The Bruins are ready to kick off the traditional second-half of the year with a Northeast Division tilt against the Ottawa Senators. The B's had turned into something of a .500 team just before the All-Star break as a seven games in 11 days stretch - with six of those games on the road - had begun weighing down the team.
Five days off can work wonders for hockey players in the middle of their season. That's what the Bruins - aside from Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Tyler Seguin - have headed into a game against a young, hungry Sens team coming off the momentum of hosting NHL All-Star weekend.
"Most of the young guys went to South Beach; I went to Palm Beach where all of the old people hang out," said Chris Kelly of his activities during the All-Star break. "I don't care who you are, if you're a hockey player you can use that break in the middle of the season."
"It's the toughest part of the year. The points are just as important in the middle of the season as they are for the first 10 games of the season and the last 10 games of the season. We need to go out and bring that consistent effort now that our break is over."
The second half starts against a Senators team that surprised many in the first half of the season, but Ottawa will truly have to prove their playoff mettle now that February has arrived. The NHL trade deadline is right around the corner, and points become much more difficult to come by over the final two months of the season.
The Bruins have three games at home to start their stretch run up, but have one eye trained on an 11-day, 6-game road trip this month and a West Coast trip to face each of the California teams in March.
First things first, however.
The B's need to shake off the post-Christmas malaise that hit its crescendo in Florida two weeks ago, and entrench themselves into the best possible playoff position. That begins at home vs. Ottawa, and it begins without Nathan Horton (concussion) and Andrew Ference (suspension) in the lineup on Tuesday night.
"We've been looking for that consistency since Christmas," said Claude Julien. "We've played some good games since then, but we really haven't consistently played the way we did over that two-month stretch.
"We know we're capable of it, and it's up to us to get the proper rest, eat the right things, take care of our bodies and get ready for a difficult stretch of the schedule. We're in a grind here going forward, and we need to treat it that way."
The Bruins hope their 34-game grind kicks off with a win tonight against the Ottawa Senators.