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Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara celebrates with defenseman Dennis Seidenberg after Seidenberg scored against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Tuesday, March 27, 2012. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)
Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara celebrates with defenseman Dennis Seidenberg after Seidenberg scored against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Tuesday, March 27, 2012. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)

Bruins roll into Ottawa without three best players Add to ...

Well, it’s certainly a novel approach to building a playoff rivalry.

The Boston Bruins roll into Ottawa on Thursday for a preview of what could be a first-round match-up between the teams, but are flying in without their three best players - goalie Tim Thomas, centre Patrice Bergeron and former Senator defenceman Zdeno Chara.

Not for Boston coach Claude Julien, this laying down of markers and sending of messages, Philadelphia-Pittsburgh style.

Unless the message is: you don’t rate our best shot at this point in the season (the Bruins have dominated the regular season series four games to one).

The simpler and more likely scenario is Julien, who has said since the Bruins’ Stanley Cup conquest last year that his priority is making sure his veterans get their rest, is merely being prudent.

Not that the Senators much care either way.

“You want to have guys who are healthy and rested in the playoffs . . . it’s not a big surprise,” shrugged Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson. “We’re still going to get the Bruins, they’re not going to change their style for the one game . . . it’s a good way for us to see can get through the neutral zone, can we create chances, can our special teams be good, even though they’re missing some of their best players.”

Fair enough, but it’s hard to get the measure of a rival who evidently isn’t interested in engaging.

That might explain why Ottawa coach Paul MacLean mused about starting backup goalie Ben Bishop, who has been carrying a niggling leg injury.

“We want to make sure he gets a game in before the playoffs,” he said.

Nominal starter Craig Anderson had some shaky moments in a loss to Carolina on Tuesday, and said before that game that he wouldn’t mind starting the Senators’ remaining games to “get in that flow” after a long layoff after cutting his hand with a kitchen knife.

Instead, it appears he’ll have the night off, which may be just as well for his confidence - Anderson is 0-3 this season against the Bruins, and has given up 15 goals in those losses.

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