Bruins return to practice ice

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Boston Bruins assistant coach Geoff Ward, who is running practices while head coach Claude Julien is with Team Canada at the Winter Olympics in the Sochi, said Thursday that defenseman Zdeno Chara and center David Krejci are on their way back to Boston, but will not re-join the team on the ice until at least Sunday.

“I know they’re back,” Ward said following the team’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “I think Zee is coming back today sometime, Krech may be on the same flight, I haven’t heard about his travel arrangements. We’ll probably give them off until Sunday or Monday, give them a couple of days to recoup, they’ve been playing an awful lot of hockey and we want to make sure they’re well-rested for the game in Buffalo.”

With Patrice Bergeron (Canada), Loui Eriksson (Sweden), Tuukka Rask (Finland), Chara (Slovakia) and Krejci (Czech Republic) all fulfilling Olympic duties in Sochi, the lineup at Thursday morning’s practice shuffled around a bit. Alex Khoklachev and Craig Cunningham were called up from Providence; Khoklachev centered the first line of Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic, while Cunningham played to the right of Daniel Paille and Chris Kelly on the third line.

Thursday's practice was filled with rush drills and featured an informal race at the conclusion. Ward said today’s objective was to re-acquaint the hands and feet, as well as timing.

“As we go on in the week, you’ll see a lot more battling, a lot more competition type of things as we move towards the game in Buffalo,” Ward said. “But today was all about getting the hands and feet going, feeling the puck again, and reviewing a little bit of our structure.”

With relatively low turnover from year to year, both in the locker room and front office, Ward sees these down-times as perhaps an advantage relative to other teams, with little review needed due to familiarity.

“Even with what we do at training camp as well, players are really comfortable with the structure and how we play,” Ward said. “I think last year in the lockout, I think it was an advantage for us coming into the shortened season, and hopefully it’s an advantage for us coming off this break.

“We don’t really have to get really re-acquainted and do an awful lot of teaching, it’s more just review for us. The guys are comfortable with that and it allows us to focus more on pace and playing at a high level, game level intensity, and that’s what we’re building towards.”

Picking sides: Tomorrow’s heavily-anticipated Olympic semifinal between the United States and Canada will commence right around the time the Bruins get off the ice from practice, and you can take an educated guess as to how the afternoon will be spent.

As one of just three Americans on an otherwise very Canadian roster, Michigan-bred defenseman Torey Krug will have to choose his words carefully.

“It’s definitely going to be a little bit weird, there will probably be some jawing back and forth,” he said. “It’ll be fun though, hopefully we get the bragging rights.”

The Americans have played well from the beginning of the Olympics, and have the best goal differential in the tournament. Bringing home the country’s first Gold in men’s hockey since 1980 would be a tremendous source of pride. But moreover, Krug hopes this run continues to grow the game stateside.

“It’d be great. Any time you get our sport on a worldwide level like that, it’s good for us,” he said. “Hopefully a few more youngsters will strap on skates for the first time, and it will attract people to our sports.”