January 19, 2013

Ready or not, B's and Blueshirts set to battle in opener

By Jesse Connolly

Claude Julien's Bruins will open their season Saturday night against the visiting Rangers. (Getty Images)

Trial by fire. That’s perhaps the best way to describe the approach teams across the National Hockey League will be taking when the season gets underway.

With six-day training camps and no preseason tuneups, there’s been nearly no time to prepare for the upcoming campaign. Play will sloppy, chemistry will be lacking and it’ll take some time for teams to get back to top form.

So how rag-tag, as one media member put it, will the Bruins’ season opener against the New York Rangers be?

“Well, that’s always something that’s hard to predict,” said coach Claude Julien. “I know it’s going to get better as we play games, I don’t know how, to use your term, rag-tag it’s going to be. I would like to hope that our guys are sharp enough to be giving us a real decent game. We had our opportunity to make mistakes a few days ago and hopefully we’ve cleaned that up and we’re ready to go.”

Julien’s Bruins didn’t look so hot in a 7-5 loss to their farm team at TD Garden on Tuesday night. The coach hopes the last few practices have helped them effectively sharpen up.

“There’s certain guys that we thought struggled more than others, [they] seemed to get sharper as the days went on here," he said. "We’re no different than any other team. You cross your fingers a little bit and hope that there’s as much cohesion and sharpness as you can at this time, and hope that it’s more than the other team, and hope that you’re better in comparing yourself to the other team like any other night that you would play during the regular season.

“Right now we’re both starting at the same point, having been locked out for months and having a six-day training camp… I liked this morning’s jump, I thought we were pretty sharp, I thought yesterday’s day off probably served us well in that regard. And now it’s just a matter of seeing how we perform tonight.”

As for taking on a Rangers team that reached the Eastern Conference finals last spring and is widely regarded as a Stanley Cup favorite, Julien welcomes the challenge.

“I don’t know if I feel more weight; I think I like that opportunity,” the B’s bench boss said. “You know, I really do. I’d rather play one of the best teams in the conference than not. And right now, let’s go at it… I’ve always said you control what you can and control your team and the schedule is made and then you go with it.”

The puck is set to drop for the first NHL game at TD garden in nearly nine months just after 7 o’clock.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ
Email: jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com