B's reflect on time with Cup, ready for new season

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B's reflect on time with Cup, ready for new season

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

The Bruins are under no illusions about the difficulty of repeating as Stanley Cup champions once the 2011-12 NHL season gets underway.

They know just how much of a struggle it was to get to the NHL mountaintop last year, and its going to be even more challenging the second time around. They are the team with the targets on their back that other NHL squads will measure themselves against.

There hasnt been a back-to-back champion in 14 years since the Detroit Red Wings captured the Cup in 1997 and 1998, and that means no real dynasties since the current salary cap era was put in place.

The Bruins are a little bit of an exception to a lot of those teams because they have much of their squad intact, and lost only a handful of contributors from last years Cup-worthy team. That means pretty much everyone in the Boston dressing room knows whats coming this season.

Teams always play their best against the champions," Dennis Seidenberg said. "Everybody knows that in the locker room and is ready for the challenge. I really think that can only help us and make us better.

The Red Wings and Penguins both made it to the Finals in 2008 and 2009 with each time taking home one series win, and thats no small feat. But the Bs know that the long playoff run, short summer, and grueling upcoming season are all working against them as they start to crank things up for the first official day of training camp on September 16.

Nathan Horton didnt get to play in those final few games of the Stanley Cup Finals due to the concussion suffered at the hands of Aaron Rome in Game 3, and he definitely wants to get the full experience this time around.

Its such a great feeling," Horton said. "Im still on a high and I know a lot of the other guys are still as well. We know once it starts over were all even again, and its our time to win it again.

Thats what we wanted and its why were here. Its definitely going to be tough that were on top now and its tough to stay there. Everyone knows that and is prepared to play like we did last time. But thats the challenge.

Bruins management wants the players to get their rest and spend as much time away from the ice as possible before jumping into training camp in September a necessary step when so many are expecting a Stanley Cup hangover to hit them hard after playing an additional two months and 25 games of playoff hockey.

So the Bs will get as much rest as possible while getting themselves ready for next season, and be prepared for the mental and physical grind that awaits them as reigning Stanley Cup champs starting this fall.

Nathan Horton said that hes heard through the grapevine about some of the rumored post-concussion syndrome problems that Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby has still been dealing with this summer. The Bs winger also said hes thanking his lucky stars that hes been symptom-free since a week or two after the Finals were over, and has been able to resume his normal workouts with any setbacks or issues.

Im not sure exactly, but Ive heard that hes still having troubles. I feel really lucky, said Horton. Concussions arent fun, obviously, and to have a bad one is tough. Im fortunate to feel good and not have any setbacks.

Tuukka Rask has recovered nicely from knee surgery and is 100 percent healthy and motivated heading into Bruins training camp next month. He also made some nifty plays at shortstop in his first game ever playing softball for Milan Lucics Rock and Jock Softball Charity Game, and the Finland native managed to make himself a human highlight reel in the process.

Daniel Paille spent most of his summer in Boston, and said that he's enjoyed getting to know his neighbors in the North End while exploring his NHL home base. The versatile Bruins winger said the pasta dinners and walks on Hanover Street were altogether enjoyable, but it did go by a little too quickly.

It went by quick, but I relaxed and really enjoyed it, said Paille. In certain parts of the city you get noticed, but in the downtown area I could really walk around without getting noticed. I made some really close friends in the North End. I definitely enjoyed the summer.

Paille also was the first NHL player to ever take the Cup on the Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist boat that travels around the Falls, and said that his outside-the-box day with the Cup was thoroughly enjoyable.

It was something Id thought about after we won. Doing that was one of the best things I could think of. It was a special moment and I was glad that I brought it on there. I asked the Cup custodian every time I wanted to move around with it, and he said okay as long as I didnt let go of it near the water. Obviously I had a tighter grip than normal on the Cup when it was near the water.

Dennis Seidenberg brought the Stanley Cup to Atlantic City in New Jersey with his family this summer instead of his native Germany, and laid out the reasons when he spoke to the media at Milan Lucics Rock and Jock Charity Softball Game on Wednesday night.

"My wife was pregnant with our third kid, so it would have been tough," he said. "I havent been back to Germany in five years, so it would have been a lot of travel and visiting different people. It would have been too much, so we decided to just stay back in the United States and take the time to relax a little bit.

The German defenseman is hoping for a repeat this season, so he can finally bring the Cup to his home country for the first time.

I should have taken it because its never been there before, said Seidenberg. But theres always a chance to do it a second time and get it back there next year.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

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Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

The Bruins still hold high hopes for what free agency might bring them for a defenseman when the market opens Friday at noontime, but it also feels like Bruins GM Don Sweeney is under-promising while hoping to over-deliver. Either that or the Bruins really don’t have many good prospects at significantly improving their blue line group headed into next season.

For the first time Sweeney made a “defenseman-by-committee” reference during Thursday’s conference call to announce the four year contract extension for Torey Krug, and talked up positive contract talks with 35-year-old John-Michael Liles.

Yes, that’s the same Liles that was a minus-7 in 17 games with the Bruins after coming to Boston at the trade deadline for draft picks and Anthony Camara. One would expect it to be a one year deal at a very reduced rate along the lines of last year’s $2.75 million to bring Liles back in Boston if the Bruins can’t somehow land a bigger free agent fish like Jason Demers, or Brian Campbell.

There’s also the possibility of something shaking loose with Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler in trade discussions, but Liles was the only available defenseman that Sweeney addressed by name during his chat with reporters.

“We’ve talked to free agent candidates. I’ve mentioned John-Michael [Liles]; I think that we’ve had very, very productive talks there. We’re looking for balance; we’re looking for younger players to have an opportunity to emerge and grab a hold of that,” said Sweeney. “Whichever we can improve our team internally or externally, we’re going to continue to evaluate and pursue. The trade market … whether that materializes remains to be seen. And it’s not an easy process, nor is the free agency process.

“So we’re going to do the work to try and improve our team but it starts internally with our group. And our coaches are excited about what our young players are going to bring to the table.”

After signing Krug to a four year extension that will pay him $5.25 million per season and buying out Dennis Seidenberg’s contract, the Bruins still have $19 million to play with headed into Friday’s open of the free agent market. So the Bruins have the capital to be players on July 1 if they want to make a big splash.

It just remains to be seen whether the Bruins will be capable of making a big splash given the available players, and how many of the big named ones seem to be leaning toward NHL destinations other than the Black and Gold. 

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Greg Wyshynski joins Michel Felger on Sports Tonight to discuss the recent Boston Bruins moves and other potential landing spots for free agents Loui Eriksson and Milan Lucic.

Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

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Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

With Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in the fold for four more years, a Thursday afternoon conference call with the 25-year-old defenseman and GM Don Sweeney was about what the young puck-mover can accomplish over the next few years. With Krug coming off a four goal, 44-point season and offseason shoulder surgery, it will be a slow and steady progression to begin next season once he’s cleared to play.

What isn’t in question is Krug’s leadership, toughness and gritty attitude to go along with his considerable offensive skill set, and those all made the $21 million contract a no-brainer from the Black and Gold end of things.

“Torey’s got a very, very unique skill set that’s important to our hockey club. He’s had a very, very productive three years. His role this year and his time on ice, in all situations, increased significantly. He was able to shoulder much, much more responsibility in all parts of the game. As a young player who is invested in the Boston Bruins organization, he wants to win, he does things the right way every time he comes to the rink,” said Sweeney. “He wants to get better; he’s not satisfied. All the things you want out of a young player to identify with, which is something we also acknowledge, that Torey has really been identified as an emerging part of our core leadership group.

“I think he’ll help tremendously to help all of our young players that hope to fall in similar fashion with the success that he’s had up to this point. We have a lot of work to do in front of us and Torey’s going to help us get back to where we want to be in trying to win a Stanley Cup.”

Krug has averaged 10 goals and 41 points over his first three seasons in the NHL, and averaged a career-high 21:37 of ice time last season as a de facto No. 2 defenseman behind Zdeno Chara. It was a big season because Krug survived, and continued to put up points, as a legit top-4 defenseman in the NHL, but the 5-foot-9, 181-pounder also needed his shoulder repaired after his first season of heavy duty usage.

So it bears the question of whether Krug will stay in one piece with the heavy top-4 duty over the next four years. Whatever the answer is to that question, the puck-moving defenseman will be a leader, a feisty character on the ice and somebody that’s going to serve as a good professional role model for the flock of young players expected to come through in the next couple of seasons.

The Michigan boy couldn’t be happier to be a part of all of it in Boston for the next four years.

“I think [the leadership thing] has been something that was instilled in me in a young age, you know, coming from my father. It’s always been authentic. If anyone tries to force it then people see right through that, and it just doesn’t happen. But for me and this team and this locker room I think I’m able to bridge that gap from the young guys to the older guys,” said Krug. “I relate to every single person in that locker room, which I think will help our team as we grow and we mature bringing in younger guys from Providence. Or guys that are just signed and helping them develop and helping them feel comfortable within the locker room because it can be intimidating.

“It’s tough to walk in the locker room, you know, when you have Stanley Cup Champions and Norris and Selke Trophy winners. So it can definitely be very intimidating and hopefully I can serve as that bridge to kind of ease that gap for those guys. As far as young defensemen goes, the one thing that Claude [Julien] helped me with when I first came up was making sure I was myself. I was here for a reason. I was able to do the thing I do well, and I wasn’t straying away from that to try to be someone that I’m not. So I think young defensemen, once they realize that and they realize that everyone in this organization is there to help them then they’ll begin to improve. They’ll become themselves as they will at the NHL level.”

With Krug having experienced a couple of years of late season collapses as one of the young leaders on this Bruins team, even more will be asked of him next season as the Black and Gold push hard to right the ship.