The Boston Bruins aren’t yet sure which seed they’ll be or which team will occupy the other bench when they open the postseason at home next week.
According to their coach, that hasn’t stopped them from looking ahead.
Claude Julien hopes for an improved effort from his team in the Bruins’ regular-season home finale against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
Boston (45-24-11) has clinched the Northeast Division title and will be the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
That may leave the Bruins with a lack of urgency this weekend, when they face Ottawa before playing at New Jersey on Sunday. Julien noticed that problem even during a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday.
“It’s certainly not the kind of game you want to see from your team, and I think the execution wasn’t very good,” Julien said. “We weren’t very sharp. Our best players certainly didn’t make a difference.
“You can say what you want, you can preach what you want, but there’s a lot of players I think that are looking forward to the next season.”
That group may not have included Boston’s fourth line. Gregory Campbell(notes) and Shawn Thornton(notes) each had a goal Wednesday, with Thornton’s career-high 10th of the season coming in his return from a three-game absence after suffering a facial gash that required 40 stitches.
“It’s nice to see (Thornton and Campbell) get rewarded,” captain Zdeno Chara(notes) said. “They’ve been really solid for us throughout the whole season and the energy line is so important going into the playoffs.”
The Bruins will face Montreal or Buffalo in the first round, although they may wish Ottawa (32-39-10) could somehow reach the postseason. Boston has outscored the Senators 15-4 while winning four of five meetings this season, with Tim Thomas(notes) and Tuukka Rask(notes) combining for three shutouts.
Rask stopped 33 shots in a 1-0 win in the most recent matchup March 1, while Thomas has gone 13-3-1 with a 1.43 goals-against average in his last 17 starts in the series.
Ottawa has shown major improvement down the stretch, going 10-5-1 in its last 16 games and finishing its home schedule with a 3-2 overtime win over the Canadiens on Thursday.
“It was a great game, a lot of excitement in the stands, which is awesome, and it just feels great to get the win,” Butler said.
The Senators’ final contest will be Butler’s first as a professional in Boston. He grew up in suburban Marlborough, Mass., and starred in college at nearby New Hampshire.
Butler scored four goals at TD Garden in three career Hockey East tournament games.
Ottawa also recently signed free agent Stephane Da Costa(notes), a standout the last two seasons for Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass. Da Costa was held without a point in his first three NHL games.