VANCOUVER, BC - When the Bruins entered Rogers Arena this morning, it was the first time the team had returned since June 15, 2011.
For the players, staff and coaches, they may not all admit it, but it brought back emotions. It's only natural.
Let's get nostalgic for a minute.
"Obviously, it does bring back a lot of memories just being in the locker room and out on the ice also," said alternate captain Patrice Bergeron, as he spoke with reporters in the visiting team room following the Bruins' morning skate.
What is most memorable about being back?
"I think the locker room," said Bergeron, as he flashed a quick smile and looked around the room, as his teammates unlaced their skates and went through their pregame routines.
"Just celebrating after with all the guys and it all happened here in this room. It does bring a lot of memories and I think obviously the final buzzer when you go jump on the goalie and you all celebrate together so there’s too many things to talk about but it is obviously a special thing."
"That’s naturally never going to go away with that postgame celebration and achieving your ultimate goal as a hockey player," said Milan Lucic, whose attachment to Vancouver has gone beyond just his hometown since then.
"It was cool to experience that feeling here this morning but being here now for the last two, three hours, you start to get more focused on the game tonight and that’s where our heads are at."
It's been 914 days since that June night, and it's hard to believe it's been that long since the Bruins have touched down in Vancouver.
But those emotions likely won't be there at the drop of the puck tonight, when Boston faces the test of a Canucks team that hasn't lost yet in December with a 6-0-0 record, only allowing six goals in those games.
"It’s been a while since we’ve been here and right now we’re really trying to focus on this game as a whole," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "I think we’ve had a pretty good road trip so far starting from Toronto and working our way here and we have an opportunity to come back with no losses."
"The focus has to be on that and with the injuries and the flu bug going around and everything else, I think we have a pretty good challenge ahead of us that we’d like to take on and take on with the right approach."
Everyone Healthy Yet?
It's been quite the challenging road trip health-wise for the Bruins, who have been battling the flu all week, and have seen Daniel Paille (upper body, undisclosed) and Dougie Hamilton (lower body, 2-4 weeks) head back to Boston.
The flu took another victim on Saturday, with Reilly Smith staying off the ice during the Bruins' pregame skate and resting back at the team hotel.
"Reilly’s got the flu bug there. Came in this morning and we sent him back to the hotel. He’ll play tonight," said Julien. "Our guys have played through those flu bugs; it’s just that we give them the best opportunity possible to try and flush it out and get some rest and at least be as ready as they can for tonight."
"Definitely lots of adversity this past week that we’ve had to face and battle through, but it speaks a lot of the character and the team and the system that we have," said Bergeron. "We believe a lot in Claude’s system and it doesn’t really matter who’s out of the lineup, we just have to go out there and play as a whole and do the job together and we have to carry that on tonight."
"We just have to continue to push that pace and really, it’s all about us being ready and playing strong and playing the system," added Chara.
Canada Homecomings Come to an End
When Milan Lucic hits the ice at Rogers Arena on Saturday night, he'll have the fuel of some home cookin'.
"Nice to have the day yesterday to see some family and friends. Last night, being around my Grandma’s house with the family over so don’t get to have that too often," said Lucic, who grew up about 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver. "It’s been two and a half years since we’ve had a chance to play here, so it’s nice to be back."
Paille Being Evaluated
Daniel Paille flew back to Boston earlier this week to be evaluated for a an upper-body injury that kept him out of the game against Calgary. At this time, there is no further update yet.
"There won’t be any timetable; I think he’s a day-to-day situation and we’ll see as we go along here," said Julien.
Julien on Thornton
The NHL's Department of Player Safety announced on Saturday afternoon that Shawn Thornton had been suspended 15 games, making him eligible to return on January 11 against San Jose Sharks.
Without Thornton and Paille in the lineup, the Bruins' most consistent energy line isn't in tact. The Merlot Line is a line that Julien counts on for, not only energy, but also a strong defensive game against opponents' top lines.
"It’s like anybody else. Everybody has a role. We take a lot of pride in making sure that everybody knows they’re important on our team and Shawn’s been a real good player for us," said Julien."
"And I say ‘player’ because he is known as a guy who’s going to stick up for his teammates and probably ‘enforcer’ is the name that comes to mind when you talk about Shawn Thornton, but he’s also a guy that’s played a lot of minutes for that type of a player and very trustworthy where I’d put that line against top lines of other teams so he’s also a pretty good player."
"Him missing in our lineup, we lost a little bit of his leadership, we lost his presence as far as what his line brings for us and with Paille gone as well, that’s a pretty good line that is kind of a loss to our hockey club."
"So we’re looking forward to seeing him again and I think everything that we’ve said about him we still reiterate. He made a mistake, he knows he made a mistake and we’re not hiding from that fact. We just hope that we can see him back sooner than later and move on."
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