Bruins ready for big challenge

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- You can talk about the Boston Bruins finding their team identity. You can discuss the fact that the Bruins are 7-3-0 in their past 10 games and are atop the Northeast Division. You can even debate whether Boston is one of the best teams in the NHL.

It all means absolutely nothing once the Bruins take the ice Friday night to host the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden.

Boston produced an emotional 8-6 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night at home. The game featured plenty of offense and 182 minutes in penalties. It was a critical victory for the Bruins, and the two points keep them in first place in the division.

Now, all they have to do is keep it going.

The Red Wings have played .500 hockey the past 10 games, but they're currently sitting second in the Western Conference. The perennial winners won't play the type of game the Bruins and Canadiens showcased on Wednesday, but what Detroit will do is wear a team down physically and capitalize on mistakes.

After Friday night's game, the teams will complete the home-and-home series Sunday afternoon in Detroit.

Sure, it's going to be two physical games, but the Bruins need to focus on continuing their consistent play and avoiding an emotional letdown.

"It's a good challenge for our team," said Bruins forward Gregory Campbell. "The next two games are really a measuring stick for what we're all about."

The Bruins have played plenty of physical and emotional games of late, and they're making the most of their strength, size and quickness.

"When we have everyone playing like that, that's when we're at our best," added Campbell.

This home-and-home series is the only matchup of these teams in the regular season, and this is the Red Wings' first visit to the Garden since Nov. 29, 2008. Boston is 3-5-2 against Western Conference teams this season.

"Detroit is probably one of the teams most people are familiar with in the Western Conference because they play to the end every year," Campbell said. "We know what they're all about."

Winning comes naturally for the Red Wings, but the Bruins are in the midst of a solid run. Boston is producing offensively in a big way, and the goaltending of Tim Thomas has been key.

It's way too early to even begin to talk about the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it wouldn't be a huge surprise if these two teams face off in finals. It's been 70 years since the Bruins defeated the Red Wings for the Stanley Cup in 1941.

Maybe history will repeat itself. It starts Friday night.

"We know we have a great shot this year. We have a great team," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand of going for the Stanley Cup. "Everyone is clicking and we're so close in the room, and it carries onto the ice. Guys are sticking up for each other right now. We're really turning a corner here and it's fun to see, and hopefully we'll continue building on that."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.