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With Marchand Out, Fraser Stepping Into Yet Another New Role

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BOSTON — For the final 13-plus minutes of Saturday’s 2-1 win over Carolina, winger Brad Marchand was nowhere to be seen, held out for precautionary reasons.

Following Monday’s practice, Head Coach Claude Julien said Marchand was probable for Tuesday’s tilt versus St. Louis, but following Tuesday’s morning skate at TD Garden — for which Marchand was briefly seen on the ice — the prognosis was not good.

When asked how Marchand was doing, Julien said, “Not well,” then added, “He went off the ice, so he won’t be going tonight.”

Matt Fraser slotted in alongside Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith for the majority of Tuesday’s skate and figures to skate at left wing on that line when the puck drops on Tuesday night.

“I’ve got to play my game and not think too much, or not over-think and try and make too many plays because that's when you get in trouble,” Fraser said on Tuesday. “For me, I’m trying to be a straight-line guy and straight-line forward and get in there and try and create some space for those guys because they are very good with the puck.

"At the same time, [I have to] get open for them because they both can dish the puck really well.”

Thus far in the 2014-15 season, Fraser has played a variety of roles. He has served as the healthy scratch for a handful of games. He has skated with a makeshift first line, the third line and the fourth line.

Tonight, he can add another role to this season’s resume. But when the time comes to hit the ice for warmups, he’ll just be thinking about doing the same things he’s been doing all season long, whether he has been able to get into the lineup or not.

“Every day I show up to the rink, I’m just prepared to play, and wherever I’m kind of slotted in, you have to make certain adjustments,” he said.

Since watching five games from press level from Oct. 21 to Oct. 30, Fraser has played in six consecutive games. In his first game back in the lineup on Nov. 1, he scored twice, leading Boston to a 4-2 win over Ottawa; since then, he has been held scoreless, but he still feels as though he is starting to settle into a groove.

While he laments the fact that the puck hasn’t been finding the back of the net, he is more focused on making sure he plays Bruins-style hockey in all three zones.

“I mean I’d like to be contributing a little more offensively, but I feel like I’ve been getting my chances,” he said. “I’ve been around the net. The biggest thing for me, too, is being a younger guy in this organization, you’ve got to be good defensively, and you’ve got to be good in all three zones.

“When you look at the guys on this team — the [Patrice Bergerons], the [David Krejcis], the [Milan Lucics] — they’re all good in all three zones, and you’ve got to gain that trust of the coaches and the guys in the room so when you’re out there, you know you’re going to get the job done.”

Smith, who figures to be Fraser’s linemate on Tuesday, has a bit of familiarity playing with him, dating back to their time together in the Stars organization. They haven’t played together in Boston, but Smith is confident in Fraser’s ability to slot in seamlessly like plenty of players have managed to do this season, from Seth Griffith all the way down to Joe Morrow on the back end.

“It should be fun,” Smith said. “We’ve played together in Austin and in Dallas, so there’s definitely familiarity there. We’ll try to feed off each other.

“Pretty much anyone in this lineup can step into any spot. I think we’ve seen that with a lot of the defensemen stepping into key roles, and Seth as well. He’s done a great job. So it should be a good experience tonight, and hopefully all goes well.”

Injury Updates on Krejci, Miller

Julien offered some additional information on injured players following Tuesday’s skate, the first one center David Krejci has participated in since the day the Bruins beat Edmonton on Nov. 6.

Krejci — who has been battling an undisclosed injury and has missed five of the last six games, including the last four straight — practiced with the team on Monday for the first time since the win over the Oilers. It is still unclear whether he will be in the lineup on Tuesday, but if the team does not call up another forward from Providence this afternoon, that can be interpreted as a good sign, and Krejci will be a go.

Defenseman Kevan Miller is also a possibility for Tuesday’s matchup. Miller has been out since dislocating his right shoulder on Oct. 18 versus Buffalo, but he has been skating with the team for more than a week and, as of Monday, has been cleared by Boston’s medical staff.

On Tuesday, Julien said that Miller would be a game-time decision.

“We’re going to dress seven D’s here in the warmup, and we’ll make that decision after warmup,” Julien said. “He’ll be part of [that] seven.”

Tough Test vs. Blues

The Bruins have managed to compile an impressive record at TD Garden over the last couple of weeks: They are currently riding a five-game home winning streak, including Saturday’s 2-1 triumph over Carolina.

But they are well aware that they face a formidable foe in the Blues. St. Louis enters Tuesday’s game having won 10 of its last 11 contests. The Blues have won all five of their matchups against Eastern Conference teams this season, and they have won six straight over the Bruins, dating back to January 2002.

The last time these two teams met — on Feb. 6, 2014 — the Blues escaped with a 2-1 overtime victory, the game-winner coming off the stick of T.J. Oshie.

It wasn’t easy to defeat St. Louis last year, and the B’s don’t expect it to be any easier this time around.

“When we look at their lineup and the way they're playing, and playing against them last year, we know that they're a really good team — strong, fast, skilled,” said defenseman Dougie Hamilton. “So we have high expectations for the game and know that we need to play well, and it's going to be a tough one. I think at the same time, [we have to] try to not really focus on them too much and try to keep focusing on ourselves and what we need to do in order to win.”

Chris Kelly said the key for the Bruins will lie in their ability to move their feet and keep pace with a good skating team.

“I think tonight’s going to be an extremely difficult challenge,” Kelly said. “They’re playing well, and they’ve got a good hockey team over there. I think we need to come out and move our feet and skate. It’s a good skating team — they move the puck well, they put pucks in position to retrieve them. So our feet definitely need to be moving early on.”

Boston has been anything but consistent over their last few games — they throttled New Jersey 4-2 just over a week ago, then lost to Toronto and Montreal by a combined score of 11-2, then held on for the win over the Hurricanes on Saturday. Kelly said if the Bruins want to keep winning, it’s a matter of sticking to their system and bringing that trademark physicality to the ice.

“When we’re bad — as in, the two games in Canada — we were really bad,” he said. “I think we weren’t engaged. Our feet weren’t moving, we weren’t playing our system. I think when we’re playing well, everyone’s playing the system. We’re playing to our strengths. We’re moving our feet, we’re moving the puck well, and we’re making the simple plays, but we’re wearing teams down.”

On Saturday, the B’s were reminded of what they could do when they play as a five-man unit. Now, it’s up to them to do the same thing against one of the toughest opponents the Western Conference has to offer.

“As a whole team, when we're doing stuff as a five-man unit — forechecking and pinching, or breaking out and having the forwards go with speed — I think that's when we're most effective,” Hamilton said. “It can't be a separation between the forwards and the D; we have to be on the same page.

“And when we do that, we're pretty good. So hopefully we have that tonight.”

Projected Lineup vs. St. Louis

(Based on Tuesday’s pregame skate)

Forwards

Milan LucicDavid KrejciSeth Griffith

Matt FraserPatrice BergeronReilly Smith

Chris KellyCarl SoderbergLoui Eriksson

Simon GagneGregory CampbellDaniel Paille

Defensemen

Dennis SeidenbergAdam McQuaid

Joe MorrowDougie Hamilton

Matt BartkowskiTorey Krug

Starting  Goalie: Tuukka Rask (Backup: Niklas Svedberg)

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