BostonBruins.com – When the Bruins and Penguins meet to commence the Eastern Conference Finals Saturday night in Pittsburgh, it will have been a full week since the Black & Gold last played a game (and eight days for the Pens).
The rest and extra time for preparation has been nice, but everyone is ready to get things started.
“Yeah, it’s been a good week, but excited to get ourselves going here,” said B’s Head Coach Claude Julien. “It should be a real fun series to play in.”
Andrew Ference, who has been out with an undisclosed injury since Game Five of the Bruins’ first round series against Toronto, said he was feeling good and looking forward to the beginning of series.
“I think everybody's excited to get going here,” said Ference, whose status for Game One is in the hands of the team’s doctors and trainers. “I know we've done a lot of watching the other series the last few days. Get back to the real deal. As far as going back to Pittsburgh, I'm actually surprised that our team's haven't met up in the last few years.
“Obviously we've both had success. It should be great hockey. It's good for the game to have those good, big markets left over here.”
The last time the Bruins had this much time off, with no games, was before the season started, making it feel a bit like training camp.
“It’s about time,” said Tuukka Rask. “I think everybody has had enough of these practices. As I said at the beginning of the week, it almost felt like midseason or training camp. Coming in, shorts on, [it’s] sunny outside and we’re just practicing for an hour. I think it is good to get back to games.”
Full team practices were at a premium during the regular season because of the shortened schedule. One of the positives of a full week in between games was that the Bruins had plenty of time to work on their game plan.
“This is, without a doubt, the longest time we’ve had off since the start of the season,” said Julien. “We never had that many consecutive days without a game. It goes to show you, to me anyways, how important practices are. We’re able to work on a lot of things.”
Another positive of the layoff for the Bruins was the rest. During the postseason, every player is dealing with bumps and bruises, and the overall fatigue caused by the grind of the playoffs.
“The break’s been good for everybody, even us as a coaching staff,” said Julien, who was asked if the rest has been good for Zdeno Chara, the league’s second-leading time on ice man in the playoffs (29:13). “It’s been good for players that play a lot. It’s been good for injured players to heal. It’s been good for us coaches to, at least, take a step back a little bit and breath, and get our focus back and our energy back. So it’s been good for everybody.
“I think the only people that haven’t really enjoyed it is probably you guys [the media], having to write the same thing day after day. Other than that, our fans are probably looking forward – the hockey fans – to get these series going.
“For us, I think, if anything, it will make it a more exciting series because you’ll have fresher bodies out there for both teams.”
And when the Bruins arrived in Pittsburgh on Friday, they felt the excitement and anticipation even more.
"I think with this whole week, the anticipation definitely starts to build and you start to look forward to it more and more as the week goes on. As much fun as practicing is, it’s not nearly as much fun as getting into the game, as big of games as these are going to be," smiled Milan Lucic, talking to a gathering of reporters at the team's hotel.
"I think just this morning’s practice and flying here, getting here, and getting settled in, I think definitely starts the process of getting yourself ready to get back into the battle again. There’s a lot to look forward to. Looking forward to a late start, an 8 p.m. start. It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be fun."