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Pregame Notebook in Dallas: Getting Back to Fundamentals

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

DALLAS, TX - The Bruins and Stars both opted for optional pregame skates before facing off against each other Thursday night at the American Airlines Center.

For Boston, all forwards and defensemen hit the ice except for heavy minute-logger Zdeno Chara, along with the line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla. The lineup is expected to look like it did against Toronto, with Dougie Hamilton (concussion) and Chris Kelly (broken right fibula) remaining back in Boston as they team hit the road.

Both teams have gone through tough mid-season stretches. Dallas recently halted a six-game losing streak to earn their first win of 2014, defeating Edmonton 5-2. Meanwhile, the Bruins felt they took a step forward with their stingy 1-0 win over San Jose, before falling to Toronto 4-3 on Tuesday night.

Lack of execution - not effort - has been a barrier for Boston as of late, with breakdowns, missed chances and not as many battles being won.

"Just a better overall commitment to our game. I think that's what we need to find here," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, on what he wants to see from his team when the puck drops in Dallas.

"The little details that have been good for us have to be better, and that's what we're going to work on, bringing those things back. And if we bring those things back, we'll be a better team."

Every season, the Bruins go through a stretch where the physical demands of the type of hard-nosed, stingy game they play becomes difficult to sustain. It isn't up to the level they'd like, whether through wear-and-tear or not showing much urgency in their game.

"So you go through those things, and you do every year. But the good part is is that we find it again," said Julien. "So I think our guys know that, and it's matter of not accepting those slides to go on for too long and battling back to get our game to the level that we want it to be."

"That's what we're going to try and do, is get back to those details that makes us maybe a little different from a lot of other teams and that allows us to win games on a more consistent basis."

It's About Fundamentals

Dallas Head Coach Lindy Ruff knows the Boston Bruins. Having coached Buffalo for 15 years (not to mention, playing against the Spoked-B years ago), he's seen Julien's influence on the team. It comes down to what we've heard from the B's bench boss many times before: attention to details.

"Every team stresses that, the fundamentals. You know, I think that Boston, playing them all these years, for me, Claude does an exceptional job with the fundamentals of the game," Ruff said during his pregame media availability with reporters.

"Stick on puck, and being in the right place, and being in the right lanes, and how to win the battles and getting above the puck and making people come through you. Those are all the fundamentals that I think he's been terrific with his team, and you stress on trying to build those fundamentals with your own team."

Loui and Reilly's First Return to Dallas

Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith are making their first return to American Airlines Center since the summer's trade, when Boston faces off against the Stars on Thursday night in Dallas.

Both Bruins thought it was a pretty strange experience, walking into the visiting team room, and figuring out which way to walk out to the ice ("This way, Lou!")

"Yeah, it's a little bit weird coming in here, and walking into this locker room," smiled Eriksson. "I've never been in this room, so it was kind of weird in the morning but it's nice to be here and I'm excited to get going."

Stars Outlook

You hear it often around the league when a team hits a skid: "every team goes through this."

The Bruins had started to work themselves out of it before the loss to Toronto. Dallas - a resilient team to start the season - recently found a way to fight out of their six-game losing streak.

"It's about getting those messages across, and that message was just bearing down and working harder than we were," said Tyler Seguin, who has been counted on to be more of a leader on a young, rebuilding Stars team.

"We're a team that relies a lot on our speed and our work ethic and that's when we win most games. That's how we played kind of the first 35 games, every game. You know, you're not going to win them all but we said we were the hardest-working team out there and it's lacked as of late, but it was nice to see us bounce back as a team in Edmonton."

Former Bruin Rich Peverley has settled into the Stars lineup in a variety of roles, and as a veteran, he forms a leadership core on the team.

"We know what we are. We're a skating team. We're at our best when we're all moving our feet," said Peverley, quick to pin-point the identity of his team. "It's easy to say that; it's about being proactive and not just waiting for things to happen. It's about going and dictating the game, so I think when we do that, we're at our best."

Julien sees that as well.

"The one thing you have to do, is you have to earn [your] goals, and one proof of that was that game in Boston," said the B's bench boss. "We've just got to be ready to work hard around that net area, score goals and be stingy, because we know it's not going to be easy to score tonight."

Boston Projected Lineup

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith

Carl Soderberg - Ryan Spooner - Loui Eriksson

Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk

Matt Bartkowski - Adam McQuaid

Torey Krug - Kevan Miller*

Tuukka Rask, Chad Johnson

*These will likely be the pairs to start, but don't be surprised to see them rotating throughout the game (that includes personnel and sides), as has been the case lately.

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