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Bruins to seek advice from Patriots on layoff before Stanley Cup Final

Will reach out to NFL's Super Bowl champions on handling 10 days between games

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- With 10 days off between Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final and Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Boston Bruins are in search of some advice, some counsel, on how to keep their players at their best, despite the long layoff.

To that end, they are reaching out to some unusual sources.

Including the New England Patriots.

Though general manager Don Sweeney said he did not personally know Patriots coach Bill Belichick, the Bruins plan to contact some in the organization to perhaps glean some tips and tricks on managing how not to get stale, even with a significant amount of time off. Football layoffs are, of course, different than those in hockey, with National Football League teams routinely having a week off between games.

Still, given that the Patriots have dealt with two-week breaks before the Super Bowl, the Bruins figured it couldn't hurt to ask.

"There's crossovers that we've all identified that we're going to tap into," Sweeney said. "There's a local team I think that's had time [before] they're going to Super Bowls, so we are going to look at different resources that have done it and done it well."

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Bruins heading to Stanley Cup Final

That, the Patriots -- the defending NFL champions -- certainly have.

In the short term, there is no question the Bruins appreciate the rest they'll be getting this week, the days without practices and games, the time to heal and reset mentally before beginning their last games of the season, in the best-of-7 Cup Final.

It has not been an easy road to this point for the Bruins; it took seven games to knock out the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, giving them one day off between series, and six to eliminate the Columbus Blue Jackets, with two days off before the four-game sweep of the Hurricanes.

"I think in the short term, it's really beneficial for our group," Sweeney said. "The players themselves [after] a seven-game series, six-game series, [we were] fortunate to be able to close out quickly against Carolina, but we've been pedal to the medal here mentally and physically for a while. I do believe in the short term, it will help us a lot.

"And then, it's incumbent upon us to simulate as best we can what's going to be required going forward."

Because in the long term, it's less clear.

The Bruins won the Eastern Conference on May 16. The Cup Final does not start until May 27, when they will face the winner of the Western Conference Final, either the San Jose Sharks or the St. Louis Blues, in Game 1 at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, CBC, TVAS).

And there is a cautionary tale for those teams that have had long rests: this season, teams following sweeps in playoffs are 2-12 in the next round. That was the case for the Blue Jackets and the Hurricanes, the past two opponents for the Bruins.

Both are now off for the summer.

So the Bruins are making plans for the week, which could include some scrimmages, some tactics ripped from training camps, as well as any suggestions the Patriots and their staff might be able to provide. It will certainly include bringing up their "Black Aces," who have attended games throughout this playoff run and practicing themselves in Providence, which hosts their American Hockey League affiliate.

So far, the Bruins took off Friday and Saturday, after a 4-0 win in Game 4 at Carolina on Thursday. They will return to the ice on Sunday for practice. The schedule after that remains to be seen; the Sharks and Blues play at least two more games, while the Bruins will try not to get stale.

Video: Discussing the impressive moments this series for BOS

"Ultimately it'll be up to [coach Bruce Cassidy] in terms of getting your read on where the players are, first of all mentally and physically," Sweeney said. "We now know the schedule, so we can start forecasting. A little bit is dependent on where the players are at."

That is perhaps most important for defenseman Zdeno Chara, who missed Game 4 with an undisclosed injury that Sweeney referred to as "nagging" on Saturday. Two other key injured players -- defenseman Kevan Miller (lower body) and forward Chris Wagner (upper body) -- are unlikely to be available for the Cup Final, Sweeney said he expected Chara to be fine for the next series.

"We have to give the guys the appropriate time to recover," Sweeney said. "And then go to work."

Momentum tends to wax and wane in seven-game series -- it certainly did against the Maple Leafs -- but it might be the least of Sweeney's worries about the layoff. He wants to make sure the Bruins are physically ready, but he thinks they can regain any spark they have lost, especially while the Sharks and Blues continue to beat up on each other in a series that will last at least six games.

"I'm not concerned about it," he said. "I really believe that our team has earned the right to be here. They're in the moment. If you really listen to our leadership group -- and there's a lot of microphones in and around the game -- you can understand how dialed in they are and they recognize the finish line. They want to get there. It's a long way [before] there.

"It's game-by-game, shift-by-shift, and guys need to live in the moment. I think we recognize that."

For now, though, they wait.

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