The Bruins will try to extend their winning streak to eight games Saturday night when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins in the final match of the regular season between the two Eastern Conference contenders.
The last time the Penguins came to Boston, they won a hard-fought battle 3-2 behind two assists from local villain Matt Cooke. The Penguins were without captain Sidney Crosby (concussion) in that game and are still missing their superstar center. They’re also without Evgeni Malkin who tore the ACL and MCL in his knee. But that doesn’t mean the Bruins will take them lightly.
As head coach Claude Julien told the media after practice Friday, it doesn’t matter who his team is playing or who that team is missing.
“We always repeat ourselves when we’re asked those questions because there’s always caution,” Julien said. “You look at playing teams that are at the bottom of the standings and you look again last night, Edmonton wins and Ottawa wins and we won those games and sometimes people just assume that we should. They’re not always easy games to play in.
“Same thing with Pittsburgh. They came in here the last time and they really battled hard because of the fact that we had come from behind twice in their building in the third period and overcame some deficits to win hockey games.”
The Penguins lost 2-1 to New Jersey on Friday night and come into the game in fourth in the Eastern Conference with 81 points. With a win, and a Flyers loss to the Sabres earlier Saturday, the Bruins could pull within one point of the Flyers for the Eastern Conference lead. But as forward Mark Recchi pointed out, the key to the Bruins’ recent success has been their ability to remain focused on what they have to do and not worry about the opponent or the standings.
“We’re focused on us right now and that’s the biggest thing and not focusing the other teams,” the veteran forward said. “We focused on the process of being a tough team to play against by the end of the year. We’re getting there and we’re getting more consistent. We’re playing harder every night and doing the right things on a consistent basis. We’re finding ways to win.”
The Bruins will be missing some players Saturday night. Defenseman Andrew Ference remains out with a lower body injury and now the team will be missing another blueliner as Steven Kampfer, who suffered a mild concussion Thursday night and is out for at least a week. Forward Patrice Bergeron will also miss the game for personal reasons. The Bruins recalled defenseman Matthew Bartkowski on an emergency basis and he should replace Kampfer in the lineup. Tyler Seguin will be back in as well.