The Boston Bruins are poised for a strong start to the shortened 2012-13 NHL season, because they had a number of players compete overseas during the lockout and made very few roster changes in the offseason.
The only line changes likely to be made from last season are at the left wing spot on the third line, plus the addition of Dougie Hamilton to the third pairing. Everything else should stay the same.
|Line||Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|1||Brad Marchand||Patrice Bergeron||Tyler Seguin|
|2||Milan Lucic||David Krejci||Nathan Horton|
|3||Chris Bourque/Jordan Caron||Chris Kelly||Rich Peverley|
|4||Daniel Paille||Gregory Campbell||Shawn Thornton|
|1||Zdeno Chara||Johnny Boychuk|
|2||Dennis Seidenberg||Andrew Ference|
|3||Adam McQuaid (Injured until Feb.)||Dougie Hamilton|
Having the same linemates will be very beneficial to many of the players, because training camp will only last six or seven days and there won't be many practices in the shortened season, since there isn't enough time in the schedule.
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While many teams have new players learning new systems with new linemates, the Bruins will already have a roster with great team chemistry. They also know what to expect from head coach Claude Julien and top assistant Doug Houda, who have been in Boston together for several years.
This gives them an advantage: There shouldn't be much miscommunication or many turnovers in the first few weeks of the season, because the Bruins players, for the most part, know where to look for their teammates in every area of the ice.
The Bruins also had 12 players play overseas during the lockout, and these players will come into training camp in good shape and accustomed to a normal day-to-day hockey routine.
Many of these players who competed overseas performed at a high level, and even though it's wrong to think that this success will instantly translate to success against NHL competition, it was good to see several Bruins excel in European leagues.
Tyler Seguin, in particular, was fantastic in Switzerland for National A League team EHC Biel. He scored 25 goals in 29 games, including a four-goal performance in November (see video below).
The lockout has also given Bruins players who suffered injuries last season or were banged up in the playoffs enough time to fully recover. Tuukka Rask is fully healthy going into this season, and so is Patrice Bergeron, after dealing with an upper-body injury in last year's first-round playoff series versus Washington.
Horton: "I'm not even worried about my head. Or being in contact. Or getting in a fight. I feel better than I have in a long, long time"— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) January 10, 2013
Having Horton in the lineup consistently will have a huge impact on the team's offense. He's a power forward who scores goals and is a physical presence in front of the net.
Horton is also capable of playing with just about any center due to his versatility. He can play with a defensive specialist like Bergeron, a playmaker like Krejci, or an up-tempo player such as Seguin.
The lockout was frustrating for everyone, but the added rest allowed Horton to fully recover without missing training camp or any regular-season games.
The extra motivation to improve on last year's poor playoff performance will also fuel the Bruins this season.
The determination and hunger to win the Stanley Cup was absent in the Capitals series, and after failing to defend the championship they fought so hard to win in 2010-11, the Bruins have something to prove this year.
With few roster changes made in the offseason, the same coaching staff returning and many players already in good shape from playing overseas during the lockout, the Bruins will have no excuses if they start off the season poorly for the second consecutive year.
Boston is in a better position than most teams to avoid a sluggish start and build a good lead in the Northeast Division over the first month of the season.
Nicholas Goss is a Boston Bruins columnist at Bleacher Report. He was also B/R's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston and has covered the Bruins since the 2010-11 season. Follow him on Twitter.