The Bruins and Hurricanes held optional skates on Saturday morning at the TD Garden prior the evening’s tilt, billed as a rematch by the fans and the media. The Hurricanes, as all Bruins fans can recall, ended the Bruins Stanley Cup hopes last season when Scott Walker scored with 1:14 left in overtime. They silenced the “We Want It” chants from the Garden faithful that had come back in throngs last season as the Bruins finished first in the Eastern Conference standings.
But while Bruins players admitted they would use revenge as motivation tonight, they were very focused on getting their first win of the season after falling flat in a 4-1 season-opening loss to the Capitals on Thursday.
“Obviously, they’re a team that spoiled our season last year, and I think there’s a lot of thinking going into this game that [Carolina] would be a great team to get us on the right track,” said Bruins forward Milan Lucic. “They’d be a great team to get our first win against. It’s definitely not going to be easy and we expect them to come out hard.
"Everybody is still a little bitter about what happened last year. It’s only the regular season, but they’re a big two points that we need. Get that first win of the season, and it’d be a lot nicer if it comes against these guys. Not a lot of revenge, but just a little bit. Just enough to have a smile on your face when the game is over.”
Head coach Claude Julien doesn’t particularly care how his team gets pumped for tonight’s game; he just wants a better performance than Thursday and would like to see a more focused and determined Bruins squad.
“Is it revenge? Is it about this year, about winning a hockey game? It can be about a lot of different things,” Julien said. “I don’t care how the guys think about it. I just really care about us going out there, and it’s more about how we’re going to perform than anything else. Whichever way they want to motivate themselves, that’s OK with me. We just have to bounce back from a tough outing.”
The way the Bruins lost to the Capitals Thursday reminded defenseman Dennis Wideman of the way the Bruins put themselves in a 3-1 series hole against Carolina last May. He’d like to correct that on Saturday.
“There were some similarities,” Wideman said. “There’s a little extra excitement [on Saturday], and hopefully we can take it to them. When I think about that series, it’s about not playing our best. We didn’t play as good as we could, and we didn’t play like we did in that first series against the Canadiens. That’s what leaves the sour taste. If you play as good as you can and you still lost a series, then it’s a little easier to swallow than if you didn’t play as well as you can.”
The Hurricanes know they can expect a hostile crowd and the Bruins’ best effort on Saturday. Walker, who became an instant villain in Boston after his Game 5 sucker-punch on opponent-turned-teammate Aaron Ward, is not exactly expecting any warm, fuzzy reception from the fans tonight.
“It's a new year, some new players on each team, and it is what it is,” Walker said. “We know they probably want some revenge and those were all hard-fought games in that series, so we know what we’re in for here.”