BOSTON, MA - The Bruins hit the ice at TD Garden for their first on-ice sessions at Training Camp on Thursday, with the 51 players taking part in camp separated into two groups.
The first group of skaters took the ice at 10:00 a.m., with the second set going through their paces at 12:15 p.m. Both practices mirrored each other, and were high-tempo, with only a stoppage for a Zamboni clear halfway through each session.
Head Coach Claude Julien's focus heading into camp centers around acclimated the new players to the Bruins' system, improving his group's execution and getting to know the players vying for a spot on his opening night roster. So it was no surprise when he went straight to the drawing board on the glass next to the B's home bench, the players all taking a knee as their coach quickly eased them back into their routine.
"The one thing I can say is everybody came in really good shape, and that’s a real plus because when even the Providence players come in shape, the way we’ve asked them to come in shape, that’s a good sign," Julien told reporters, of his observations from the first two days of camp.
"That’s what was probably more impressive, is that we've got some really good players that seem to understand what it takes and what we expect from them - and it showed on the ice, I thought we had pretty good pace today for the first day."
While you can't read too much into line combinations and defensive pairings with the groups separated, and only Day One in the books, the B's top-six has been all but solidified, at least on paper.
With the departures of Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin, it was expected that the two-way, crafty scorer Loui Eriksson would slide in on the right with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand; and that the tough, shoot-first right winger Jarome Iginla would take Horton's former place alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic.
So it was no surprise when those lines took their first rushes together on Thursday.
"We traded for those guys not to say ‘you guys are on a tryout’ but to put them in spots where we think they can fit in," said Julien of his top-six. "This is what training camp is for; we’re going to give them that opportunity to maybe build some chemistry, get to know each other a little bit better and at one point we are going to have to make a decision whether it’s seems to suit our needs or not."
Keep reading below for more from the linemates on the dynamic of their trios - if they stick moving forward, of course - and how they have already begun forming chemistry. Also after the Day One lineups, Coach Julien gives his observations and input on the camp positional battles.
Group 1 Lines/Pairings
Group 2 Lines/Pairings
Johnson, Subban, Morrison
"Felt pretty good - you can tell, obviously that Loui is a great player and he has great speed and great skill, so I'm very excited to have him with us," said Patrice Bergeron on the new line for Thursday's skate.
"It's obviously the first practice, so we've got some work to do on the chemistry but still, I thought it was pretty good and fun to see these two guys on my side."
"I think we're all smart players and can figure out where to be on the ice and read off of each other, so I think [chemistry will take] a little bit of time, but not that much; games will be the best indicator of where we stand and help us the most."
"It's great to have this time right now to get used to each other and learn how each other play," added Brad Marchand. "Who knows if this is what they'll be during the season, but for right now, we're going to use this time to our advantage and really get to know each other."
"He's a great player, he's shown that in the past and you can see that just by watching him out there on the ice so it will be a lot of fun playing with him…I'm sure he'll complement us very well."
"You hope that [the chemistry] is there immediately, but obviously it's something that no matter who you play with, it's something you have to work at," said Milan Lucic of skating with Jarome Iginla Thursday on his line with David Krejci.
"I think all three of us are determined to make it work and find that chemistry."
"As you know, its a guy I've looked up to as a teenager and the way that he plays. It's pretty cool to be sitting here talking about him being my linemate," Lucic smiled.
Nathan Horton was a "shooter, right-handed, physical" and doesn't mind fighting, so Krejci had made the assumption (like the rest of us) that Iginla could easily slide into that spot. The biggest transition now is communication on the ice.
"I knew what to expect, he knew what to expect from me; we talked a little bit, but we still need to have the big talk about what we expect from each other out there, so we're going to talk about it in the next couple of days."
Day One Notebook
-Julien, as he has stated before, is keeping his options open when it comes to the third line. He's fairly high on the chemistry of the Merlot Line with Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton (and has liked what he's seen from them even after just one day of camp), but isn't discounting Paille getting a promotion to the third line. If that's the case, the spot will be open for the taking on the fourth line.
Whether it's a spot on the third or fourth, it's there for the taking.
"The most important thing right now for them is as individuals to show that they belong on our hockey club and I think that is the first thing that should be looking at and if they deserve that look then we’ll hopefully place them in that position where they get an opportunity to play on that line."
-Jordan Caron skated on the right wing with third-line mainstay Chris Kelly and Reilly Smith during their on-ice session. He's been "knocking on the door" of the Boston roster for the past couple of seasons and could take the reigns of the grit and forechecking role Julien likes on his third line.
"It’s my fourth year now, and I’m really, really excited for this year coming up. I think there’s more room on the lineup than the last few years so I want to put my foot down and take the room that there is."
-After a while watching these Bruins' practices, you pick up on simple actions that you know have more meaning to the B's than an outside eye may see -- like no "rookies" leaving their benches for warm-up rounds before Bruin Brad Marchand first hit the ice to start the trend (seems like just yesterday I was writing a story about his first NHL goal; now, he's entering his fifth year pro). Or Bergeron and Chara leading their respective group's center-ice stretches following the sessions, and starting a stick tap after a quick few words.
-Julien said this is the best shape he's ever seen Matt Bartkowski in. That seems to be a trend with this group.
"He’s in a situation now where, as you know, we've got at least three young guys that are going to be battling for a regular spot in the lineup and I certainly wouldn’t say he’s going to be in and out…I think there’s a lot of things that will get resolved here as camp moves on and a lot of it will depend on their play. Their play will help us make that decision."
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