BOSTON -- Coach Claude Julien made it clear after the Bruins’ skate Thursday morning at TD Garden that fans should not expect a drastic reaction when his team faces the Pittsburgh Penguins. It will be the first meeting between the teams since Matt Cooke laid a blindside hit on Marc Savard, which resulted in a Grade 2 concussion that likely ended his season.
"We need the two points," Julien told reporters. "Things need to be done within the rules. Unfortunately, the rules aren't the same as in 1970 and in those days it was a lot different. There were bench-clearing brawls, which you don't see anymore. There was a lot of other things going on and that's what everybody has to understand.
"You guys, turn the page here, I've had enough of this."
Julien discussed the possible repercussions of retaliating, pointing out the lawsuit that stemmed from the infamous Todd Bettuzzi-Steve Moore incident of 2004. The rest of the Bruins’ personnel had a similar message Thursday, saying they were more concerned with a victory than revenge. The Bruins sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, three points up on the ninth-place Rangers.
“Obviously we’re not happy with Savy being hurt, but we need the two points because we’re scraping for a playoff spot,” Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton said.
Thornton was sitting at this stall when a horde of reporters from Boston, Pittsburgh and Canada surrounded him.
“It’s going to be a hockey game, guys,” Thornton said. “You guys can keep building it up all you want, but it’s going to be the same old, same old. It’s going to be just another game. We need the two points and that’s our focus.”
When asked what his message was to his players, Julien wasn’t about to give the Penguins bulletin board material.
“I don’t think I have to tell you what I said in that dressing room, but there is an importantcy for us to win and get ourselves into the playoffs,” Julien said. “That’s obviously pretty important for us and the rest will take care of itself.”
If the so-called retribution doesn’t occur tonight, Bruins players didn’t sound too concerned with a negative response from fans.
“I’ve been here for three years. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve done my job here for three years,” Thornton said. “The fans have been nothing but great to me, and to our team. I know what the expectations are, but it’s not like it was last year when we had a 20-point cushion going into the last few games, so we need the two points. We’re scraping for a playoff spot. As upset as [the fans] would be if they don’t see bloodshed, I think they’ll be more upset if we don’t make the playoffs. At the end of the day, that’s a bigger problem.”
Thornton did admit it would be a fine line to keep both in perspective.
“A little bit, I suppose,” he said. “We have guys here who definitely wear their heart on their sleeve, and it’s tough for those guys. It’s not about one person, it’s about what’s best for the team.”
NHL top cop Colin Campbell will be in attendance and will address both teams prior to the game.
“Obviously, they don’t want this to get out of control,” Julien said. “That’s why they’re here and they’ll certainly keep a close eye on it, including the referees, and everybody knows that.”
NHL veteran officials Bill McCreary and Stephen Walkom will be the referees for tonight’s game and Brian Murphy and Tony Sericolo will serve as linesmen.
When the morning skate concluded, Julien called the entire team over to the boards near the penalty box, which is pretty normal. His message was brief: “Get ready for the game,” team captain Zdeno Chara said very simply.
This could be the type of game that can give the Bruins a spark for the stretch run as they try to hold onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It has the potential,” said goaltender Tim Thomas, who will be serving as Tuukka Rask’s backup tonight. “We need to do our job and come out with the two points.”