BOSTON (CBS) — It has been a long time since the Boston Bruins played in front of a packed TD Garden. That will change this weekend as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted throughout Massachusetts.

After nearly 15 months of either playing in a bubble or in front of empty seats or limited capacity, the TD Garden will be packed to near capacity Saturday night when the Bruins drop the puck on their second-round playoff series against the New York Islanders.

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To say that the Bruins are excited to see almost all the seats inside the Garden filled with the Boston faithful is an understatement.

“There is some anticipation. It’s been a long time, so you kind of forget what it’s like,” said Cassidy. “I thought it was getting loud here with 25 percent capacity, so I can only imagine a full house. It’ll be nice to have everyone back in there. It’ll be good for all sports to get back to your typical home-ice advantage in terms of the crowd being behind you and creating energy. So all of that is going to be great. Like I said, it’s been a long time.”

“Really excited — we’re looking forward to it,” said captain Patrice Bergeron. “It’s been a while. I’ve said this before: I think from the bubble to the start of this season, you adapt and you adjust to not having fans. In a way, you almost forget how special it is to have them.

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“So when we went up to 12 percent and now 25, it makes such a big difference; the impact they have on the game, the energy you try to feed off, is amazing,” he added. “Having close to a packed Garden is going to be special.”

All of those cheering fans being back in the building will be a little bit jarring at first, but both coach and captain aren’t worried about it lingering for too long.

“It’s probably going to be a little shocking at first, to be honest with you,” said Cassidy. “You’re just so used to quietness throughout the games, so it’ll be a good thing for everybody in any building. Crowds are obviously there for the home team, but I think they can also get the visiting team into it. I think it’s just good for the game, period.”

“You don’t want to be too high and waste your energy, but at the same time you need to soak it in and stay in the moment and worry about your game,” said Bergeron. “But sometimes it does make a difference as far as energy goes and you try to get a lift out of that crowd going wild.”

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The puck will drop for Game 1 shortly after 8 p.m. on Saturday night. The Garden should be rocking well before then.

CBSBoston.com Staff