Julien focused on keeping players fresh

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- With a condensed schedule in the month of March, Bruins coach Claude Julien will try to give his players rest when needed, especially those who participated in the Olympics.

The Bruins have 17 games in 31 days in March, beginning Saturday afternoon (1 p.m.) when they host the Washington Capitals at TD Garden. Boston also has six pairs of back-to-back games.

After losing to the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 in overtime Wednesday night at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, the Bruins held an optional practice Thursday at Ristuccia Arena.

On Friday, with the exception of forwards Patrice Bergeron (gold medal for Canada) and Loui Eriksson (sliver medal for Sweden), everyone was on the ice for Boston, including captain Zdeno Chara, forward David Krejci and goaltender Tuukka Rask.

Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid (leg) continues to progress but hasn’t been cleared to return to game action. He’s been sidelined since Jan. 19. Julien said on Thursday that McQuaid could return to the lineup Saturday against the Capitals.

Moving forward, Julien said the idea of managing ice time will depend on how well the team is playing. In a perfect world, he’d like to be able to roll four lines more often than not in order to keep everyone fresh during the stretch run.

The other concern on the mind of the players is whether GM Peter Chiarelli will make a deal before the March 5 trade deadline. Both Chiarelli and Julien recently said the team is comfortable going into the playoffs with the current roster, but the GM admitted he would like to add a veteran defenseman.

“If you look at our team, we are a little young on the back end, but we’ve done a really good job and our young players are good players,” Julien said. “Those are the same young players that helped us get through the New York Rangers last year, so you don’t want to underestimate those guys. They’ve stepped it up.”

Losing a veteran defenseman like Dennis Seidenberg, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in December, will hurt come playoff time, but Julien is convinced the Bruins will be fine.

“I’m sure if there’s something available and we can get some help, we will,” Julien said. “If not, I’m going forward feeling comfortable those guys will step it up like they did last year.”