Bruins hoping playoff drought is a short one
BOSTON (AP) The Boston Bruins didn't quite clean house after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
It was more like a little tidying up.
General manager Peter Chiarelli was fired, but coach Claude Julien stayed. Chiarelli was replaced by his former assistant, Don Sweeney, maintaining some continuity in a front office that is still run by team president Cam Neely.
Young defenseman Dougie Hamilton was traded after pricing himself out of the Boston market, but 2009 Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara remains to anchor of the blue line. Power forward Milan Lucic was shipped out to clear salary cap space, but Patrice Bergeron is still the top center.
''You hit a bump along the way - it doesn't mean that everything else explodes,'' Julien said as he prepared for his ninth season on the Bruins bench. ''Moving forward with this team this year, we've got a lot of changes, a lot of new faces, that're coming into our lineup. And that's exciting for everybody.''
Here are some other things to look for from the Bruins this season:
Julien was spared when Chiarelli was fired, and Sweeney's promotion makes it less likely the new boss will want to bring in his own guy. Neely made a point at media day of saying that Julien wasn't on the ''hot seat.''
''I think it's unfair to say that,'' Neely said. ''A lot of things happen throughout the course of the year that's not necessarily just on the coach. So, you know, I think it's unfair. I know why certain things are said at times, but it's really unfair to start the season where you know it's out there.''
To an outsider, the Bruins didn't look any softer last season than they did the two before, when they went to the Stanley Cup Finals and then won the Presidents' Trophy.
''I didn't feel that way playing against them,'' said forward Matt Beleskey, who signed as a free agent in the offseason. ''I don't that group in there is a soft group. I think those guys play hard, some of the hardest guys to play against.''
The Bruins totaled 96 points last year - the most ever for a team that missed the playoffs - and weren't eliminated until the final day of the regular season.
''That's how tight the NHL is,'' Beleskey said. ''They've been winning for a long time and I'm sure that they're all very hungry to get back to it.''
Hamilton is gone, Dennis Seidenberg had back surgery that is expected to keep him out for eight weeks and Chara will be 39 by the end of the season. That means more responsibility for Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug.
''Well I guess the torch the gets passed along, right?'' Julien said. ''It's an opportunity for them to kind of help those young guys out like they were helped by the veterans. They feel comfortable enough; they feel experienced enough to be able to do that. And they should.''
Goaltender Tuukka Rask played a career-high 70 games last season - 12 more than ever before. If there was a bright spot from the Bruins missing the playoffs, it was that the goalie didn't add to his workload in the postseason.
Julien said he would like to keep it below 65, and perhaps as low as 58 if a dependable backup can be developed from a foursome that includes 2012 first-round draft pick Malcolm Subban and former Detroit and Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson.
''I think our goaltending situation should be better than last year,'' Neely said. ''I think we can reduce the amount of games that Tuukka had to play from last year.''
AP freelance writer Matt Kalman contributed to this story.