Team hoping that home is where the wins are
WILMINGTON — The Bruins have only one win in their last seven games. Their next three games are at TD Garden, where they are 1-2-2 in their last five matches. Tonight, they host New Jersey, an elite club under recycled boss Jacques Lemaire. On Thursday, they take on the Canadiens, who thumped Minnesota on Sunday, 8-1. Montreal is just one point behind the Bruins in the Eastern Conference.
For all that’s going against the Bruins lately, they’re viewing this stretch more as a positive than a burden.
“I think this is a great opportunity to get our home record to where it should be,’’ coach Claude Julien said after yesterday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “We’ve got lots of games here. Obviously some good challenges. There’s nothing wrong with what’s going on here as far as our schedule is concerned. I think it’s a great opportunity. We’ve got to take advantage of it.’’
Yesterday, the team rolled through its second practice, continuing the theme it started Sunday: jacking up the urgency. For too long, the Bruins have played like a club that considers itself a top-flight team when, in reality, they have been far from it.
So for the second straight day, they sprinted through a battle-heavy practice. Lots of races. Emphasis on down-low play. Traffic in front of both goalies. Attention to detail.
Tonight, they’ll see if their grinding has paid dividends.
“We had a couple of good, hard practices,’’ defenseman Adam McQuaid said. “We’re trying to get back to making sure that our effort’s there. It can be a busy schedule at times. To get a couple practices in is probably a good thing at this point and time.
“I think the biggest thing is the effort and the battle. We’re at the point of the season where that’s probably the biggest key to success. Everyone’s playing so well and everyone’s fighting for their playoff lives. I think that’s the biggest thing we’ve gotten out of these last couple days.’’
Hot goaltender In two straight games, goaltender Tuukka Rask has blown up at his teammates. Saturday against Toronto, Rask had words with Dennis Seidenberg after a Keith Aulie goal. Seidenberg had screened Rask on Aulie’s shot.
Two days earlier, Rask tossed his stick after David Legwand’s tying goal. Steven Kampfer had interfered with Rask, preventing him from sliding over to stop Legwand’s shot.
“I don’t support that,’’ Julien said. “And I don’t think anybody supports that, including him. Sometimes frustration sets in when you see players breaking their sticks after a goal-against. You see them put their heads up in the air after they miss an open net.
“There’s a frustration part. I’m certainly not going to stand here and start accusing him of that. But I think it’s something you don’t want to see from anybody. It has a big impact on your team. Having said that, I think Tuukka’s aware of that. If anything, he’s been playing some of his best hockey lately. So I don’t think there’s any need for that.
“Sometimes you’ve got to control your emotions. He’s frustrated with the first half of the year and he wants to help this hockey club. Sometimes his emotions run a little too high and he reacts that way.’’
Julien reiterated, however, that Rask’s actions didn’t affect the coach’s decision on Saturday. Rask, who had replaced Tim Thomas in the second period, was back on the bench to start the third. Julien explained that he wanted Thomas to get more action. Thomas hadn’t played in more than a week.
Seguin improving Tyler Seguin has skated on the third line the last three games after being a healthy scratch the previous two matches. Seguin practiced on the third line and on the No. 2 power-play unit yesterday, indicating he’ll be in tonight’s lineup.
Lately, Seguin’s heart and head have caught up to his hands and wheels.
“He’s competing a little better,’’ Julien said. “When you compete a little better in certain areas, your skill level kind of takes over. It’s going back to the skill level we know he has. It’s there. How does he expose that? I think he exposes that by competing hard in certain areas and making sure he’s got the puck on his stick. He’s got to play with the puck. I think he’s done a lot better in regards to that.’’
Against Toronto, Seguin was given 16:32 of ice time. It was the most he played since Jan. 13, when he skated a total of 17:15 against Philadelphia.
Marchand available Brad Marchand will be back in uniform tonight after serving his two-game suspension for hitting R.J. Umberger in the head with an elbow last Tuesday. The Bruins have 13 forwards. Julien didn’t indicate who would be the healthy scratch up front. “Those are decisions we’re going to have to make [today],’’ Julien said. “That’s part of the process. We’ve got some healthy Ds now. We’ve got 13 forwards. There’s going to be decisions made, as long as we’re healthy.’’ . . . Julien was confident Marchand had learned his lesson from the suspension and had a jab for the Penguins’ Matt Cooke, who clearly has not altered his game. Cooke elbowed Ryan McDonagh with a blindside elbow Sunday and was suspended for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs yesterday. “You have to trust your players that they’ve learned from those things and that they don’t let it happen,’’ Julien said. “Although there are certain guys in the league that don’t seem to be learning.’’ . . . Shane Hnidy is eligible to come off long-term injured reserve today. He must receive final clearance from team doctors before appearing in a game. Hnidy has been practicing on the fourth defensive pairing with Kampfer the last two days . . . Kampfer projects to be the healthy scratch on defense for the second straight game. Andrew Ference, who played Saturday for the first time since Feb. 26, practiced with McQuaid on the third pairing . . . Expect Thomas to get his second straight start tonight.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.