Bruins preparing for 48-game season sprint


Bruins preparing for 48-game season sprint

BOSTON -- Bruins President Cam Neely described the 48-game shortened season he played during the 1994-95 NHL regular season as a fast and furious campaign that was one of the most enjoyable of his career. It makes plenty of sense given the import of each game in a truncated schedule, and the elimination of the dog days that can sometimes drag down a run-of-the-mill 82-game regular season.

Now the current edition of the Bruins will get a chance to experience it when they hope to open a 48-game schedule on Jan. 19 after the NHL and NHLPA came to a tentative agreement on a Collective Bargaining Agreement last weekend.

Its going to be interesting. Even when you play an 82-game schedule and you have a bad start it becomes difficult to recover from, said Gregory Campbell. The stakes will be even higher in a shortened season. Every game will be critical.

But the good thing in a 48-game schedule is that there will be no layovers and no rest. It will be one game right after another. If you have a bad game you can jump back into it the next night. It will just be a challenge to stay healthy and stay fresh.

Interestingly enough theres been speculation that NHL teams will be allowed to carry an extra player or two given the war of unavoidable attrition when playing 48 games in four-plus months. That should be the case for the Bruins anyway when they break out of their week-long training camp as both defenseman Adam McQuaid and forward Jordan Caron may not be healthy enough to start the year for Boston.

So the Black and Gold's organizational depth will be tested right out of the gate. But to their credit it will be the same coaching staff, nearly the same exact group of players and the same familiar system that the Bs will be slipping into. 

I know I have a lot of confidence in my teammates and myself and we have a lot to look forward to going into this year, said Milan Lucic.

Every game will be important. The Bruins will have seven games apiece against rival clubs in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Buffalo, and theyll be essentially playing hockey games every other day once the season begins.

The clich is that it turns the NHL regular season into an Olympic sprint rather than a Boston Marathon, but it's 100 percent truth. The Bruins stumbled out to a 3-7 start in their first 10 games last season while battling through the Stanley Cup hangover, and the Black and Gold cant afford that kind of malaise this time around.

Having had 12 Bruins players skating over in Europe -- at one time or another -- should go a long way toward getting the Black and Gold off to a solid beginning this time around.

With less games it becomes a sprint right away, said Lucic. Every game means so much more that we cant afford to have a start like we did last year. We cant be in a position to play catch-up like we did last year, and just maintain our level of play for the entire year.

Lucic did admit that there will be some sloppy hockey in the first few weeks back as two sets of players those that kept active in Europe and those that gathered rust while they sat idle in North America attempt to reach the same level. But a 48-game season followed by a full Stanley Cup playoff should be a rousing, rollicking success, and could actually be a little dangerous.

After all, if it turns out well, hockey lovers everywhere are going to start wondering why the NHL doesnt play a 50-game season every year.

Chara ‘feels better’ as he closes in on return, but won’t play in Buffalo

Chara ‘feels better’ as he closes in on return, but won’t play in Buffalo

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Zdeno Chara said he is “feeling better” after going through a full practice with the Bruins, but the captain won’t be making the one game road trip to Buffalo for Saturday afternoon’s matinee game vs. the Sabres. 

Chara was going through line rushes and battle drills with the rest of his teammates while practicing for the second day in a row, but made it clear that his lower body injury hasn’t been cleared for game action yet. 

“It’s day-to-day. It feels better…yeah. But it’s still day-to-day,” said a rather laconic Chara when it came to questions about his injury. “It would feel much better [to play] than it feels [not playing].”

Claude Julien said his 39-year-old defenseman has moved into true “day-to-day” status as he nears a return after missing what will be his sixth game in a row on Saturday afternoon, but that he isn’t quite ready to go just yet.

“[Chara] and [Noel] Acciari won’t be on the trip,” said Julien. “I think [Chara] is getting pretty close. When you see him at practice things are going pretty well for him. I think that the term day-to-day is fitting for him right now. A lot of times when we say day-to-day we don’t know whether it’s going to be two days, three days or even a week. But in his case I would say that day-to-day is really day-to-day now with him.” 

One thing the Bruins can be heartened by is that they’ve managed to survive without Chara: the B’s have gone 2-2-1 and allowed just nine goals in the five games since their No. 1 defenseman went down. They have been able to continue collecting points in sometimes ugly, workmanlike fashion. 

That gives the Bruins the luxury of not rushing their D-man along before he’s ready and gives some of their other defensemen added confidence that they can effectively do the job with or without their 6-foot-9 stopper. 

Slater missing from start of Patriots practice

Slater missing from start of Patriots practice

FOXBORO -- The Patriots were without two key members of their special teams units at Friday's practice. 

Both Matthew Slater (foot) and Jordan Richards (knee) were not spotted at the start of the team's most recent workout. Defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton (illness) was also missing. 

Hamilton and Richards did not participate in Thursday's practice. Slater was present on Wednesday and Thursday after missing Sunday's game against the Jets. 

The Patriots did have a Gronkowski back on the field Friday, but it wasn't Rob, who was expected to undergo back surgery in Los Angeles. It was fullback Glenn Gronkowski, who has apparently been re-signed to the Patriots practice squad for his fourth go-round on New England's 10-man unit. Practice-squad tight end Kennard Backman, who has not been at Patriots practice since Wednesday, has likely been released in order to make room for Gronkowski.