- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- Bruins coach Claude Julien was pleased that all players passed their physicals, including forwards Patrice Bergeron and Gregory Campbell. Both suffered severe injuries during the final two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs and three months later, they’re prepared for training camp. Julien said both players are cleared for practice, but if games were to start Thursday, they wouldn’t be ready.
"When it comes time to play those exhibition games, it'll be a conversation again with our trainers in making sure if they're going to play that there's not a risk factor," Julien said. “Right now, I would tell you that they would not be cleared to play a game if we started today, but that might change in the upcoming days or in a week from now.”
Bergeron suffered torn rib cartilage, a broken rib on his left side, a separated right shoulder and a punctured lung that ended up collapsing and forced him to spend three days in the hospital after the Bruins lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup finals last June.
Campbell broke his right fibula in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against Pittsburgh when he blocked a slap shot by the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin.
The Bruins have their first of seven exhibition games Monday at Montreal against the Canadiens.
When the Bruins hit the ice for their first official practice Thursday morning at TD Garden, Julien will get his first look at what could be the team’s lineup when the season begins on Oct. 3. The Bruins’ top line of center David Krejci and left winger Milan Lucic will welcome new linemate Jarome Iginla. Second-line center Bergeron and left winger Brad Marchand will be working with new right wing Loui Eriksson.
Julien admitted Wednesday he was pleased with the way forwards Daniel Paille and Chris Kelly meshed during the Stanley Cup finals, so it could be possible to see those two, along with a host of right-wing candidates, during training camp.
“In the real perfect world, you’ve got your top two lines, and you’d like to see them score on a regular basis. Your third line should be able to give you some secondary scoring and then your third line should also be able to give you some secondary grit that the fourth line gives you,” Julien explained. “So they're kind of, to me, caught in the middle where they give you a little bit of both, and that is what we are looking for from that line. We need more than just two lines to score. We know our fourth line has given us that, but our third line needs to give us that as well, and, at the same time, defensively and on the gritty side of the game they got to be able to give us that, too.”
That leaves the team’s energy line of Campbell and Shawn Thornton. If Paille makes the jump to the team’s third line, it will leave a spot open on the fourth line.
Youth and depth will be a key factor for the Bruins during camp and into the season. GM Peter Chiarelli has made it known that in order for this team to win, it will need contributions from an influx of younger players. There are roster spots to be won on both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice. Julien reiterated that point on Wednesday, and his advice to the prospects was simple.
“Take advantage of it,” he told them. “We’ve been clear, and it hasn’t just come from me. Peter is the one who has kind of came out and said, 'Listen, we’re going to bring some youth into our lineup, so if some guys want a spot on this hockey club, here is a good opportunity to do that right now.' And it’s open. I think we’ve got some guys on [Boston's AHL development team] Providence last year that deserve that look. We’ve got some guys who we got in some trades that are going to certainly be battling for those spots as well.”
With a few tweaks to their roster, the Bruins and coach Julien will focus on the team’s systems play during training camp. Julien believes the team can be a little “tighter” in that area.
“Those are things we’re going to be working on and making sure that’s at the top of our list,” Julien said. “I thought that was one of the things that we could do better, and when we did it well, it gave us success but we didn’t do it on a consistent basis, so that’s one of the things we’re going to be tweaking. It’s a bunch of little things. It’s minor maybe to you guys, but to me, it’ll make some big difference in games, some of the things that we’re going to be working on.”
Julien likes consistency and chemistry, so if he likes what he sees early in camp, then expect to see those lines and special-team units remain the same.
Earlier this week, Julien said he believed his team was ready to make amends for the way last season ended with a Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks. When asked how long it would take in order to get a feel for his team’s motivation, Julien said he already knows.
“I feel it right now,” he said. “I think our group is in the right place. I like the feeling of our hockey cub right now. These tests today just kind of solidified what I thought. Guys are in great shape, and it would have been easier for guys after finishing so late to just kind of shut it down for the summer, but they’ve kept themselves in great shape and they look excited to get off to a new start here.”
With the disappointing ending to the 2012-13 season in the books, Julien and his players are looking forward to a fresh start. There are some new faces in the mix, and with the Stanley Cup-winning core from 2011 intact, this should be another successful season in Boston.
“I think it's important every once and a while to get some fresh faces in and continue to create that excitement of being competitive and wanting to win every year,” Julien said. “Things can get stale after a while. That's a known fact. And I think what we've done right now is kept our core together; we got some great leaders, a great core group of guys, and we've added some quality people in there, too. But also we've left room for some guys to come in and win themselves a spot.”
Now, it’s ice time as the first practice will be held Thursday at the Garden.
4dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald