taking anything for granted heading into Saturday night.

“They’re a deep lineup [with] a lot of guys that can play with the puck, and a lot of speed, too,” Krug said. “So with that, you’ve got to make sure you take away time and space in the neutral zone, don’t let them wind up with the puck. Their defense play a tight gap and they can skate well, too, so those are the challenges that we face, and if we’re able to make sure we’re just playing north and south instead of getting into their east and west game, then it’s good for us.”

Special Connection

Krug, a native of Livonia, Mich., is plenty familiar with first-year Red Wings Head Coach Jeff Blashill.

Back in 2008, when Krug spent a season with the Indiana Ice of the USHL, Blashill was his coach. And Blashill, Krug said, was the first coach that really believed in him.

“He was the one that kind of opened the door for me, took a chance on me, and I’m forever grateful for that,” Krug said. “He’s an unbelievable professional. He’s always on top of things and just keeps up with his players. He talks, he has great conversations. He’s attentive every single day. He pays a lot of attention to detail, and that’s a big part of him.”

Krug certainly feels indebted to Blashill for taking a chance on him seven years ago. As Krug takes the ice against him on Saturday, he will do his best to keep proving that his former coach was right.

“I’m pretty sure he got in a fight with the owner of the team over taking me,” Krug said with a laugh. “The owner said no way, I’m too small, and all of the things that I’ve been told — but he’s a guy that knew there was a spot for me on his team and [could] move forward. So it’s nice that he did that for me.”

Colin Miller Out

The Bruins did not skate on Saturday morning, but in his morning media session, Julien confirmed to reporters that defenseman Colin Miller will be unavailable for Saturday’s game.

Miller was the only Bruin not on the ice for Friday’s practice in Wilmington. Julien said the D-man is dealing with a lower body injury but suggested that he is being held out of the lineup more as a precaution than anything else.

“I think it’s more being cautious,” Julien said. “He is injured, but being cautious. I think in certain situations he could have played.”

Projected Lineup Saturday vs. Detroit

Matt BeleskeyPatrice BergeronBrett Connolly

Frank VatranoDavid KrejciLoui Eriksson

Brad MarchandRyan SpoonerJimmy Hayes

Zac RinaldoJoonas KemppainenTyler Randell

Zdeno CharaKevan Miller

Dennis SeidenbergZach Trotman

Torey KrugAdam McQuaid

Starting Goalie: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Jonas Gustavsson

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