BOSTON -- Bruins coach Claude Julien ended his meeting with the media Tuesday at TD Garden by flashing a big smile and saying, “Buffalo tomorrow, guys!”
Julien, fresh off an Olympic gold medal-winning experience as an assistant coach with Team Canada, gave everyone an indication of just how excited he is to get back to NHL action after a break of more than two weeks. In fact, the experience in Sochi, while a successful one, just made him yearn more for the playoff push.
“If anything the competition that I was involved with was so good and refreshing that I’ve come back here energized, believe it or not. I’m not tired,” Julien said. “I’m ready to go here and looking forward to getting back with my team and getting back into games. Whether it’s different in three or four days I’ll let you know, but right now I feel no ill effects. The excitement over there really energized me. I’m back and I’m looking forward to trying to accomplish the same thing here with this Bruins team.”
“This Bruins team” will enter play at the Sabres on Wednesday with a seven-point lead in the Atlantic Division and within striking distance of Pittsburgh for first place in the Eastern Conference. It plays six games in the first nine days of March and 17 games overall during the month, so the intensity is about to pick up in a big way.
That made the break in Sochi a well-timed one.
“The two weeks definitely didn’t do any harm, you’ll see,” Julien said. “Especially with 17 games here in the month of March, those two weeks will have been the best thing that happened to those guys.”
Tuesday’s practice focused largely on power plays, with some odd-man rushes and 3-on-2 work dominating the hour. That is one area in which the Bruins have made a vast improvement this season, and the team as a whole has a very positive vibe coming out of the break.
“We had all four lines, all playing well and it seemed we were feeding off each other,” said left wing Brad Marchand. “When one line had a good shift the other line would follow that and that’s what we need. We need to continue to build on every single shift.”
Marchand said the B’s will not be taking Buffalo lightly, despite the Sabres’ last-place standing. Buffalo picked up a 4-1 win the last time it hosted Boston, and rivalry games can always be unpredictable when each side is playing for very different things.
“A team that’s that far down in the standings, I’ve been there before. There’s no pressure,” said right wing Shawn Thornton, echoing the call to come out playing top-notch hockey.
Boston was 7-1-1 in its last nine games before the break. Julien knows that maintaining that momentum, or rebuilding it, is going to be a challenge.
“After two weeks they come back they got a lot of energy but we have to make sure that we’re still doing the right things on the ice,” Julien said.
At the very least, they are excited for the challenge.