What a difference a few weeks makes.
The last time the Boston Bruins faced off against the Washington Capitals back on March 10, the Black and Gold were neck and neck with the Ottawa Senators in the Northeast Division race. The Black and Gold dropped their first of four straight contests against captain Alex Ovechkin and company, which led to the Sens jumping up to first place in the Northeast.
Lately, however, the Bruins have seemed to regain their swagger with five wins in their last six and have regained a five-point lead in the division standings. And tonight, with Washington (ninth in the Eastern Conference) in town for the final meeting of the season, the Bruins can officially clinch a playoff spot for the fifth straight season.
“That’s the first step in the right direction,” head coach Claude Julien said about the importance of clinching another playoff spot. “You’re playing a team that is really battling hard to get themselves in the playoffs.”
After a tough loss to the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night that dropped Washington to ninth — while propelling the Bruins’ rivals to eighth — Julien knows that the underachieving Caps (84 points) have a sense of urgency with just five games left in the 2011-12 regular season.
“This team is going to be tough to play against tonight. Desperation is going to be tough [to play against]” he said.
“I like those kind of challenges. Those type of challenges are things we need in order to bring out the best out of our hockey club. And we are going to need to be at our best if we expect to win tonight.”
Thomas to start, Seidenberg out
The Black and Gold will have to deal without the likes of Dennis Seidenberg, who suffered a cut in Saturday’s victory over the Los Angeles Kings. While the German defenseman played in the last two games, the cut has become infected and Julien is keeping him out for precautionary reasons.
“A little infection has gotten in there now,” the fifth-year Bruins coach said about Seidenberg’s injury. “He’s on antibiotics, so [we’re] just going to play it safe and keep him out.”
Seidenberg is officially listed as day-to-day. Joe Corvo, who was a healthy scratch the last six games, will replace Seidenberg.
“It’s just day-to-day, it’s not long-term,” Julien added. “We’re just taking care of that. We’ll keep him out tonight and hope to have him back next game.”
Tim Thomas was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate indicating that he’ll get his 17th start in the last 18 games.
The forward lines remained the same indicating that Daniel Paille will be a healthy scratch for the third straight game.
Here’s a look at the potential line chart for Thursday’s contest:
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Brian Rolston
Jordan Caron-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Joe Corvo-Andrew Ference
Greg Zanon-Adam McQuaid