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December 02. 2013 10:20PM

Bruins preparing for tough stretch

The Bruins pause now for a few days, having completed just about one-third of their season — a portion of the schedule that was quite advantageous for them, with 17 home games and just 10 away.

There were plenty of ups and downs during the first two months, including wins against Detroit, San Jose, Anaheim and Tampa Bay, and even a strong showing in an overtime loss to St. Louis.

And there were some real bow-wow performances, too, like a dreadful loss to the New York Islanders, a win against the New York Rangers that goalie Tuukka Rask captured just about single-handedly, and the rout by Detroit.

But with all their troubling inconsistency, the Bruins came through this stretch in pretty good shape, taking advantage of all the home games to build an 18-7-2 record that leads the Eastern Conference.

"(It's) kind of nice to finish off (the homestand), and I thought everyone did well," B's defenseman Dougie Hamilton said after Saturday's 3-1 win against Columbus. "Finish it off, get refreshed a little bit here and move on."

Now life gets a lot tougher: The B's have played the most home games in the NHL, and it doesn't require a degree in advanced mathematics to calculate that they'll play the most road games from now until Game 82.It starts, fittingly, with a major showdown Thursday in Montreal vs. the Canadiens — the B's first look at their old pals, who are playing fairly well, trailing the Bruins by just five points.The Bruins got a day off Sunday, earning it after winning three of four games last week: Pittsburgh in a shootout on Monday, and the Rangers and Columbus in solid fashion Friday and Saturday, respectively. At midweek, of course, the B's got embarrassed by Detroit, 6-1. But bouncing back to grab four points in two days softened that pain nicely.

"I thought both games after Detroit we were skating well as a team," Bruins forward Jarome Iginla said. "We had a good forecheck going, we were solid defensively — you know, the kind of things we want to do night in and night out. And we had good energy. It does feel good. Now we have a break of four or five days, and that's kind of rare this season."

A positive aspect Saturday was that backup goalie Chad Johnson played (and improved to 4-1-0 with a 13-save cake walk). Importantly, Rask got a day off and six days between games — after hinting Friday that he was a bit worn out after playing 22 of the first 26 games."Obviously, I'm not as fresh as at the start of the year," Rask said. "But (it's) not too bad. We've got a couple of days of rest here coming up. I feel pretty good. I try to take my rest anywhere I can. Eat a lot, drink a lot. Water. Your body takes a beating over the course of the year. You can feel tired. But you just try and manage it the best you can."The Blue Jackets, missing the injured Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky and Nathan Horton, provided scant competition in Saturday's 3-1 B's win, as Columbus coach Todd Richards candidly conceded.

"We were two steps behind," he said. "They were bigger, they were stronger, they were faster. I think every aspect of the game, if you look at it, they were better than us. We couldn't get the puck stopped in our own zone, and it was too easy in the offensive zone — the ability to just wash us out of the play and get the puck, and then get it back into our zone."

The challenge for the Bruins now is to ensure that Canadiens coach Michel Therrien is saying something similar when he meets the press late Thursday night.


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