Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron, left, and forward Milan Lucic celebrate with teammates after defeating the Winnipeg Jets in a NHL pre-season hockey action in Saskatoon, Friday, Sept 27, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
BOSTON - Boston Bruins President Cam Neely didn't watch the Chicago Blackhawks raise their Stanley Cup banner to the rafters before their season opener.
He's eager to begin another run at the NHL championship and attend a similar ceremony on his team's ice next year.
"You have a hard time watching someone else win the Cup and raise a banner," Neely said Wednesday. "So I didn't watch it. Hopefully we'll be watching one in the near future here."
The Bruins came close last season.
They were leading the Blackhawks 2-1 in Game 6 of the finals before giving up two goals in the last 76 seconds, allowing the Chicago players to skate with the Stanley Cup on Boston ice.
On Thursday night they begin pursuit of their second Cup in four years when they open the season at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"I guess the keynote is to say we're not going to play for second place," Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs said. "We're here to win. I think that the organization is in a good place to do that. I think we've got the right combination of things. We have a strong team that should compete, should be a winner."
The Bruins return a team heavy on players who've been a part of the organization for two lengthy playoff runs the past three seasons.
They did add Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson to play right wing on the top two lines. Reilly Smith, obtained with Eriksson in a trade that sent Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars, figures to be part of the third line. Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski, who both emerged as NHL-caliber defencemen in the playoffs, will begin the season with the team. Chad Johnson is a newcomer as the backup to goalie Tuukka Rask.
Boston went 6-1 in exhibition games, and coach Claude Julien is confident his team is prepared to start the season.
"I think we're in a good place right now," Julien said. "I liked what I saw the last few days. (In) practice today, guys were sharp; they were excited. I think we're ready to go there. Even though we had some new faces, what I saw in the preseason I really liked. Those guys have adjusted well quickly. And, if anything, they're only going to get better. So I'm pretty happy with where we are right now, knowing that it'll only get better."
The Bruins already are dealing with injuries. Forward Carl Soderberg hasn't skated since injuring his ankle in the preseason finale last Friday. He is on injured reserve and will be unavailable for the season opener. Top-line centre David Krejci skated Wednesday for the first time since back spasms kept him from playing in that same game against the Winnipeg Jets. Krejci will be a game-time decision to face the Lightning.
The Bruins nearly won the Stanley Cup despite numerous injuries to centre Patrice Bergeron in the Cup finals and a broken leg in the Eastern Conference finals that ended centre Gregory Campbell's season.
"You've got to get the right breaks, guys got to stay healthy and you've got to get those lucky bounces," left wing Brad Marchand said. "And, at the same time, you've got to have everybody playing their best. It's definitely very tough to do, but I think the fans in Boston all expect it and our management and coaching staff expect the same thing, so that's what we expect as well and we won't be happy unless we reach those goals."