BOSTON - Each of the past two seasons ended the same for the Boston Bruins - with no trip to the playoffs and a fired head coach.
Now it's Claude Julien's chance to turn around a team that hasn't won a playoff series in eight years, that had one of the NHL's worst defences last season and that routinely gets overshadowed by Boston's other pro teams.
"I think that starting from scratch is definitely the best way," Julien said after practice this week. "They all realize what happened last year. They don't need to be reminded."
He added: "This is a new year, this is a fresh start. This is the best way to approach it, if you want to stay positive."
The Bruins start their regular season Friday against the Stars in Dallas to begin a five-game road trip before their home opener on Oct. 18.
Centre Marc Savard said it was important for the team to find success on its first road trip - if only to have something positive to show fans already caught up in the Boston Red Sox's playoff run and the New England Patriots' undefeated start to the season.
Even the lowly Celtics are suddenly contenders after trading for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
"Hopefully we can win some games and come back with a winning record," Savard said.
Boston has winners everywhere, Savard said. "We've got be one of them."
The task of turning the Bruins around is squarely on Julien.
He was hired on June 21, less than a week after the Bruins fired Dave Lewis, who watched from the bench as the Bruins lost their last six games. Julien himself had been fired as New Jersey's coach with three games left in the regular season.
He immediately vowed to make the Bruins more aggressive and physical and to improve a defence that allowed 285 goals, the second most in the league.
Savard said Julien has instituted a new defensive scheme, one in which every player knows his role.
"We want to have more forechecking than we did last season," Savard said. "We kind of sat back and it ended up costing us in the third period."
Boston also suffered from bouts of inconsistency from its goalies. Tim Thomas played 66 games but had a goals-against average of 3.13. Hannu Toivonen went back and forth between the Bruins and Providence of the AHL and was traded to St. Louis on July 23.
Eager for a true No. 1 goalie, Boston traded forward Petr Kalus and a fourth-round draft pick to the Minnesota Wild for 33-year-old Manny Fernandez. Fernandez posted a 2.55 GAA and a .911 save percentage in 44 games last season before a knee injury flared up in December and ended his season in January.
But Fernandez struggled in the exhibition games, giving up nine goals in three games. Thomas didn't fare much better, allowing seven goals in three games.
Julien has not said who would start Friday night's game, or how he would divide time between the two goalies.
"They both had decent camps," Julien said. "They played well enough. I'm sure there were some areas, some goals they would like to have back. I don't think one stood out more than the other."
Fernandez would like a majority of the playing time, but said the tandem could make the team better in the long run.
"If you've got two guys ready every night, you have two guys you can rely on," he said. "If one guy goes down, or the other guy's having more trouble in a certain point of the season, the other guy is there to pick up the slack."
Offensively, the Bruins bring back both Savard, who led the team in scoring last season, and Patrice Bergeron, who was second despite struggling with injuries. Glen Murray, who was the team's top goal scorer before being limited by a groin injury, also returns.