May 13, 2011

Waiting game almost over for Bruins

Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. (Getty)

BOSTON -- Now just a single day away from the start of their conference finals series with the Lightning, the Bruins put the button on an eight-day layoff on Friday afternoon with a practice at TD Garden.

By now, their 5-1 victory in Game 4 over the Philadelphia Flyers must feel like ages ago for the Black and Gold, who believe they've been given the perfect blend of time to both recuperate and prepare for their upcoming opponent.

"We got to relax and we got to spend some time with our families," said winger Shawn Thornton, as the Bruins were given the weekend off after sweeping the Flyers. "The first two rounds were pretty hectic. I think the guys did a good job this week of focusing when we were here to get ready for Saturday."

Boston finished off their last series on quite a roll, winning their fifth-straight playoff contest and eighth in the last nine tilts. Regaining that momentum after a long wait won't be easy.

"The work ethic is the most important thing," Dennis Seidenberg said. "We have to want it more and battle harder, and be just as composed as we were before. It's tough after a break like that."

Coach Claude Julien has progressively ramped up the intensity of practice throughout the week, as he hopes to get his players in tune for Game 1 on Saturday night.

"I think for us, it’s I guess we don’t have really a chance to really sit back and relax," Julien said. "Everything we did, from the time we finished, was stay on top of other games. And at the same time, Tampa was done before we were, so we knew who we were preparing for. So, we just started working from that day on. Maybe the hours weren’t as long as they normally would [be]. But everyday, our head was in the upcoming series.

"So we had a chance to rest, but at the same time we haven’t been taking time off as far as shutting her down and saying we don’t have to think about the next series until a certain time. So we’ve been pretty good. The players are the ones that are given days off and are told to just kind of get away from the rink for a bit and then come back. We have to have things prepared for them."

Julien's approach to this week was a simple one, as the B's bench boss did his best to present the kind of challenges he expects to see against the Lightning.

"Yesterday we did a lot of grinding and battling and that kind of stuff that we’re going to need to do this series," the coach said. "Today was a little bit more about flow and speed. We’ve been trying to keep our guys as sharp as we can and part of that is us making sure we prepare the practices accordingly and the other share of belongs to them.

"They've got to be mentally ready to do those kinds of things and to execute well. And I think the guys have really been good about that and they’ve done a good job."

Julien's been down this road with the Bruins before. In 2009, Boston had to wait six days between rounds one and two before kicking off their series with the Hurricanes, one they lost in seven games.

"We've got some players that were here for that series that also have learned that as individuals, you can’t let your mental approach slip either," said Julien. "So they were not only good at keeping it, but they were also good at making sure everybody around them kept it. It's been a group effort at making sure we stayed mentally on top of our game and on top of our focus."

Given that the Lightning have also endured an equally as lengthy layoff, the winner of Game 1 just might be determined by which squad can shake out the cobwebs first.