Neely hopes B's start strong

On Wednesday the National Hockey League voted unanimously to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players' Association.

Bruins president Cam Neely represented his team for the vote and the Board of Governors Meeting. Prior to the meeting, Neely couldn't contain his excitement that NHL hockey is officially back.

"Certainly I'm excited we'll be in camp really soon and to be back on the ice and get the games going soon," Neely told ESPNBoston.com. "That's what everybody has been waiting for. It's certainly been frustrating times for a lot of people, especially our fans, but we're back now and we can't wait to get this going for them and us."

Neely said that he, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and their staff have been planning for a season all along.

"You're always thinking about your club and we feel we're in a unique situation where the bulk of our lineup is signed except for a couple of spots and question marks," Neely said. "We really didn't have to concern ourselves with building a lineup so that was good and as far as filling those spots we have expectations for a couple of guys that have been in the system. We will give them an opportunity to see if they can fill those currently vacant roles."

There will be a vacant role on the Bruins' blue line line. It seems like the Bruins are thinking that 2011 first-round draft pick Dougie Hamilton could fill that spot and begin his rookie season in the NHL.

"I think we have to temper expectations because he has a lot of skill but obviously plenty to learn," Neely said. "He's going up against men right away in camp. He's a big boy but he's still maturing. It's like any young kid we bring in. We'll see how he goes along here in camp and maybe early on and his play and reaction to the new level will dictate itself.

"That being said, based on how he's played at his level and how he performed when he's been here for prospect camps and one training camp, we feel he can handle the NHL. Like I said, we'll take it slowly but we're confident and happy with what we've seen. It's a matter of how his play dictates his role and we go from there."

Neely is confident that the Bruins will not fall victim to a slow start because they realize a shortened season means they may not have time to recover. Last season, the Bruins stumbled out of the gate with a Stanley Cup hangover. They can't afford to do the same this season. But Neely thinks that the fact his team has a strong core and minimal roster changes coming in gives them an edge.

"I think it's beneficial for us, to be honest," Neely said. "We have the same coaching and management staff. We have the same core. There's a built-in chemistry that's already won and we've learned how important a great start is last year and will be even more so this season. In a 48-game season against probably just your conference, we can't give away points to teams in our conference so a good start is imperative."