"He's actually under the weather right now, so we'll see how he is," Head Coach Claude Julien said following the skate. "We're obviously taking some precautions here, whether he can make it or not, and there's probably a goaltender that we'll try and get here for game time."
"If he's not feeling well, I'd rather not have him on the bench. We'll see. He talked to me this morning - feeling a little bit better, so we'll have to make some decisions here."
Niklas Svedberg was the only goalie on the ice for the skate, along with Goaltending Coach Bob Essensa.
Later in the afternoon, around 1:00 p.m., the Bruins announced that goaltender Jeremy Smith had been recalled from the Providence Bruins on an emergency basis. Smith will join the team in New Jersey and be eligible for the matchup with the Devils.
Given the situation, Julien did not confirm a starting goaltender.
"I don't have the answer. I know you're going to ask me who's going to be in nets - I don't know," Julien said before the recall was announced. "You know, Sveddy's here, obviously. I'll see how Tuukka is first, before I announce anything here…I'm not in the position to kind of say this is what's happening tonight."
Smith has played in 26 games for Providence this season, splitting time with Malcolm Subban, and opting a 14-8-4 record, with a 2.08 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. He has previously dressed as an NHL backup for both Nashville and Columbus on emergency basis recalls. He has never played an NHL game.
Svedberg last suited up with Boston on Feb. 10 against Dallas, allowing three goals on 10 shots before Rask replaced him between the pipes. He has made 13 appearances for the Bruins this season, posting a 5-5-0 record with a 2.43 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. He was with Providence for a conditioning stint in early February, before starting against the Stars. His most recent start prior to that game came on Jan. 8, when he shut out the Devils 3-0 at TD Garden.
Serving as a backup for the first time in his pro career, Svedberg has had difficulty adjusting to the schedule, with lengthy times out of the lineup, and not playing every other game like he did in the AHL.
With back-to-back games every weekend in a busy month of March, he'll be relied upon more. If Rask is too ill to play and Svedberg gets the call on Friday night, he'll no doubt be looking to seize that opportunity and prove he can be trusted to help down the stretch, with just 22 games remaining in the regular season.
"It's going to be important. It will be," Julien said of Svedberg's role, speaking with reporters on Thursday before the Bruins left for New Jersey. "We know that Tuukka will need a rest at some point, so it's important that we have somebody come in and do the job here and give our goaltender the rest and confidence for the rest of the team."
Rask has made 51 appearances this season.
"We're in a situation this year where we're battling for a playoff spot, so you need sometimes to ride your No. 1 a little bit more," said Julien. "And some guys can handle going in once in a while and doing the job. Where Sveddy has to be better at, is that although he doesn't play much, he's got to remain sharp and when he gets in, he's got to do the job."
"That's what you're being asked to do in that position, so it's not like we're asking anything different than any other backup goaltender. It's just the situation that he's in right now."
Warmups are set to take place at 6:30 p.m. ET at the Prudential Center (follow the live lineup updates on Twitter @NHLBruins).
Did you know that the Florida Panthers lost 3-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night? You probably did.
Standings watch is in full effect, and has been for a while for the Bruins, who have been hovering in a Wild Card spot.
Heading into Friday night's game in New Jersey, Boston (67 points) sat two points ahead of Florida with one game in hand, and four points ahead of Philadelphia, which lost 3-2 to Toronto on Thursday night.
"It seems like I'm checking it every day," said Reilly Smith. "A lot of people say they do their best to try to keep it out of their mind and just focus on what you can control, but I think everyone peaks at it a little bit."
The Bruins have 22 games remaining in the final stretch of the regular season, so they know what's at stake. Every game is important. Even the Devils are in the Wild Card race at 59 points.
"I think [tonight's] important for both teams," said Julien. "You see where we are in the standings, and the teams that are behind us, and I know for a fact that the team that we're playing tonight - they win, their hopes are still there; they lose, it gets pretty slim - so we'll probably see the best effort from their side tonight."
"And we need to have our best effort in order to stay on top here with only two games in the next six days."
The Bruins kick off a back-to-back set on Friday, heading home to host the Coyotes on Saturday, before a four-day layoff that doesn't see them play again until Thursday night at TD Garden against Calgary.
"I think we should have our foot to the floor, no matter what, whether we play Monday again or whatever - we're in no position to even take our foot off the gas pedal," said Julien. "So it's not about panicking - it's just about making sure you bring your game."
It's simple: the Bruins need to find ways to come up with more than just strong efforts; they need points.
"We've been losing way too much, so we need these two wins," said Carl Soderberg.
The Devils traded Jaromir Jagr to the Florida Panthers on Thursday in exchange for draft picks. Their locker room didn't seem too phased on Friday morning, and the Bruins aren't expecting a much different team than the one that they've faced before.
"I think it's going to be pretty much the same team. If they're motivated or not, most of the lineup's the exact same, so they'll come out with a strong effort I'm sure, so we just have to look at it from that angle," said Smith, who admitted he's been following the lead-up to the trade deadline (March 2).
"I just saw it at the end of the night," he said, while also adding that he's not paying attention to any chatter about the Bruins. "That's another thing that you have no control over and if you start worrying about it too much, it affects you, so that's more than anything, I try to put that out of my mind."
Finding Their Finish
The Bruins were hoping that they could carry over their offensive outburst from the 6-2 win in Chicago. Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to Vancouver saw them generate chances and do everything but score. They'll need to re-find their finish.
"It's tough not picking up victories when our team's playing a little bit better and heading in the right direction, so you try to take the positives out of those games," said Smith. "But at times like this, when there's only 22 games left in the year, you've got to start getting points to make the playoffs."
"I'm not going to complain if we keep bringing the game that we have in Chicago and obviously Vancouver, again, we didn't score but can you ask much more out of the players - the effort was there, the commitment, the domination was there," said Julien. "But we've just got to make sure we have enough confidence here to finish around the net and then turn those good efforts into wins, and that's what we should be focusing on right now."
While there are plenty of Bruins who are putting pressure on themselves to produce more, perhaps no one is being harder on himself than Soderberg, who is amidst a 14-game scoreless drought and hasn't scored since Jan. 17. He recorded his first point in eight games against the Canucks, assisted on Daniel Paille's goal.
"I think it's [tough] for all of us, but that's the thing when you don't produce and you're losing, you have to face it and accept it, but [at the same time], don't accept it, so that's pretty much it," said Soderberg. "So you have to find ways to get out of it as fast as possible."
The center feels he's close to breaking out.
"I think definitely I can feel it [coming around]," said Soderberg. "So I think it's just a matter of time before I start producing a lot, too."
He's also putting more pressure on himself to produce with David Krejci sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks (partially torn MCL in left knee).
"It does [put more pressure on me], and I like it, because then I don't have to worry about myself - it's more about the team," he said. "So I have to be there and produce, because that's what we need."
Projected Lineup vs. New Jersey Feb. 27
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly SMith
Milan Lucic - Ryan Spooner - David Pastrnak
Daniel Paille - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
Jordan Caron - Chris Kelly - Brian Ferlin
Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton
Matt Bartkowski - Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid
Starter: Niklas Svedberg // Backup: Jeremy Smith
Scratches: Craig Cunningham (healthy), Tuukka Rask (ill)