WILMINGTON, MA - Following two well-deserved and well-needed days of rest after their second-round series win over New York, the Bruins were back to practice Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena.
On the agenda: get ready for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Bruins' will have a layoff from game action for at least a week (the series schedule and Game One have not been confirmed by the league and are still set to be announced).
Coach Julien has been through the process before, having had lengthy time off in 2009 before facing the Carolina Hurricanes (the B's learned from that moving forward) and rest after they swept the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011 en route to the Cup.
"I think our team has matured a lot more in regards to that," said Julien following an hour-long, high-tempo practice Tuesday morning, in which there was no shortage of battling.
"Based on today’s practice, I thought we practiced really well, lots of energy, worked hard."
"I think our guys, we’re pretty focused right now. Like I said, I liked our intensity and our focus and our jump in practice today."
"You have to manage that time the right way. You can’t be too relaxed, you can’t be thinking about totally letting it go," said Captain Zdeno Chara, on managing the balance of rest and staying in playoff mode. "You’re going to enjoy it for a few days, like we have. But now we’re back in business."
The focus was there for the Bruins, and it also marked the first full practice, with all B's healthy, since Game Five against Toronto, as Andrew Ference joined the team for the first time since that game.
Ference was skating on the TD Garden ice Monday afternoon and has been skating for the past few days, but it was his first time in practice action. All 15 forwards, 10 defensemen, and both goaltenders were on the ice (Niklas Svedberg is with the team, for the purpose of filling in when Tuukka Rask takes days off to rest).
There were no changes up front, and defense pairings stayed intact from Game Five (Chara-Seidenberg, Bartkowski-Boychuk, Krug-McQuaid), with Redden-Hamilton and Ference-Johnson rounding out the other two.
"It's great to be back on the ice, of course. It's been good, a good couple days," said Ference following the practice.
"I'm skating really well. Like I said, it's just nice to get back on the ice and get back into a practice. Obviously, the last few days just on my own. It was good to get a couple of those kinds of days in."
Ference was also impressed by the young trio of defensemen who filled in with the injuries.
"We won, so that's the best part. That's the bottomline, get wins. Everybody's stepped up and did that," he said.
"It's a good sign that he’s practicing with us," said Coach Julien, of Ference. "Again, it’s a medical issue that unless the trainers say it’s a go – sometimes he may be ready, but could be a risky kind of ready. We’ll wait and see what our trainers say and how Andrew feels, as well, before we make any decision on him."
As for Wade Redden's progression, when Coach Julien was asked if the blueliner was cleared to play, Coach said he could use him "in a pinch if we needed him."
With a healthy Bruins' roster, Coach reiterated that once again, it's not a bad decision to be dealt, with having options to choose on the back end.
And the extra rest will only help the Bruins heal even more - not just those returning from injuries, but also the "bumps and bruises" common in playoff hockey.
Whatever the time is used for - healing, preparation, rest, recovery - the Bruins know that the same is true for their Eastern Conference foe in the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"At this stage, but teams are on the same page, as far as not being on the ice. Both teams – like I said, there's no advantage or disadvantage with the rest that both team have gotten," said Milan Lucic. "It's one of those things where it's what you're not used to in the playoffs, having seven days between games. But it's something that we have to deal with and, like I said, I think right now we're just excited and looking forward to the challenge."
If anything, the extra time just gives the Bruins more days to relish in the challenge that awaits.
"It’s great - that’s why we play, is to play against the best, and this series is going to be the same thing, so it’s a good challenge and it’s a lot of fun," said alternate captain Patrice Bergeron.
"That’s what playoff hockey is all about, so we’re looking forward to it."