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Bruins at Sabres preview

12.15.10 at 12:14 am ET
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The Bruins will take on the Sabres for the third time this season as the two teams face off in Buffalo on Wednesday night. The Bruins have points in their last six games (4-0-2) and have taken both of their meetings with the Sabres. Their most recent win over Buffalo came last Tuesday when Mark Recchi tipped a Dennis Seidenberg shot past Ryan Miller to give the B’s a 3-2 win in overtime.

Tuukka Rask was first off the ice for the Bruins, an indication he’ll be between the pipes come game time.

WHERE IT’S AT

– The Sabres are a sub-.500 hockey team (12-14-4) because of their struggles at home. Nine of their 14 losses this season have come in Buffalo, as they’ve posted a 6-9-1 record at HSBC Arena. They are 3-3-0 in their last six home games.

– The Bruins remain a more dangerous team when playing away from TD Garden. They’ve posted a 9-3-1 road record. They took a shootout loss to the Maple Leafs in their last road game.

NOTABLE NUMBERS

– Fighting majors aside, the Bruins have been avoiding the penalty box as of late. They had just one penalty in both Saturday’s game and last Tuesday’s Buffalo game, both of which contests went into overtime. The B’s are 15th in the league in penalty minutes per game (12.9), though that is helped by their 26 majors, a number that puts them fifth in the league despite tying seven teams for playing the least amount of games.

Milan Lucic is on pace for 44 goals. Does anybody truly see him as a 40-goal-scorer? Variables such as empty netters and a couple softies have been on his side thus far, so while he may eventually slow down, he still figures the finish the season as the team’s top goal-scorer if he remains healthy.

David Krejci has three points (all assists) against the Sabres this year. He’s only had three points against one other club, and he knocked that out in one game when he scored two goals and tallied an assist in the team’s 8-1 win over the Lightning. Krejci is also on a three-game point steak that began with his two assists last Saturday against the Sabres.

Marc Savard and Tyler Seguin have combined for just two points — an assist apiece — since Savard made his return to the lineup on Dec. 2. One would have to assume the two will get going and that Seguin will eventually be big asset for Savard, but it simply hasn’t happened yet.

Savard’s ice time has generally been anywhere from 13:15 to 16:26, and he’s averaged 15:01 per night.

– Here’s a totally useless and hardly telling stat from the good ol’ WEEI.com stat truck: The Bruins have won the first game of a three-in-four stretch every time this year. In those games, they’ve grabbed wins in Buffalo (5-2 on Nov. 3), Pittsburgh (7-4 on Nov. 10), New York (3-2 over the Rangers on Nov. 17), and Philadelphia (3-0 on Dec. 1).

STORYLINES GOING IN

Tim Thomas has started and won both of the team’s games against the Sabres thus far. It’s quite remarkable that Tuukka Rask is on pace for just 26 starts this season, but he’ll get his first crack at the Sabres Wednesday.

– Miller was dealing with a groin injury when the Bruins beat up on Jhonas Enroth and Patrick Lalime on Nov. 3, but he manned the pipes last Tuesday vs. the B’s. It wasn’t his best showing, as he allowed a bit of a softie to Lucic — letting a shot from a tough angle just sneak between his leg and the left post.

Miller is coming off a rough loss to the Penguins on Saturday. He allowed four goals on just 23 shots.

– It is up in the air whether the B’s will dress Tyler Seguin or Daniel Paille. Seguin didn’t play Saturday with what the team called flu-like symptoms, and Paille played well. Claude Julien told reporters that it would be a game-time decision.

- Adam McQuaid, who could have been badly injured on Jody Shelley‘s cheap shot Saturday, is also fine. Both players practiced Tuesday.

Read More: Marc Savard, Milan Lucic, Tim Thomas,

Marco Sturm passes physical with Kings

12.14.10 at 5:40 pm ET
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Peter Chiarelli released a statement Tuesday saying Marco Sturm has passed his physical with the Kings, making his trade from the Bruins official. Rich Hammond was the first to report the physical being completed.

The Bruins announced on Saturday that they had sent Sturm to Los Angeles in exchange for nothing. Trading Sturm, who is coming off a torn ACL and MCL, allowed the Bruins to avoid a messy salary cap situation that would have been encontered with his activation. Sturm, a free agent at season’s end, has a $3.5 million salary cap hit.

With the trade, the Bruins are $288,793 under the cap, according to capgeek.com.

Read More: Marco Sturm,

Claude Julien doesn’t think players will get too comfortable now that cap is sorted

12.14.10 at 2:57 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Bruins players can rest easy now that the team has trade Marco Sturm to the Kings. With the deal, which they made on Saturday, the team could go the rest of the season with it’s current squad and not have to worry about the salary cap, as they’re a little less than $300,000 under the cap.

Rumors swirled throughout the beginning of the season regarding the likes of Matt Hunwick, Michael Ryder, and Blake Wheeler. Of the three, only Hunwick was dealt, and the rest of the team can now breathe easy. Still, Claude Julien doesn’t see it as reason for complacency.

“I think for a player, it certainly has to give them a little bit of relief as far as saying ‘all these question marks have been answered,”’ Julien said Tuesday. “At the same time, I think players have to realize that just because we’re there now, that doesn’t mean we’re going to stay there if we don’t get the results we want.

“You’re always fighting for a spot in the lineup, you’re always fighting to keep your job, and you’re always fighting to stay on the team. I think that part should stay the same time, what’s been lingering over their heads now has more or less been taken care of.”

MCQUAID FEELING IT A BIT, PRACTICES

Julien seemed to suppress any opinions when commenting on the league’s decision to suspend Flyers forward Jody Shelley for two games. The league made the decision on Monday, and Shelley will lose nearly $12,000 in salary over the two contests.

“They obviously took it seriously enough to suspend him, and you’ve got to respect that,” Julien said.

The B’s coach was glad to have Adam McQuaid, the recipient of the suspension-inducing shove from behind Saturday, on the ice with the team as they skated Tuesday. McQuaid said on Monday that he was still sore, but his coach noted that he wasn’t limited in practice after simply having the wind out of him Saturday.

“He’s still a litte stiff, but not stiff enough to keep him out of the lineup or keep him out of practice,” Julien said. “I think he still feels the effect of that hit, but he’s a tough individual. He’s battling through it to the point where I don’t think it’s going to be a factor as far as affecting his game.”

POWER PLAY FOR KAMPFER?

If Steven Kampfer ends up seeing time on the power play, as he did on Tuesday, you can bet he’ll be in for even more comparisons for former Michigan teammate Matt Hunwick.

Kampfer has essentially stepped in to replace the skill-set of Hunwick since last week’s injury to Mark Stuart. He’s been compared to the now-Avalanche defenseman quite a bit, but he’s had a hardly robust six seconds on the power play in his two games since being called up.

The 22-year-old was told by the Bruins to watch film on Hunwick and study the types of things he does. Kampfer says he is flattered by the comparisons but feels that he is not yet the skater Hunwick is. He remains the Bruins’ best puck-moving option.

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Claude Julien,

Bruins hope days off pay off

12.14.10 at 2:15 pm ET
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The Bruins had a rare two-day break from the ice after Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Flyers. The players’ time was their own on Sunday, while they spent Monday at Target in Woburn Christmas shopping for children who have to spend the holidays in the hospital.

On Tuesday, they returned to Ristuccia Arena, working on the power play and practicing for over an hour.

“The two days [off] is definitely nice,” Nathan Horton said. “I think we’re overall rejuvenated, and everybody’s ready to go. Everyone was excited to get back after two days. It’s been a while, and it’s nice to have a couple of days off.”

The B’s were preparing for their upcoming stretch of three games in four days beginning on Wednesday in Buffalo. After their bout with the Sabres, they’ll travel to Montreal to face the Canadiens on Thursday before returning home against the Capitals on Saturday.

Given how heavy the schedule has been, Claude Julien saw Sunday and Monday as a good opportunity to let the B’s rest up and let any aches players may be feeling work themselves out.

“I think so,” Julien said when asked if the time off was necessary. “It’s been a pretty heavy schedule for a lot of teams around the league. It’s an opportunity for us to keep them off the ice here for a little bit.”

With the return to the ice, Julien liked what he saw out of his guys. The break, which he hoped would allow them to “clear their heads a little bit and get ready for a big week,” seemingly paid off with a good practice.

“I think they looked like they had lots of energy,” Julien said. “Sometimes a couple of days off it good for you. When you say a couple of days off, I don’t think they really had days off. They were busy doing other things. It’s one of the few times that we’re able to help them out in a way where they can get their rest and get away from practice.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Nathan Horton,

Bruins return to practice

12.14.10 at 11:25 am ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins took the ice at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday after two days off. The team had an off-day following Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Flyers in overtime and spent Monday picking out gifts for local hospitalized children.

Everyone was accounted for as the B’s took the ice, and it’s their first skate since trading Marco Sturm. The team worked on the power play before practice. Here’s how the color-coded lines looked:

Lucic – Krejci – Horton

Wheeler – Bergeron – Recchi

Seguin – Savard – Ryder – Paille

Marchand – Campbell – Thornton

Hilarious Belfast Giants Christmas video

12.14.10 at 9:52 am ET
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Forget cultural differences, as the Belfast Giants, the Bruins’ opponent in one of their preseason games in Europe, have proven that it’s difficult for anyone to remain seated during Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

The video features some killer choreography and some Hockey East faces.

Bruins use Monday to knock off Christmas shopping

12.14.10 at 9:38 am ET
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WOBURN — Christmas shopping is crazy enough, but it’s a little crazier when professional athletes are doing the same, easily identifiable by their jerseys and Santa Clause hats.

That was the scene at Woburn’s Target store on Monday as the B’s did their annual Holiday Toy Shopping to pick up presents for local hospitalized children.

“It’s always nice, especially when you know it’s going to kids that won’t have a chance to be home for Christmas,” captain Zdeno Chara said. “At least this way, we want t make it really easy and comfortable for them. Hopefully they’re going to enjoy it.”

This was no case of grabbing the first things you can find and calling it a day. Players were given checklists, shopping carts and Target employees as they went through the store. Nathan Horton, a father who admittedly is learned on the popular gifts, had no trouble filling shopping carts with toys and even iPods.

It wasn’t long ago that 18-year-old Tyler Seguin was getting giddy over Christmas presents. The youngest player on the team, Seguin said he enjoyed Power Rangers toys as a child. As he picked presents on Tuesday, he was careful and deliberate in taking a good look at each gift before tossing it in the cart.

“This is a lot of fun,” Seguin said as he inspected the toys. “Any time you get to give back to the community and fans, it’s always a nice feeling. I get to tell my family all the good stuff and good causes we’re supporting.”

The B’s have been picking up presents for hospitalized children since the days of Ray Bourque. After Bourque was sent Colorado, Concord-born Hal Gill took over the operation, with P.J. Axelsson succeeding Gill. Patrice Bergeron, the longest-tenured current Bruins player, runs the show now.

“I liked doing it when Hal was here, and then P.J. took care of it,” Bergeron said Monday. “Once they left, I told [Director of Community Relations] Kerry [Collins] I wanted to take over because it’s something that I like and I think it’s something that the kids enjoy. It’s something that’s very important for the community.”

The next step of the process is actually delivering the gifts, which players noted is the best part.

“Today, it’s fun. You’re throwing a bunch of toys and stuff in the cart, but the big thing is when we drop them off at the hospitals,” Mark Stuart said. “It’s good to actually meet the kids and actually know where it’s going. That’s important with any charity.”

Read More: Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara,
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