Life’s a grind. The seasons’ a grind. Everyone has to deal with it, but right now the Boston Bruins have to grind a little more than everyone else.
So says Bruins head coach Claude Julien, and it doesn’t take Toe Blake to look at the Bruins’ current line-up and realize that the time for beautiful goals and dazzling odd-man rushes are over until the team returns to some semblance of full health. With hard-nosed Chuck Kobasew skating on the top line and defensive maestro P.J. Axelsson locked into a top-six role because of injuries, the Bruins have to return to their roots starting with tonight’s date with the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
They have to go back to battling in the corners, fighting for space in front of the net and remembering their franchise-resurrecting mantra: “Be hard to play against.” Toronto is the perfect team to do this against because the Leafs play that way. They have to because even at full health they don’t have the type of skill the Bruins possess. The Leafs also have to play that way because head coach Ron Wilson won’t let them get away with doing it anyway else. Lazy play equals a seat in the press box in Wilson’s world.
To resort to their battling ways, the Bruins will have to take a cue from their best players, so that means Marc Savard, David Krejci, Michael Ryder and Zdeno Chara making a point of throwing the body, getting to rebounds and sending a message that they’re not going to let the rash of injuries be an excuse for the two-game losing streak snowballing into something larger.
Season series: This is the fifth of six meetings on the year between the two Northeast Division rivals. After dropping the first meeting, the Bruins have won the last three.
What they’re writing: Steve Buffery in The Sun reports that winger Nikolai Kulemin is ready to return to the line-up after a four-game injury absence. Paul Hunter of The Star provides an update on defenseman Mike Van Ryn, who failed a neurological test and can’t return to the line-up until he passes.
Toronto Player to Watch: Forward Nik Antropov is a name that sometimes comes up when talking about the Bruins and possible help from other organizations coming via trade. Lately, Antropov isn’t doing much to help his trade value. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Kazakhstan native, who can play both wing and center, hasn’t scored a goal since Dec. 20 (14 games). And he’s also a minus-6 over that stretch. Maybe that’s positive news because he could come cheap. Or maybe Antropov is destined to play out the year with the lottery-destined Leafs.