Lightning-Bruins Preview

Boston Bruins president Cam Neely didn’t watch the Chicago

Blackhawks raise their Stanley Cup banner to the rafters before

their season opener.

He’s eager to begin another run at the NHL championship and

attend a similar ceremony on his team’s ice next year.

“You have a hard time watching someone else win the Cup and

raise a banner,” Neely said Wednesday. “So I didn’t watch it.

Hopefully we’ll be watching one in the near future here.”

The Bruins came close last season.

They were leading the Blackhawks 2-1 in Game 6 of the finals

before giving up two goals in the last 76 seconds, allowing the

Chicago players to skate with the Stanley Cup on Boston ice.

On Thursday night they begin pursuit of their second Cup in four

years when they open the season at home against the Tampa Bay

Lightning.

“I guess the keynote is to say we’re not going to play for

second place,” owner Jeremy Jacobs said. “We’re here to win. I

think that the organization is in a good place to do that. I think

we’ve got the right combination of things. We have a strong team

that should compete, should be a winner.”

The Bruins (28-14-6) return a team heavy on players who’ve been

a part of the organization for two lengthy playoff runs the past

three seasons.

They did add Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson to play right wing

on the top two lines. Reilly Smith, obtained with Eriksson in a

trade that sent Tyler Seguin to Dallas, figures to be part of the

third line. Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski, who both emerged as

NHL-caliber defensemen in the playoffs, will begin the season with

the team. Chad Johnson is a newcomer as the backup to goalie Tuukka

Rask.

Boston went 6-1 in exhibition games, and coach Claude Julien is

confident his team is prepared to start the season.

“I think we’re in a good place right now,” Julien said. “I liked

what I saw the last few days. (In) practice today, guys were sharp;

they were excited. I think we’re ready to go there. Even though we

had some new faces, what I saw in the preseason I really liked.

Those guys have adjusted well quickly. And, if anything, they’re

only going to get better. So I’m pretty happy with where we are

right now, knowing that it’ll only get better.”

The Bruins already are dealing with injuries. Forward Carl

Soderberg hasn’t skated since injuring his ankle in the preseason

finale Friday. He is on injured reserve and will be unavailable for

the opener. Top-line center David Krejci skated Wednesday for the

first time since back spasms kept him from playing in that same

game against Winnipeg. Krejci will be a game-time decision to face

the Lightning (18-26-4).

The Bruins nearly won the Stanley Cup despite numerous injuries

to center Patrice Bergeron in the Cup finals and a broken leg in

the Eastern Conference finals that ended center Gregory Campbell’s

season.

“You’ve got to get the right breaks, guys got to stay healthy

and you’ve got to get those lucky bounces,” left wing Brad Marchand

said. “And, at the same time, you’ve got to have everybody playing

their best. It’s definitely very tough to do, but I think the fans

in Boston all expect it and our management and coaching staff

expect the same thing, so that’s what we expect as well and we

won’t be happy unless we reach those goals.”

Coach Jon Cooper’s message to the Lightning is simple: If you

hope to make the playoffs, play better defense.

No team in the NHL allowed more goals over the past two seasons

than the 425 yielded by the Lightning, who dismissed Guy Boucher

and hired Cooper as his replacement in March.

Cooper went 4-8-3 over the final 15 games of last season and is

working on changing the mindset of a team that’s thrived on the

scoring prowess of young Steven Stamkos and two holdovers from

Tampa Bay’s only Stanley Cup championship, Martin St. Louis and the

now-departed Vincent Lecavalier.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to open up the stat pack and

see,” Cooper said. “We are the only team to give up more than 400

goals the past two seasons, and we have to shore that up.”

With an eye on building for long-term success, general manager

Steve Yzerman bought out the contract of Lecavalier this

offseason.

The 38-year-old St. Louis and Stamkos remain after finishing

one-two in the NHL scoring race during last season’s abbreviated

48-game schedule.

St. Louis had 17 goals and a league-leading 43 assists for 60

points. Stamkos was second with 57 points, including 29 goals, and

says it’s important that everyone buy in to what Cooper is

preaching.

“Marty and I finished one-two in scoring last year,” the

23-year-old Stamkos said. “It’s great, but we don’t make the

playoffs.”

With St. Louis and Lecavalier playing key roles, the Lightning

won the Stanley Cup in 2004. The team has missed the playoffs five

of the past six seasons.

One of the reasons has been inconsistent goaltending, a trend

that Cooper and Yzerman hopes will end with 6-foot-7 Ben Bishop and

6-6 Anders Lindback handling the duties this season.

Bishop appeared in nine games, going 3-4-1 with a 2.99

goals-against average last season after being obtained from Ottawa

in April. This is Lindback’s second season in Tampa Bay since being

acquired from Nashville in June 2012. He appeared in 24 games,

going 10-10-1 with a 2.90 GAA a year ago.

Cooper knows, however, the team also has to play better in front

of them.

“You can’t rely on your goaltender to make every single save,”

he said.

Including the 2011 East finals, Boston has won seven straight

over Tampa Bay at home.