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Rask's easy night aided by stifling D

3/7/2014



BOSTON -- After Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli acquired two defensemen before Wednesday's trade deadline, it's no coincidence the Bruins produced one of their best defensive games of the season, a 3-0 win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at TD Garden.

Boston acquired veteran defensemen Andrej Meszaros via trade from the Philadelphia Flyers and claimed Corey Potter off waivers from the Edmonton Oilers, and now the Bruins have the blue-line depth they needed. Though both were healthy scratches Thursday night, their presence creates a healthy in-house competition again.

"Having those guys come in, we have eight D now," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Now, it becomes a competition within our dressing room and the six best will be in the lineup. Right now that's what we've got and it's a healthy thing to have on a hockey club and that's what we've created right now."

Without Dennis Seidenberg (season-ending knee injury) and Adam McQuaid (quad) in the lineup, the Bruins have been playing with only six healthy defensemen for a month and a half. Now that the newcomers are in the mix, it should serve as motivation and prevent complacency among Boston's defensive core.

"We have eight D now and you've got to play your best to stay in the lineup, too, so I don't know if that kind of helped us, but we'll see what happens going forward," Dougie Hamilton said.

Meszaros spent his first day in Boston watching from the Level 9 box as a healthy scratch. Earlier in the day, Julien said he wanted to ease Meszaros into the lineup until he learns the team's system, which is completely different than what he has been used to in his career.

Because the Bruins produced a solid defensive effort against the Capitals, goalie Tuukka Rask wasn't challenged too often and finished with 16 saves to record his league-leading sixth shutout of the season. He was pleased with the lack of mental breakdowns by the team.

"Today was one of the best in a long time," Rask said. "We kept them to 16 shots and not too many scoring chances. We had layers all over the ice and defended the middle really well. We back checked hard and had all the elements we want to have out there. It was great to see that."

It was a typical defensive game for the Bruins. Not only were the defensemen solid, Boston's forwards were getting back and creating pressure to stifle Washington's attack.

At the start of the season, Matt Bartkowski served as a healthy scratch for 12 of the first 16 games. When McQuaid suffered a lower-body injury in earlier November, Bartkowski was inserted into the lineup and has since missed only three games.

Now that Boston's depth is back to eight healthy defensemen, Bartkowski says he's focused solely on doing his job.

"It's nothing I can worry about, or should worry about, or anything," Bartkowski said. "We need more depth, so we got more depth. We got two solid defensemen out of it, which is good and it only makes our team better."

Julien mentioned after the game that he was impressed with Bartkowski's play.

"I thought he was really good," Julien said. "He was physical. He was strong. He was moving the puck well and he skated well, so that kind of play will certainly keep him in the lineup."