Commentary

Bruins have opportunity at home

Updated: March 22, 2011, 11:57 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- It's safe to say Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien is taking the team's recent struggles seriously, especially with only 11 games remaining in the 2010-11 regular season.

Following the Bruins' practice at Ristuccia Arena on Monday morning, Julien was asked about the "little rut" the team is trying to get out of when the coach interrupted the reporter's question.

"Little to you is big to us," Julien said.

After a seven-game winning streak, Boston is 1-3-3 in its last seven games. Fortunately, the remaining schedule favors the Bruins as they host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday and the New York Rangers on Saturday.

After a horrid start to the season, the Devils have climbed their way back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference and they're playing well. It's going to be a challenging game for the Bruins, but this matchup comes at the perfect time.

Boston looks to improve on its 16-12-5 record on home ice, and of the 11 games remaining prior to the Stanley Cup playoffs, eight will be played at the Garden. The Bruins desperately need to take advantage of being at home at this point in the season.

"This is a great opportunity for us to get our home record to where it should be," Julien said. "We've got lots of games here and some good challenges too. It's a great opportunity and we need to take advantage of it."

[+] EnlargeClaude Julien
Jeff Vinnick/Getty ImagesClaude Julien worked the Bruins hard in practice Sunday and Monday in hopes of getting them out of their seven-game rut.

The Bruins have shown great promise this season, but haven't been able to sustain that level of play for the majority of the season. Boston is only one point ahead of the Canadiens in the Northeast Division and easily could drop to sixth in the conference standings if this trend continues.

"We need to get back to the way we were playing earlier," Bruins pugilist Shawn Thornton said. "We need for everyone to show up and be on the same page. We have a really good team in here, we just need to get back and do what we need to do."

It's clear the Bruins are not playing their best right now, but the players are not about to hit the panic button.

"I still have a lot of confidence in this group," Thornton said. "I'm happy where we're at, we just need to get back to playing the way we know we can.

"We weren't doing cartwheels in the locker room when we won seven in a row, either. We're trying to keep it even-keeled no matter what happens. We recognized what we need to work on and we'll try to get better at it this week. Thank god we're home for a week and we can work on it."

The Bruins concluded a four-game, eight-day road trip with a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. Normally, when the Bruins return from a similar trip, the players are given Sunday off to rest and spend time with their families. That wasn't the case this time as Julien worked the team hard on Sunday and Monday at Ristuccia Arena.

"You'll get satisfied once you see the results in the games," Julien said. "We've definitely worked hard and hopefully it's a step in the right direction. The games are what's important right now and the results from those games."

The Bruins want to sprint, not crawl, into the playoffs and need to focus on some key areas in order to accomplish that, including playing better in the defensive zone, preventing mental mistakes and certainly improving the power play.

"When we've been turning pucks over, it seems to be going in the back of our net," defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. "We always want to win and we're putting a lot of pressure on ourselves. If we go out there and just have fun, I'm sure we'll have the right outcome."

As much as the players are trying to stay focused in the face of adversity, Julien isn't sugarcoating anything.

"Every team goes through ups and downs and that's something that happens through the course of the season," Julien said. "That doesn't mean you sit here and accept it. You've got to work your way out of it and hope at the end of the year, you can look back and say that adversity made us a better hockey club. In order to do that, you've got to get the results, and that's what we need to get right now -- results."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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