TAMPA — It is uncanny the similar paths the Lightning and Bruins followed this season.
Both had 46-25-11 regular-season records for the same 103 points. Both fell behind by two games in their first-round playoff series. Both swept their second-round opponents.
So, when the teams meet in the Eastern Conference final, Lightning coach Guy Boucher predicted low-scoring games decided by "the smallest detail."
"One thing for sure," Boucher said, "it's going to be a war out there."
"They're a big, physical team," center Nate Thompson said. "They have big (defense), but at the same time they can do a little bit of everything. We know we have our work cut out for us."
The work for Tampa Bay began Sunday at the St. Pete Times Forum, where the team skated for the first time since Wednesday, when it finished its four-game sweep of the Capitals.
The 60-minute practice began with simple skating and passing exercises and continued with drills to activate the legs.
The plan is to increase the intensity so players peak when the series begins either Thursday or Saturday in Boston.
"Break time," Boucher said, "is over."
Tampa Bay's biggest concern is not that Boston will try to intimidate physically, especially at TD Garden. Nor is it 6-foot-9, 255-pound defenseman Zdeno Chara, or, as wing Marty St. Louis put it, "They attack with five and defend with five."
It is goaltender Tim Thomas, the Vezina Trophy finalist whose 2.03 goals-against average in the playoffs and .937 save percentage are second to the 2.01 and .941 of Tampa Bay's Dwayne Roloson.
"He's making everybody scratch their heads about what to do," Boucher said, "including myself."
That Boston is expected to be without concussed center Patrice Bergeron, who has a team-high 12 points and is a mainstay on the penalty kill, doesn't change Tampa Bay's plan, Boucher said.
"They still have all the tools to be a lethal team."
Besides, he added, "We're expecting everybody to play. I know Bergeron supposedly has a concussion, but he's got a lot of time to get back. I'm expecting him to be back, so we're expecting them to have their full team. We're not hoping for anything to go wrong with them for us to do well. If that's the case, we shouldn't be here."
Boucher pointed out many predict the Bruins will win.
"We know people are not giving us much of a chance," he said. "We hear it everywhere. But we weren't supposed to get a chance in the first or second series either. Our guys battle."