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Physical Testing Kicks Off Opening of Training Camp

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MA - Anxiety. That's what the opening of Training Camp brought for the 51 players who reported to TD Garden Wednesday morning.

It could be your first camp, or your 15th camp. Some liken it to the first day of school, coming back from the summer, catching up with teammates and being forced in front of the camera for photo shoots and interviews to kick off the new campaign.

Only, there's no recess here. Intense, physical testing to make sure this group in Black & Gold is in peak condition to start the 2013-14 season. It's also in front of your bosses (the B's brass and coaching staff), so make sure you're on point.

"Oh man, the anxiety," Torey Krug had said on the eve of testing. "You prepare all summer. You know, I have so much confidence going into the testing that I'm going to do better than last summer and pass all of the tests, but there's just something about it, with the management and coaching staff sitting there, watching the tests and it adds that little element to it."

The verdict?

Everyone gets a passing grade.

"No disappointments, no surprises," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, who took in the off-ice action of his players on Day One. "It was all great news for a coach to see that these guys are ready to go."

"I don’t think I’m going to need camp to really assess it; I feel it right now," he remarked, of seeing his team's readiness. "I think our group's in the right place."

"I like the feeling of our hockey cub right now, these tests today just kind of solidified what I thought. Guys are in great shape and it would have been easier for guys after finishing so late to just kind of shut it down for the summer, but they’ve kept themselves in great shape and they look excited to get off to a new start here."

Of note, both Patrice Bergeron and Gregory Campbell will be taking part in camp practices; they are not yet cleared for game action, but those decisions won't need to be made until the group gets ready to travel to Montreal on Monday for the first preseason game.

Rookies? New Faces? All Are Boston Bruins Here

Winger Reilly Smith is taking part in his first Training Camp in the Black & Gold, since coming Boston in the Dallas trade with other new faces Loui Eriksson, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow.

It was a whirlwind offseason for Smith, but the transition has been smooth.

"It's a great group of guys - they're very welcoming. It makes it easier for guys like me, Joe, Fras to come in here and make the transition easier when you have that kind of atmosphere going around."

It also helps that Captain Zdeno Chara is leading the charge, along with a strong veteran group that has grown over the summer.

"I mean, it's always been an M.O. for this team. We don't like to treat anybody differently, no matter who you are," said Chara, who doesn't like to assign the "rookie" label to anyone in the room. In fact, last season, when he received an influx of questions from reporters about Dougie Hamilton as a "rookie," Big Zee made sure to say that he's not a rookie to their room; he's an integral member of the team.

His point: you could have been in the league for 20 years, or entering your first season, and still, you will only be treated in their room as a Boston Bruin. Same goes for the so-called "new faces" as well, like Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson, who, after two weeks of Captain's Practices, really don't seem all that new anymore.

"It's always been, as far as I know and [as long as] I've been part of this team as the Captain, nobody's better than anybody else. We're all the same and it only makes the team so much more equal and better to function. I don't see any reason why that should change."

Third Line Needs Grit…And Scoring

So, have you heard that there's a spot open on the Bruins' third line?

It has been much analyzed, discussed, imagined and dissected - and I'm not just talking about the hoards of fans and media speculating about the B's bottom six. The wheels have been turning in Claude Julien's mind all summer.

What's his ideal look for the trio that's sandwiched between the Bruins' hefty new top-six and the fourth-line Merlot-style grinders?

"I think ideally we saw the third line that we’ve liked when we won the Cup. You know, we had [Chris] Kelly, we had [Rich] Peverley, we had [Michael] Ryder. Not only were they kind of a dependable line but they were able to give us some scoring," said Julien.

"In the real perfect world, you’ve got your top two lines and you’d like to see them score on a regular basis. Your third line should be able to give you some secondary scoring and then your third line should also be able to give you some secondary grit that the fourth line gives you."

"So they're kind of, to me, caught in the middle where they give you a little bit of both and that is what we are looking for from that line."

Can't you just picture the wheels turning? I'm ready to see this in action, after writing and reading about it all summer.

"We've got some great leaders, a great core group of guys and we've added some quality people in there, too," added Julien. "But also we've left room for some guys to come in and win themselves a spot."

Tightening the Gap

While NHL vets are likely ready to hop into game action right at the start, Training Camp offers an opportunity for younger players in the Bruins' organization to learn the system, acclimate themselves to the team and coaching staff, and absorb everything around them, from watching how B's like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron carry themselves and prepare.

The first few days on-ice sessions will heavily focus on positioning and getting everyone accustomed to the system. For those well-versed, it will be about helping the others, executing to a T, and finding ways to still keep improving.

"System-wise, we thought we could improve our gap, I think we can be a little tighter and those are things we’re going to be working on and making sure that’s at the top of our list," said Coach Julien, of his focus for camp centering around his system of defensive layers, from the back end out.

"I thought that was one of the things that we could do better and when we did it well. It gave us success but we didn’t do it on a consistent basis so that’s one of the things we’re going to be tweaking."

Let's Play Hockey!

Now that physical testing is complete, five straight straight days of on-ice sessions commence Thursday. The Saturday and Sunday practices at TD Garden, which both begin at 10:00 a.m. ET, are open to the public, followed by Monday's session (also at 10:00 a.m.) at Ristuccia Arena, before the group heads to Montreal for the first of seven preseason games that night. Puck drops at the Bell Centre at 7:00 p.m. ET.   Click here to view the camp schedule.

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