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‘Unfinished Business’ for Liles and Bruins

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - A month and a half wasn't enough time for John-Michael Liles in Boston.

After being acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes at the 2016 trade deadline, the 13-year NHL veteran suited up for 17 games in the Spoked-B and notched six assists.

When the Bruins narrowly missed the postseason, he wasn't ready to be done in Black & Gold.

He voiced that to Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney during exit meetings in April.

"I felt like I had some unfinished business," said the defenseman. "I felt like us as a team, I felt like we had some unfinished business, not making the playoffs the way we did."

"I felt like a lot of guys in there room felt like that and I'm just excited to be back here and kind of jumping to get going."

Liles was speaking with media following a captain's practice at Warrior Ice Arena on Friday.

While Bruins' fans recently had a chance to check in with Liles during BostonBruins.com's offseason #BearTracks trip to visit him in Denver, Colo., this marked the first time he had spoken with local Boston reporters since re-signing.

On July 1, Liles inked a one-year contract with Boston worth an annual cap hit of $2 million.

"I had talked to Sweens at the year-end meeting and felt like for me coming in late in the year, you know, it was just - we were so close to making the playoffs," said Liles. "And personally, I felt like there was some unfinished business and given the opportunity, I told him this in the year-end meeting, I would be really excited to come back and play if there's room and we were able to work something out."

While Liles had conversations with other teams and received comparable offers, he knew Boston was the place for him.

"I really enjoyed playing here for 17 games, but just really enjoyed playing in this city," he said. "I thought the fans were fantastic. I thought the group in the room was great, and like I said in my outgoing meeting with Sweens, given the opportunity, I would be really excited to sign back here and my family absolutely loved being here and in the city, and that was a big part of it as well."

Liles is a fit for Boston, too.

Though his style of play hasn't changed since his first NHL game with the Avalanche in 2003, it matches the league's shift to a faster game.

"The league itself has taken such a big step towards skating," said Liles. "Coming in, in 2003 [with Colorado], the bottom-two line guys, there were some guys that could skate, but not every single guy could just fly around the ice and I feel like now, third and fourth lines, every guy flies around the ice."

"It's an interesting dynamic now and I think you really have to more pick your spots when you're going to skate the puck out because guys are such good skaters now and they can close and you've got backpressure constantly from the forwards - it's an interesting development in the way the league has gone."

As evidenced during the #BearTracks trip to Denver, Liles put in work this offseason to work on his speed, power and strength. His summer trainer Loren Landow even went so far as to say it might be the best shape he's seen Liles in throughout their time working together.

His puck-moving, quickness - and intuition as a veteran - are his greatest assets.

"For me, I'm never going to be a guy that runs people over - I'm a skater, a puck-mover and that's what I try and focus on," said Liles. "When I was younger and you sign a big deal, maybe you think that you should be doing more, but I mean, there's reasons why you last in the league as long as you do."

"Or Torey Krug , the reason why he gets a deal like that is because he's a puck-mover, because he's a skater. You focus on your strengths, you always try and work on your weaknesses, but the biggest thing is to focus on your strength, and that for me is moving the puck and getting it up to the forwards. We've got a really talented group of forwards here, that I try to get the puck up to them as quick as possible."

Liles and his Bruins teammates have been participating in captain's practices for the past two weeks, with training camp opening soon, on Sept. 22.

The 'unfinished business' mantra has received another shot of energy, thanks to the Bruins' new practice facility.

Warrior Ice Arena held its Grand Opening Ceremony on Thursday night, with the players in attendance, along with representatives from the organization, City of Boston, and New Balance (which built the arena on their Boston Landing Development). The players' areas are outfitted with plenty of inspiration, from the Stanley Cup banners, to Cup replicas and motivational quotes.

"It's a great energy," Liles said from an area overlooking the ice at the new complex. "You have a building like this and you've got the sun coming in and the weight room, and it's just a fantastic facility. Everything's first class and it's a nice place to come to every morning to train and to go to work."

"There are definitely a lot worse places I can think of," he smiled. "And the energy - the guys are just happy and really enjoying the facilities - everything from the recovery, to the weight room, obviously the ice is beautiful - I mean, they did the specs to the Garden! You can't ask for anything more."

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