OTTAWA - Sean Kuraly has been trying to take it all in.
The rookie forward was thrust into the Bruins lineup just minutes before Game 1 of the team's First Round series with the Senators when David Krejci was scratched because of an injury following warmups.
Kuraly acquitted himself well in his first career Stanley Cup Playoffs contest and followed up with another solid performance in Game 2. The 24-year-old former Miami (Ohio) standout averaged just over eight minutes of ice time over the two games and landed three shots on goal.
Krejci's return forced Kuraly back to the press box when the series shifted to Boston, but the Dublin, Ohio, native will be back in the Bruins' lineup for Friday night's do-or-die Game 5, in place of Ryan Spooner as the fourth-line center.
"It's been great, it's exciting. It's where you want to be as a player. It's a chance you really want to get and I'm thankful to have," Kuraly said following Friday's morning skate at Canadian Tire Centre.
"I think you learn a little bit more every day and get a little bit more comfortable…it's trying to be the best you can every day and not get in your head and think too much."
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Kuraly centered Frank Vatrano and Tim Schaller during Friday's pregame skate and is aiming to assert his typical North-South, heavy style of play.
"I think I've just got to be ready to do whatever," said Kuraly, who made his NHL debut on Nov. 3 in Tampa Bay. "I'm just happy to be in the game, wherever I am doesn't make much of a difference. I've played a little bit more center, but I think I'm just going to take on whatever challenge."
Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy was pleased with Kuraly's efforts over the first two games of the series, particularly the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder's ability to get in hard on the forecheck. Cassidy also acknowledged Spooner is not 100 percent physically.
"Ryan's not 100 percent and we liked Sean's game up here," said Cassidy. "He's good at getting on pucks, and the forecheck has been a big part of how we're able to create some of our offense. He gives us that. So, we'll see how that plays out.
"He was a good player for us earlier in the series, and we moved some pieces around and wanted to get him back in there."
Cassidy said that while Spooner is banged up, the center could play if needed.
"He could play, we're just making a decision," said Cassidy. "It's more about what Sean brings right now than Ryan. Clearly, Ryan does some very good things for us - I'm not going to address everything. But, we just made a decision that Sean is a center iceman, as well, who can also play the wing, and will bring us good qualities as well. So, we had to make that decision."
Video: Bruins face must-win Game 5 Friday in Ottawa
Kuraly is hoping to draw on the experience he acquired earlier in the series as he attempts to help the Bruins extend their season.
"It's high stakes. Managing the puck is critical, just advancing zones. Every little play matters," said Kuraly. "You've just got to realize that even if it may not seem like a game-changing play, that's what sometimes can be a game-changing play."
Seizing the Moment
David Backes has played in 53 postseason games over his 11-year NHL career. He was captain of the St. Louis Blues for five of those seasons and this year, in his first campaign with the Bruins, is an alternate captain. His experience and leadership have been crucial additions to the Bruins dressing room.
So, what is the mindset with the season on the line?
"That opportunity that we have to seize those moments needs to increase, desperation needs to increase and make those our moments rather than their moments and this series can turn in a heartbeat with how close it's been," said Backes.
"We've got to stay within ourselves, do our job to the best of our ability, fit the puzzle pieces together and make it a beautiful picture."
Kelly in for Ottawa
Former Bruin Chris Kelly will slot into the Senators lineup for Game 5 with Tom Pyatt out with an injury. Kelly has yet to play in the series, after suiting up for all 82 regular-season games.
"He's a guy that I hated to take out, he's a terrific person, great professional," said Ottawa head coach Guy Boucher. "He's helped us all year, he's been outstanding in our room. That was probably the toughest thing to do this year is sit him out…it was no fun to do that, so to have him back is exciting for me."
The Bruins have struggled to contain Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson. The defenseman has five assists in four games, factoring into half of the Senators 10 goals in the series.
Cassidy said stopping Karlsson entirely is nearly impossible, but limiting his chances and attempting to slow him down is going to be a focus in Game 5.
"Well, he's an elite player, so at times, he will have his way. We've just got to minimize those and I think part of that was on us," said Cassidy. "We also understand he's out there half the game, he's going to make some plays. So, we've got to make harder him.
"Part of it is us protecting the puck better in the offensive zone so he can't get on offense. That falls on us being heavier on pucks, managing it better, putting it in better places, getting to the net. "