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Tough Road Ahead for the Bruins, Starting in Winnipeg

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

WINNIPEG — The Bruins open their six-game road trip on Thursday night in Winnipeg at the MTS Centre.

Game time is set for 8:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. local, NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).

They should be able to draw on their road confidence this season, with the NHL’s second-best record away from home at 16-5-3, but this is the point in the season where the road only gets more difficult.

“Well, it doesn’t get any easier,” Head Coach Claude Julien said following his team’s pregame skate in Winnipeg. “As the season moves on, those road games get tougher and tougher. We’ve got a big test starting tonight. I think it’s just a matter of respecting every team in this League.”

“Can’t say enough times — there’s no easy games in this League.”

There is a comfort to being on the road that has produced results for the Black & Gold.

“We’ve obviously been good on the road and I don’t think anybody has an answer for that, but we’re looking to keep that going,” said Brett Connolly. “A big start to the road trip — crucial points. It seems like teams are winning every night so for the guys who were here last year, it’s similar to last year, it’s really tight.”

“You have to take advantage of points when you can and you can’t take nights off.”

The Bruins are looking to quickly forget their 9-2 outing against the Los Angeles Kings at TD Garden on Tuesday night. By the time Wednesday’s practice had wrapped and before the team hit the road, most of the players had already moved on from that game, taking the lessons with them.

“That was a obviously a tough game, everybody knows that, and we’re looking to put that behind us,” said Connolly. “There’s not going to be an easy game on this trip, we want to start it out right and tonight’s going to be a tough game. They’re a heavy team that plays hard and plays fast, and we’ve got to be ready.”

The Jets are one of four Central Division teams in the Western Conference that the Bruins will face on this road trip, as the Bruins face the Jets and Minnesota Wild in their first two games, before facing Detroit and Columbus, and then wrapping up the trip with two more Central Division games against Nashville and Dallas.

The division is arguably the toughest in the league.

Though the Jets have had an inconsistent season, they have won two straight games and usually come out strong at home — in a building that the Bruins haven’t won in since the 2011-12 season, the first year that the Jets’ franchise relocated to Winnipeg.

“I feel we have a lot of character in the room and I feel like guys have taken the last game to heart, obviously it was one of those tough nights,” said Connolly, who referenced the points the Bruins were able to pick up in the three games immediately after the All-Star Break. “We know we’re a better team than that — we’ve proven that, especially on the road.”

Eriksson, Beleskey Swap Lines

There will likely be at least one change for the Bruins in their top nine, with Loui Eriksson and Matt Beleskey swapping spots on the left wing.

For both Wednesday’s practice and Thursday’s pregame skate, Eriksson skated on a line with Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes, while Beleskey moved up to David Krejci’s left wing, with David Pastrnak on the right.

The move provides a different look for those two lines, but Eriksson and Spooner have been able to find chemistry before.

“I played with Spoons with Krech was hurt, so I know how he plays and I thought we were playing pretty good together around that time,” said Eriksson. “So I’m just going to go in and do the same and try and use our skating ability and get some chances and try to score some goals.”

Beleskey, meanwhile, could benefit production-wise from playing alongside Krejci and Pastrnak.

“He’s working hard. He’s being the gritty player that we asked him to be and there’s no doubt he would like to produce more and it’s not from lack of trying,” Julien said of Beleskey, who has eight goals and 18 assists (26 points) in 51 games this season.

“It’s just one of those situations where his physicality creates room for other players, and he does shoot the puck a lot, and he does got to the front of the net, so he’s just got to continue to work hard here and hopefully things will turn around for him.”

Randell Staying in Lineup

The other change up front sees Tyler Randell likely staying in the lineup, Zac Rinaldo returning to the lineup, and Landon Ferraro as the healthy scratch.

Randell was inserted into the lineup against Los Angeles on Tuesday after a month as a healthy scratch. He fared well against the Kings’ heavy game, dropping the gloves for his third fight of the season and notching his fifth goal in 21 games.

“Give him credit. He’s got five goals already in the amount of games that he’s played and he’s also been gritty and he defends his teammates,” said Julien. “And the thing with him is he’s got to keep up with the pace of the game on a nightly basis and he’s worked hard to try and do that.”

McQuaid Remains on IR

Defenseman Adam McQuaid will likely miss his 16th straight game on Thursday night in Winnipeg. Though he is getting closer to a possible return, given his participation in practices, the blueliner remains on Injured Reserve.

He was paired with Colin Miller during morning skate. Both blueliners stayed on for extra conditioning after the skate, along with Ferraro. The Bruins’ defense is projected to be the same lineup as it was against Los Angeles, not doubt giving the back end — and entire squad — a chance to redeem themselves.

Rask Expected to Start

Tuukka Rask was the first goalie off the ice at pregame skate, and is expected to start in goal against the Jets. The game will mark his 41st appearance of the season. He has a 19-16-5 record, with a 2.56 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. He is 9-6-0 in his career against Winnipeg.

Well Wishes for Subban

The Bruins issued an update on Malcolm Subban on Thursday afternoon.

The netminder underwent successful surgery on Feb. 8 in Boston to repair his larynx fracture. He suffered the injury after being struck in the throat with a puck on Feb. 6 as the Providence Bruins warmed up prior to facing the Portland Pirates.

He is doing well and has been released from the hospital.

According to the team-issued update, “While there is no definitive timetable for his return at this time, he is expected be out a minimum of eight weeks.”

Projected Lineup vs. Jets 2/11

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronBrett Connolly

Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak

Loui ErikssonRyan SpoonerJimmy Hayes

Zac RinaldoMax TalbotTyler Randell

Zdeno CharaZach Trotman

Joe MorrowDennis Seidenberg

Torey KrugKevan Miller

Starting Goalie: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Jonas Gustavsson

Projected Scratches: Landon Ferraro, Colin Miller

Injured Reserve: Adam McQuaid

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