Before getting a second chance at a division opponent that just moved ahead of them, the Boston Bruins are trying not to overlook one of the NHL's worst teams.
The Bruins hope some rest will help them snap a three-game home skid Friday night when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Boston (23-17-8) has dropped two points behind Northeast Division rival Ottawa after losing 5-1 at home to the Senators on Monday. The Bruins are eager for Saturday's rematch against Ottawa at the TD Garden, but know they must first concentrate on taking care of the Blue Jackets (19-24-9), who have the second-fewest points in the Western Conference.
"We have to deal with Columbus first and then get ready to beat these guys (Ottawa) on Saturday," backup goaltender Tuukka Rask said.
Boston will need to get its offense untracked after managing four goals in its last three home games. The Bruins returned home after a 1-1-1 West Coast trip and fell behind 4-0 before Daniel Paille's goal early in the third period.
"When you lose 5-1 it's certainly not a great compete level but I don't think it's because our guys didn't want to compete," coach Claude Julien said. "I think it was a little bit more than that."
The Bruins took Tuesday off to gain some much-needed rest. They thought fatigue was a factor in Monday's loss following the cross-country road swing.
"I just felt our top guys really looked tired," Julien said. "When you're tired, you're not just tired physically, you're tired mentally."
Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas looked tired as he gave up three goals on nine shots before being replaced by Rask. Thomas started his third game in five days.
"We made a point of not making (fatigue) an excuse before we came into this game, but the reality of it is, to a certain extent it does catch up with you," he said.
He could be matched up with Steve Mason, who finished second behind Thomas for the Vezina last season. Mason, though, is enduring a terrible second season, going 11-16-6 with a 3.32 goals-against average after earning the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.
Mathieu Garon has supplanted Mason as the starter for Columbus, but Garon gave up five goals on 30 shots before being pulled in favor of Mason in Tuesday's 5-3 loss at Philadelphia.
R.J. Umberger scored twice to rally the Blue Jackets from a two-goal deficit before Garon conceded two goals over the final nine minutes of the second period.
"The third goal was the difference," coach Ken Hitchcock said after the Blue Jackets' fourth loss in five games. "We came back, we were really playing well tied 2-2. The third goal goes in, took the momentum out of it."
Columbus star Rick Nash has four goals in three games after an 11-game drought.
The Blue Jackets are playing in Boston for the fourth time and first since a 2-0 loss Dec. 15, 2007. Columbus won 2-0 at home March 10 in the lone meeting last season as Mason made 35 saves to outduel Thomas, who had 32 and allowed one goal.