The preseason games are over and the regular season is just three days away, leaving many of the Bruins eager for the start of the 2013-14 campaign.
More importantly, for forward Jordan Caron, it brings a clean slate, as the 22-year-old seeks to wash away the frustrating memories of the 2012-13 season.
"I think I had a tough start with the lockout down in Providence," Caron said after Sunday's practice. "I finished the year before really strong and my confidence was really high, and I went to Providence, and a season like that, things aren't going your way and then the injuries happen.
"I just want to forget about last year and I'm feeling pretty good, and I just want to build on that."
Caron scored 11 goals and had seven assists in 47 games with the AHL club, but he struggled through November and December. Just before the lockout ended, he sustained a shoulder injury, and was later hit in the face with a puck. He played 17 of the Bruins' 48 games, logging one goal and two assists.
After battling through camp and the preseason games, Caron is the 13th forward on the Bruins roster.
In Friday's final preseason game, a 5-0 victory over Winnipeg, Caron was one of five Bruins to score a goal. Caron said he remains confident he has the skills to produce points — something that didn't always happen last season.
"That's a good question," Caron said when asked why his offensive game hasn't translated. "Just having the confidence to not make mistakes and playing with nothing on your mind is really important.
"That's something I need to do. It's going to come naturally. Offensively, I know I have the skills to do it."
Of course, the preseason had its ups and downs as Caron tuned up for the regular season. Like many, the lowest point was the 8-2 loss against Detroit, and Caron was particularly frustrated after that game.
"That was a tough night," Caron said. "There are nights it seems everything is going wrong when I had the puck, I was either making a bad play or turning it over. From that, I turned my game around and really stepped up the last few games."
It appears the third line will be Carl Soderberg, Chris Kelly, and Reilly Smith, although Soderberg was absent from Sunday's practice and Caron filled in for him.
Coach Claude Julien said he sensed a greater sense of urgency in Caron's play, and is encouraged by the improvements he's seen in the preseason.
"His whole camp, and what we know about Jordan . . . reliable and doing the things he has to do," Julien said. "And we asked him to do a little bit more, not just because he scored a goal, but he had some chances, and I thought we'd use him on the penalty kill and different areas, but he seemed to generate a little bit more."
Julien expects Caron to continue improving, particularly his play in front of the net.
"That has to continue," the coach said. "He's a player an organization doesn't want to give up on too early, so we feel as coaches that we can help him improve. We're going to work with him to make him improve in those areas. Somewhere along the net area, hopefully if he improves there, he'll give us a little more production and a little more offense."
Soderberg hit a rut in the ice in Friday's preseason finale, according to Julien, and it is unclear when the Swedish forward will return to the lineup.
"It's still up in the air, the seriousness of it," Julien said. "We had first deemed it minor, and now it's questionable."
Soderberg has been productive this preseason, scoring a goal in Friday's victory, and a pair of goals in a 2-0 victory against Detroit Sept. 21. With Soderberg out of the lineup, Caron likely will see time on the third line.
David Krejci also was absent from practice; the center was scratched Friday with back spasms.
"Right now, I would say day to day and as we move further, it might be better," Julien said.
Johnson is waived
Before practice, forward Nick Johnson was placed on waivers, with the intention of assigning him to Providence, according to the team.
Johnson had a goal and an assist Friday, and had four goals in the preseason.
"It's not an easy conversation, no doubt," Julien said. "Individuals are different, but the little time I got to know him, he's a real quality person. In his mind, he says, 'I'm going to keep working hard because I have a feeling I'm going to be back this year.' There's confidence and determination in his voice, and that's what you like to hear."
Former Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, who signed with the Oilers in the offseason, was named team captain Sunday.
Julien said he texted Ference, who spent seven seasons in Boston and was an alternate captain, to congratulate him.
"I think he's deserving," Julien said. "Everyone knows him here knows what kind of person he was and what kind of leader he was on and off the ice. The minute he signed there, in the back of my mind I thought he had an opportunity to become a captain there. They made a great choice."