The Boston Bruins are in the midst of an incredibly busy stretch at the end of a historic NHL season, playing 13 games in 25 days with five straight weekend back-to-backs
But that will be no excuse when the grind of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins next month.
The jam-packed schedule appeared to take a toll Tuesday in Boston's 2-1 defeat to the Nashville Predators.
"This is probably the toughest schedule I've ever seen or been part of, but we obviously took them lightly," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said after the loss to the Predators. "We seem to get up for the games (against) the teams we could potentially face down the road, and I think we just were a little disrespectful of the game tonight against this team.
The Bruins (57-12-5, 119 points) will look to avoid back-to-back regulation losses for only the second time all season Thursday when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are at the bottom of the overall NHL standings
As a result of Carolina's 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday, the Bruins can clinch the Presidents' Trophy with a win over the Blue Jackets, whom they have beaten five straight times dating back to last season
"You're going to have peaks and valleys with your energy levels," Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said. "We try to monitor it the best we can, but the schedule's unforgiving right now. You're going to lay eggs every once in a while.
Only eight Presidents' Trophy winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup since the trophy was first awarded in 1985-86.
Of course, the home-ice advantage throughout the postseason that comes with the trophy will help the cause.
"I don't think we're too concerned about records or anything like that," Marchand said. "The opportunity to have home ice the whole playoffs would be nice, but again, if we take care of our job and we're prepared to play the rest of the games, we'll be alright."
Against Nashville, Boston was 0.3 seconds away from being shut out for only the second time this season. David Pastrnak scored his 52nd goal, extending his career-high mark.
The Blue Jackets (23-43-7, 53 points) are 3-8-1 since the start of the month after allowing three first-period goals and the final three goals of the game in Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the New York Rangers
"The whole game they battled really hard," Columbus coach Brad Larsen said. "It's a head scratcher. You look at it, 6-2, it's not that you're satisfied, but there's not many guys where you can say they didn't give it tonight."
Columbus has allowed four or more goals in every March game.
Johnny Gaudreau had a goal and an assist for Columbus, joining current Ranger Artemi Panarin as the second player in Blue Jackets history to reach the 50-assist plateau in his first season with the franchise
Kirill Marchenko scored his 20th goal of the season.
Nine players in the Blue Jackets' Tuesday lineup had played fewer than 100 NHL games. Among them, defenseman Billy Sweezey was recalled from AHL Cleveland on Monday and could play his third career game less than an hour from his hometown of Hanson, Mass
--Field Level Media