BOSTON -- The 2010-11 season has been a long winding road for Rich Peverley. He's not ready to see the reach the finish line quite yet, however.
If his season ends Monday, it means his dream of winning the Stanley Cup -- "the most valuable possession anyone can own," he says -- will be once again put on hold. But, if his season doesn't end until Wednesday -- a make-or-break Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in Vancouver – his dream remains alive at least for another 48 hours.
And, as he has heard all his life, anything can happen in a Game 7.
First, though, is the pesky detail of winning a Game 6 against a Vancouver team desperate to claim its first Stanley Cup in the franchise's four-decade history must be addressed.
"We've been in a few elimination games, so we have that experience," Peverley said after Sunday's practice at TD Garden. "You just think about what you can do to win the game and just keep all positive thoughts."
If Boston is to win Monday, Peverley will have to be at the center of the action Monday night as he likely take a number of shifts as a first-line forward, replacing the injured Nathan Horton. That duty certainly is a good ways removed from his place at the start of the season – second-line center for an Atlanta Thrasher team that did not make the postseason. It is even removed from his role upon reporting to the Bruins in late February, that of checking-line forward and penalty killer.
But, there is little doubt that Peverley has the skills to be good in his latest role.
"I think Rich has got good speed," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "The forecheck is going to be important for that line. When they turn pucks over they get opportunities. He's a skilled player, as you saw the other night, when (David) Krejci sent him on the breakaway (in Game 3), he was able to score the goal. He's got good qualities.
"When you're missing a quality player like Nathan Horton, you've got to find somebody else that can step in there. He's one of those guys and you've seen me use others as well."
The Bruins have auditioned several players in the spot vacated by Horton, who suffered a concussion early in Game 3 after absorbing a late hit from Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome. Peverley has seen the majority of the time on that line, but Michael Ryder and rookie Tyler Seguin have also seen first-line shifts.
But, Peverley believes he can make a difference if given another opportunity on that No. 1 Line. He points to Game 4 when he scored a pair of goals – including the breakaway set up by Krejci -- and was part of a dominant trio that compiled 10 shots on net. He says Game 5, in which the top line struggled mightily in a 1-0 loss, is not representative of what he can do.
"There were a lot of penalties and a lot of power plays and penalty kills and I didn't get too many shifts with them -- a handful here and there," Peverley said about his Game 5 performance. "So, it wasn't like we had the same consistency that we had here in Game 4."
But, he also knows that excuse doesn't let him off the hook completely.
"When we are together, we have to have energy," Peverley said. "I can be better on my skating. When I am better on my skating, I'm a better player."
During Sunday's practice, the Bruins worked extensively on getting to the front of the net to create traffic in front of Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo. They also worked on puck retrieval in the offensive zone.
"I think it is part of the game that we have to play well," Julien said. "We need to get to the front of the net and win battles, and it is part of our game and part of their game, as well. If you're going to score goals, you have to win those battles and you have to put the pucks in the net and be there.
"I would say it was more maintenance. When you want to improve in certain areas, you bring that up to your practice. So it was meant for that reason."
Peverley called it muscle-memory reinforcement and agreed completely with his coach.
"I think it is a conscious effort of trying to remind yourself," Peverley said. "It is almost a mental thing and if you start forgetting to do it and if it is in your muscle memory, then you go to the net immediately."
Peverley says he will do whatever it takes Monday night to stretch his season to a winner-take-all Game 7. He believes he will have 19 other Bruins players committed to the same goal and that is all he can ask for as he tries to push his journey to its preferred destination.
"We have a lot of fun when we are out there playing and competing," he said Sunday. "That's why everyone is playing this game. We're going to go out and play to the best of our ability. I'm going to enjoy the crowd. The crowd is awesome and I'm just going to go out and try to thrive on it."