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Readiness first step to repeat

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / September 17, 2011

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Yesterday, with physicals and fitness testing at TD Garden, the Bruins officially kicked off 2011-12 training camp as defending champions. They did so knowing that their biggest challenge will come from within.

No team has repeated since Detroit in 1998. Since then, every champion has fallen short of winning back-to-back titles, with the cap-ravaged Blackhawks the latest to fail.

The Stanley Cup hangover is real.

“What we’ve got to be better at is how we handle it,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “With the examples that we’ve had, obviously it is a real thing. We need to be ready this year, more than even last year. We need to up our game like every other team is going to up their game against us.’’

Yesterday marked nearly three months to the day the Bruins beat the Canucks in Game 7 and first lifted the Cup over their heads. One-quarter of a year may seem long. But to players who chugged their way through a grinding Cup run, yesterday’s start of camp marked an end-of-summer bookend to close an offseason that felt achingly short.

Julien noted that because of the short summer, players didn’t have much time to get out of shape. Of those queried, no players have referenced any physical fatigue from the abbreviated layoff.

Instead, it’s the mental wear and tear the Bruins will have to battle, especially early in the season when opponents are hitting them with their best stuff.

“The summer’s been a great summer. A lot of fun,’’ Julien said. “But for us, it’s time to turn the page and get back to work. I think our players are in the right frame of mind in regards to that. That’s what we want to see. Now we’ve just got to go out there and prove we’re ready to go, understanding that there’s going to be challenges along the way. Being Stanley Cup champions means teams are playing at their best against you every night. We understand that part of it. Hopefully we’re going to get ourselves ready and respond properly.’’

At full strength Last year, David Krejci used training camp to regain the touch, timing, and strength he had lost after undergoing wrist surgery during the 2010 playoffs. Two years ago, Krejci was coming off hip surgery, which limited how much he could do in camp.

This year, Krejci’s only offseason traumas were sore biceps from lifting the Cup.

“It was the best summer I had in a long time. Maybe in my life,’’ Krejci said. “I know it was short. But last year and the year before, I had some injuries, so I had to do some rehab. This one was short. But it was pretty good.’’

Krejci enters 2011-12 as the team’s clear-cut No. 1 center, with all the expectations of a point-per-game season that come with such status. Krejci should break camp with regular wingers Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton on his flanks. The 25-year-old could also sign a contract extension if he and the Bruins agree on a number.

Last year, Krejci scored 62 points, 11 off the career-best mark set in 2008-09 while centering Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder. But Krejci was at his offensive best in the playoffs. Krejci led the Bruins in scoring with 12 goals and 11 assists. The output was encouraging given Lucic’s inconsistency and Horton’s series-ending concussion in Game 3 of the Cup Final.

“I’d like to improve in every single area of my game,’’ Krejci said. “We can talk about one or two things. But it’s everything. I want to be better in all situations.’’

Heavy heart Zdeno Chara traveled back to Boston yesterday from Slovakia after attending the funeral of close friend Pavol Demitra. Given the travel and the emotional trauma of losing his neighbor, Chara might be excused from today’s session . . . Practices at TD Garden today and tomorrow are free and open to the public. Doors open at 9:30 a.m., with the first group taking the ice at 10. The second group will skate at 12:30 p.m. . . . Chara is in Group B, and will most likely see ice time alongside rookie Dougie Hamilton. Julien explained that he wants veterans to guide rookies along. Last year, Chara was paired with Steven Kampfer for a good part of camp. “He’s a guy that’s got great potential, first-round pick,’’ Julien said of Hamilton. “He can benefit from playing with Zdeno.’’ . . . If the NBA lockout continues, expect the Bruins to practice more at the Garden this season than at Ristuccia Arena. During the season, Garden practices are closed to the public.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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