BOSTON -- Before the Boston Bruins can even think about the playoffs, they need to get there first.
The team can clinch a postseason berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if it earns one point in its final two games, today against the Carolina Hurricanes or tomorrow at Washington. Only one point separates the remaining four teams still in the hunt for the final three spots in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins and Canadiens are tied with 87 points with Boston in the sixth spot having played one less game than Montreal, which is in seventh. The Flyers and Rangers are tied with 86 points with Philadelphia holding the eighth position over New York by a 40-38 advantage in wins.
“We’re not there yet, but this is an opportunity for us to control our own destiny,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “It’s not going to get any easier after tonight, so I think it’s important for us to be ready.”
As expected, rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask is in net for Boston. He has played in 14 of the last 15 games (11 starts) and is 7-4-1 during this stretch.
Don’t expect Julien to give some sort of legendary pregame speech to his players because he feels they know what the deal is.
“Everybody knows what’s at stake here,” he said. “Our team has competed hard in the last little while. Basically, we need to stay the course and try to improve in those areas we’re trying to improve on. We definitely want to keep going in the right direction and that’s us being more consistent and obviously competing hard.”
M*A*S*H UPDATES: Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart continues to battle an infection in his hand and there’s no timetable when he’ll be able to return, according to Julien. Stuart has been receiving medial attention on a daily basis. It was first thought he could be back in two weeks, but the team doesn’t know at this point. Stuart hasn’t been able to workout due to the infection.
* Julien also made it clear that the team is not holding Andrew Ference (groin/hernia) out of the lineup. The veteran defenseman simply isn’t ready to play. “He’s just not ready and for us to put him in now would be a very high risk and definitely prudent or the right decision to make.”
* Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who had surgery earlier in the week to repair a lacerated tendon in his forearm, is out for at least three weeks. He’s sporting a cast on his left arm and will need to keep it immobilized for the next three weeks.