BOSTON, MA - All week during informal practices, Bruins players talked about the importance of starting out the season strong with only a 48-game schedule.
On Sunday, the first day of Training Camp, the hierarchy of the B’s - President Cam Neely and General Manager Peter Chiarelli - spoke for the first time about their expectations for the upcoming campaign and how they expect the team to deal with what could be a hectic few months.
Neely played for the Bruins during the last work stoppage in 1994-95 and said having players over in Europe for the last few months could help the B's get into game-shape.
“Just going from when I played in the 48-game season, most of the players weren’t playing overseas like they are today,” said Neely. “We’re fortunate enough that we had a lot of guys over there, including both of our goalies, playing.”
The Hall of Famer acknowledged that a slow start could hamper the Bruins season but said the character of this team should help them be prepared.
“We’ve got a great group of character guys,” he said. “It’s been a long time since they’ve played in an NHL game, and they’re excited about playing, and know what’s at stake early on and throughout the whole 48 games.
“The players know the urgency of having a good start, and they generally keep themselves in pretty good shape.
“I don’t anticipate us to take too long to get up and running.”
Chiarelli agreed, saying that the organization wants the players to be aware that there will be more adversity to deal with this year, as opposed to a normal 82-game schedule.
“You’ve seen the schedule,” he said. “It’s almost every other day. You just almost have to get the mindset into the players about this being a sprint, and there’s going to be more adversity in these 48 games than in a whole season because we’ve got such a shortened time period.”
The B’s GM also spoke to the importance of monitoring the different levels of conditioning amongst the players, with some having played games overseas and some having just worked out back at home. Some will be ready to go, some may not.
“You’ve got a group of players that have played overseas, that are in game-shape, and close to top conditioning,” he said. “You have players that have not played over there that have conditioned here, so you have various levels of conditioning.
“It’s critical that you take it, deliberate, and you have to really keep your eye on each of those groups.”
Injuries are also a concern with so many games within such a short period.
“Of course, you’ve got all the issues associated with getting up and ready in a quick period of time,” said Chiarelli, who stressed that the team has discussed how to go about maintaining the players' health.
But in the end, Chiarelli believes his team is ready to compete for another Stanley Cup.
“We’ve got a pretty established team,” he said. “You’re going to see pretty much what you’ve seen before, everyone is healthy and we’re very excited.”