Notes: Bruins hope to be rust-free for next round

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Notes: Bruins hope to be rust-free for next round

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Now that the playoff schedule has been set, the bigger question is whether rust or rest will be the bigger factor.

The Bruins will have had eight days off between the end of the second-round sweep against the Flyers and the Saturday night Eastern Conference finals opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. Its similar to the scenario three years ago when the Bruins had nine days off in between a first-round sweep of the Montreal Canadiens and their eventual second-round demise at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes.

In those playoffs, the 'Canes had only a couple of days off after finishing out a seven-game series while the Bruins waited for more than a week. This time, though, the Lightning have been off a day longer than Boston, since the NHL wouldn't start the Eastern Conference finals until the Western Conference schedule could be set with a Game Seven looming between the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks in a classic playoff series.

I dont think its the best situation, but were in the same boat, said Bs defenseman Dennis Seidenberg sounding off a familiar refrain. The other guys have had even more time off than we have, so were both starting from the same spot.

The extra time off is also allowing banged-up players more time to rest, heal and recover. Adam McQuaid, for instance, will be back after suffering a sprained neck in Game 2 against the Flyers and looks 100 percent in practice. The hope is that the extra rest time can also allowe Patrice Bergeron to return from a mild concussion at some point in the series, though nobody in the B's organization is going to pressure the center into anything given his difficult history with three concussions in the last 3 12 years.

With all the intensity and everything that has been going on, guys to need their rest, said coach Claude Julien. What has to happen though through all of that is they cant lose their focus. You have to be able to balance that and you have to, as a coach, put a lot of trust and responsibility on the players not to lose that.

"At the same time its important for us to make sure that the practices are good practices, that the guys are kept sharp and that the intensity is kept up. You have to get that message across, but you also have to make sure youre pushing those guys hard. You have to make sure that edge that theyve had since the start of the playoffs. So thats what were trying to do and again.

Tim Thomas and Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis were college teammates at the University of Vermont and have remained good friends over the years. Thomas said he was really happy for St. Louis when his Lightning won the Cup in 2003-04, and the speedy, creative forward had 24 points in 23 playoff games.

I was so happy being able to watch him win the Cup, but now its been good the last couple of years as Ive gotten invited to the dance, so to speak, said Thomas. I may get in contact with him before the series starts, but thats going to remain private between us.

Defenseman Steve Kampfer has been cleared for light contact and practiced fully with his Bruins teammates on Tuesday morning at TD Garden for the first time since injuring his knee with the Providence Bruins after getting sent down in April.

I guess hes been cleared to practice with us. He practiced with the other group yesterday and I guess he passed the test he needed to pass, said Julien. He felt good enough that the medical group thought he was worthy of jumping in with us and then practicing. So thats where he is right now, and hopefully things keep going in the right direction for him.

McQuaid has rejoined the Bruins for practice in each of the last two sessions, and it appears the steady 6-foot-5 defenseman is going to be fully recovered when the series against Tampa Bay begins Saturday night. McQuaid said that the face-first plunge into the boards that injured his neck was a shock to the system when it happened, and that he was relieved when he started moving his limbs without a problem.

The biggest scare McQuaid experienced: His hometown newspaper on Prince Edward Island splashed a scary photo of the defenseman sprawled out on the Wells Fargo Center ice. McQuaid got into immediate contact with his parents to let them know he was okay, but the phone still rang off the hook at the McQuaid home all night with concerned friends and family.

The Bruins players and coaches were relieved to know that the Eastern Conference Finals were set to start on Saturday night, and they could begin ramping up again for games after seven days off between the Flyers and Lightning.

It gives you some clarity on what you want to do here with the team for the rest of the week, said Julien. I think sitting there waiting to see what was going to happen wasnt easy for anybody. I think everyone was anxious to find out what was going on, so its nice to have it confirmed.

Chris Kelly ditched his good-luck face cage on Tuesdays practice, and went with a half-shield visor in anticipation of the conference finals against the Lighting. Kelly wore the face cage for nearly all of the last two playoff series against the Canadiens and the Flyers, and had some excellent postseason performances while donning the gear protecting a nasty bruise around his right eye.

Zdeno Chara was walking around TD Garden in a brown hooded Bruins sweatshirt on Tuesday morning while his teammates practiced, and Julien confirmed following the practice that it was a day off for the Bruins' captain.

Just a day off for Chara, assured Julien. 'Z' is a bigger body, he is a guy that gets a lot of ice time and, for us, its an opportunity here to give him some rest.

The one thing we know about 'Z': he is certainly never going to be out of shape. He is one of those guys. So give him a rest off the ice and hopefully he will be ready for this big round coming up.

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

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN -- For those excited about the idea of an intense, hard-hitting David Backes in a Bruins uniform for the next five years, you have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to partially thank.

Backes, 32, didn’t know either of them all that well prior to this summer, aside from his experiences on ice against them. But Bergeron and Marchand called Backes multiple times while recruiting him to Boston, and it was a major factor in the former Blues captain signing a five-year, $30 million deal with the B's.

“Being an outsider, we need to have a little bit of confession here that Marchand is the kind of guy that gets under everybody’s skin. I was no different,” said the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes, who has 206 goals and 460 points in 727 career NHL games, all with St. Louis. “But then talking to him a little bit in the interview process prior to July 1, I hung up the phone and had to take a deep breath and say to myself, ‘That little disturber, he’s actually a pretty good guy.’ Those guys end up being the best teammates.

“A guy like Bergeron, when you play against him [he's] always in the right spot, and is never making mistakes. Those types of guys, again, are guys you want on your team, and guys you want to go to war with. They’re All-World players, Bergeron is an All-World player. But he’s also a down-to-earth guy that puts his work boots on, takes his lunch pail and plays his butt off. He’s nice to the young kids, and he’s nurturing in helping them come along. I think you’ve seen in the NHL that you need a few guys on entry-level deals, or a few guys to outperform their contracts, in order to have success in the salary-cap era. That nurturing and mentorship can really foster those kinds of performances.”

While Backes went on to mention Zdeno Chara as another highly respected, formidable opponent with whom he’ll now share a dressing room, it was interesting to note that players who currently have letters on their sweaters, like Chara and David Krejci, didn’t play a part in the recruiting process. Instead it was the next captain of the team (Bergeron) and a player (Marchand) currently in the middle of negotiations entering the last year of his contract.

“I talked to both Bergeron and Marchand twice before July 1," said Backes. "Just the way that they spoke about their team mentality, and teaming up together and sharing the load of hard minutes that need to be played, and also sharing the load of the offensive necessities that a team has . . . those things just rang true to my beliefs of a team.

“You’re all equals whether you’re the top-paid guy, or the top-minute guy, or the low-minute guy, or the guy that’s playing every other game because you’re the healthy scratch in the other games.

“We all needed to be treated equal, and do whatever we can to support the next guy. When the next guy has success, we have to be just as happy as if we scored the goal. That’s the type of thing where, when you get that from the full 20 guys on the ice, it’s so tough to be beat. Those are the teams that win championships.”

It will be interesting to see just how much involvement Backes has with the Bergeron and Marchand combination. He could very easily be a right-wing fit with those two dynamic forwards next season, or he could be a third-line center behind Bergeron and Krejci and give the Bruins elite depth down the middle of the ice.

True to his team-oriented nature, Backes said he’ll be happy to play at either position and do whatever Claude Julien feels is best.

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

JAMAICA PLAIN -- David Backes probably could have opted to have his introductory press conference inside the Bruins dressing room at TD Garden, or maybe even in some finished part of the team's new practice facility in Brighton, which is set to open a couple of months from now.

Instead, the new Bruins forward met face-to-face with the media for the first time while taking a tour of the MSPCA and, in the process, introducing Bruins fans to his “Athletes for Animals” charity, a foundation that promotes rescuing -- and protecting the welfare of -- homeless pets nationwide.

Backes took pictures with a pit bull named Greta that’s been at the MSPCA Adoption Center for the last seven months looking for a “forever home”.

And as he spoke, it became abundantly clear that this is what the 32-year-old former St. Louis Blues captain is all about.

“[Taking a tour of the facility] gives you a warm feeling inside, and makes you feel like you’re already a part of the city while helping give some attention to the great work that they’re doing,” said Backes, the owner of four dogs (Maverick, Rosey, Marty, Bebe) and two cats (Sunny, Poly), who is house-hunting in Boston this week with his wife and 13-month-old daughter.

“Hopefully this will be just the beginning of our connecting with the community, and helping serve the people that are great fans of the Bruins and that will be watching us every night. [Hopefully] they’re watching us go on deep playoff runs year after year.”

Backes’ efforts with rescue animals gained national notoriety when he took time to help with the stray dog situation in Sochi, Russia during the last Winter Olympics. But the roots of his “Athletes for Animals” charity goes back to his college days at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“The full story is that in college we wanted an animal or two, but it just wasn’t responsible because we were renting and the landlords didn’t approve," he said "We just didn’t really have the time or resources to support them, so we volunteered at the local shelter for the three years I was in school.

“When my wife [Kelly] and I moved to St. Louis, we wanted to connect with the community, be a part and use our voice to influence social change to do our part making the world a little bit of a better place. So we said ‘Why not connect with the animal welfare rescue community?’

“We absolutely love doing it: Walking dogs, scooping litter boxes and cleaning kennels. Let’s use our voice to kick this off and see what we can do, and it really just snowballed from that to then trying to tie other guys into it. It’s not limited to the animal stuff, but the animals that don’t have a voice, and the kids that don’t have a voice, really tug at our heart strings. We want to help them with this blessing of a great voice we’ve been given as professional athletes, and to really use that to give them some help.”

For these reasons alone, Backes is a great fit in Boston. The Bruins donate heavily to the MSPCA and were one of the first NHL organizations to come up with the Pucks ‘N Pups calendar, which each year features Bruins players and their dogs, or strays from the MSPCA, to raise money for the animal welfare organization.

To learn more about Backes’ organization, “Athletes for Animals,” visit http://athletesforanimals.org .