- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- For the first time all season, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien sat at his desk Monday morning and looked at a few different lineup options as his team prepared to host the Montreal Canadiens.
Due to injuries to several players, along with a possible suspension to top forward Milan Lucic pending, Julien had more questions than answers.
As the day progressed, the Bruins learned they would be without Lucic, who was suspended for one game for an illegal hit during Saturday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Teammate Gregory Campbell was a game-time decision because of a fractured left foot he suffered on Dec. 10, forcing him to miss three consecutive games. Campbell ended up playing.
The Bruins again proved that it doesn't matter who is out of the lineup on a given night because the versatile players and interchangeable parts helped Boston to a 3-2 victory over the Canadiens at TD Garden.
Julien is never going to change his system or philosophy, or ask a player to change the way he plays just because someone such as Lucic, Campbell or Zdeno Chara is not playing.
Expectations are the same for every line. It doesn't matter if it's the team's top line, the fourth line or others in between.
"It's no fun when you're missing good players, but it's a team," Bruins assistant captain Andrew Ference said. "We have a deep enough roster and guys work their butts off when they come up from Providence. They fit right in and it's been that way for a couple of years. There's an expectation to perform and nobody's going to use that as an excuse if the game goes the other way."
Even though Julien faced uncertainty earlier in the day, the Bruins found a way to win. There will be plenty of other times this season when Boston will face similar adversity and it's a matter of how well the players deal with it that will determine the team's success.
The Bruins are in the midst of an extremely impressive run. During this stretch, which began on Nov. 1, Boston is 19-2-1. The consistency has been there, even when the Bruins haven't been at full capacity.
"We can talk about depth all we want," Julien said. "If we can't prove it or show it, it's not really depth. We've been challenged with some injuries, and obviously tonight with a suspension, but our guys keep stepping up. We don't change our game plan and we try to play the same way every night no matter who we have in the lineup. That's just the simplicity of our hockey club."
Julien decided to start Daniel Paille on the top line, but it became clear to the coach that Paille was not comfortable, so Zach Hamill (with all of eight NHL games under his belt) got a chance to prove his worth alongside David Krejci and Nathan Horton.
"For the coaching staff to have confidence in me to play with those guys is important," Hamill said. "It was fun and those guys are easy to play with. I want to gain the trust and confidence of the coaching staff, and with Looch out, obviously it was an opportunity to step in."
Julien was impressed.
"He was good and he was making the smart plays," Julien said. "He's working hard and he's in the lineup because right now he deserves to be in the lineup. He's a player who is competing hard. Right now he's feeling pretty confident about his game and he's not afraid to showcase that at this level."
This wasn't the typical Bruins-Canadiens game. It wasn't as much of a hard-hitting, glove-dropping affair as usual. Maybe that's because Lucic was out of the lineup for Boston. Even Julien admitted the rivalry had a different feel Monday night.
"For a game that's usually a rivalry, there wasn't that much that went on tonight," he said. "It was more of a game played to win, and we feel that we can play it any way that we want. The one thing we didn't want to do was get into some bad penalties and give them the momentum they were probably looking for."
Montreal could never gain that momentum, and Boston never lost it even with the team's top line missing one of its best players.
"With Looch out today, we knew everyone had to step up a little bit," said forward Brad Marchand, who gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead late in the third period. "He's a key part of our team missing right now and a lot of guys did a great job and stepped up.
"He brings a lot of energy and a lot of emotion into the game. He's a big, physical presence out there. It'll be nice to get him back."
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.
No matter what obstacles they face, the Bruins find a way to win.