WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The Boston Bruins held their final practice of the regular season Friday morning at Ristuccia Arena, and their approach heading in to Saturday's regular-season home finale against the Ottawa Senators remained the same since they clinched the Northeast Division and a playoff spot last week.
“We know we haven’t done the best job staying within our game and to our game plan over the last two games,” said winger Nathan Horton, "and we need to be sharper and build momentum heading into the playoffs, so we gotta practice what we preach and go out and play hard."
As Bruins coach Claude Julien tried to preach to his players and the media prior to Wednesday's 3-2 win over the New York Islanders -- who, like the Senators, are not headed to the playoffs -- he cautioned that the Senators are a young and hungry squad fighting for jobs next season; they want to leave a solid impression on their coaches in their final game of the season. Ottawa beat Montreal 3-2 in overtime Thursday and isn’t rolling over just because their season is over after Saturday’s game. This a team full of rookies and AHLers now, but they’re playing for NHL jobs.
“They’re a young team that has skated extremely well and extremely hard,” Julien said of the ever-changing Senators squad. “[Saturday's] their last game, and if you’re in their shoes and you’re a young squad, you want to leave a good impression of how you play. I think that’s what should be expected [Saturday] from Ottawa.
"[Thursday against Montreal] they were skating hard, back-checking, and maybe they weren’t the most physical team but the compete level was certainly there. That’s what we’re going to expect out of this hockey club which should make it for a real tough game for us.”
Horton -- who never played in the Stanley Cup playoffs in his six seasons playing for the Florida Panthers -- agreed with his coach and knows from first-hand experience that the Senators would probably like nothing more than to prove their worth to their coaches by beating a team many consider part of the NHL’s elite.
“They’re not going to just come in and roll over,” Horton said of the Senators. “I know what it’s like to be them right now, and you want to come in and show your coaches you belong next year, so you try and beat a playoff team like us. We can’t take this easily. We need to get our game going again and be on top of it headed into the playoffs.”
Julien still preparing lineup for playoffs
With defenseman Steve Kampfer being sent down to the AHL Providence Bruins on Wednesday night, Bruins coach Claude Julien said to expect defenseman Shane Hnidy -- who has played only one game since returning to the Bruins on Feb. 26 -- to see some action either Saturday against Ottawa or Sunday at New Jersey.
Julien isn’t exactly using these last two games to determine his playoff lineup, but he does want to see where the team is at in terms of playoff seeding Saturday and Sunday. The Bruins still could play either Buffalo, Montreal or New York and potential matchups and seeding will determine the lineup in the next two games.
“The thought behind that from the organization is we’re trying to figure out what’s going on -- we’re still in the running [for conference seeding], we still have Hnidy that hasn’t played much and we want [Kampfer] to play,’’ Julien said of the Kampfer assignment to Providence. “It may not be NHL-caliber, but playing still keeps you sharp, so we’re trying to kill two birds, I guess, with one stone. If we can get Hnides [Hnidy] here and him over there, then both guys are playing.
"We're going to have two to three extra players, so when the time comes, we're going to make those decisions. Even if I had, or we had, made those decisions, I don't think I'd be here speaking about it. We have a couple games left to play and we have to go out and play them. I think a lot will depend on what's going to happen [Friday night] with certain teams that are playing and see where we stand after [Friday night]. It's a day-to-day process here on decision-making. This time of the year it's not just the coach but the organization trying to look at what direction they want to take with these next few games."
McQuaid hoping for lucky mullet
The fourth annual “Cuts for a Cause” was held by Shawn Thornton and 98.5 The Sports Hub on Thursday and raised more than $42,000 for the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.
Thornton, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Nathan Horton, Steve Kampfer, Chris Kelly, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid, Daniel Paille, Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin and Dennis Seidenberg all sacrificed their hair for the cause. McQuaid, who hadn’t cut his long hair since last August and had only a few trims since then, kept his treasured locks and ended up with a 1980’s mullet similar to the one Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane sported in the Stanley Cup playoffs last year.
Kane ended up scoring the Cup-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 to give the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup since 1961, and the rugged Bruins defenseman said he will keep his mullet if he thinks it can bring Cup glory to the Bruins for the first time since 1972.
“I don’t know, I may just shave the locks if I play bad in these final two games because it really looks stupid,” said McQuaid who admitted he wanted to keep his full head of hair, "but yeah, it was fun and if I do well here, I’ll keep it until we do bad. I mean, maybe it becomes a good luck charm, and if we keep going, I won’t cut it. So yeah, we’ll see. Maybe it’s a good thing.”
Thornton, Boychuk stay positive about Red Sox
Bruins winger Shawn Thornton was in a rush to get out of dodge after practice Friday. Thornton -- sporting a navy blue Red Sox cap -- was trying to get to one of his favorite spots in Boston, Fenway Park, for the Red Sox home opener against the New York Yankees. While Thornton has been to plenty of Red Sox games since signing with the Bruins prior to the 2007-08 season, this was his first home opener and he was excited to take in the atmosphere.
“I’ve been there so many times but this is my first opener and I am really excited,” Thornton said. “It’s always such a great atmosphere and it should be amazing for an opener.”
Thornton also successfully predicted a Sox win, as the hometown nine finally registered their first win of the 2011 season by beating the Yankees, 9-6. Thornton loves Red Sox Nation but thinks they should exercise some caution and relax.
“It’s only April and you look at the talent they have -- c’mon, really?” he said with a laugh. “They will be fine!”
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who was an avid Red Sox fan even before he was traded to Boston because his brother cheered for the Red Sox, wasn’t too worried either.
“I mean, it’s a bit unsettling for sure because of the high expectations, but they will be fine,” Boychuk said. “Look at how many stars they have, and their pitching will come around. I like their chances.”