The NHL playoffs begin Wednesday. The Bruins, though, don’t start their first-round series against the Red Wings until Friday. That might turn out to be a stroke of luck for Boston.
After Tuesday’s practice at TD Garden, coach Claude Julien revealed that the team had been hit by a “flu bug,” which was the reason behind the sparsely attended session.
“When you see what’s happening to our group here with the flu bug going around, you’ll take the extra days,” Julien said. “It’s maybe a little blessing in disguise there.”
As expected, neither Daniel Paille, who left the ice shaken after a hit by Buffalo’s Jake McCabe Saturday, nor Chris Kelly (back) was on the ice. But neither were Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson, Kevan Miller, Matt Bartkowski, or Andrej Meszaros. Carl Soderberg had to fill in for Bergeron as the center on the second line.
Julien would not specify which of his players had been affected by the illness, which also struck the team during its trip to Western Canada in December.
Asked whether the absent players might return for Wednesday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena, Julien said, “I don’t know for sure, I would like to think so.
“As you know, the flu bug has hit our team right now. So we’re trying to manage that the best we can and the best thing right now is to keep those guys away from others, but seems like a few more have gotten that.
“Started off I think just before Saturday’s game, certain players, and then just kind of evolved from there. We’re trying to manage it right now. As far as tomorrow’s concerned, you keep your fingers crossed and hope that that’s the end of it and that your players are going to start coming back.”
Julien gave no update on Paille, saying that the team is not discussing injuries at this point in the season. Paille did not play Sunday in New Jersey, and has suffered two concussions this season.
There was a good amount of talk Tuesday about how the Bruins will combat the team speed of the Red Wings, something that has stymied them in four games against Detroit this season. The Red Wings won three of those four, handing Boston its worst loss of the season — a 6-1 defeat just before Thanksgiving — and their speed was part of the reason.
“We played fast teams before,” Julien said. “Again, we can look at their record whichever way we want and see us 1-3.
“I don’t think that it is going to be that big of an issue as much as we may be an issue for them. Teams have strengths and it’s how you counter those things.
“I think our team can certainly skate. I don’t think we’re a slow team. Whether people underrate our skating or not, I don’t know. But we’ve shown that we can skate with these guys, but certainly close the gap quick on those guys, too. And that’s what you have to do, you have to make sure you don’t give those guys too much room because they will make plays and they will take the ice that you give them.”
Julien emphasized that he’s not overly worried about the issue.
As Brad Marchand said, “The biggest thing is to try to slow them down and try to be physical.”
Sense of calm
Marchand said this postseason feels a bit different. “I think personally I just feel a little more calm going into the playoffs,” he said. “The last few years it was all nerves. They’re still going to be there, but a little more controlled this time. I think a lot of guys will be able to say the same thing.” This is Marchand’s fourth postseason, including two trips to the Cup Final with one Cup. Said Julien, “I think they’re just having the whole, I guess, hoopla before the first puck drops in a more calm manner. And to me, it’s just one of those things that with time — this is seven years for a lot of these guys in a row — so you get that experience but you also take the lessons that you had along the way, how some of the series have been tough and how you’ve had to climb back into them because of a certain situation. So you hope that all the experience is also going to pay dividends for them.” . . . One player who was there Tuesday was Justin Florek, who was called up from Providence on an emergency basis. He wore a merlot jersey, along with Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, and Jordan Caron. Florek played three games for the Bruins in January and another Sunday, recording a goal and an assist.