Bruins hope to keep striking against Lightning

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Bruins hope to keep striking against Lightning

BOSTON -- Winners in four of their last five games, the Bruins feel like theyre onto something with the playoffs just around the corner.

But they also know they havent won more than two in a row since the middle of January.

There was plenty of talk about turning the corner and tipping points after the Bruins clipped both the Kings and Ducks to end a successful three-game road swing out West. The proof, however, is in the results, and the Bruins will need to keep things going Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden.

The Bolts are clinging to life support in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but come to Boston having won three in a row and with the electric Steven Stamkos -- who's scored three goals in his last two games, and has set a Tampa Bay single-season franchise record with 53 goals this year -- in tow. Not only that, but 42-year-old Dwayne Roloson appears to be raging against the dying of the NHL light; he's won three in a row in goal.

But the Bruins have also got vengeance on their minds after the disaster on the road in Tampa Bay two weeks ago that contributed mightily to an early March tailspin.

The Lightning dropped six goals on the B's that night and left them little shell-shocked.

Weve made steps in the right direction since that loss," said Bruins forward Chris Kelly. "That Tampa game was obviously an embarrassing game for us. If you asked every guy in the Bruins' clubhouse, theyd tell you that wasnt our style of hockey. They came at us and played to the final buzzer, but we didnt show up at all in that game . . . We're going to need a consistent, much better effort than the last time.

Certainly things seem stabilized for the Black and Gold, with their goaltenders stopping 94.9 percent of the shots theyve faced over the last five games. They havent allowed more than two goals per game in any of those five outings, and theyve outscored their opposition 19-8. That was after surrendering 36 goals in their first nine games in March.

Hopefully its a turning point," said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. "But that's what we thought after the last two-game winning streak that we had before we lost to San Jose.

We have to take the positives out of the last few games, and were going to be fine.

Among those positives: The Bs defense and dept. Bostons third line of Kelly, Brian Rolston and Benoit Pouliot has demolished nearly every team theyve come up against recently, and head into Tuesday night with 26 points and a plus-23 among those three forwards in their last six games.

The Bruins have certainly come together as a team in that short period of time, and its obvious by the words of the newcomers. Even some newcomers who've been here before.

"I've played for almost 20 years in this league, and I haven't quite seen a jelled team like this, said Rolston, who spent five of those 20 years with the Bruins during the Joe Thornton Era. "Even though we were struggling a little bit, it's just a real team. It's not about individuals, and that speaks to the character in this dressing room."

And with seven games left before the real season begins, that jelling is occurring just in the nick of time.

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to NBA standings, no Celtic pays closer attention to it than Isaiah Thomas.
 
But the 5-foot-9 All-Star is quick to say that while he’s aware of what’s happening with other teams record-wise, Thomas, like his teammates, isn’t obsessed with it, even with the Celtics (48-26) now in first place in the East following Cleveland’s loss at San Antonio on Monday.
 
“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s still not the end of the year; anything can happen. It’s a nice feeling to be the number one seed for once, but we just have to continue to control what we can control.”

The fact that Boston is even in position to finish with the best record in the East is amazing when you consider injuries and illnesses have forced them to use 13 different starting lineups this season.
 
And the preferred starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson has played together 31 times and posted an impressive 24-7 record.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his message that while having the best record in the East is nice, he’s more consumed with the team continuing to improve.
 
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Stevens said of being in first place. “The whole idea is to make progress, get better every day and stay in the moment. You do that if you’re in last place trying to build up or whether you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seeding. Ultimately, we’ve been able to grow and get a little bit better. But I still think we can play a lot better. That’s where my focus is.”
 
And the same holds true for his players. Thomas knows how unusual this season has been for the Celtics, who continue finding ways to win despite frequently being short-handed.
 
The latest example of that involves forward Jonas Jerebko, who is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a sore left knee that limited him in Tuesday’s practice.
 
“It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen whether they be good or bad and we know that,” Thomas said. “We just try to withstand the storm we’ve had a few times this year, and continue to try and stay as positive as possible and we’ve done that. We’re in a good position right now. We just have to continue to take care of business.”
  
And that means steadily improving while piling up the wins, particularly against teams such as the Bucks (37-36), who are among a handful of teams that could potentially be Boston’s first-round opponent.
 
Milwaukee comes in having won 11 of its past 14 games.

“It makes the game that much more important,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “Just like the Miami game. We want to let the teams know now, they go up against us in the playoffs, it’s no mercy. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to bring it every single night. We’re going to play Celtics basketball every single night. Them knowing that, we can scare a lot of teams if we’re playing the right way.”

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have spent most of this season playing short-handed and Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee will potentially be another one of those games.
 
Veteran forward Jonas Jerebko has a sore left knee and is considered questionable for the Bucks’ game.
 
“Jonas went through about half of [Tuesday’s] practice,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
 
Jerebko has missed two games this season due to illness.
 
Because of Milwaukee’s length at seemingly every position, Jerebko’s ability to play both forward positions will be something the Celtics will surely miss if he’s unable to play.
 
This season, Jerebko has appeared in 69 games while averaging 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent on 3’s.