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Bruins open in Pittsburgh Saturday night as NHL announces Eastern schedule 05.29.13 at 12:25 am ET
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The Bruins will open the 2013 Eastern Conference finals in Pittsburgh against the Penguins on Saturday night at the Consol Energy Center. That will be followed by Game 2 in Pittsburgh on Monday. The series then shifts to Boston for Games 3 and 4 next Wednesday and Friday at TD Garden.

The first four games will face-off at 8 p.m. ET.

If necessary, Game 5 will be back in Pittsburgh on June 9. Game 6 would be back in Boston on June 11 and, as was the case in the first round, if the series goes the distance, Game 7 would be the next day back in Pittsburgh.

The NHL held off waiting on making an announcement until the winner was determined in the Kings-Sharks series Tuesday night. The defending Stanley Cup champs advance to the Western finals with a 2-1 win over San Jose. The Kings will face the winner of Wednesday’s Game 7 between the Blackhawks and Red Wings in Chicago.

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More ‘mature’ Bruins ready to handle time off before taking on Pens 05.28.13 at 6:15 pm ET
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Jaromir Jagr addresses reporters after Bruins practice on Tuesday. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

WILMINGTON — The last time the Bruins had this much time off, they fared quite well.

Two years ago, the Bruins had eight days in between sweeping the Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals and opening their series against Tampa Bay. They, of course, edged the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3, on their way to the Stanley Cup finals.

They will have had at least six days off when they open the series against the Penguins this weekend at the Consol Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

Time off hasn’t always worked for Claude Julien and his Bruins. Remember 2009? The Bruins avenged a heart-breaking seven-game loss to the Canadiens in 2008 with a first-round sweep. They had 11 days off before opening a second-round series against Carolina. The Hurricanes jumped out to a 3-1 series lead and eventually held on to win Game 7 in double-overtime at the Garden.

What has Julien learned over time about time off?

“I think our team has matured a lot more in regards to that,” Julien said Tuesday. “We had a long break, too, when we swept Philly [Philadelphia Flyers] in four straight a few years ago, and we handled it well. Based on today’s practice, I thought we practiced really well, lots of energy, worked hard. I think the focus is still there. I think those years that you’re talking about, I think we had almost 11 days off, it was closer to two weeks.

“That was a lot and somehow we felt like we slipped out of it and by the time we got back into it, we were in deep trouble because I think we were down 3-1 against Carolina. That was something that, hopefully, we learned from. Right now, I don’t sense that, to be honest with you. I think our guys, we’re pretty focused right now. Like I said, I liked our intensity and our focus and our jump in practice today.”

Julien admitted to being older and wiser as an NHL playoff coach and said Tuesday he is benefitting from that at a time like this.

“It’s like anything else, you get experience, you go through different things,” Julien added. “I’ve gone through a sweep, gone through being swept four straight after up three, different things. We talked about a few years ago, 11 days off. Those experience go a long ways as you move forward, because you’ve been through all these things. It certainly gives you a better idea of how to handle that, but let’s call it experience, not so much learning. Chalk it down as experience.”

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Claude Julien on Andrew Ference decision: ‘We’re not there yet’ at 5:50 pm ET
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Andrew Ference was back on the ice with his Bruins teammates on Tuesday and talking to reporters. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

WILMINGTON — Andrew Ference skated for a fifth day on Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena, but for the first time with this teammates as he looks to come back from a left foot injury.

Ference was spotted walking with a walking boot on his left foot last Saturday during Game 5 of the series against the Rangers. But according to Ference, he had already been testing the health of the foot on the ice before then.

Ference injured the foot in Game 5 of the opening round against the Maple Leafs on May 10. He has not played in a game since.

“There’s no schedule,” Ference said after Tuesday’s skate, in which he was paired with defenseman Aaron Johnson. “It’s just a matter of go when you can go. I don’t think everything was ever put on a calendar. I think it was day-to-day the whole time, wasn’t it? That’s the way I’ve always viewed it.

“The last couple of days I had great skates. Today was the fifth day on the ice so it’s been really good. Obviously, it’s different when you get other guys on the ice and can actually practice. But to have four days completely on your own to do ‘Hockey School’, it’s nice, it really is. It’s kind of actually rare to get that kind of ice time to do exactly what you need. It’s beneficial.”

Ference said he’s been in a good position since he hasn’t felt rushed to return to a situation where he might not be 100 percent.

“You have help from other people when you’re dealing with something but at the end of the day, nobody knows who you feel except you. You’re not going to put yourself in a position you’re not ready for,” Ference said.

As for coach Claude Julien, he sidestepped questions about whether Ference, a leading penalty-killer for the Bruins, would earn his spot back when declared healthy and ready to go. Ference would likely nab the spot of Matt Bartkowski at this point, with Dennis Seidenberg already supplanting Dougie Hamilton last Saturday in Game 5 against the Rangers.

“You know what? We’re not there yet and until we’re there, I’m not answering those questions,” Julien said Tuesday. “It’s like we’re trying to get ahead of everything here. We’re not even close to starting a series. We’ll let him skate a little bit with us and see how he does. When the times comes, I’ll be more than happy to make that tough decision.

“It’s a good sign that he’s practicing with us. I don’t know. Again, it’s a medical issue that unless the trainers say it’s a go – sometimes he may be ready, but could be a risky kind of ready. We’ll wait and see what our trainers say and how Andrew [Ference] feels, as well, before we make any decision on him.”

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Claude Julien on underdog role vs. Penguins: ‘Bring it on’ at 2:03 pm ET
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Claude Julien says the Bruins aren't about to be afraid of the Penguins. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

WILMINGTON — Claude Julien has instilled a certain attitude with his Bruins.

Play fearless hockey in the playoffs and see what happens.

That’s why he was happy to hear how Tuukka Rask responded when asked about the big load he will carry into the series against the high-powered Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals.

Rask said that he expects to carry a big load and always goes into a series thinking he is the best goalie. That attitude also matches what the experts are saying. If the Bruins are going to have a chance of upsetting the Penguins, Rask will need to play to his level and maybe above.

Rask is considered by all experts as the superior netminder in this series, far and above the likes of Tomas Vokoun and Marc-Andre Fleury.

“I think he answered it right because I’m one of those guys where you have to relish the challenges,” Julien said Tuesday as the Bruins returned to the ice as a team for the first time since eliminating the Rangers on Saturday evening. “You can’t fear them. Bring it on. And that’s what he’s telling you right now, ‘Bring it on. I’m ready for it.’ That’s what our whole team’s demeanor is going to be is like, ‘Hey, we know it’s a big challenge. Bring it on.’ We’re ready for it. We’ll give it everything we have and hopefully, that’ll be enough to win a series.

“I think there’s two teams here that know what’s at stake. They’re going to bring their best at us, and we’re hopefully going to do the same thing to them. And we know how we play and we know how they play and it’s going to be a matter of just seeing how it pans out.”

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Bruins notes from Friday: Up-tempo practice as Dennis Seidenberg, Wade Redden pick it up 05.24.13 at 5:43 pm ET
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The Bruins wrap up practice Friday at TD Garden in advance of Game 5 Saturday in Boston. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

The Bruins took to the TD Garden ice for a 30-minute up-tempo, intense practice after coach Claude Julien and players admitted that their effort was there on Thursday night but not their execution.

Friday was an effort, even after a tough overtime loss, to pick up the intensity level for Saturday afternoon’s 5:30 start against the Rangers, with yet another chance to close out the series in Game 5.

“It was just a good flow, good practice,” David Krejci said. “Hard and short. We don’t know what’s going to happen [Saturday] morning but it’s kind of an odd time for the game, 5:30. We’re just taking it day-by-day and we felt that, and the coaches felt the same way, that we needed to go out there for a short, hard practice. And we did that. Now, we’re just going to focus on [Saturday].”

Krejci wasn’t overly critical of his teammates and their well-documented mistakes in Game 4 that caused them to blow a 2-0 lead and lose the game in overtime.

“It was an OK game,” he said. “There were chances on both sides but the game is behind us now. They won in OT. [Saturday] is a new game and we’re going to do everything we can to get over it.”

All Bruins were accounted for except defenseman Andrew Ference, out with a lower body injury. Dennis Seidenberg (lower body) and Wade Redden (unspecified) skated together as a D-pair Friday and have been skating all week with the team. There’s a sense that Seidenberg could return on Saturday in place of Dougie Hamilton or Matt Bartkowski. Seidenberg hasn’t played since injuring himself on the second shift of Game 7 against Toronto on May 13.

“I felt comfortable out there today,” Seidenberg said. “But again it’s a decision where I have to talk to them first. We’ll see. They’re going to ask me a couple of a questions and go from there.

Seidenberg said he is itching to get back on the ice.

“Really bad,” Seidenberg said of his desire to return. “No one likes watching hockey games, especially around this time of year, so hopefully I get back in there soon, and hopefully can help.”

Seidenberg watched from upstairs Thursday night as the Bruins failed to close out Game 4.

“We know we played a good game,” Seidenberg said. “A couple of hiccups there but for the most part, we put a lot of pucks on the nets, had quite a few chances, especially on the power play so we know we could’ve won it. We just have to stick in the moment and try to win the next one.

“Every game we want to finish with the win, especially being up 3-1, it would be nice to finish it off but again, we have to play a good game first because they have the momentum now.”

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Tuukka Rask on butt stumble: ‘Some days it sucks to be a goalie’ at 5:04 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask falls backward for his now infamous "butt stumble" in Game 4 Thursday. (AP)

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez gave us the “Butt Fumble” against the Patriots last Thanksgiving. Tuukka Rask gave us the “Butt Stumble” right across the Hudson River from MetLife Stadium Thurday night.

Say this much for Rask: He has a lot of patience with repetitive questions from reporters and he has a good sense of humor.

Both were on display Friday after practice at TD Garden as he was peppered with more questions about Thursday’s “Butt Stumble on Broadway” and the Bruins losing Game 4 in overtime just like they did three years ago when the collapse began in Philadelphia.

“I don’t even want to compare,” Rask said when asked whether the bizarre loss in overtime in Game 4 Thursday night reminded him of 2010. “It’s a totally different team. We beat Philly out the next year, 4-0. We won the Cup. Lots of things have happened. As we’ve said all along, we don’t like to look in the past or too much ahead. We like to live in the moment and focus on the task.”

And as for the blooper of all hockey bloopers this season?

“I think you either decide to cry about it or have a sense of humor about it and that’s it,” Rask said. “You just have to move on. You let in goals and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what kind of goals you let in, it’s still a goal. Some days it sucks to be a goalie.”

Rask lost an edge and fell backwards in the second period Thursday night, allowing Carl Hagelin‘s weak backhander to slide past him and into the net to cut Boston’s 2-0 lead in half.

“Yeah, I saw it. I saw it many times in my head, too,” Rask said. “I mean, you can either cry about it or laugh about it and I decided it’s better to have a sense of humor and laugh about it. Tough break, those happen. But to be honest, I think throughout the years I’ve been pretty good in making those ‘Not-so Top 10 lists’ so there we are again.”

Enough of the funny business. As for the serious business of getting ready for Game 5 Saturday night, Rask said he liked what he saw at the 30-minute up-tempo practice Friday at TD Garden.

“Absolutely,” Rask said. “It’s been a few days since we had a full team practice on an off day and today we just want to make everybody’s minds are in the right place and we’re making crisp passes and executing the plays and keeping it short and sharp, and that’s what it was.”

Does he wish he could play right away and not wait until Saturday?

“No, no. I’ll take my rest,” Rask said.

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Claude Julien happy with his power play: ‘Especially [considering] the lack of them’ at 4:29 pm ET
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Jaromir Jagr skates with the puck Friday at Bruins practice with Brad Marchand as the B's get ready for Game 5 Saturday. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Claude Julien has been happy with his power play unit in this series, that is when the Bruins actually get a power play.

He made that much perfectly clear on Friday after practice as his team prepares for another chance to wrap up the series against the Rangers in Game 5 at TD Garden Saturday evening.

The Bruins were 2-for-4 on the power play Thursday in the Game 4 loss to the Rangers, with one of the two misses actually resulting in a goal as Tyler Seguin scored his first goal this postseason as a penalty was expiring in the third period. The Bruins didn’t get a single power play in Game 3 and had only one in Game 2. Boston is 3-for-9 in this playoff series while the Rangers are now 1-for-14 on the man-advantage.

With Nathan Horton and Torey Krug scoring on the power play Thursday night, is Julien pleased that his power play is making the most of its chances?

“Well, yeah especially the lack of them that we’ve had in this series,” Julien said. “It was nice to see us score a couple of goals. It’s been tough. It’s a good thing we’re a good five on five team and that we’ve managed to win hockey games, but last night two for four, and certainly it could have been three for four I guess two seconds after the power play ended, so our power play did a good job of producing and whenever you can count on that it’s always a bonus.

Other notes from Friday’s practice:

The Bruins skated hard for 30 minutes in an up-tempo, early afternoon practice on the TD Garden ice. All players were present and accounted for except for Andrew Ference, who is still nursing a lower body injury that has kept him out since Game 5 in the first round. Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden were the fourth defensive pairs to skate in drills Friday. Julien kept his defensive pairings the same, with Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton leading the way, followed by Johnny Boychuk and Matt Bartkowski and then Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug. There were no changes on the lines either as Tyler Seguin remains on the third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley.

“I think it was one of those practices today where you wanted to get a good sweat, knowing it’s an early game tomorrow, or afternoon game,” Julien said of the odd 5:30 p.m. start time on Saturday afternoon. “And we just want to make sure we’re ready for tomorrow.”

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