|Bruins center Gregory Campbell. (Getty)|
WILMINGTON -- With their playoff ticket punched and their division lead now up to seven points over the Canadiens with a game in hand, it'd be easy for the Bruins to take their proverbial foot off the pedal over their final seven regular season games.
Coach Claude Julien, however, knows how disastrous that could be to their postseason hopes.
"I think it's business as usual, but it's nice to clinch with more than just a game or two left in the season," said Julien. "Right now, the challenge is going to be keeping our game going in the right direction, not get complacent or comfortable and hopefully head into the playoffs with confidence and continue firing on all cylinders."
Boston's bench boss is especially happy about the clinch for three of his key contributors of late. Defenseman Tomas Kabele hasn't been to the playoffs since back in 2004, while neither Nathan Horton nor Greg Campbell qualified for the postseason during their days with the Panthers.
"I think it's great for them, obviously," Julien said. "Kaberle has been in them, but not for a long time. The other two haven't experienced that yet. Some of those games we've been playing lately are the type of games we're going to see in the playoffs.
"I think it's good experience for them. Once they get in the playoffs, they're going to realize that's the way it's played. We look at those games as preparation and we have to prepare ourselves accordingly."
Horton scored one of the Bruins two power-play goals in their 2-1 win over the Flyers on Sunday, as the Black and Gold have finally turned things around on the man advantage.
"The one thing we weren't doing well was finishing around the net, and we did that both times yesterday," Julien said. "We got shots through, we moved the puck well, but the guys were there to pounce on shots and bury them. That's what was holding us back for a while."
Boston will be in for a challenge in their next tilt, as the defending-champion Blackhawks, a squad scratching and clawing to stay in the top eight out West, will visit the Garden on Tuesday night.
"That's a desperate team and we just talked about that, how those kind of games should be helpful to us," said Julien. "If you're not ready for games like that, you can get embarrassed pretty easily. Those are the types of games that we need to prepare for the playoffs.
"They've got a lot of skill and they're very creative in the offensive zone. If we don't have our heads on a swivel in the d-zone, we could get ourselves in a lot of trouble. They're a team right now that's fighting to stay in the playoffs. I think we'll see them at their best."
While he hasn't yet hammered out his lineup for Tuesday night, Julien plans on mixing in the likes of Shane Hnidy and Steve Kampfer going forward, giving the two healthy scratches on the blueline some playing time while giving a little rest to those in need.
"I think down the road we're going to see us moving some of those guys in there and trying to make sure we keep everybody in the loop," the coach said. "At the same time, you want to make sure you have a roster you're comfortable with."