WILMINGTON, Mass. – The Boston Bruins conducted their first on-ice training camp practices for the new season on Friday, and they’re already thinking about redemption.
The Bruins want to atone for the way last season ended. They had the best record in the NHL during the regular season with 117 points, then fell short of the Stanley Cup by losing in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs to the archrival Montreal Canadiens.
“I think it was a tough year last year and (I have) a lot to prove this year,” left winger Brad Marchand said after practice at Ristuccia Arena. “So I was very excited to get back on today and get this underway and get the season going.”
Although Marchand scored 25 goals in 2013-14, he had an inconsistent season and failed to score a goal in the post-season. He wasn’t alone among players that didn’t perform up to expectations.
Forward Loui Eriksson battled injuries and missed 21 games. He scored just 10 goals after he had notched at least 26 goals in four seasons for the Dallas Stars prior to the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
Eriksson had two concussions to overcome in addition to his adjustment to a new team, new system and new city.
“I definitely want to have a better season. It was a tough season with the injuries and everything,” Eriksson said. “I’d never been through a season like that, so it definitely didn’t help. But I feel good now, and I’m ready for a new start and for the season to begin.”
Eriksson was healthy in the second half of 2013-14 and started to look more like his old self. There are a handful of other Bruins that also are trying to prove they can come back from injury.
Forward Milan Lucic had surgery on his left wrist in May. He didn’t seem limited during drills, but coach Claude Julien said the left winger wasn’t 100 per cent. Forward Chris Kelly had back surgery in the off-season as well.
After weeks of skating in captains’ practices, Kelly was able to make it through his first official practice unscathed.
“There were some contact drills that were nice to do,” Kelly said. “It’s tough to do those in the summer because everyone’s trying to get ready for camp. But you want to make sure you make it to camp. So it was nice to engage a little bit.”
Forward Gregory Campbell did not skate, as expected, because of a core injury. Forward prospect Craig Cunningham also did not participate in either of the two practice sessions. Defenceman Torey Krug and forward Reilly Smith remained unsigned and not in camp. They might be a little behind when they return because the Bruins used a part of each practice to teach some defensive adjustments that will help them force turnovers in the neutral zone if executed properly this season.
“We just made little bit different adjustments, but those little things go a long way,” centre David Krejci said. “People may not see it in practice, but that gives us the puck back lots of times and it’s very important to play with the puck than chance the puck. So this thing we practiced today, it should help us play with the puck more.”
Those adjustments should help the Bruins in their efforts to prove last year’s early playoff exit was a fluke.
“We had a great regular season. But no one cares about that, to be honest,” Kelly said. “It’s about the playoffs and about winning. And that’s the atmosphere that it is here, and that’s what makes this group special.”