January 5, 2011

Julien: Horton, Savard must keep producing

by Jesse Connolly

Bruins winger Nathan Horton. (Getty)

WILMINGTON -- After a successful five-game road swing that saw them nab eight out of a possible ten points, the Bruins have returned to the Hub of Hockey.

 During the trip, the B's established a three-point edge over the Canadiens in the Northeast Division and have two games in hand.

 Nevertheless, they're happy to be back home.

 "Yeah, it's been a good trip," coach Claude Julien said after the team's practice on Wednesday morning at Ristuccia Arena. "But it's always good to come back to your home turf."

 The final tilt in their five-game voyage down then up the East Coast was a 2-1 victory over the Maple Leafs in Toronto. In the game, first-line forwards Marc Savard and Nathan Horton each tallied. Julien hopes it's a sign they're turning a corner.

 "They scored a couple goals for us and that's a good sign," the coach said. "We don't need more but we just need it to continue. If they can keep producing then they're doing their job."

 Asked if he felt that the two had been feeling a little heat lately, Julien said it's understandable when players aren't producing at the level many expect of them.

 "Well I think so," Julien said, as Horton had failed to bury one in his previous nine games. "Nathan knows he's here to score some goals and he's certainly felt the pressure. There's no doubt when he scored that goal, it was a relief for him and hopefully a confidence boost that'll keep him going."

 The win was also a major confidence-booster for Tuukka Rask, as the 24-year-old netminder rebounded strongly after being pulled in his last start in Buffalo.

 "I think it's important for everybody," Julien said of Rask being on his game. "For his sake, it was important that he bounced back and had a solid showing. We've got a lot of games coming and we need both our goaltenders to be at our best. We need to rely on both of them."

 While many members of the Black and Gold made big strides on an individual level, Julien believes there's always room to get better.

 "Well I always look for our team to continue to improve throughout the year," he said. "We're certainly happy with that road trip, there's no doubt about that there. We've got some stiff competition coming up in the next five, six games. We certainly wanna be able to respond to that as well. It's about challenging yourself and seeing where you stand."

 That tough test will begin on Thursday night when the visiting Wild come to town. Facing off against a fairly unfamiliar foe from the Western Conference, Julien believes the Bruins best course of action is to just stick to what's been working for them over the last few weeks.

 "We always talk about how we need to play our game, and that's gonna be the case tomorrow night," he said. "Having watched them play a few games, they're a real hard-working team. They're battling for a playoff spot and they're right there in the hunt. We should expect them to be at their best tomorrow and to be playing desperate hockey."