BOSTON — After taking yesterday off from skating, the Bruins returned to the TD Garden ice today for a practice two days before their Eastern Conference Final series with Tampa Bay is scheduled to finally open at the same venue.
Things heated up, as the Bruins stressed battles during their drills — including one that featured the nets placed on opposite ends of one corner. Let’s just say Zdeno Chara’s reach almost covered the entire space between nets.
“I like those type of practices. It prepares you for the defensive side of the game but also helps you with the offensive side of the game. It’s a game situation,” said center Rich Peverley. “So I enjoy those drills. It’s important to incorporate those, especially when you’ve had a few days off.”
The Bruins haven’t played a game since last Friday and by the time they skate Saturday they’ll have had seven days off. They kept the same lines that they skated on earlier in the week, with Chris Kelly on the second line and Tyler Seguin on third. All the forwards, defensemen, including Steven Kampfer, and three goaltenders were on the ice.
This isn’t Peverley’s first time in a situation like this with such a long layoff between playoff series. He pointed out today that his 2006 Milwaukee Admirals team swept its first two series and had to wait 10 days between each set of games.
He gave a thumbs up to the Bruins coaching staff’s handling of the situation.
“You’ve just got to stay sharp physically and mentally. … When you’re around the rink a lot and your practicing, you might get sick of practicing and I think they did a good job of breaking up the week a bit for the guys,” he said. “We’re only two days away from the first game now and it’s going to be a grind the rest of the way now.”
Head coach Claude Julien explained how he and his staff have balanced keep his team ready but also allowing his players to rest up.
“I think it’s the importancy of both,” he said. “As you know, it’s been a grind in the playoffs and there’s a lot at stake 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 get 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.
“We’ve got a few days here to get ready for our first game, and the first game is really important to us. We had the guys battle today. I thought they worked hard. Tomorrow’s going to be another day and we’ll keep working in preparation for that big game on Saturday.”