WILMINGTON -- Here we go.
The Bruins and Canucks, a rematch of last year's Stanley Cup Final. It's all or nothing on Saturday afternoon at the TD Garden.
Well, maybe not exactly. Vancouver may very well have something to prove. But the Bruins? They know this isn't the Stanley Cup Final.
Sure, they want the two points. The B's realize they're one point behind the New York Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They understand that the Canucks are the top team in the West.
But as far as the build-up leading into Saturday afternoon's game, it's not what some outside the dressing room may make of it.
"I don't think it's as much as people think it is," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after Friday's practice at Ristuccia Arena. "The Finals was last year, and we did what we had to do, and we succeeded in that. We had to come back this year, and it's a league game. I'm not going to stand here and say it means absolutely nothing. There was a rivalry that was built there, that I'm sure both teams are going to go into tomorrow's game knowing that.
"But I don't think it's any different than the rivalry we have with Philadelphia or other teams that we've played, Montreal. It's just going to be one of those intense games. But certainly, I wouldn't read more into it than that. There's no Stanley Cup at the end of tomorrow's game, but certainly, it's a battle of two teams that feel they're good teams, and certainly will want to measure themselves to each other.
"I don't think we're putting all our eggs in one basket, as far as saying this is a must-win or a do-or-die situation," added Julien. "It's a league game, and we'd like to get the two points for the right reasons, and nothing more than that."
Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton agreed.
"It's a good challenge for us," said Thornton on Friday. "As far as extra build-up and stuff, I guess because we played them in the Finals, it was a pretty emotional Final. And the Final should be emotional. You're in the wrong place if you don't have emotion at that time of year. But as for this one, it's game, whatever it is, 38 for us. It'll be a good test. I think there's more build-up to it than there needs to be."
Milan Lucic expects to have a physical presence on Saturday. And he said on Friday that he's enjoying the hype.
"I think it's great that there's a build-up towards it," said Lucic. "Both teams I think are excited going into this game, as we should be. Both didn't really have the starts that we wanted, and both teams picked up their game and are on top of the league. So it makes it more interesting that there's a lot that we're playing for.
"It's a big two points for us. In the Eastern Conference, the Rangers are playing well. They're still ahead of us, and it's a chance for us to be first in the whole league, if we win this game. So it's definitely a big game for us, and we're looking forward to the challenge."
The Bruins watched the Canucks play the San Jose Sharks on television, Monday. They see the same type of Vancouver team that they saw in last year's Cup Final: a speedy, skilled, puck-possession team that enjoys getting their defensemen involved because of their solid goaltending.
"Their game hasn't changed," said Julien. "They had a great year last year, and had a lot of success with the way they play, and they believe in the way they play. And we believe in the way we play. So I don't think much has changed, as far as what we should be looking for. We should be looking for the same things we did last year when we played them."
When asked if he was concerned that the Canucks would use Saturday as a "statement" game and play more physical, Julien said that's not something the Bruins are concerned about.
"We're built to handle that if that comes, we'll deal with it then," he said. "But we're certainly not preparing ourselves for that. That's not what our main focus is on. It's about playing a solid game the way we've been playing all year. Whatever build-up people want to make of it, we're going out there and playing the game that we know we can."