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Weekend Test: 'Play Them & Play Them Hard'

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

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WILMINGTON, MA - The last time the Bruins faced off against the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, the outcomes left the B's bitter.

After holding a 3-0 lead over the Caps in D.C., the Black & Gold saw that evaporate into a 4-3 overtime loss. One week later, the B's went up 2-0 on the offensively fire-powered Pittsburgh Penguins, just to see a 3-2 loss come as a result.

Despite the two frustrating losses, Boston has maintained a 18-4-3 record, good for second in the Northeast Division with 39 points, just one back of Montreal and securely in a playoff spot. For them, the matinee back-to-back games this weekend against Washington at TD Garden on Saturday, followed by the Pens in Pittsburgh on Sunday, will serve multiple purposes.

It will be a chance to find their full-60 consistency they've been searching for all season, and an opportunity to put the two demoralizing defeats in the past.

"It's been a bit of a challenge to get some consistency out of our team. You have a couple lines playing well, you have a couple lines that stubble a little bit and vice versa. We haven't been able to get everybody going all at once," said Coach Julien following Friday's high-intensity practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington. "You work on that throughout a season."

"I don't think there's too many teams that are going to tell you now that they're firing on all cylinders. Even when Chicago was winning, they won some games that they felt they were lucky. I don't think we're any different than any other team."

Coach is looking for his B's to not get too hard on themselves - after all, an 18-4-3 record does not usually warrant head-hanging. But for this team, it's about building to a point where they can bring a full-game effort every night.

"We've got to be careful that we don't start being too hard on ourselves and expecting too much out of ourselves when we shouldn't. A season has its ups and downs, you've got to fight through them. At the end of the day, you want to be playing your best hockey at the right time of the year, and we all know when that is."

For Coach Julien, getting all four lines in sync would help the B's get sustainable scoring and

"We definitely want to work on some things to make it a complete game," said Milan Lucic, who hasn't been finding the back of the net recently, but has seen his line inch back towards its North-South game and start to create more chances.

"Obviously that’s the process of the season and the things you have to learn as a team to achieve your ultimate goal, so we’re at a point now where we’re not playing the way we really want to, so you definitely want to crank it up and get your game to where you want it to be."

One collective aspect the Bruins know they need to all be better at, is maintaining their leads and not sitting back, but continuing to attack teams.

Prior to 2012-13, the B's had only given up two-goal leads on four occasions through the past two seasons. This year alone, they've seen four two-goal leads evaporate.

"Well I think there’s definitely a lot of focus on it. We’ve addressed it in putting together a complete game, playing a full 60 minutes," said Lucic. "Last year we didn’t blow a lead going into the third period, and this year we’ve managed to blow three, so there’s definitely some cracks in our game that we’re trying to fix."

"And there’s a big learning process going through the season and trying to solidify your game and get it to where you want it to be to achieve your goals."

"So I think that’s what we’re trying to learn and trying to get to right now as a team, and there’s 23 games left to do that. It sounds like a lot, but it definitely isn’t with only six and a half weeks left in the season, so it’s up to us to find it and get our game to where we want it to be and peak at the right time."

No better time to turn the corner than with two statement games this weekend.

"We obviously had tough endings the two times we played these teams," said forward Jay Pandolfo, who has been one of the B's to step up and fill in, with Chris Kelly's absence on the third line. "We don't want to forget that, we want to focus on tomorrow afternoon and be ready. It's a quick turnaround, so we want to make sure that we get two points tomorrow and move on from there."

"I don't think that emotionally, as a coach, you should have to get these guys up for these games," said a steadfast Julien, on the weekend's match-ups. "When you realize what's happened against them, we should be ready to play them and play them hard. That's our test this weekend."

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