While the Bruins went through their final regular-season practice on TD Garden ice Friday, two of their toughest defensemen remained on the sideline with injuries. Most of the team is healthy, but neither Johnny Boychuk nor Adam McQuaid skated with the team and the configuration of the defense is the top question as the playoffs approach.
Boychuk is recovering from a left knee sprain suffered Tuesday. McQuaid, while playing in his first game after missing three with a cut over his left eye, left Thursday’s game in Ottawa after playing just seven minutes because he wasn’t feeling well.
“Boychuk is improving as predicted; he continues to be day to day,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “Same thing with McQuaid; he’s a day to day and they decided they wanted to keep him off today.’’
Julien said there was no concern about a setback for McQuaid; his symptoms were the result of the eye injury.
“We’re just being overcautious right now because, again, this is the time of year we can be,’’ said Julien. “We want to be heading into the playoffs as healthy as can be.’’
Saturday afternoon’s opponent, Buffalo, has been eliminated from playoff contention, leaving the Sabres little to play for but pride.
“I expect a good game,’’ said Julien. “When teams like that get eliminated, you think they’re throwing in the towel, but there’s one thing you have an opportunity to do is play that last game and at least leave with a win. That’s as positive as it can get right now.’’
Veteran Brian Rolston said the Bruins simply need to stay focused.
“We’re going to go out and play hard and stay sharp,’’ he said. “I think that’s the most important thing for us. Be ready for Game 1.’’
Fearless play from the Sabres can’t slow the Bruins, Rolston said.
“That always can be a concern, but it is what it is,’’ he said. “If things happen, things happen. We have tremendous depth here so you don’t foresee that and you don’t hope that’s going to happen.’’
Another veteran, Rich Peverley, said the Sabres will be playing for pride. “They’re going to want to beat us, they’re a division opponent,’’ he said.
“This is an important game for us, too. We didn’t play the best game last year at the end of the regular season,’’ said Peverley, recalling a 3-2 loss to the Devils, “and then we lost our first two playoff games. So if you look at that and take something from that to learn from, it’s to be going in and having a very good game.’’
Julien did not anticipate giving any of his regulars a rest day in the season finale, but reserved the right to change his mind. He did say the three players who did not play in Ottawa - goaltender Tim Thomas, defenseman Zdeno Chara, and center Patrice Bergeron - will play.
“It’s important right now that we get closer to our team than rest,’’ Julien said.
Forward Lane MacDermid had a quick stay in Boston. He joined the Bruins for the trip to Ottawa, but was a healthy scratch and has been reassigned to Providence . . . The Bruins will host Fan Appreciation Day Saturday. After the game, Bruins players will throw T-shirts into the stands, then hand 27 lucky fans the shirt off their backs - their game shirts - in what has become a popular tradition.