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Long, hard practice just what the Bruins needed

by Shawn P. Roarke /
BOSTON -- It’s always darkest before the dawn.

That certainly was true for Boston forward Mark Recchi on Wednesday. To say he was struggling as he waits for his postseason to resume would be to sugarcoat the issue.

"(Tuesday) kind of (stunk)," Recchi said. "Yesterday was a long day. No hockey on and I love to watch it, too. There were no games on and I was like a lost soul, looking around the TV (channels)."

Not only were no other playoff games on television -- the first dark day of the 2011 postseason -- but Recchi didn't even take the ice. Boston, trying to manage an eight-day layoff between its second-round sweep of Philadelphia that ended this past Friday and Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday against Tampa Bay here at TD Garden, had an off-day Wednesday.

The players reported to the rink and had some meetings, but it was not strenuous by postseason standards.

Fortunately for Recchi and the rest of the Bruins, Thursday was about getting back into the playoff trenches.

Boston coach Claude Julien called for a hard practice, one that stretched for more than an hour and featured a lot of puck-battle drills. Certainly, this was an attempt by the coaching staff to return the Bruins into the playoff mindset that will be necessary 48 hours from now.

"As you know, it's been a grind in the playoffs and there's a lot at stake," Julien said after the practice session. "This time of year, I don't think it's so much about teaching; it's a lot about staying sharp and a lot about getting some rest. So we've had some opportunities here to give guys some time off, but the minute you show up at the rink, it's got to be about business.

"It's got to be about getting back to doing the right things and being sharp. And we've got a few days here to get ready for our first game, and that first game is really important to us. So we had the guys battle-ready today. I thought they worked hard, and (Friday) is going to be another day. We'll keep working in preparation for that big game on Saturday."

The players certainly were happy to be back at work Thursday.

"Yesterday was bad, but today was great because you knew (Game 1) was two days away," said Recchi, at 43 the oldest player in the League. "You wake up and it is exciting. You go out there and have a good practice and it's great."

It was certainly Boston's most physical practice in recent memory. At one point there was an extended period of 5-on-5 cycling drills that featured several big hits, one player losing his helmet and several others getting their sticks knocked out of their hands. Practice ended with a small-ice game of 2-on-2 that was contested from just outside the offensive-zone faceoff circle to just inside the goal line. Contact was unavoidable.

"We just want to keep up the game tempo," said forward Brad Marchand, who plays a physical style. "We want to make sure that we are ready physically and guys are ready to battle, and that is what we were doing today. We just wanted to battle and get ready to play a very tough, physical game because that is how (the Lightning) are going to play. It's going to be tough, physical battles down low and we want to make sure we are ready for that."

To a man, the Bruins insist they will be ready.

Dennis Seidenberg said Thursday's practice was not as taxing as an actual game, especially for a defenseman like him that logs almost 30 minutes a game. But he believes it served a purpose for each member of the team. For him, it assured him that he is once again ready to assume mega-minutes for his team.

"We wanted to simulate (game conditions)," Seidenberg said. "If you don't play for that long, you kind of get out of game mode a little bit and relax. We just wanted to stay sharp and battle as much as we can in practice, and doing those drills down low and the 3-on-3s certainly helps.

"Today in practice I think everyone felt pretty good after having two days off over the weekend and another one yesterday. Everybody feels ready and rested."
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