The Bruins are gearing up for their first exhibition game of the preseason on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.
But last year at this time, Bruins forward Shawn Thornton had another game on his mind. He was looking forward to the team's first preseason battle with the archrival Montreal Canadiens.
As Thornton has said before, "hockey players have short memories when they want to." And prior to the Bruins' 2008 preseason opener, he remembered the previous spring when then-Canadien Steve Begin laid a cross-check from behind on his friend and teammate Marc Savard, breaking Savard's back and causing him to miss a good portion of the season's stretch run. So when Boston and Montreal met up last September, Thornton exacted revenge on Begin with a good old-fashioned beating
Now with Begin on his side, Thornton has erased that memory. Per Thornton's request, he and Begin — who signed a free-agent deal with Boston this offseason — sit next to each other in the Bruins' TD Garden and Ristuccia Arena locker rooms. The two have immediately struck up a friendship and are looking forward to finding the same chemistry on the ice.
"He's a great guy, and that stuff is in the past now," Thornton said. "It's part of the game. You do what you have to do out there. You do your job, and now he's on our side. He's doing his job for our team, and he brings a lot of passion. I can relate to that. That's how I play, and let's just say it's a lot better playing with him than against him."
Begin does his talking on the ice with his tenacious style, but off the ice, his personality is meshing well with the Bruins.
"We have a great dressing room here with lots of personality, and he fits right in," Thornton said. "I like talking with him and we have a good time. … He is fitting right in."
Begin returned the praise to Thornton, who is not only his new neighbor, but possibly his new linemate. According to Begin, Thornton is quite the talker and keeps the atmosphere light in the dressing room.
"You see him over there, he just keeps talking and he's [often] talking about me," Begin said with a laugh as Thornton entertained a group of reporters across the room. "He jokes so much, and he never stops."
Begin has appreciated the willingness of Thornton and his new teammates to forget the past and welcome him to the Bruins. He also likes the fact that he can bounce ideas and questions off the chatty Thornton.
"He asked for it, and he's always with me now," Begin said of the locker-room setup. "But he's been great, and we have a lot of fun. We probably will be together on the ice too. I'm looking forward to it, and I think we'll be good together."
Begin enjoyed his time in Montreal and thanked the fans profusely for their support, but now he's hoping to win over the fans in Boston the way he's apparently won over Thornton and his teammates.
"I had a good time playing there in Montreal," Begin said. "The fans were great to me.
"But it's a new year now, and I'm here. It's fun, and I've said it since day one – I'm on the right side of the rivalry now. I'm excited. The fans have been great. It's a good hockey town and a good city, and it's good to be here."
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