WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Less than a month ago, the Boston Bruins were dealing with one of their normal seasonal funks.
There were 11 games remaining before the Olympic break, many of them against some formidable opponents. So Bruins coach Claude Julien gathered his players and stressed the importance of playing with consistency and finishing strong before the break.
Boston enters the final game before the break playing well. The puck drops between the Bruins and Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon (3 p.m.) at TD Garden. The Bruins are 7-1-2 in their past 10 games and would like to finish strong.
The only regulation loss during this stretch came against the Montreal Canadiens in a 4-1 drubbing, which was Boston's worst defeat of the season. Other than that the Bruins have been solid.
The Bruins are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Boston erased a two-goal deficit before losing in OT, but gained a crucial point against one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
"Our guys have done a really good job," Julien said after the team's brief practice Friday at Ristuccia Arena. "Even yesterday, we should have been at eight wins. We really played well, and I thought we had as good an opportunity to win that game as any. There was a tremendous amount of effort and focus. From the back end, we're missing a lot of key elements there and it didn't seem to matter. I'm looking to see the same thing [Saturday], the same kind of effort from everybody.
"If we can finish with that type of a game, there's a pretty good chance we're going to win, and [it's] a pretty good opportunity for us to leave on a positive note. I always find those things are important to leave on a positive note and feel good about yourselves. No matter what, if we can give that kind of effort [Saturday], it will have been a successful segment."
During this stretch, Boston's top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla has been producing in a big way. Lucic has eight points in the past seven games, Iginla has 12 points in the past seven games and Krejci has 12 points in the past 10 games.
Basking in the glow of the team's recent success, the players understand it's been more than just one line that has contributed to the string of wins. Special teams have been better and backup goalie Chad Johnson has won his past four starts.
After Saturday's game, Olympians Krejci, Tuukka Rask, Loui Eriksson, Patrice Bergeron, Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli will join Zdeno Chara, who is already in Sochi. The rest of the team will enjoy a much-needed break and won't return to the practice ice until Feb. 20.
Still, the Bruins are focused on the Senators and not yet on the sandy beaches of Florida, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
"That's a motivator," said Bruins forward Daniel Paille. "We can look at it both ways. One way is definitely not to get ahead of yourself and look at the break. The other way is kind of give it everything you have and realize you have that time to heal after, so I don't think anyone's going in there to play a soft game. Everyone wants to play and finish it out right, especially having a win under our belt going into the break."
As things stand, the Bruins are atop the Atlantic Division, and second in the Eastern Conference behind the Pittsburgh Penguins. After the Bruins return to game action on Feb. 26 at Buffalo, their schedule becomes hectic in March. Boston will play 17 games next month, including six back-to-backs.
Since the Bruins are playing well, they're not worried that the break will disrupt their hockey mojo. If anything, the rest and relaxation will prove crucial in the final 25 games of the regular season.
"We've done a good job competing at a certain level, and that was kind of missing a month ago," Paille said. "It's definitely helped us coming into this part of the season, preparing ourselves for when we come back."