BOSTON - If nothing else, the Winnipeg Jets have at least made a good impression on the coach who took his team to the Stanley Cup last season.
Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien said Tuesday it’s time for NHL to sit up and take notice of an improved Jets team that may still be flying under the radar.
“There’s some ability on that hockey club that has improved a lot and people are now paying attention,” Julien said as the Jets and Bruins completed their final preparations for Tuesday night’s Eastern Conference matchup at the TD Garden.
“I don’t think we’ve ever taken them lightly and we certainly won’t (Tuesday). They came in here last time and took a quick 2-0 lead and they beat us in their own building. They are certainly a team that we respect.”
Julien had particularly kind words for the Jets defence, which has performed well most nights, even with Dustin Byfuglien out of the lineup for the last six games.
“I have a lot of respect for their back end,” Julien said. “They’ve got a lot of depth back there. They’ve got a lot of players there that can win games for them.”
The Jets beat the Bruins 2-1 in Winnipeg, when the teams met on Dec. 6. The defending Stanley Cup champs topped the Jets 4-2 when they last met in Boston on Nov. 26.
“The last time we played them in this building we fell behind right away 2-0 so we’ve just got to be ready,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “They come out and compete and play hard right away.”
The Bruins will be without forward Brad Marchand, who will begin serving a five-game suspension for his low hit on Vancouver’s Sami Salo on Saturday.
“We just have to move on as a team,” Chara said. “We know what our identity is and that’s not going to change. The preparation for a game doesn’t change.”
The Jets will be without centre Alex Burmistrov for the second straight game. He’s nursing what Jets coach Claude Noel described as a “mid-level injury.”
“He’s going to be a tough task today,” Noel said. “We want to make sure we’ve got Burmistrov for the longer term.”
Centre Tim Stapleton has been cleared to return after sitting out Saturday with the flu. He said he was expecting to play but Noel said it will be a game-time decision. Noel could elect to keep the bigger Patrice Cormier in the lineup against the rough and tumble Bruins.
The Bruins are coming off an emotional loss to the Canucks on Saturday in a rematch of last year’s seven-game Stanley Cup final and a possible precursor to this year’s championship series.
“We hope it’s not a bad thing and they get mad at us,” Noel said. “We’re going to have to get our emotional level up because they are hard to play against and they don’t give you much. They’re all you can handle.”
Jets defenceman Mark Stuart, a former Bruin, said there will be no room for error.
“You can’t have lapses,” he said. “I don’t know what their goals against is but it’s got to be one of the best in the league.”
In fact, they are the best in the league. The Bruins, with Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask in goal, allow only 1.90 goals against per game. And just for good measure they also lead the league in goals scored per game, at 3.63.
Rask is expected to get the start Tuesday against Ondrej Pavelec of the Jets.
“They don’t give up a lot, that’s for sure,” Stuart said. “We’ve got to play a tight game along with them. We’ve got to be disciplined. You can’t give them power plays because if they get up by a couple of goals because they are tough team to come back on. We got the start we wanted last time here but in the second period we got in the box and they got a goal on their penalty kill. We had that one lapse and that was it. I think we learned from that game and some of our other mistakes how to hold onto a lead and how to play the same way throughout.”
Like Noel often says, there will be no room for passengers on this voyage.
“If we don’t have enough ‘A’ games, they’ll catch you,” Noel said. “They can play the 1-0 game so you’ve really got to be focused for 60 minutes. These guys pose a really good challenge for you because they make you earn every inch of ice.”
Julien believes the Jets have become a difficult team to play against as well.
“They’re a good team. I’m not just saying that. They’re a team that works hard.
“(Noel’s) got them playing really well and they seem to have bought into what he’s trying to accomplish.”