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Getting to the playoffs could prove to be a journey of a thousand strides for the Caps, who dug themselves quite the hole with a horrid start. The next stride is yet again the most important one, and it’s a big challenge at a Bruins team that’s 9-2-1 at home this year.

It’s not hard to see why Boston has 39 points in 25 games.

“They got some real tough D-men to play against, they got some good forwards with some speed. I think we match up well with the speed,” Brouwer said. “Down low we try and play as tough and as gritty as we can against those big D-men.”

Now the Caps are simply hoping they can keep up this run of success against the Bruins because this meeting comes at a time when they need points badly.

“I think things have just kind of gone our way,” Brouwer said. “We had some lucky goals and good comebacks, and I think the rivalry that we developed with them last year in the playoff series fuels it as well.”

There’s no shortage of fuel for the Caps, who got past the Bruins last year on the strength of Braden Holtby’s goaltending and Alex Ovechkin’s physical play.

“I mean, who else took on [Dennis] Seidenberg, who else took on Chara, who else took on [Brad] Marchand and ]Patrice] Bergeron?” Oates said. “I mean, that’s one of his gifts. Physical play is part of his gifts.”

Ideally the Caps don’t want to get dragged into the Bruins‘ kind of game, full of pushing and shoving and hits at every turn. But they’re prepared to do it.

“They’re a defensive-first team, and they make it difficult. You’ve got to be willing to win 1-0,” Oates said. “If you’re not, you’re going to get blown out of the building.”

The one thing the Caps have done consistently in the past year or so is not get blown out of any building by the big, bad Bruins. Focus is essential to that continuing.

“We have to play our game. That’s what we talk about every day: It’s about us,” Oates said. “Obviously we show video on what they do, but it’s still about us. We have to show up and do our job.”