- After flying in to Buffalo last night, the Bruins hit the ice for pregame skate at First Niagara Center this morning and it was - well, business as usual.
An interesting couple of days with "Blizzard 2013" or "Nemo" pounding the Bay State and leaving massive snow piles behind (as we encountered in the TD Garden parking lot prior to departing for the plane…and then awaiting us on the airport tarmac).
When the game against the Lightning was postponed, it negated the back-to-back that had been planned in the B's schedule, making Sunday night the first time the Black & Gold have suited up for a game since last Wednesday's 2-1 comeback win in Montreal. Buffalo, on the other hand, is playing its third game in four nights and facing a back-to-back, after returning from a 3-2 road win over the New York Islanders last night.
"There are a lot of things that are focal points for tonight," B's Head Coach Claude Julien told media gathered at First Niagara Center after morning skate. "I think everybody wants to have a good start, whether you’ve played three in four [games], whether your refreshed or tired. We always talk about how important those starts are. I don’t think tonight’s any different."
"That’s something that we can take advantage of - they’ve played a lot more game in the last few days," added Dan Paille, on the Sabres' stretch of games versus the B's rest. "But, you can flip it around and they could come out harder. For us, we’re going to try to have a good start."
Out on the ice for the pregame skate were 15 forwards and seven defensemen, along with Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin. And though Khudobin was first off the ice, Rask followed shortly after and it is unclear at the moment who will be between the pipes. Coach Julien told media after the skate that it had not yet been decided who was going to start in goal for the B's and that both goaltenders were prepared to get the call.
"They don't even know," said Coach Julien on his goaltenders. "I told them both to be ready."
The three other "question marks" for the Bruins over the past few days have been the returns of Brad Marchand, Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille to the lineup.
"All game-time decisions," Coach Julien said on the trio's status. "That’s what I told them, to be ready. We have to look at things - I just talked to the trainer, we’re going to put some guys on the ice after the warmups. It’s going to be up to me to decide whether I want to move forward with certain guys or not."
As in practice the past few days and in the third period against Montreal, the B's line combinations have seen a few switches, and will certainly be affected by whether any of the three are inserted into the lineup.
But, during morning skate today, David Krejci was centering Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic/Brad Marchand were taking turns on the other wing, while Rich Peverley was on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Nathan Horton. The third line saw Chris Kelly alongside wingers Chris Bourque and Jamie Tardif and Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell, Dan Paille and Lane MacDermid rotated through on the fourth line. Jay Pandolfo was the 15th forward, joining the team for his first road trip (though he cannot play in games, as he is on a Professional Tryout Agreement with the team).
Here are what the lines and D pairings looked like during pregame skate rushes:
"I can honestly tell you that I'm not 100 percent on those lines right now," Coach Julien had said following Friday's practice, when media had the first glimpse at new line combinations.
"Most of the guys have been with me for a long time, so they just react to where they’ve got to play, and they go with it. A lot of times, it had nothing to do with the individual more than it has to do with injuries and what could be and what could not be, so that’s why the changes were made."
Forgetting Last Loss to Buffalo
Tonight, the B's will be looking to jump out to a strong start, having not played a consistent, 60-minute "Bruins" type of hockey their last time out against Buffalo, in the 7-4 loss that still remains their only regulation loss this season. A win tonight would give Boston its hottest ten-game start in franchise history, besting the 16 of possible 20 points they have amassed in four previous seasons (most recently in 1978-79).
"Absolutely, I think it’s no different than every other team that’s gone through it, so far," Coach Julien said, when asked if the loss to Buffalo had just been an aberration from the B's usual effort. "I look around at the scores across the league, everybody seems to have one of those nights where guys are really off their game. When it’s a condensed schedule like that, it’s early and that’s going to happen. So far, we’ve been fortunate to minimize them and there was only one game that we had major breakdowns."
"When you give that kind of team that kind of space and those kind of opportunities, that’s certainly a team that can put the puck in the net. We’re going to focus on being better in regards to our game without the puck tonight."
The Bruins allowed seven goals against in the last meeting, mostly on odd-man rushes and 2-on-1 situations down low, something Coach and the team termed "uncharacteristic" of their club, and have since allowed only one goal, in the 2-1 win over Montreal.
"Watching the last couple of games, we responded well to our defensive play," said Paille. "Montreal and Toronto were tough games, we didn’t make many mistake on either side, we showed very good patience. It was good to see everybody give that effort."
"We showed a lot of character in Montreal," added alternate captain Patrice Bergeron. "It wasn’t our best effort, but we wanted to get the two points. I like the way we’re battling."
"I think it’s just about having a good start. We need to do that and go from there," said Bergeron, on the game plan for tonight, trying to get a different outcome than the last time against the Sabres. "As soon as we get some momentum, we want to keep it for 60 minutes."
Like all New Englanders, the snow storm presented a unique situation for the B's. But since the Bruins live in Boston, they had prepared for a game against the Lighting, as they would on any gameday, ready to walk to TD Garden and suit up for a game if they had to.
"I prepared like a normal game day until we found out the game was cancelled," said Paille. "Kind of had to change a few things, but when we found out it was cancelled we just relaxed at home, walked around a little bit to see all the atmosphere around the city. It was definitely a lot of snow mounted high."
"There’s snow everywhere where I’m from," said the Buffalo native, before adding that his place in the city probably didn't get the brunt of the snow. "Though I’ve heard outside of Boston it was a lot worse and we had a lot of snow there, so I couldn’t imagine…"
"We didn’t have a morning skate, so just to get my legs going, I went for a walk outside and stretched," said Bergeron, on taking a stroll through the scenic snow-covered streets of Boston yesterday. "There was a lot of snow, it felt like back home for a little bit. It’s nice, obviously it was a bad storm, but once it stopped it was beautiful."