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No rest for road-weary Bruins

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- After an exhausting four-game road trip that featured losses to the lowly Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bruins seemed relieved to return home late Thursday night after their 4-1 win over New Jersey. Despite playing four games in six days, however, Friday was no day of rest for the B’s.

With a matinee battle looming against the top-seeded New York Rangers on Saturday, the Bruins took the ice at Ristuccia Arena at noon on Friday for nearly an hour of spirited practice.

Forward Chris Kelly was the only Bruin missing from Friday’s skate, but head coach Claude Julien assured the media that Kelly’s absence was “just maintenance.” Kelly deposited his 14th goal of the season on an empty-netter on Thursday night against the Devils.

With Kelly out, forward Zach Hamill skated on the third line Friday with Rich Peverly and Benoit Pouliot. The Bruins will also be without forward Jordan Caron and defenseman Steven Kampfer on Saturday, as the club assigned them to Providence on Friday morning.

Boston had its struggles on its recent southern road trip, dropping two games to teams with less than 20 wins, but they appeared to return to top form in the third period of Thursday’s tilt with the Devils, scoring four unanswered goals en route to a 4-1 win.

The B’s will have to carry that momentum into Saturday afternoon against a strong Rangers team that ranks third in the NHL with 2.02 goals allowed per game.

“They always battle hard,” noted captain Zdeno Chara. “They always give you that game that you have to really bring your physical element [to], and you have to be willing to work extremely hard. They play a really draining game, and if you’re not ready and emotionally attached, then [you’ll get] outworked, so we have to for sure be ready.”

The Bruins have the chance to wrest sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference from the Rangers with a win on Saturday. Boston currently sits in second place with 61 points, trailing the top-seeded Rangers by one point.

Saturday’s showdown will be the first time the two Eastern powerhouses have met this season.

“They’ve been a consistent team all year, and it’s going to be our first game against them so certainly there’s something to be said about that,” remarked Coach Julien. “There’s certainly some excitement from our team in looking forward to the matchup, and I have no doubt that the same is going on from their side.”