WILMINGTON, Mass. — Days and days of practicing with their next game still days away and their next opponent still undetermined, the Boston Bruins broke the monotony with a 20-minute scrimmage today at Ristuccia Arena.
While the session had a high pace, and was capped by some skating sprints, tempers stayed in check, unlike in Vancouver, where the Canucks — equally bored while waiting for their second-round series to start — had to deal with some hard hits and heated words between Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler yesterday.
The Bruins, as always got their work done in a business-like manner.
“Guys want to be intense and get back into that game mentality — that’s more where it comes from,” explained Bruins winger Shawn Thornton about why sometimes five days of practicing can boil over. “We’ve got a good group here. No one dislikes each other, so I couldn’t see it happening. But if it happens it’ll be more out of guys getting in that frame of mind as opposed to frustration or dislike, that’s for sure.”
Maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Bruins to get their dander up while fine-tuning their game in preparation for a second-round playoff series with Carolina, Pittsburgh or the New York Rangers. But today they stuck with the hockey and it probably paid off.
“I think what was good about it was it got our competitive juices flowing,” said defenseman Aaron Ward. “It put us in a situation where you had to have your focus. You saw some mistakes made and hopefully we’re getting our edge back.”
Added center Patrice Bergeron: “We’ve got to make sure we’re staying sharp and coach is making sure by making us skate hard and doing some scrimmages that we’ve got to work hard at it. He doesn’t want us to just go out there and just make plays that you’re not going to do in a game. I thought it was pretty good.”
The team capped the scrimmage by skating some sprints. Other than goaltender Tim Thomas taking a little spill during the skate, the day went by without a hitch. And that’s the other key — the Bruins are getting healthy. Andrew Ference, out since April 4 with an undisclosed injury, participated in the entire session. And Thomas (flu) and Bergeron (foot) continued to get healthy while practicing.
“That’s a privilege we earned by winning four straight,” said head coach Claude Julien. “We have to take advantage of it and with everything that you get, there’s always challenges. And I think the fact that we’ve got an opportunity here to give our guys some time to rest and heal and everything else is all positive. The only challenge that we have is to try and remain sharp and stay sharp and I think we’re doing a decent job of that.”
Once Game 7 of the Washington-New York and Carolina-New Jersey series are completed tonight, the Bruins will finally know their opponent. Then they can start looking forward to banging heads with someone other than their teammates.