With the NHL All-Star break and their bye week behind them, the Boston Bruins return to the ice for a Saturday contest against the Washington Capitals.
Boston is a league-best 39-7-5 (83 points) this season despite going just 1-2-1 in its final four games before the break, concluding a five-game road trip with a 5-2 win in Toronto on Feb. 1. The team’s win total is the highest in NHL history through the first 51 games of the season.
“You can tell the energy here (Thursday). The break was good for everybody,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said following the team’s first practice of the unofficial second half of the season. “Looking at what’s ahead, we know it’s going to get harder here in the regular season and then, obviously, in the playoffs it gets even harder and we’re getting ready for that.”
The Bruins will play just three of their remaining nine February games on home ice, hitting the road for Dallas and Nashville following Saturday’s game.
The upcoming road-heavy stretch made Boston’s extended break that much more important.
“I think the greatest purpose is to kind of take some time mentally to reflect on the first half of the season and prepare for the next half and the battles that we’re going to be facing going forward,” Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo said. “I think we recognized that each team’s giving us their best effort. That’s exactly what we want because that’s only going to prepare us further for our mission down the road.”
Before breaking for All-Star festivities, the Bruins expected forward Jake DeBrusk to be fully healthy and return from his hand and lower-body injuries.
DeBrusk was not at Thursday’s practice after dealing with travel issues home from Edmonton, but results from recent tests indicated that he would likely not be healthy enough to play until at least next week. Jakub Lauko was recalled from Providence of the American Hockey League on Thursday.
Washington was off one day more than Boston, last playing in a 4-3 overtime win Jan. 31 at Columbus.
The Capitals have won two of their last three games, in overtime and a shootout, but have won just four of their last 10 overall. They are being thrust right into a back-to-back, with a Super Bowl Sunday matinee against the San Jose Sharks at home.
“It’s a good challenge especially coming out of the break,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’re going to have to play well going into a building where they’ve had an incredible amount of success this year, so our game is going to have to be on point.”
Washington is still dealing with its own lingering injuries as forward Tom Wilson (upper-body) has remained out since Jan. 24 and Nic Dowd (lower-body) since Jan. 16. Wilson is day-to-day after skating on his own before and after Thursday’s practice.
Laviolette shook up the lines as a result, moving Nicolas Aube-Kubel up to the first line.
Following the back-to-back, the Caps will host the Carolina Hurricanes (Tuesday) and Florida Panthers (Thursday) before facing the Hurricanes Feb. 18 in the NHL Stadium Series in North Carolina State’s Carter-Finley Stadium at Raleigh, N.C.
–Field Level Media