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Bruins Prepare for Bolts

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
BOSTON -- Wednesday morning the Boston Bruins hit the ice at TD Garden for the first of two practices before their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Tampa Bay Lightning finally begins on Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

MARCH 3: Milan Lucic #17 of the Boston Bruins celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning
The B's haven't faced the Bolts since Boston's Milan Lucic scored the game-winner and Tim Thomas made 27 saves for a Black & Gold victory on March 3rd and there's a distinct difference between the Lightning that the B's struck down over two months ago and the club Boston (who went 3-1-0 against Tampa Bay during the regular season) will face in Round 3.

"As far as the way they play, the way that they're coached and the system that they have -- they're such a talented team -- but when you talk about the Tampa Bay Lightning, most times it's about how well they play defensively," said Bruins forward Gregory Campbell, a veteran of 34 career games against the Bolts with a 3-5-8 line.

"I think it's just a credit to those guys how they are buying into that system and what the new coaching staff there has instilled," explained Campbell. "It's working for them.

"They've always been a team that could score and could kill you on the scoreboard, but I think they're built a lot more solid now, from their goaltender out.

"Their defense is a lot stronger and I think they've made a turn for the better down there and they're a really good team now," he said.

Well, you want to be thinking that way you want to be thinking that this is our opportunity. And if there is one thing that we’ve learned through the years, it's that there is no entitlement. We’ve gotten here because we have earned it. And if we are going to get an opportunity at challenging for the Stanley Cup, we certainly can’t have a sense of entitlement here." - Claude Julien
Starting in goal, Tampa Bay netminder Dwayne Roloson, acquired by the Lightning on January 1, is no mystery to many in Boston.

The former UMass-Lowell standout nearly stood local college hockey on its ear while he was standing on his head for former UML Head Coach Bruce Crowder's program in the early 90's and the 41-year-old has a 5-2-0 record with a 1.97 goals against average and a .941 save percentage against the Bruins during his 12 season NHL career.

"He has stabilized their team," said Boston Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien this week. "I think that is a pretty fair statement to make.

"When you looked at their team at the regular season they were scoring goals, but they were giving up as many. And I don’t know if you want to throw all the blame on the goaltender or whether there was more to it than that, but they certainly stabilized their team.

"He led his Edmonton team to the finals and...he’s certainly capable of doing that [again]," he said.

Campbell talked about the defensive prowess of the Lightning and much of the focus pre-series has been on Tampa Bay's ability to trap teams in the neutral zone.

"The bottom line is you have to find a way to get through that," said Julien. "They force you to move the pucks in deep, they have a defenseman there that just grabs it and shoots it right back out.

"So it’s about us getting through that and making sure that we give ourselves an opportunity to still have the puck in the offensive zone. And you’re right. We don’t want to put all our attention to that.

"Our game plan is not going to change a lot," explained Julien. "There’s going to be some small adjustments here and there, but our game plan should be good enough and we should be confident enough with it that we know it can continue to bring us success.

"And as far as their neutral zone, it’s very similar to Montreal’s, and we were able to get through that one."

Nearly everyone in the B's locker room has been asked about the Bolts' Martin St. Louis and Campbell, who faced off against Tampa Bay frequently during his four plus seasons with the Florida Panthers, talked about the Lightning sparkplug on Wednesday.

"I think he makes that team go, to be honest with you," said Campbell. "He's extremely shifty and good with the puck. You can tell he's a leader for that team.

"Playing against him as many times as I have, he's always been a guy I've always been impressed with."

But St. Louis is not the only weapon that Tampa Bay brings to the rink. That impressive list includes Vincent LeCavalier, Steven Stamkos, Simon Gagne and Randy Jones. Coach Julien, however, said that there's outstanding offensive talent on every team in the playoffs.

"Every team you play has got some players that you got to keep a close eye on," said Julien. "The [Claude] Giroux’s, [Danny] Briere’s [in the] Philly series, there were [Michael] Cammalleri’s, [Brian] Gionta’s [versus Montreal].

"You've just got to make sure you know who they are and you got to make sure that you know when they’re on the ice and then what they’re capable of doing.

"Hopefully, they’re thinking the same way about our I've mentioned we’ve handled other teams pretty well and we’re going to have to handle those guys just as well if we plan on having success."

That said, Julien saved special praise for some of the lesser known players on the Lightning lineup.

"The [Sean] Bergenheim’s, and the [Dominic] Moore’s and those kind of guys. And [Nate] Thompson. They are all playing pretty hard and I think that has helped them a lot," said Julien. "They are a team that competes very hard. And that’s what makes them successful.

"To me, they outworked Washington, there was no doubt about that. And they are a committed group, and you can tell just by watching the games," said Julien.

Obviously, there will be plenty of people watching this series -- particularly in New England -- and Julien said that a large part of the Bruins motivation against Tampa Bay will come from the club's desire to continue to energize the fan base in greater Boston.

"Well I think that’s been the goal from day one," said Julien. "We’ve always wanted to bring...that excitement back to this city. And to be at the stage we are right now, it’s great.

"But you can’t be satisfied. We have bigger goals and we have bigger intentions than just getting to the third round. But you got to take care of business where you are at the moment, and that’s the third round.

"We understand it’s going to be a big challenge," added the Boston bench boss. "We 'd certainly love to bring more excitement to this area and bring back, hopefully, a Stanley Cup Final to them.

"But again, you take one step at a time here. And Tampa Bay’s a good team. That’s why they are where they are and we’re going to have a great challenge ahead of us."

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