TORONTO – The in-season breathers and breaks are essentially over for the Bruins and the sprint to the end of the regular season begins Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.
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With the drop of the puck in Toronto, the Bruins will play a whopping 24 games in 44 days to close out the season and will have a series of big games against the Maple Leafs and then three games vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning that will essentially decide the top spot in the Atlantic Division.
It reaches a fever pitch in March when the Bruins play a whopping 16 games, but the entire month-and-a-half stretch is one that the Black and Gold have been eyeing warily all season.
“It’s going to be tough. Especially when you look at the games...none of them are going to be easy games,” lamented Brad Marchand after B’s morning skate at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday morning. “There are a few very important ones against Tampa and Florida and tonight in Toronto. So it’s going to be a very tough [stretch], but I think the biggest thing is to take it all day-by-day. You can’t start looking ahead at the schedule. You just have to focus on the next practice or the next game, and then go from there.”
So what can be done about it?
The Bruins have already begun efforts to combat the attrition that’s sure to come by making a depth move for defenseman Nick Holden from the Rangers. The expectation is that the B’s will do the same thing up front with at least one established winger coming there way. So, the trade deadline move before Monday should be an effort to combat the sheer number of games played. Still, the Bruins will also have to hope that the injury bug doesn’t whack them as badly as it last season when they lost three of their top four defensemen during the playoffs.
The challenge will be incorporating any new players into their system as the Bruins are also expected to drastically scale back on their practice schedule with the heavy slate of games. It won’t be easy, of course, but it’s something the Bruins have also known about all along after a breezier schedule at the beginning of the year when they were besieged by injuries all over the roster.
“We knew that this was going to be our schedule. We obviously know that every team is ahead of us in terms of games played, and we were going to have to catch up,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s the schedule. There is really no easy way for the rest of the regular season. We’ve just got to battle through it.”
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It will be particularly challenging for the soon to be 41-year-old captain as well as the handful of rookies that the Bruins employ in their lineup on a nightly basis. The good news in all of this is that the Bruins have cleared every other hurdle thrown at them this season and the dense final spate of games provides one more challenge prior to the postseason.