The Bruins' lead over the Ducks in the race to secure home ice throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs by earning the best record in the National Hockey League is razor thin, as is the tie breaker of best ROW (Regulation and Overtime Wins), both teams tied at 50.
Anaheim has two games remaining and the Bruins three which means that Boston has every advantage on the way to the best record with the two point lead and a game in hand, and though they can't clinch that Cup with a win tonight in Winnipeg, they can make it nearly impossible for the Ducks to catch them.
What does that mean to Bruins' coach Claude Julien? Not much, unless he has a fantastic poker face or a genuinely perverse sense of humor, as he is expected to continue rotating his veterans as healthy scratches to get them a bit of extended rest before the post-season begins next week.
Top line centerman David Krejci is expected to play on Thursday night after being given a night off on Tuesday, missing the Bruins' 4-3 shootout loss in Minnesota - and taking his place in the press box will be second-line centerman Patrice Bergeron, joining Chris Kelly and defenseman Kevan Miller.
"It is a good luxury, but at the same time, you never want to get out of the lineup," Miller sighed. "Guys always want to play. You can tell someone’s sitting up there, they’re not happy about it, but it is good going into the playoffs to have guys be 100 percent rested."
Ryan Spooner, who was an emergency call-up from AHL Providence due to Kelly's back spasms, will be joining the team in Winnipeg and will most likely skate in Bergeron's spot. Jarome Iginla is also expected to be in the lineup after missing the past two games.
Luckily, Julien has a lineup that caters to giving players a night off every now and then, as they are widely considered to have the best third and fourth lines in the National Hockey League, as well as a wealth of developing talent at the AHL level such as Spooner...
...but the seventh year bench boss isn't taking it easy on the players in practice, as he held a spirited skate on Wednesday.
"You’ve got to have a practice like we did today. It was based on being sharp and some intensity and it doesn’t have to be long; it just has to be good," Julien told beat writers after the practice. "Guys have to understand that these last few games do mean something. It means staying sharp."
"You don't want to start the Playoffs on a negative note, because you're just kind of coasting through your last few games." he explained.
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Loui Eriksson
Brad Marchand - Ryan Spooner - Reilly Smith
Daniel Paille - Carl Soderberg - Jarome Iginla
Jordan Caron - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton
Matt Bartkowski - Johnny Boychuk
Torey Krug - Andrej Meszaros
Evander Kane - Bryan Little - Michael Frolik
Eric Tangradi - Olli Jokinen - Blake Wheeler
Eric O'Dell - Jim Slater - Matt Halischuk
Carl Klingberg - Patrice Cormier - Anthony Peluso
Tobias Enstrom - Paul Postma
Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba
Adam Pardy - Zach Redmond