WILMINGTON — The temperatures in Edmonton are not the only unfriendly aspect of the next week or so for the Bruins. While the Boston players will miss the lows in the negative-20s, they will have to cope with playing on the road, something they largely have avoided in the first two months of the season.
The Bruins have played the fewest road games in the NHL (10), which likely has had an effect on the team’s standing at the top of the Eastern Conference. Carolina (11) is the only other team with fewer than 12 road games in the East, though two teams (St. Louis and Colorado) in the West also had played 11 entering Monday night.
But that all changes very soon, as the Bruins play five of their next six and eight of their next 12 on the road. They start with Thursday’s game in Montreal, then after a home game against the Penguins Saturday, they head back to Canada for a weeklong trip through Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.
“That’s when it gets real tough,” forward Milan Lucic said. “In the past, we’ve always been a good road team. It always seems like we’ve never let an opposing crowd intimidate us. Obviously with this road trip coming up — I’m including the Montreal game on Thursday — going into some buildings where there are some great crowds and tough places to play.
“First time back in Western Canada since 2011, so a lot of games coming from Thursday to [the following] Saturday, and with a lot of travel. We’ll see what kind of road team we are this year.”
The road was an issue for the Bruins in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, costing them the top spot in the Northeast. Boston went 16-5-3 at TD Garden, and only 12-9-3 on the road.
But coach Claude Julien, for one, is looking forward to the road games. They will force some bonding among a team that has a number of new parts this season.
“It’s probably a welcome thing right now,” Julien said. “I think it’s going to be good for us to get together on the road and spend a little bit more time as a team and face some of those challenges and the travel that comes with it.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to do this right now. We’ve had a pretty successful homestand and now it’s time to try and carry that over to the road.”
Fortunately for the Bruins, they’ve taken advantage of the 17 games on the home schedule, especially of late, with their last regulation loss at TD Garden coming Oct. 26 to the Devils. Since then, the Bruins have gone 9-0-2 at home.
“We’re where we want to be, first place in the East,” Lucic said. “We’ve never really had a problem playing at home, but I think this year we’ve become a really good home team. We’ve thrived off our crowd, played well in our building.
“We’ve been playing well. We’ve been playing the way we want to play, but I also think we still can get better. I know we still talk about being better, and heading into December after a good November, you want to keep things going.”
Being on the road hasn’t gone nearly as well.
Though they won each of their first four games away from home, the Bruins have gone 2-4-0 since then, including a horrendous 6-1 loss in Detroit last week. In all, the Bruins are 12-3-2 at home and 6-4-0 on the road.
Overall, the Bruins know they’re playing well, though they do see places where improvement is needed.
“I think you’re happy but you’re definitely not satisfied,” center Patrice Bergeron said. “I think there’s still room to get better and to grow.”
Asked about those areas, Bergeron said, “The [defensive] zone coverage a little bit, also taking care of the blue lines on both sides of the rink. Too many turnovers results in too much time spent in our zone instead of putting the puck deep, forcing them to turn the puck over and for us to get after them and create some chances. Every time we do that, it seems like we’re getting the result that we want.”
After a busy schedule for the last two weeks, the Bruins will have had four days off before playing in Montreal Thursday. They did not practice Sunday, then had an optional skate with just six players taking part Monday and some off-ice conditioning for others.
“I think it’s the perfect time for a break like this, especially with traveling out West, coming off eight games in the last 14 days,” Lucic said.
“We’ve got to do whatever we can to get re-energized and refocused — obviously enjoy what we did in the month of November, but then again get ready for this month of December.”
. . .
The Bruins recalled defenseman Kevan Miller on an emergency basis from Providence of the AHL. Miller was sent down on Thanksgiving after making his NHL debut Nov. 21 and appearing in three games. Miller played solid defense, earning praise from Julien. He had two shots and averaged 17:27 of ice time.