WILMINGTON, Mass. The old saw of hockey wisdom goes a little something like this: The best time for players with disparate backgrounds to bond and gel as a unit is on the handful of long, extended road trips rife through the regular season.
The Bruins had one such monstrous trip when they ventured to Belfast and Prague over the first few weeks of the NHL season for the Premiere games. Theres another one set up this week as the Bs leave for a nine-day sojourn through the Canadian outposts of Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Ottawa.
It cant be drawn up much better than that.
It actually is a pretty ideal situation, said coach Claude Julien. I think the fact theyll be spending a lot of time together is great. Bonding with your teammates is always important, and the new guys are going to get that chance on the upcoming road trip.
Its the Black and Golds last major road trip of the regular season, and its not a coincidence the Bs hurried to make all of their trade acquisitions prior to this final chance at a team bonding experience.
Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley will all be indoctrinated to the Bs way of doing things by the time the trip is over, and its the best possible way for the newly configured hockey club to be forged together as a single-minded unit prior to the playoffs.
I think its a great chance for us to get away, get that team bonding going again and find a way to get the new guys involved and fitting in with the team, said Milan Lucic. It always helps being on the road. You lose great people like Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler, who were great friends of mine. But its part of the job and weve got to move forward with what weve got on this team.
Lucic remembers just a few short months ago when Gregory Campbell and Nathan Horton were both little more than strangers to everybody on the Boston roster, but that was no longer the case after the new guys traveled to Europe with the rest of the Bruins.
Thats the same kind of rapid initiation that awaits Kaberle, Kelly and Peverley over the next week.
Its funny, said Lucic. If you looked at the start of the year when we began the season in Europe, the new guys coming in like Horton and Campbell you didnt know very well at all. But you're on a trip with them and you seem like youve known them forever after a trip like that.
Theres more time to spend with each other because there are less distractions off the ice. I think its going to be great for this group, and we get a chance to see right away where were at with all of these new players. The big thing for us is that chemistry, and we want to build that up as soon as possible.
While the established Bruins and longtime players were looking forward to really breaking things down with their teammates, the new guys were just as anxious to have a few team dinners, shake a few hands and start working their way into the fabric of the team.
Both Kelly and Peverley have been placed on a line with Michael Ryder, and the team will be joined in Calgary by Kaberle after he takes care of the ubiquitous visa paperwork in Canada. That forward trio will be all about speed, grit and plenty of offensive upside on a team that desperately needed to quicken the tempo more than a little bit.
I think its perfect right now for three new guys coming into a new team, said Kelly. To get on the road and get away from the obvious commitments that guys have to family and friends or whatever they have to do when theyre at home, to get away and be together as a group is going to make things a lot easier on us.
If all goes well for the Bruins on a road trip featuring some tough games against the hot Flames and elite Canucks, then the three newest members of the Bruins wont be known as anything close to the three new guys when the Bs return to Boston in March.