(SportsNetwork.com) - The Boston Bruins have nine games left to prove they are worthy of a playoff spot. A good start would be ending a five-game slide when they host the Anaheim Ducks in Thursday's clash at TD Garden.
Although they won the Presidents' Trophy with a league-high 117 points in 2013-14, the Bruins wouldn't be in the playoffs if the season ended today. An 0-3-2 record over the last five games combined with a seven-game winning streak by Ottawa has Boston one point behind the Senators for the last wild card spot in the East. The Senators have played one fewer game than the Bruins and host the New York Rangers on Thursday.
"We all know where we are, we all know what we have to do if we want to be in the playoffs, and we just have to react, and win some hockey games," Bruins head coach Claude Julien told his club's website.
The Bruins last played on Sunday when it lost a 5-3 road decision against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Dougie Hamilton, who leads all Boston defenseman with 42 points, did not play in that game and after Tuesday's practice Julien said the blueliner will be sidelined indefinitely.
While Hamilton is out for tonight, the B's are hoping David Krejci can return to the lineup versus Anaheim. Krejci, sidelined since Feb. 20 with a left knee injury, has been practicing with the team and the centerman could be back tonight after sitting out 15 games.
Krejci has only seven goals and 19 assists in a disappointing 38-game run this season. However, he has been a big part of Boston's offense in recent seasons, including 2013-14, when the Czech forward led the Bruins in points with 69.
Boston scored first in Sunday's meeting with the Lightning, but Tampa tallied the next four goals to build a 4-1 lead before the midway point of the second period. The Bruins scored twice in the third stanza, but it wasn't enough to avoid the regulation loss.
Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Daniel Paille all lit the lamp for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask gave up four goals on 12 shots before being pulled early in the second period. Niklas Svedberg allowed one goal on seven shots in relief.
Beginning with tonight's test, the Bruins are playing two straight and three of their next four at home, where they are 21-10-6 this season.
Anaheim enters Thursday having yielded 12 total goals over a two-game losing streak, but the club still is in great shape to win its third straight Pacific Division title. The Ducks sit nine points ahead of second-place Vancouver, which does hold two games in hand over Anaheim. The Canucks host Colorado on Thursday.
The Ducks also are tied at 99 points with St. Louis for the Western Conference lead and are a point in back of Montreal in the Presidents' Trophy race.
After getting embarrassed 7-2 by the New York Rangers in the opener of a five- game road trip on Sunday, the Ducks were dealt a 5-3 setback two nights later in Columbus.
Anaheim lost despite taking an early 2-0 lead and outshooting the Blue Jackets by a 40-27 margin for the game.
Ryan Kesler, Andrew Cogliano and Matt Beleskey each lit the lamp and John Gibson allowed four goals on 26 shots for the Ducks, who had won six in a row before beginning this road trip.
"All the guys on the ice need to make better decisions with the puck. It's simple as that," said Ducks defenseman James Wisniewski.
Anaheim, which will close this trek with tilts versus the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, own a solid 21-12-4 road record this season.
The Ducks boast a 5-1-1 record in their last seven games against Boston, but the Bruins have claimed three of the past five meetings at TD Garden.