Bruins must avoid letdown

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Bruins must avoid letdown

UNIONDALE -- If the Thursday night game against the NHL cellar dwellers in Columbus was in the trap category of games on the Bruins schedule, then Saturday nights tilt against the Islanders might be the ultimate trap game.

Its the kind of trap game at half-filled Nassau Coliseum that would make Admiral Its a Trap! Akbar proud, and could lure the Bruins right into the hockey pitfall. After all the Bruins have important divisional games against the Montreal Canadiens and the Buffalo Sabres at the end of the three-game road trip, and still need to push a little harder to get themselves comfortably within the top eight Eastern Conference teams by Thanksgiving morning.

Its going to be good for us to go on the road. Its a big road trip for us, three games, said Patrice Bergeron. You got the Islanders, but then youve got two teams that are in our division that are going to be huge games. Were going to start with the Islanders and its always tough to play there. Its going to be a good challenge for us to be on the road.

If the Bruins arent in a playoff spot by the time they celebrate American Thanksgiving with the truly patriotic combination of beer, carved turkey and NFL football, then it becomes an uphill climb through the rest of the season. So all three road games are important for the Bruins coming off 13 of their first 17 games on the TD Garden ice, but the Saturday night Isles tilt is the one game they might just overlook.

Claude Julien granted his Bs players an off-day on Friday after determining that his team appeared fatigued against the Blue Jackets, but there has to be a nagging suspicion that the same distracted hockey club might appear this weekend. The Bruins were sloppy with their transition passes, careless with the puck around their own net and their best offensive players never got untracked over 65 minutes of hockey against the Blue Jackets.

There is little reason to think the Bruins can avoid the same fate against the lowly Islanders while they muddle their way through their season with the bizarre three-man goaltender rotation.

The Habs and Sabres are much racier opponents for many good reasons: The Bruins are looking for revenge against their arch-rival Habs after the Canadiens slapped Boston across the face with a home-and-home sweep at the end of the October. The two straight losses to Montreal, actually, have been attributed as the wakeup call that finally snapped the Bruins out of their Stanley Cup hangover.

Then theres the revenge game against the Sabres after Milan Lucic took out Ryan Miller last weekend at TD Garden, and set off a ridiculous open season on goaltenders narrative across the NHL. Much of it could be tossed at the feet of Miller and his profane barbs tossed at Lucic in the postgame locker room, but there is also much for Buffalo to prove against the Bruins.

The Sabres have been ridiculed across the NHL for failing to stand up for Miller after Lucic collided with the Buffalo netminder, and there should be plenty of fire on the Sabres bench to prove theyre not such a heartless bunch of wimps. The NHL might prevent the Wednesday night pre-Thanksgiving match from turning into a complete gong show by simply watching with a heavy dose of scrutiny, but theres no doubt the Bruins are already thinking about it.

Thats the challenge for the Bs coaching staff, and the players. They will all say the right things about focusing on each game one shift at a time, but they need to prove it against the Islanders like they didnt prove it against the Blue Jackets.

You don't take anybody lightly. You know to end a streak you can lose against the last place team or you can badly beat the first place team, said David Krejci. You just don't take anybody lightly and just play your game I think that's what we have to do from now on.

The Bruins got lucky with the shootout win behind Tuukka Rask Thursday night, and arent likely to be as fortunate against the Islanders this time around. The Bruins have experienced some awful performances on Long Island over the last few years in such a challenging environment for a high level hockey effort, and honest-to-goodness intensity and work ethic are the only antidotes for the Uniondale malaise.

Thats the important first step in a three-pronged process for a perfect road trip in the first extended series of games away from the Boston home base of operations for the Spoked B crew.

B's determined to 'keep it going' during good offensive run

B's determined to 'keep it going' during good offensive run

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- The Bruins are going through a nice, little bountiful stretch of offense right now after a half-season of struggle.

The Bruins are averaging more than three goals per game in their last 12 contests, and have scored a whopping 22 goals in their last six games including dropping six scores on the Flyers Saturday afternoon at TD Garden. Combine that with the 7-for-25 performance on the power play during the month of January, and things are finally starting to catch up with a Bruins team that was all shoot/no score for months of frustrating hockey this season.

“If you want sustained success then you have to be good defensively, but you also have to score some goals. That’s definitely part of it and we have to keep it going,” said Patrice Bergeron, who has four goals and eight points in his last nine games after struggling out of the starting gate. “You’re not going to get rewarded every night like we did [against the Flyers], but you have to find that consistency where you’re close to having that every night.”

One thing nobody should expect out of the B’s, however, is to get outside of what they do well now that they’ve started slapping some numbers up on the board. Instead the Bruins are intent on their bedrock of disciplined defense and sensational goaltending with the added offense just making it much tougher to beat them these days.

“I don’t know if we can stand here and say we’re going to sustain that we’re scoring lots of goals. I think what we need to sustain here is winning more games than we lose,” said Claude Julien. “That’s what we’ve got to sustain. Whether it’s a 1-0 or 2-1 game, or it’s a 5-2 or 5-3 game it doesn’t really matter. It’s about winning hockey games much more than it’s about how much you scored, and how much you don’t score.

“Overall when I look at the scoring chances we’re giving up per game, that doesn’t seem to have changed. Goals allowed may have changed a little bit lately, but overall I think we’ve been very steady in that area [of defense].”

So now the Bruins will again be looking for that ideal balance of offense/defense when they take the ice against the Islanders on Monday afternoon for their second straight matinee at TD Garden. 

Morrow has 'confident feeling' as he readies to jump into B's lineup

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Morrow has 'confident feeling' as he readies to jump into B's lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It’s been a long month of bag skates and lonely practices for Bruins defenseman Joe Morrow.

That’s about to change thanks to injuries to both Kevan Miller and Colin Miller, who are both not expected to be able to play against the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon at TD Garden. That means Morrow will be in the B’s lineup for the first time since a Dec. 12 win over the Montreal Canadiens, a span of 16 consecutive B’s games that the 24-year-old has been watching from the press box.

Morrow skated in a pairing with John-Michael Liles in Sunday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena prior to Monday’smatinee, and obviously he’s looking forward to getting back into games given this season’s sporadic practice schedule.

“[Playing well after sitting for long stretches] isn’t necessarily something you want to be good at, but if you are good at then it’s a good tool to have in your bag. It’s a confident feeling that I’ll be able to come in [and play well],” said Morrow, who has an assist and a minus-3 rating in 13 games for the Black and Gold this season. “I’ve stayed in good shape and worked hard in practice, and that’s all I can do up until this point.

“Put simply, [this year’s compacted schedule] is exhausting. Countless times I’ve skated by myself, and anybody would tell you there’s nothing harder than skating by yourself on a sheet of ice. Mentally and physically it’s just exhausting. There haven’t been many practices and there haven’t been many game-type situations in the practices we do have. Skating with the whole team is almost like a pregame skate scenario. But you’re still skating every day, so it’s putting it upon yourself to go out there and stay ready for things.”

The one issue for Morrow, a former first round pick, over the last couple of seasons has been maintaining a high level of play once he draws his way into the lineup. It feels like there’s a drop-off in his play once he’s played a few games in a row whether it’s physical mistakes or mental lapses in his play, and that’s something he wants to avoid when given an opportunity to suit up.

“I feel like when I have played this year that I’ve been quite consistent and that I’ve played well,” said Morrow, the last remaining part of the 2013 Tyler Seguin trade still in a Bruins uniform. “I’m just in a situation that the cards are playing out the way that they are, so it depends on how many games I get whether it’s one, two, 30 or however many games are left [in the season]. It’s realistically entirely up to me. If I can shake the rust out in the first couple of shifts and start from there, it’s going to be a big positive in my book. It’s the really the only option I have left now.”

Given that Colin Miller began skating on his own on Sunday morning, it might not be a very big window for Morrow to impress upon the coaches just how badly he wants to play. But one would expect he’s going to bring his best on Monday against the Isles with the hopes that it will be somebody else sitting up in the press box when it once again becomes a D-man numbers game for the 7-8 players for six lineup spots.