BOSTON -- It’s been nearly a year since Boston Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid had surgery last October for thoracic outlet syndrome after a blood clot developed under his collarbone. It was a serious situation at the time, but after two surgeries he was able to return in time for the 2012-13 opener when the lockout-shortened season began last January.
He then suffered a left shoulder strain in late March and was sidelined nearly a month. As the Bruins prepare for the 2013-14 season, it’s evident McQuaid is healthy, stronger and his confidence is soaring.
“Quite a bit different,” McQuaid said. “I just feel a lot stronger, a lot more comfortable on the ice. I’m better prepared physically compared to last year. Plus, there was a lot of time off last year. We didn’t have as much time off this time, so maybe the rust was there in the first practice but it’s been getting better as we’ve gone on.”
When asked if this is the best he’s felt in his career, McQuaid said, “I would say so, yeah. If I’m being honest, it is, yeah.”
He feels with the added strength and weight he’ll be able to be more engaged physically and will be stronger on the puck in the corners and in front of the net.
“I’m able to play my game more,” he said. “I was able to work through some things last year and I’m better off for it. This year, having that extra strength, I just feel more comfortable on the ice.”
Because he’s feeling good about his game and his health, McQuaid is anticipating a successful season for both himself and the Bruins.
“I’m optimistic about it. I’m looking forward to getting things going. I’m getting into the mindset of one day at a time and come to the rink each day and being focused,” he said.
“It’s a long season and you need to stay focused. If you start looking ahead you can get, there’s a saying I’ve heard, ‘If you’re looking too far ahead, you’ll trip over a stone in front of you.’ That’s the way I’m approaching it. I’m excited about the opportunity. I want to have a good year and want our team to have a lot of success and a good winning atmosphere here.”
So far in camp, Bruins coach Claude Julien has McQuaid paired with rookie defenseman Torey Krug and the two complement each other well.
“You’ve got a big defensive defenseman that is strong and big, the other guy’s quick and agile and will carry the puck, so it’s a good mixture,” Julien said. “That’s certainly something we may see down the road. That’s one of the things we like about it, that there’s a good blend there.”
* The Bruins will play their first of seven preseason games Monday night at 7, facing the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Julien will announce the game roster prior to the team’s practice Monday morning before flying to Montreal. The coach did say most of Group B will play.
Here’s the complete Group B roster but not all are guaranteed to play against the Habs.
Forwards: Anthony Camara, Gregory Campbell, Craig Cunningham, Alex Fallstrom, Rob Flick, Matt Fraser, Jarome Iginla, Nick Johnson, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Daniel Paille, Tyler Randell, Carl Söderberg, Ryan Spooner, Shawn Thornton.
Julien said the preseason games provide an important time to evaluate his players.
“There’s guys that are great in practice, you get them in a game and you don’t see them. And you've got guys in practice that are painful to watch sometimes and then you see them in a game and it’s like ‘Wow, what a different player,’” Julien said. “And that’s why you have to be careful when you analyze players, and I think the game is going to really tell the tale here and I think it’s important that we watch those closely this year because there’s going to be some real big decisions to make down the road.”
There are a few open spots available on the roster and the younger players in camp are eager to show their game skills. For the veterans, the games provide an opportunity to get their timing back in time for the regular season, which begins on Oct. 3 when the Bruins host the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden.
“You want to feel good about yourself,” veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “You want to get your feet underneath you. You want to try to get shots through. Everybody has their different philosophy of getting started, but overall you have to play the system and that’s the most important thing.”
It doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or a veteran, playing well is important during the preseason.
“If you’re an older guy, you want to prove that you can play and belong,” Seidenberg said. “If you’re a younger guy, you want to prove that you can play and can make the team. Both sides want to prove things and want to show off what they can do. It’s good for competition overall.”
* Originally, Julien said he would make a few cuts prior to the first exhibition game, but now the team will wait until after the first two preseason games, which means training camp numbers will decrease on Wednesday.
* On Saturday, Julien wanted to work on the power play and it looked a little bit different than what we've usually seen. He stationed defenseman Zdeno Chara, and his 6-foot-9, 255-pound frame, in front of the net. It’s something the Bruins have tried in the past but it didn’t work.
“We’re tinkering with that,” Julien said. “Obviously we’re going to have a look at that and we’ve got some guys that we feel can shoot the puck from the back end and can do some things, but Z is probably one of our best guys at screening with his big body and stuff like that.
“We’ve known that for a long time but it was just probably what we felt we didn’t necessarily have for the back end so it is something we’re experimenting with. And those same five guys too, we could move them in different places and it can still be a power play force with Z back at the point.”
The Bruins’ power play ranked 26th in the league last season with a 14.8 percent success rate. Boston produced only 18 goals on 122 opportunities on the man-advantage.
* The Bruins introduced the new league-mandated nets this weekend. The bottom of the frame has been moved from 44 to 40 inches, and the side radius has been reduced from 20 to 18 inches, which results in a four-inch reduction on each side. The total width of the bottom of the frame is changed from 96 to 88 inches. The changes allow more space behind the net. Julien said he’s interested to see how the new nets work out.
“It is what it is as they normally say. I haven’t seen enough to tell you what positive and what negative it’s going to create except the fact that sometimes that puck is in and it’s out so quickly,” Julien said. “It’ll be interesting to see if a lot more goals are under review or whether it’ll still be a clear situation. I think it’s too early for me to acknowledge that because it’s the first day I’ve experienced it on the ice.”
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said the changes won’t affect his game.