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Tuukka Rask off first for Bruins, Andrew Ference to play vs. Sabres

01.20.11 at 12:03 pm ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien described defenseman Andrew Ference as “good and cleared to go,” meaning the blueliner will make his return to the lineup when the B’s host the Sabres on Thursday night. Ference has missed the team’s last three games with an upper-body injury. Adam McQuaid, who missed last Monday’s game against the Penguins, is out, with Julien adding that he still is less than 100 percent.

“It’s not a tough decision [to sit McQuaid] because in his case, he’s been playing banged up for the last couple of weeks,” Julien said. “I think the medical staff said it would probably be beneficial for him to take a bit of a break. I think he could certainly play through it if he had to.”

Tuukka Rask was the first goaltender off the ice in the morning skate, an indication that he will start in goal. In Rask’s last start against the Sabres, he allowed three goals in the first period an was replaced by Tim Thomas at the start of the second. The Bruins went on to lose the game, 7-6, in a shootout.

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Andrew Ference, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask

Bruins try to keep momentum going as they host Sabres

01.19.11 at 10:29 pm ET
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After sweeping a home-and-home with the Hurricanes on Monday and Tuesday, the Bruins will return to the Garden Thursday to face the Sabres for the fifth time this season. Thus far, they’€™ve gone 2-1-1 against the Sabres, with the most recent meeting resulting in a 7-6 shootout loss on Jan. 1.

That New Years Day game was a memorable one, as Tuukka Rask was yanked after three first-period goals, while Drew Stafford had a hat trick and scored one of the Sabres’€™ three shootout goals. Luckily for the Bruins, Stafford is not expected to play Thursday due to a groing injury.

WHERE IT’€™S AT

– The Bruins are 12-8-3 in home games this season. They’€™ve gone 3-2-0 at the Garden since the New Year, and have received a pair of Tim Thomas shutouts over their last four home games. Only one of the four meetings between the two teams this season has been at the Garden, with the B’€™s taking a 3-2 shootout win on Dec. 7.

– The Sabres are 9-9-4 on the road this season and have gone 2-1-1 away from HSBC Arena in 2011. In their most recent road contest, they took a 5-3 loss to the Islanders on Saturday.

NOTABLE NUMBERS

– Four different Bruins’€™ defenseman scored in the Jan. 1 game, as the B’€™s got first-period goals from Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara in the first, as well as third-period tally from Steven Kampfer. The defense wasn’€™t exactly overwhelming in their own end, as the B’€™s blew three different leads in the game.

- Ryan Miller has started 22 games dating back to Nov. 26. And people were worried about Thomas’€™ eight in a row last month’€¦

– The Bruins have the second-best goal differential in the Eastern Conference at plus-39. The Sabres have a minus-9 differential.

Mark Recchi has four multi-point games in the Bruins’€™ last 12. Linemate Patrice Bergeron has five multi-point games in that stretch.There’s no doubting that their line with Brad Marchand has been one of the most consistent of late.

Johnny Boychuk scored his first goal of the season Tuesday in Carolina. He was initially credited with the goal, a blast from the point, before credit was given to Marc Savard. A second change to call gave the goal to Boychuk for good.

STORYLINES GOING IN

– The Sabres are eight points out of a playoff spot, and have played less games than every team currently in line for a trip to the postseason. Given how they’€™ve fared against the B’€™s thus far and the fact that they’€™re coming off a win over the Canadiens, this is a big game for the Sabres. The Bruins have played 46 games to the Sabres’€™ 45, though the eighth-place Thrashers have played 48. Buffalo isn’€™t counting this season as a lost one, and even without Derek Roy, who had 35 points in 35 games before a left quadriceps tear ended his season in December.

– Ference was again kept out of Tuesday’€™s game, with Claude Julien saying he could have played in a pinch. Ultimately, both Kampfer and Adam McQuaid have filled in admirably for the B’€™s and the team doesn’€™t feel pressured to rush Ference back at the risk of the upper-body injury that’€™s ailed him. Ference has missed the last three games for the Bruins.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk, Mark Recchi, Patrice Bergeron

Mike Milbury on D&H: Problems loom for B’s if first line cannot improve

01.19.11 at 12:49 pm ET
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NESN and NBC Sports NHL analyst Mike Milbury made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday to talk about the Bruins. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Milbury said this is the best he’s seen Patrice Bergeron play. “[He’s] seeing the ice, quick to the puck, totally unafraid, does all the little things right, good on the draws, goes to the front of the net, sees the ice well ‘€” there’s nothing to not like about his game,” Milbury said.

The lack of production from the first line is a concern to Milbury. “[Nathan] Horton, [Marc] Savard and [Milan] Lucic have got to find a way to put points on the board,” he said. “They’ve been winning a whole bunch of games without a lot of support from those three guys. Listen, there’s no getting around, it’s their top line. And if your top line isn’t producing the way you expect it to, you’re going to run into problems sooner or later.

“The flip side of that is, because of the balance that they now have, they’re able to do it while the first line finds their rhythm.”

Of Horton, Milbury said. “He’s yet to get fully engaged in the game on a regular basis. By that I mean hustle to loose pucks, work really hard to get there. I’ve seen him fight and he can really go, so I know he’s not afraid. But the point is ‘€” and this is the common catchword ‘€” there’s got to be more urgency to his game. He’s got to want it more. He’s got to fight for loose pucks a little bit more. He’s got to be a little bit more reckless in his game. Until he gets that, his progress is going to be checked, in my opinion.”

Meanwhile, Milbury likes what he’s seeing from the fourth line. “The Bruins have as good a fourth line as there is in the game right now with [Brad] Marchand, [Gregory] Campbell and Shawn Thornton,” Milbury said. “[Campbell] plays hard every night. He’s a coach’s dream, because you know what you’re going to get shift after shift.”

As for Marchand, Milbury said: “He uses his assets, which are his feet, and a little bit of grit to get where he needs to go. ‘€¦ We talk about Horton and engaging and getting the most out of what you’ve got. Well, this kid is getting all of what he can give and then some.”

Looking at the Eastern Conference, Milbury said, “I still think Pittsburgh is the team to beat, and Philly second.”

As for the Bruins, “It’s still a team that I think has yet to hit its full stride,” Milbury said. “But things have changed now for the Bruins. [Tuukka] Rask is back in the picture, [Tim] Thomas is still playing incredibly well, the defense is starting to act like it can jump into the offense or produce when it comes to getting shots on goal, and you’ve got three lines, at least right now, that are playing I think well enough to win on most nights ‘€” and they are winning on most nights. If they can ever get that first line humming, they’ve got to be be a strong candidate to come out of the Eastern Conference.”

Read More: Brad Marchand, Gregory Campbell, Marc Savard, Mike Milbury

Tim Thomas helps Bruins past Hurricanes again

01.18.11 at 9:37 pm ET
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The Bruins beat the Hurricanes, 3-2, Tuesday night to grab their second win over Carolina in as many days.

Milan Lucic took a pass from Mark Recchi on the power play at 11:49 of the third period with the game tied at two and sent a wrist-shot past Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward to secure the game-winning goal. The Bruins also got goals from Johnny Boychuk and Brad Marchand in the first and third periods, respectively.

Tim Thomas made a season-high 43 saves as the Hurricanes put 45 shots on goal. Carolina got goals from Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu.

The Bruins went 2-for-5 on the power play while killing off four of their five penalties. They will return to the Garden to face the Sabres on Thursday.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

– Thomas carried the Bruins throughout the night, but the second period stood out for the Vezina favorite. The Hurricanes outshot the B’s, 19-9 in the second, and on the night, Thomas made a season-high 43 saves. Thirty-seven were made in the first two periods.

– After initially being credited, having the goal taken away, and being credited once again, Boychuk finally has his first goal of the season in his 36th game. Boychuk had five in 51 games for the B’s last season.

– Lucic scored his first goal in the last 13 games when he put the B’s up, 3-2, on the power play. He continues to lead the Bruins with 17 goals.

– The members of the Wheeler-Campbell-Thornton were strong for the B’s, as Wheeler drew an elbowing penalty from Tuomo Ruutu and the line’s pressure late in the second period forced the Hurricanes to flip it over the glass in their own zone for a delay of game penalty.

– The Bruins weren’t handed too many opportunities in the second period, so they took advantage when handed one in the third. Following an icing by the Hurricanes, Mark Recchi won the face-off and Zdeno Chara threw a shot on Ward from the point, with Marchand scoring on the rebound.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

– Despite Marchand scoring and drawing a gift penalty from Eric Staal, he had a regrettable hooking penalty in the first period. With the B’s leading, 1-0, Marchand whiffed on a puck from right around the hashmarks, and as the play went the other way, he hooked Ian White to put the Hurricanes on the man advantage. It was on his power play that Jokinen tied it up at one.

Nathan Horton still has just one goal over his last 16 games, as he was robbed in the second period when Ward picked his wrist-shot from the slot.

Horton, who has struggled to consistently get pucks on net, tied for the Bruins’ lead with four shots on goal on Tuesday. He had just one on Monday.

Read More: Brad Marchand, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton

Tim Thomas handles increased workload in second period

01.18.11 at 8:42 pm ET
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The Hurricanes came to life late in the first period, and they didn’t slow down in the second, firing 19 shots on Tim Thomas in the period. Through two periods, they have 38 shots on goal, but they haven’t been able to break the 1-1 tie.

The most shots on goal for a Bruins opponent in a game this season is 46, which the Penguins had on Nov. 10. Thomas made 42 saves in that contest, a 7-4 Bruins victory.

The Bruins began the period shorthanded because of a Thomas roughing penalty at the end of the first, and penalties on Nathan Horton and Johnny Boychuk had the Bruins down a man three times in the period (5:12).

The Hurricanes also took a pair of penalties, and the Bruins are 1-for-4 on the man advantage entering the third.

Bruins and Hurricanes tied after one

01.18.11 at 7:51 pm ET
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The Bruins and Hurricanes find themselves knotted at one after Marc Savard and Jussi Jokinen scored in the first period Monday night at RBC Center.

Though Jokinen did the damage against the B’s, he also helped their case when he tripped Zdeno Chara just 17 seconds into the game to set up Boston’s first power play.

Johnny Boychuk thought he had his first goal of the season when, with Jokinen in the box, Boychuk sent a shot from the point past Cam Ward. The goal was later changed to Savard’s, who appeared to have tipped it.

With less than 20 seconds left in a hooking penalty to Brad Marchand, Blake Wheeler tried skating the puck out of the zone but had it stolen near the blueline. That cost the Bruins after Jokinen sent a rebound off an Eric Staal shot past Tim Thomas.

Each team took two penalties in the period, with the Bruins potentially taking a third, as it appeared Thomas was called for roughing at the end of the period. They’ll begin the second period down a man.

The B’s are being outshot, 19-11. Thomas looked good ast the Hurricanes picked it up in the second half of the period, and over the course of the first made a couple of big kick saves on Sergei Samsonov and Erik Cole.

Read More: Brad Marchand, Johnny Boychuk, Jussi Jokinen, Marc Savard

Another impressive bit about Zdeno Chara’s hat trick

01.18.11 at 5:05 pm ET
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Here’s one more thing about Zdeno Chara‘s hat trick (hey, how often is Zdeno Chara going to score three in a game? Not often, so if a lot of attention is paid now, trust it won’t be a popular topic too frequently) that stood out as the WEEI.com Stat Truck was circling the Bruins/Hurricanes block.

Chara was able to score his three goals despite seeing much less ice time than he’s used to. He was only on the ice for 20:45 in the game, making it his second-lowest time on ice total this season. His season-low came last Tuesday, when he played only 16:12 against the Senators in a 6-0 win.

On the season, the captain has averaged 26:18 of ice time per night, though he has played as much as 31:48, which he did when Johnny Boychuk went down on Oct. 23 in a 3-2 loss to the Rangers. It’s not too shocking that he got much less time on the ice Monday, as the numbers would suggest the team likes to give their minute-eating captain a little less time in blowouts or against some of the lesser teams. He’s averaged 21:27 in three games against the Senators, 24:33 against the Devils, and 24:48 against the Panthers.

Read More: Zdeno Chara,
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