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Bruins set for busy stretch up to All-Star break

by Dan Rosen
NEWARK, N.J. -- Between their 4-2 loss to Dallas on New Year's Eve and Wednesday's game against the Devils, the Bruins have had a chance to have several quality days of hard, workmanlike practices. Boston coach Claude Julien knows how important those days will be with the Bruins starting a stretch of three games in four days and 12 games in 20 days before the All-Star break.

"It's not going to get any easier for us from here on in," Julien said Wednesday morning. "We recognize that as a group, and it's going to be a good challenge for us as a group."

Julien is happy with the approach of his players, too, especially because he knows how easy it could be for them to look forward to Saturday's Stanley Cup Final rematch against Vancouver at TD Garden.

"The Vancouver game at the end of the week will be a rematch, but I think our guys are really looking at one game at a time and seeing that this game is the one we have to have our focus on," Julien said. "Where probably on the outside everybody is looking forward to that Saturday game against Vancouver, we haven't talked about it in the dressing room and I haven't heard players mention it. Our focus is living in the moment."

The moment brings them to their second of four games against the Devils this season. The Bruins beat the Devils, 4-3, in Boston on Nov. 15. At the time it was their sixth of 10 straight victories to start November, but Julien remembers how difficult a win it was to get.

It took Benoit Pouliot scoring with 3:01 left in the third period for the Bruins to finally put the Devils away. New Jersey had fought back from deficits of 2-1 and 3-2 in the third period.

"They've got a reputation of being a hard team to play against, and every night it's that same challenge of battling through their defensive system, and also they're a team that has good size," Julien said. "They're a heavy team, they're strong on the puck and you look at their games, how they win battles along the boards, protect the puck and strip guys of the puck -- it's because of the heavy game they play. We have to be aware of that."
Here are the the Bruins' projected lines and defense pairs:

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Tim Thomas, who was in net for the win over New Jersey in November, will get the start. He's backed up by Tuukka Rask.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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