VERMONT - These Bruins know each other well.
Still, while players who were once "new faces" in August are new no longer, there can never be enough time spent together for this group.
So, here we are, in Vermont, as the veterans and rookies alike take a couple of days away from Boston to get to know one another before the 2013-14 regular season kicks off on Thursday at TD Garden against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
We've seen chemistry starting to form on the ice, with Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla; with Loui Eriksson joining new linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand; with the new-look third line having the addition of Reilly Smith.
"I think we have a pretty good idea of what we're getting," Head Coach Claude Julien had said, at the start of training camp in mid-September.
"It's not a matter of getting to know them hockey-wise, it's a matter of getting to know them personally."
And that's exactly what this "team-building," as its often labeled, will provide: a chance for the coaches and Bruins to simply, get to know each other off the ice.
"I think you need some time, some weeks in front of you to really feel like you’re clicking and you’re in full gear," Patrice Bergeron said, following Sunday's practice at TD Garden before traveling to Vermont.
"I think it’s great," he added, of the team-building trip. "It’s been great over the past years and this year is no different. We do have some new guys here and just try to make them feel comfortable and part of the team and I think these two or three days gives us the chance to do that."
"I think it helps," agreed Milan Lucic. "It seems like every time we come back from it, the team gets a little bit closer, especially with some new faces in the locker room here."
"It’s an opportunity to hang out with guys in a different setting away from the rink and talk about other things other than hockey. So, it’s something, an opportunity for us to create that team chemistry and that team bond and try to make it stronger because it’s been a big part of our success throughout these last couple of years."
Now a contender every season, the Bruins' core understands how important that off-ice chemistry can be.
"I think it’s always important to make them feel like they are [part of the team] right away so that’s why I think we do that early. It’s always been very successful the way we’ve been doing it," said Bergeron.
"It’s enjoyable as well so I think it’s important to do and like I said, we do have a lot of core guys that keep coming back but we have some new guys and it’s important that they feel good right away."
Captain Zdeno Chara has always been one to not label any player on the team a "rookie." Everyone is the same for him - everyone is a Bruin.
Bergeron sees that mentality translating into their success - or, at the very least, potential for success.
"I think we’re still a great team and have a lot of potential," he said. "It’s a long season like we all know and we have to make sure we do the right thing. It’s so cliché but it’s still the same thing again, you have to start all the way back down the mountain and climb our way back up so that’s the way we have to look at it."
"Don’t look too far ahead, but I think we have a great team; now, we have to do the job on the ice."
So, for the 2013-14 Bruins, it all start in the mountains of Vermont. Now, they just need to figure out their way to the top.
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