Bruins try to keep energy high

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- There were only 20 seconds remaining and Boston held a 5-0 lead over the Calgary Flames on Saturday at TD Garden when the Bruins gained control of the puck at the red line and just dumped it in.

Even with the victory clearly in hand, Bruins forward David Krejci didn't stop playing. He didn't stop pressuring Calgary's defense as he created a forecheck with reckless abandon. It's that kind of hustle and relentless style the Bruins will continue to need with eight games remaining in the regular season and a postseason berth within their grasp.

It's all about the proverbial 60-minute effort.

"We're committed to making a 60-minute effort," said Shawn Thornton. "The last four games the effort has been there and guys are buying in. It's a cliché, but it's true that guys are buying in and everyone is going. That's what we need to do to be successful and we're hoping we've finally figured it out."

Simply put, when the Bruins haven't produced that kind of effort, they've lost. They've been winning of late (4-2 in the past six games), so that tells you something.

"We want to win," said Patrice Bergeron. "There have been some games we lost because we didn't play the full 60 minutes, so obviously we need to do it and we need to play physical the whole game. It doesn't matter how much time is left in the game, we need everyone to be going."

That upbeat attitude carried over into the team's practice Sunday at Ristuccia Arena in preparation for Monday night's game against the Buffalo Sabres at the Garden.

"Today there was a lot of enthusiasm again, and it's something we need from here on in," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "I like the attitude and I like the approach and that was certainly a good starting point."

Boston will face a very tough and very good Sabres team Monday night. It could also be a preview of a first-round playoff matchup.

"We're aware of that also," said Bergeron. "They're a great team and they're coming off a great win. We need to be ready, obviously, and we know it's a team we could be facing in the playoffs."

The Bruins have won three of their four meetings this season against the Sabres, including the last game on Feb. 9 in Buffalo, which Boston won 3-2.

"We haven't played them in a while, but they're a good team with a good goaltender," said Thornton. "They work hard and we always have good games against Buffalo."

Goaltending will be the key tomorrow with the Sabres' Ryan Miller likely facing the Bruins' Tim Thomas, who earned his fifth shutout of the season on Saturday as he turned away all 31 shots by Calgary.

Before Saturday's game, the Bruins had been leaning heavily on rookie netminder Tuukka Rask as Thomas served as the backup for the last five games. The previous game Thomas had started, on March 15, he was pulled after allowing three first-period goals to the New Jersey Devils. Because of his outstanding performance against the Flames, it's very possible Thomas will start against the Sabres.

If that's the case, he says he's not going to be thinking about the struggles he's had this season in producing back-to-back solid efforts.

"I'm not even going to dwell on that topic because I don't want to think about it," said Thomas. "If you start thinking about it, it makes it more difficult. All I have to do is go play the same game that I played [Saturday] whenever I play again. That's the way I'm going to look at it and keep it simple."

If Thomas and Rask can continue to play well, Julien will have two very good options in net down the stretch. He can either go with the veteran who has the experience, or the rookie who might not know the extent of the situation and play very well.

No matter who is between the pipes, the Bruins have confidence in both.

"That's a luxury we have that other teams don't," said Thornton. "We have two No. 1 goalies so we're confident with whoever is in there, which is nice. I've been on teams before when you're like, 'Oh, no. Why is our best goalie not playing?' But we don't have that here and it's a nice luxury to have."

The Sabres are led by Miller, who is 37-16-8 this season with a 2.21 goals-against average and a league-leading .929 save percentage.

"You can't take anything away from him," Julien said. "We've always known he was a pretty good goaltender. Last year they failed to make the playoffs and he had an injury that I'm sure played a role in that. I don't think he's ever been viewed as an average goaltender. He's been outstanding."

Even at this late stage, it's very possible the Bruins could climb the standings, and they could also fall out of the postseason altogether. It's a tight race and Boston will need to continue its consistent play.

"Besides the Tampa game that we lost because of mistakes, I think our enthusiasm and our energy level was still there," said Julien. "We created 50-some shots and had 20-some scoring chances. It was unfortunate we didn't get the results, but other than that, I think our team in the last week is as consistent as we've seen it in a while."

It'll need to continue.

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.