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Spooner, Liles Staying Back as Bruins Head to New Jersey

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTON, Mass. — When the Bruins travel to New Jersey on Monday afternoon, Ryan Spooner and John-Michael Liles will not be making the trip.

The team gathered for practice at Ristuccia Arena in the morning after a day off on Sunday that came following their 3-1 win in Toronto on Saturday.

Neither Spooner, nor Liles, were present for the skate.

Spooner left Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury and did not play in the third period.

“He’s not making the trip,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “So I’m going to label him as day-to-day right now, but not making the trip. Neither is [John-Michael] Liles. Liles skated today, is getting better, but those two guys won’t be making the trip.”

Liles missed the Bruins’ game against Toronto with a lower-body injury. He sustained the injury last Thursday against the Florida Panthers.

Brad Marchand was also absent from the team’s Monday practice, but was set to still make the trip.

“Just a little under the weather,” said Julien. “He’ll be on the plane with us heading over.”

With Spooner unavailable for Tuesday’s game against the Devils, Loui Eriksson could be slotting in at center for the game. During Monday’s practice, he centered Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes.

At the time of Julien’s media availability, the bench boss said that there were no transactions to announce in light of Spooner’s absence.

“That can always change, but right now, I’ve got nothing to announce, or that’s not the plan as we speak,” said Julien. “So you saw Loui at center and Loui’s very capable of doing that, and we’ll see where we go from there.”

“We’ll see. I took some faceoffs last game, I think I had one shift as a centerman last game,” said Eriksson. “I did try it in Dallas, had a few games in Dallas, played centerman. It’s a little bit different, but I kind of like the work you have to put it in to be a centerman, and I’ll try to do my best.”

What would be the greatest adjustments for him?

“Obviously faceoffs, and you have to be the guy who comes home and plays in the defensive zone,” said Eriksson. “It’s a little bit different, and it will probably take a few shifts to get used to it, but like I said, I played it before and hopefully I can do something good out there.”

With Spooner out, Brett Connolly will likely be slotting back into the lineup. Connolly has been a healthy scratch for three of the Bruins’ past four games.

“Just ‘cause a guy’s out of the lineup, it’s not always about what they need to do, but he’s going to probably come in and go on the line that he was on today [in practice], and just play his game,” Julien said of Connolly. “We want him to be a player that can give you some energy, make some plays, which he’s capable of doing.”

“He needs to overall just be a better player and step up his game.”

Six Games to Go

The Bruins have just six games left in the regular season, beginning with Tuesday’s tilt against the Devils. Saturday was as good a time as any to finally snap their five-game losing streak and start to feel confident for the final stretch.

Winning certainly put the team in high spirits.

“It’s nice. You can smile,” Matt Beleskey smiled. “You know, you wake up in the morning feeling good about yourself. But we’re on to another game. It is just one game, but it’s definitely a lot more fun when you win.”

The way they finished against the Maple Leafs should give them a boost heading into the matchup with the Devils. They need to carry over that urgency.

“You hope that you can build off those things, and I thought our game started coming there in the second and third period,” said Julien. “Getting some breaks too, helps, and being able to score some goals — we’ve been a little snake-bitten there — but we scored some goals at the right time.”

“So our team seems to be in good spirits right now. We had a good practice, so now it’s a matter of carrying that into New Jersey, and build on it.”

The Bruins remain third in the Atlantic Division, three points above the Detroit Red Wings, who have one game in hand.

This could be a stressful time, with the standings staying tight, but the Bruins are embracing their one-game-at-a-time mentality.

“It’s a long season and I had a coach who said ‘two points in October mean the same as two points in April’ so I think that’s a good approach to have,” said Lee Stempniak, who will be playing New Jersey for the first time since the trade deadline, when he was acquired from the Devils.

“You look at is as every game is important. You want to put yourself in a good position for the final stretch all year and we’ve been lucky to do that, but we’ve got a tough stretch coming up and you want to be hitting your stride going into the playoffs.”

To do that, they must play with the same desperation they had to close out their win in Toronto.

“‘[It’s like] playoffs have started now. We’ve got to get in there and secure our spot,” said Beleskey. “So every shift counts, every period, and we’ve just got to keep playing with that urgency.”

Practice Groupings 3/28

Gold Jerseys: Tyler RandellPatrice BergeronLee Stempniak

White Jerseys: Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak

Gray Jerseys: Frank VatranoLoui ErikssonJimmy Hayes

Merlot Jerseys: Landon FerraroNoel AcciariBrett Connolly

Defense: Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, Dennis Seidenberg, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Zach Trotman

Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson

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