BOSTON — With the exception of last Thursday’s game at Ottawa, the Boston Bruins have been playing a proverbial playoff contender every night. Tonight at TD Banknorth Garden, the schedule goes to the next level — as the San Jose Sharks visit for a possible Stanley Cup final preview.

Beyond the hoopla that comes with Joe Thornton’s return, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is looking forward to seeing how his club matches up with the best the West has to offer, especially in light of how the Bruins have fared against the best in the East.

“The way I look at this last couple of weeks – because we played three or four teams that are big, strong teams, which includes San Jose – so I think it’s a good test. Obviously, they’re the best record in the West and we’re the best in the East, so from that viewpoint it’s going to be a good game,” Chiarelli said during his team’s optional morning skate. “But I just look at Washington, New Jersey, Philly and San Jose, how we match up against them. Because that’s going to be like playoff hockey against those types of teams. So this is going to be another test in that respect.”

Against those Eastern Conference powers, plus potential playoff participants Montreal and New York, the Bruins have plowed through with a 4-0-2 record over the last couple weeks — a strong enough showing to please Chiarelli.

“I think our record speaks for itself in that time. Losing leads, you never like to lose leads. But that stuff happens; lucky bounces happen for us or against us and the other day they happened against us,” he said.