McLellan: Speed, tempo key to beating Bruins
Shawn Thornton (left) returns from a 15-game suspension while Loui Eriksson is back after sustaining a concussion. (AP)
SAN JOSE – The Boston Bruins aren’t the first NHL team this season to struggle on the California coast, where the Sharks, Ducks and Kings are a combined 49-6-8 at home.
They’ll be getting some reinforcements for their game on Saturday against the Sharks, though, where they will try and put regulation road losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles behind them. Shawn Thornton will return from a 15-game suspension and Loui Eriksson is back from a concussion that has also kept him out for the last 15.
“It’s certainly nice to see that happen, but as I said before, it doesn’t guarantee wins,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We’ve still got to go out there and play our game, and be a lot better than we have been the last little while. It’s not so much about effort, but our decision making and those little details that make differences in a game in a positive way or negative way.”
Captain Zdeno Chara said: “It’s going to be nice to have them back.”
Thornton, a team-first guy whose contributions aren’t necessarily reflected on the scoresheet, is excited to make his return. He earned his lengthy league ban after punching the Penguins’ Brooks Orpik on Dec. 7, shortly after Orpik gave Eriksson a concussion.
The fourth liner has three goals in 27 games, while Eriksson, who was traded to Boston as part of the deal for Tyler Seguin, has 14 points (5g, 9a) in 24 games.
“I’m excited to be back, obviously. It was a tough night to sleep for other reasons this time, which is good,” Thornton said. “It’s been a long time, can’t wait to get it going.”
Boston beat the Sharks in the first meeting, 2-1, thanks mainly to spectacular play from goaltender Tuukka Rask, who turned aside 38 of 39 shots on Oct. 24.
“They outplayed us. If it wasn’t for Tuukka, they would have dominated us,” Thornton said.
Julien said: “They come out hard, and they come out ready to play. It’s important for us to be good in that first period.”
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San Jose will likely try and keep its top line of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns away from the massive Chara, who remains one of the league’s dominant blue liners. At home, they’ll have the luxury of last change.
“He’s one of the biggest, best defensemen out there,” Pavelski said. “If you get a chance and we’re not on against him, you have to hopefully make it count.”
As for Chara, he’d like to avoid seeing his club get swept in the Sunshine State.
“We’ve got to be ready for that physical, heavy game,” he said. “We know they have a really good team and some players that are great individuals, we’ve just got to be aware of them and play our game.”
“We know these teams are good, and they are on the top of the standings. They play solid hockey.”