The Boston Bruins spent most of the first half of March mired in an unusual defensive funk.
But the reborn Bruins will look to continue playing their familiar brand of stingy hockey Thursday night, when they visit the New Jersey Devils in a battle of Eastern Conference foes at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Both teams were off Wednesday after playing in the tri-state area Tuesday, when the visiting Bruins continued their defensive resurgence by blanking the New York Islanders 5-0 and the host Devils fell to the Washington Capitals 4-1.
The win was the second straight following a three-game losing streak for the Bruins (44-20-9, 97 points), who seem to have figured out whatever was ailing them on defense during the skid. Boston allowed 15 goals in the trio of defeats but has given up just one goal on 38 shots in the back-to-back victories over the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Islanders.
On Tuesday, the Bruins limited the Islanders to 13 shots -- tied for the fewest shots made by an NHL team in a game this season and the fewest shots attempted in a shutout. The Anaheim Ducks were held to 13 shots in a 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 23.
"I think we try and win a lot of times by playing good 'D' and kind of making teams realize it's not going to be a fun game if they want to beat us," Bruins center Sean Kuraly said. "They know they're going to have to play really hard and tight defensively also if they want to go to the end.
"And if they want to go to the end 0-0, just try and be rock solid. We think if we do that, then teams are usually going to break. Sometimes it happens early and sometimes it doesn't happen until the third period, but we were happy with our 60 (minutes Tuesday)."
If history is any indication, the Devils will be just what the playoff-bound Bruins need to continue their success. New Jersey, which is in last place in the Metropolitan Division and entered Wednesday with the third-fewest points (63) in the Eastern Conference, has lost its last seven games to playoff contenders dating back to a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 25.
The Devils, who traded four veterans in February and have just four players older than 30 on the current roster, are hoping the losses to upper-echelon teams can serve as a learning experience for a team in the beginning of a rebuilding project.
"It doesn't matter that we're out of it right now, this is very crucial for these young guys," said 36-year-old defenseman and captain Andy Greene, who is the oldest remaining Devils' player. "(Teams) in a playoff race, they're in it every night, they're going to try and take our will away early and jump on us and try to make us quit, but I think that's where you've got to be a self-motivator."
--Field Level Media