|Bruins winger Mark Recchi. (Getty)|
BOSTON -- It's no secret that Bruins winger Mark Recchi has been around the block throughout his two-plus decades in the National Hockey League, but the constant cases of déjà vu for the 43-year-old veteran have likely made this postseason feel like one big series of coincidences.
Recchi is preparing to take on a former employer for the third-straight series in these playoffs, having spent parts of his career against Boston's trio of Eastern Conference foes in the Canadiens, Flyers and now the Lightning.
"Thank God I haven't played out West," said Recchi. "Obviously I've played on a few teams, but to actually do that in one year is pretty funny. Obviously Montreal I didn't really have anyone I played with before and Philly there were a few guys left. In Tampa, there's still five or six guys I've played with. Obviously we're all friends, but we all want to do the same thing. We all want to win."
With a lengthy eight-day gap between the end of the Bruins series with Philadelphia and the start of their conference finals battle with the Bolts, Recchi is glad that the layoff is finally almost over.
"It's been alright," he said of the waiting game. "Last night kind of sucked. Yesterday was a long day with no hockey on. I love to watch it too and, with no games on last night, I was kind of a lost soul. Today was great because we know it's two days away now. It's exciting to go out there and have a good practice."
That practice was heavily focused on preparing for how to minimize the offensive output of some of Recchi's former teammates in Tampa, as the Bruins will have their hands full with the likes of Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steve Stamkos hopping over the boards for the Bolts.
"You're never going to shut guys down," said Recchi. "It's about limiting how many chances they get. When you're that good of a player, you're going to create some kind of offense at some point. It's all about keeping it to a minimum."
While Stamkos was just a rookie during Recchi's lone season with the Lightning in 2008-09, both Lecavalier and St. Louis have been staples on Tampa's roster for the last decade.
"I know they're competitive guys," Recchi said. "They're all competitive. They're led by Marty and Vinny. They play hard and they play the right way. Obviously knowing that, we know they're ready and we have to be ready for it."
After helping Tampa Bay capture the Stanley Cup in 2004, the tenures of both Lecavalier and St. Louis were in jeopardy when the Lightning struggled following the lockout, dipping from playoff qualifiers to cellar dwellers in the East.
When Recchi was shipped out just 62 games into his lone season there, the Bolts were in complete disarray.
"Obviously 'Stevie Y.' has done a great job down there, and the new ownership," Recchi said of Lightning general manager and former Red Wings star Steve Yzerman. "It's been a good transition and they've made some really smart moves. When you stabilize it helps and it's nice to see because it's a great place to play.
"They've got a good fan-base and really good crowds. I think it's nice they've got things stable and I think they're pretty set for the future."
One major and entirely necessary move Yzerman made was to acquire a veteran goaltender with a solid playoff track record. The Hall of Fame center did so with the acquisition of Dwayne Roloson in a trade with the Islanders in January.
"He's a lot like Timmy (Thomas)," Recchi said of Tampa's netminder. "He's very competitive and he never quits. They're both very smart when it comes to playing their positions. We're going to have to out-battle him. He's a battler and it's going to be good."
One might think Recchi could be worn out by 22 years of battling, as Game 1 against the Lightning will be game No. 93 for the 5-foot-10 winger this season alone, but all of the aches, pains and lengthy layoffs get tossed right out the window when a trip to the Stanley Cup finals is within reach.
"It's exciting. It definitely has the same feel," Recchi said of his previous trips to the conference finals. "Even though it's dragged on a little bit, with the other series still going on, when you get to this point it's always pretty neat. It's a special time of year and you want to make the best of it."