Bruins Return to Practice, While Keeping an Eye on Teammates in Sochi
WILMINGTON, MA – The Olympic hiatus has officially come to an end for the majority of the Bruins who have begun practicing at Ristuccia Arena, but that doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten about all that is happening on the ice in Sochi – especially with Bruins Loui Eriksson and Patrice Bergeron still in contention for gold.
Plenty of the B’s watched from afar as Sweden took a 2-1 win over Finland in Friday’s semifinal matchup — but they were also disappointed to see that Tuukka Rask was not able to dress for the game due to illness.
“I thought he played amazing in the games I did see him play,” said forward Chris Kelly following the team's Friday practice. “I’m sure it had to be something real important for him not to play. I thought the Finns, especially against Russia, they played a typical Finnish game."
"They all work hard, they play within the system, and they've got great goaltending. And I think it was Tuukka’s play - not to take anything away from the other guy - but I’m a little biased," he smiled. "Tuukka’s pretty good.”
The Bruins found some consolation, however, in the fact that their other teammate was pretty impressive for Sweden.
After the Finns took a 1-0 lead in the second period of Friday’s game, it was Eriksson who tied things up, helping Sweden advance to the gold medal matchup for the first time since 2006.
“It was nice for him to score a big goal like he did this morning,” said forward Milan Lucic. “I think he was starting to find his game again in the last six or seven games before the Olympic break started. Obviously, down the stretch, we’re going to need him to continue playing well and be a big part of this team, if we want to have success.”
Eriksson logged over 20 minutes of ice time on Friday - something that was of note to his teammates.
“They’re saying he didn’t come off the ice, so hopefully, they give him a few days off when he gets back,” Kelly joked. “Loui’s a world-class player, and he’s showing that.”
On Sunday, with a gold medal on the line, Eriksson will face a familiar foe: Bruins teammate Patrice Bergeron, who will be suiting up for Canada after his squad beat the Americans 1-0 on Friday.
Though the outcome certainly wasn’t what Team USA had hoped for, it was yet another hard-fought matchup between two teams that have always had a fierce rivalry.
Lucic pegged the Americans as the favorites heading into Friday’s game, but the Vancouver native was doubtlessly pleased with the end result.
“Canada’s motto was ‘Gold or bust,’ right?” he said. “It’s a huge game, and there’s a lot of players on both teams who were part of the finals in 2010—the gold medal game—and I think that’s going to increase the level of intensity and the rivalry.”
Another High-Intensity Practice
In only their second day back on the ice following the Olympic break, the Bruins have been wasting no time ramping up the intensity and getting back into game shape in anticipation of Wednesday’s matchup against Buffalo at the First Niagara Center.
Friday’s session featured plenty of battling drills, giving the B’s a prime opportunity to shake off the rust and get ready for this season’s final 25-game push.
“We’re just trying to progress and go through different systems, but I think today, you see a little bit more rust than you did yesterday,” said Assistant Coach Doug Houda. “Everybody was excited to get back yesterday, and today, you see a little bit more rust, but the battle drills help, and we’re slowly getting there.”
With Rask still in Sochi, backup goaltender Chad Johnson has been getting in plenty of work over the last two days, which will set him up nicely for a slate of games in March and April that features eight back-to-backs.
“I think he’s shown in the last few games [that] he’s played very well for us,” Houda said of Johnson. “Obviously, there’s a lot of games coming up, so we need not just Chad, but everybody to step up. [Before the break,] he came in and did a great job, and he allowed Tuukka to get a bit of a rest."
"I think our players in general did a really good job in the 11 games before the break. Everybody was focused, they had something in mind they wanted to do, and they did it. They won the games they needed to.”
Houda also lauded the work of the Bruins’ young defensemen, who have continued to step up with some of the veterans out due to either injury or, in the case of Zdeno Chara, who missed the team's final two games to head to Sochi.
“I think it’s been a great challenge for them,” he said. “Those guys, when they come up here, they don’t miss a beat, and I think the whole organization has done a great job of preparing those young guys. It shows that our depth is there. They like it when the ice time is there. Obviously, when they know Zee isn’t playing, they know their minutes are going to get bumped up, so they get a bit of a smile on their faces, and they handle it very well.”
Florek, Lindblad Recalled; Smith Out Sick
With Bergeron, Eriksson and Rask still competing in Sochi - and with forward David Krejci and defenseman Zdeno Chara still off the ice after their own Olympic journeys came to an end - the Bruins recalled forwards Justin Florek and Matt Lindblad to participate in Friday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. They replaced Alexander Khokhlachev and Craig Cunningham, who were sent back to Providence after Thursday’s practice.
This marked Florek’s second recall of the 2013-14 season and Lindblad’s first NHL recall.
In total, there were 11 forwards and six defensemen on the ice for Friday’s practice. Forward Reilly Smith was out due to illness, but was expected to return to the ice on Saturday.
Defenseman Adam McQuaid, who had missed a slew of games prior to the Olympic break due to a leg injury, was back on the ice with his teammates for the second straight day.
Friday’s Practice Lineup
Goalie: Chad Johnson