Bruins

Julien: We aren't out of the woods for playoff spot

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Julien: We aren't out of the woods for playoff spot

WILMINGTON – It was certainly a good weekend for the Bruins that has put them in an advantageous position to clinch a playoff spot headed into the final three games of the season.

But Claude Julien wasn’t taking anything for granted after putting his players through the paces at a Monday morning practice.

The Bruins currently need to win two out of the three road games against Washington, Florida and Tampa Bay to clinch a playoff spot with Boston, Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Detroit all vying for three postseason spots up for grabs. The Senators have 93 points, and trail the Bruins, Penguins and Red Wings all tied with 95 points, and all four teams currently sit in the same boat with three games remaining in the season.

Boston’s playoff fate is very clearly in their own hands while riding a five-game winning streak, but the feeling, and rightly so, is nothing has been accomplished until the math says there will be Black and Gold in the postseason.

“I think we’ll need the knack [of picking up points] in this stretch. By no means are we out of the woods yet,” cautioned Julien. “There’s a pretty good tie going on with a lot of teams, and we don’t have an easy schedule. We have a game against Washington and we know what that represents, but it’s also a late game with a late arrival in Florida the next day.

“So we really need to take care of business early on, and try and take as many of those points as we can to not have to rely on the last game.”

The “last game” is a Saturday night tilt against a Tampa Bay Lightning team that the B’s would face in the first round of the playoffs were the season to have ended on Monday. That could set up a pretty interesting scene in Tampa against the Bolts if the B’s need points against them in Game No. 82, and a really, really interesting scene if that game holds up as a prelude to a first round playoff series between the two division rivals.

McDavid, MacKinnon, Matthews? Who are the top 10 centers in the NHL right now?

McDavid, MacKinnon, Matthews? Who are the top 10 centers in the NHL right now?

The NHL is absolutely loaded with great centers.

Whether it's a young talent like Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon, Connor McDavid or Aleksander Barkov — all of whom are under 25 years old — or more established talent like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Patrice Bergeron, or Anze Kopitar, trying to determine the league's best center is a tough task.

But while some of these guys are off to slow starts, others' talents are on full display through a quarter of the 2019-20 NHL season.

Joe Haggerty is continuing his look at the Top 10 players at each position with a look at the league's best centers.

Click here for the Top 10 centers in the NHL right now.>>>>>

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Bruins' Brett Ritchie (infection) out again vs. Sabres with flare-up of previous injury

Bruins' Brett Ritchie (infection) out again vs. Sabres with flare-up of previous injury

BRIGHTON, Mass. — Bruins power forward Brett Ritchie's on-again, off-again status is off again as he won’t be in the lineup vs. the Buffalo Sabres after “a flare-up” of an injury that previously kept him out of the lineup.

This will be the eighth game of the season that Ritchie has missed with a couple of different injuries, but this is related to an infection issue that took the 26-year-old out of the lineup for a handful of games. Ritchie had been out for two weeks prior to returning on Tuesday night against the Devils and had just one shot on goal in 13:15 of ice time in the win over New Jersey.

“He’s had a flare-up of a previous injury last night,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “So that will leave Lindholm with Bjork and Heinen. If Ritchie was healthy, he’d be on the wing and [Lindholm] would have to work his way into the lineup. Maybe he’d be the 13th or 14th forward mixed in.”

Ritchie has had pockets of decent play this season and got off to a good start when he scored in the season opener in Dallas, but the two goals and three points in 14 games played this season hasn’t been very impactful play from a guy the Bruins hoped would bring size, strength, physicality and ruggedness to their forward group.

Cassidy added that he “fully expects” Patrice Bergeron to play against the Sabres after missing the last two games with a lower body injury, and the further expectation is that Torey Krug will return this weekend against the Minnesota Wild, though he was skating in a no-contact jersey at Thursday’s run-through.

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Sabres based on Thursday’s morning skate:

FORWARD LINES

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk David Krejci Charlie Coyle
Anders Bjork Par Lindholm Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom Sean Kuraly Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk Brandon Carlo
Urho Vaakanainen Connor Clifton

STARTING GOALIE

Tuukka Rask

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