There are 20 spots available on one of the most lucrative trips in the world. It lasts a minimum of six months and hopefully eight.
There are only 30 trips of its kind in the world, and the vacation conglomerate that is the NHL has 30 travel guides. Mike Babcock organizes his out of Detroit. Joel Quenneville does the same in Chicago. And in Boston, the skipper is Claude Julien. He wants to make the journey as long as possible, and needs the 20 best travel companions around.
What 20 players will be on the Bruins' excursion? There are some that already have a seat reserved in first class. There are a few that just need to make sure their luggage doesn't exceed the weight limit, and they should board just fine. And there are those who are running through the terminal with two suitcases in hand and one minute to sprint from terminal A to terminal Z. It's probably not going to happen for them.
Who will join Julien aboard the Bruins Express?
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla
There are no surprises on this itinerary. Last year's passenger Nathan Horton was swapped out for veteran Jarome Iginla. David Krejci has made this trip before, and will be the tour guide for Iggy. Milan Lucic will take his usual seat to the left of Krejci and will form one of the most potent lines in hockey.
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Loui Eriksson
If everything goes well in training camp, Bergeron should be ready by the start of the season. His new linemate will be Eriksson, the talented two-way forward who was acquired on Independence Day. This will reap huge rewards for the Bruins, as Tyler Seguin was often complacent after winning a Stanley Cup in his rookie year. Eriksson is hungry, and hasn't been to the playoffs since 2008. Expect the second line to challenge the first in terms of combined points.
Carl Soderberg - Chris Kelly - Jordan Caron
This is the plane where passengers may be switching out of their seats frequently during the season. The third line has two questions marks on either side of Chris Kelly and it begs two questions: Can Soderberg switch to the wing? Will Caron prove to be a valuable pick? Soderberg is too valuable of a player to leave off the roster, and he played solidly when inserted into the lineup in the Stanley Cup Final. He also signed a multi-year contract in April. He'll make it through security.
This is finally the time to board the Bruins' plane for Caron. He has been on stand-by for years now, and hasn't been able to secure a solid boarding pass. But at 22, he is ready to take his seat. He will have to prove his worth, because there are plenty of other stand-by passengers (Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser, Ryan Spooner) that are wanting to board this exclusive flight.
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton
The final boarding call for forwards will bring no surprises. The Bruins have the best fourth line in hockey. If Campbell is healthy, there will be no changes. Any questions?
First defensive pair
Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
The only thing easier to predict than this pairing is that your taxes are due on April 15.
Second defensive pair
Johnny Boychuk - Torey Krug
Krug had a marvelous start to his postseason last year, and should make the initial roster. Joe Morrow will be waiting in earnest, though.
Third defensive pair
Adam McQuaid - Dougie Hamilton
After a solid regular season, the playoffs were a different story for Hamilton. He'll start with the big boys in October, and will need to prove himself once again to earn time in the playoffs.
Starter: Tuukka Rask; Backup: Chad Johnson
The only thing that could be up in the air about the goalie situation is who will backup Rask. Johnson has backed up studs Mike Smith and Henrik Lundqvist in the past, and should get the nod over Niklas Svedberg.
The trip starts on October 3 in Boston, Mass., and ends April 13 in New Jersey. If you prove to be great travelers, the journey is extended after that, two weeks at at time, with a maximum of eight weeks.
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