WILMINGTON — The Bruins went through a pretty lengthy practice at Ristuccia Arena Tuesday. Young fans pressed their faces against the glass, watching in wonder as the players ran through drills. Parents took pictures, and everyone was smiling.
It appeared to be a normal day during the National Hockey League season. But it was anything but.
The Bruins, whose game vs. Ottawa Monday night was called off after the bomb explosions at the Boston Marathon finish line, were out there doing their jobs as pro athletes. They will play their regularly scheduled game vs. the Sabres Wednesday at TD Garden amid heightened security. But, as coach Claude Julien pointed out, afterward their thoughts turned back to the victims and families affected by such an unfathomable event.
“It was one of those days where you practice with heavy hearts,’’ said Julien, whose team learned that it will close out the regular season with the rescheduled game against Ottawa at TD Garden April 28 at 7 p.m. “Obviously, we have a job to do and we still have to do our job, but I think our guys in there are proud of the city that they represent, Boston.
“As much as it was hard to really go out there today and give your all, I think our guys did a good job. Practice is over and our thoughts are back to those people affected.
“Boston, for me personally and my family, it’s a city we’ve fallen in love with. When you see something like that happen, there’s no doubt it affects you as an individual and even for us as a group.’’
After Julien left the rink Monday, he watched the coverage.
“I’ve got some young kids at home, and my wife and I, we spent most of the night watching, and there were some tears,’’ said Julien. “You look at how a lot of those people were affected and you feel for them, because who knows? It could easily have been one of the members of your family.
“Sometimes it is friends that are there. I know there have been some close calls in our group, people who were there. So it’s certainly something that was hard for us to watch. At the same time, we care about the city and care about what it represents and yesterday was supposed to be a special day to celebrate. Somehow it got ruined.’’
The Bruins have seven games remaining in the lockout-shortened season, and Julien said they will do their best to focus on hockey.
“You don’t have a choice,’’ he said. “Your thoughts and your prayers are always going to be with those people. At one point, you have to do what you have to do. When we play our next game, we have to go out and do our jobs. If anything, you want to show people you represent the city the right way, with pride, and also with a lot of caring behind it.’’
With the Boston Marathon being a sporting event, with a great number of spectators on hand, Julien said the Bruins can’t approach their games at TD Garden with fear.
“I guess each individual will think differently,’’ said Julien. “I’m one of those people who wants to live my life to the fullest. I’m not going to live my life worrying about what’s going to happen. The one thing you don’t want to let happen is people, or individuals or groups, ruin your life by living it in fear.
“I think that’s what is great about this country — it’s not going to let anybody or anyone put fear in our lives.’’
Julien said he wasn’t surprised that Monday’s game was called off — it was the right thing to do.
“When I was told the game was canceled, I was happy and relieved because it was the least we could do,’’ he said. “It was important that we put all our attention and all the focus and safety into what had just happened versus playing a game at that time didn’t mean much.
“It’s going to take a while to heal from this. We don’t expect [Wednesday] to be the day when everything is going to be OK, but you have to start somewhere. Tomorrow is a great time for us to go out there and play our hearts out for all the right reasons.’’
Bruins forward Jay Pandolfo, a native of Winchester and a former standout at Boston University, was with the New Jersey Devils on Sept. 11, 2001. He said this latest attack was very difficult to digest, and he is hoping hockey can be part of the healing process.
“Obviously there are going to be some days where it’s tough here,’’ said Pandolfo. “For a team like the Bruins to have a chance to kind of maybe put it in the back of people’s minds a little bit and have some excitement in the city again, I think as players we can just worry about going out there and playing the best we can and try to uplift the city a little bit.
“It’s going to take a long time to get over something like this.’’
Pandolfo said it’s a vastly different world from the one he knew as a kid.
“Growing up, you’d never think of ever having to worry about something like this,’’ he said. “For it to happen once, back on 9/11, it’s something you thought you’d never see.
“Obviously, it’s not as big a scale as 9/11, but still to worry about these things in the United States, it’s disappointing. You want to be able to live life. You live in the United States, that’s one of the things you’re proud of.’’
Patrice Bergeron was crushed to hear what had happened. “It’s something everyone talks about in Boston as a fun day and a great event and it’s really very tragic,’’ said Bergeron, who likely would’ve returned to the lineup Monday had the game gone on as scheduled.
“It’s a big tragedy and there aren’t many words that can be said right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people and families involved.”
Defenseman Andrew Ference had one of the more anxious days because his family members were in the area of the race finish.
“All of our friends, the kids are all off school,’’ said Ference. “My wife, they were all meeting up with their buddies and going down to watch. It’s not just worries — they were down there.’’
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The Bruins assigned forward Jordan Caron to Providence. He played in 17 games, with a goal and two assists.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.