FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Boston Bruins missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season for the first time in eight years.
General manager Don Sweeney has overhauled the Boston roster since he was hired May 20 to replace Peter Chiarelli. The Bruins signed unrestricted free agent forward Matt Beleskey, traded for forward Jimmy Hayes, traded away forward Milan Lucic and defenseman Dougie Hamilton, and let several role players leave as free agents.
It will take some time for chemistry to develop, and all of the players will have to become acclimated with the style of play Sweeney and coach Claude Julien want to implement.
The Bruins are going to be in a state of flux, but they're also going to be in the spotlight because they're scheduled to host the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL's New England Patriots, on Jan. 1 (1 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
Although nothing will tarnish the buzz surrounding the event, given the venue and the longstanding rivalry between the Bruins and Canadiens, neither wants to be in the midst of a lackluster season when New Year's Day rolls around.
So for three months leading up to the Winter Classic, Boston will have added motivation to make sure it's playing well enough to be considered one of the elite teams in the NHL.
"You never want to be behind the eight ball right away, so you want to have a good start of the season," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said at the stadium Wednesday. "That's definitely the plan and the goal. This game is definitely something we're all looking forward to."