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Ready to Face Rising Caps

by Eric Russo / Boston Bruins

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Features – The last time the Bruins saw the Washington Capitals, Caps forward Joel Ward was jumping up and down on the TD Garden ice in Game 7 of last year’s first round of the playoffs, after scoring the series-winning goal in overtime.

Tuesday night, the Bruins will be looking past last season’s playoff loss, when they travel to D.C. for a match-up with the Caps, who have won three of four, and six of nine, after starting the season 2-8-1.

“I think it’s going to be a hard game,” said Chris Bourque, who spent parts of six seasons in the Washington organization. “Last year in the playoffs, these guys knocked the Bruins out, so I think you want to come out and kind of make a statement that that’s in the past and you really want to start out fresh."

“They’ve got a good team over there, they’ve won a bunch of games in, maybe, the last 10 games. They had a tough start, but they’re starting to come around. They’ve got a lot of firepower over there. We’ve got to watch out for certain guys.”

One of those players to watch out for is, of course, Washington captain Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin has racked up six points, including three goals, over his past four games, though he has often come under fire.

“I think he’s a great player, I don’t really know what kind of criticism there is," said Bourque, having known Ovechkin for years. "He works hard, and he comes to the rink every day and puts it all out on the rink, so I’m not sure why so many people get on him – maybe because they haven’t won or gone too deep in the playoffs."

“Maybe that’s why, but I know him personally and I think he’s a great guy, great hockey player, as well.”

Head Coach Claude Julien sees the improvement of Ovechkin and the Capitals over the past couple of weeks, and knows the B’s will be facing a team on the rise at Verizon Center come Tuesday.

“They may have had a rough start, but they’ve been playing pretty well lately, they’ve been a really good team,” explained Julien Monday morning, at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington. “I don’t think we’re facing a team that’s underachieving right now – they might’ve underachieved a little I think they’re finding their way right now, so we’re going to have a tough opposition.

“Ovechkin’s been playing a little better as of late. When you’ve got guys like [Mike] Ribeiro that’s got 9, 10 goals and [Nicklas] Backstrom’s back in the lineup. There’s a lot of firepower on the back end, there’s some firepower there.

“Their goaltender [Braden Holtby] has been playing well for them. I think he’s got two or three shutouts now.”

Julien remembers Holtby shutting down the B’s offense in the first round of the playoffs last spring, and knows that the Black & Gold will face a tough test in goal.

“He played with a lot of confidence,” Julien said of Holtby’s performance down the stretch. “He was good, he made some big saves. I think he’s a real difference maker for them. I didn’t think we played our best hockey, obviously, in that series. We didn’t create enough offense. But, whenever we had some opportunities, he was really, really solid. He’s all about confidence.”

The Bruins will be trying to get back on the winning track against the Caps, after their six-game win streak was snapped at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night.

“We have to,” said Julien, when asked about how the team moves on from the loss. “It’s not the end of the world that you lose a game – I know it’s against a big rival. At the same time, we need to be thinking about Washington, who’s slowly, but surely, getting better.

“We want to make sure we stay in the winning column, more than the losing one. We’ve just got to be ready to bounce back.”

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