The Boston Bruins and host Pittsburgh Penguins have opposing missions going into their rematch Sunday at PPG Paints Arena.
The Bruins felt like they might have turned a corner for the better Thursday in their 4-1 home win over Pittsburgh, and hope to keep going in that direction.
Before that win, Boston had lost two straight and had taken some public backlash for a perceived lack of response the previous game after goaltender Tuukka Rask got knocked out of the game with a concussion.
But against the Penguins, the Bruins played a high-level, physical game.
"We always want to be (hard to play against)," center Patrice Bergeron said. "We weren't really happy with our (previous) two efforts, and you're facing a team that's playing good hockey. I thought we responded to the challenge well, but we have to carry that momentum on.
"It's about getting better as a team. There are going to be stretches where you need to work harder to get the result. So we keep working on it and keep getting better, but the way we competed and the mindset up and down the lineup was great to see."
Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said the team had a meeting that covered several topics, all aimed at recapturing their identity, including being more physical.
"It's not about going out there and trying to run them out of the rink," defenseman Torey Krug said. "Looking at our roster, we don't have that kind of group anymore. But we talked about sticking together and competing harder and sacrificing a little more. ... I think that desperation was lost there for a few games, so, hopefully, (Thursday's game) is a step in the right direction and we can kind of grasp that concept again."
Boston center David Krejci, who missed Thursday's game because of an upper body injury, is questionable for Sunday.
Goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who had a strong, 29-save game Thursday filling in for Rask, seems likely to start against Pittsburgh again.
The two games aren't a traditional home-and-home series. While Boston hasn't played since the Thursday game, the Penguins went to Detroit on Friday where they beat the Red Wings 2-1 in overtime.
Pittsburgh is looking at that win as a much better template for the rematch with the Bruins.
"We had the puck a lot. We had a lot of zone time. We were hanging onto pucks in that offensive zone," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "That's when our team is at our best. We stayed close and offered that support when there were 50-50 puck battles. Those are the kind of details that are important."
Despite the loss Thursday, Pittsburgh has gotten a boost from the return of captain Sidney Crosby, who has scored a goal in each of his three games, two of them wins, since returning from sports hernia surgery, with six points in all. His three goals include his team's lone one against Boston and the overtime one at Detroit.
"It's very impressive," Sullivan said. "For most guys, there's a period of adjustment back to the speed of the NHL game, and Sid missed an extended period of time. But if you are asking if I'm surprised, the answer would be no because I watch his work ethic every day and how he prepares himself to get back into the lineup."
--Field Level Media