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X-Factors: Marco Sturm

08.27.10 at 4:17 am ET
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What can the Bruins out of Sturm when he returns? (AP)

What can the Bruins expect out of Sturm when he returns? (AP)

Each day this week, WEEI.com will be putting a player or position in the spotlight based on their “X-factor” status entering the season. So far, we’ve taken a look at Michael Ryder, Blake Wheeler, Nathan Horton, and the goaltending position. Rounding out the group is Marco Sturm, who may be the biggest case of them all given the uncertainty that surrounds both his eventual return from injury and what type of impact he can have.

Things have been a bit strange when it comes to Marco Sturm this offseason. He’s been celebrated by fans, but not for anything he’ll do on the ice. Instead, Bruins die-hards cheer up during salary cap discussions when they realize that the winger will save the team $3.5 million in cap space to begin the season thanks to his long-term injury status.

Sturm has now had season-ending major knee injuries in each of the past two seasons. In 2008, he tore the ACL in his left knee and was shut down after just 19 games. Last season, of course, he tore both the ACL and MCL in his right knee in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers. Injuries have become a big part of the discussion with Sturm, but if the Bruins can get him back(and that’s a big “if”) they could have themselves an offensive sleeper for the 2010-11 season.

The team doesn’t expect to have Sturm ready to go until late November, but with such an injury, nothing can be counted on no matter how “successful” the surgery could have went. The thing is, with the big additions to the offense in Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin, the Bruins will have a chance in the time Sturm’s away to see how this new offense will gel. Plus, they’ll be able to go over the cap by however much he earns. This is awfully convenient for the Bruins, who just happen to be over $3 million over the cap before subtracting Sturm’s $3.5 million. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Marco Sturm, xfactors,

X-Factors: Nathan Horton

08.26.10 at 12:29 am ET
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Horton is glad to be in Boston, where his numbers and chance at a Cup should go way up (John Vu photo)

Horton is glad to be in Boston, where his numbers and chance at a Cup should go way up (John Vu photo)

Each day this week, WEEI.com will be putting a player or position in the spotlight based on their “X-factor” status entering the season. So far, we’ve taken a look at Michael Ryder, Blake Wheeler, and the goaltending position. Up next is Nathan Horton, who is undoubtedly primed for a big season, but is there a point at which placing huge expectations on a top player can become detrimental?

The definition of “X-factor” could be called into question here given that Horton is expected to be a first-line winger and potentially the team’s top scorer. That certainly doesn’t sound like a qualifying case for this series, but the truth is that there are so many variables that come into play with Horton that it would be unwise to take anything as being a given. After all, huge expectations that were outside what Horton could do in the Panthers’ offense were what plagued his career in Florida.

For starters, it seemed quite clear when Horton first came to Boston that this is the environment in which he wanted to be. In fact, he appeared rather nervous when he was introduced alongside Tyler Seguin. So why is this good? Because Horton has appeared throughout his young career (he’s still 25) that he is ready to explode in the right situation. It seems he has that here with the Bruins, and it’s apparent that he’s excited to finally have the chance.

If Horton blossoms into the 40-goal scorer that many think he will become when placed to the right of Marc Savard, he will actually double his goals from last season. Whether or not such a feat is actually attainable remains to be seen, but playing on a team with what he called “stability” that the Panthers lacked could go a long way. A long way, yes, but far enough to make him one of the top scorers in the league?

The Bruins haven’t had a player rack up 40 goals in a season since the 2002-03 campaign, when Glen Murray finished fifth in the league with 44 (Joe Thornton wasn’t far behind with 36). How Horton gels with Savard will go a long way in determining whether he’s the next (it’s hard not to imagine Seguin getting to there within a few seasons) to do so. Horton’s spent his career with either with centers below Savard’s skillet or playing the position himself. Finally having someone who can set him up and also needs to be accounted for means big things should be in store, and that maybe those projections aren’t too crazy. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Nathan Horton, xfactors,

Report: Fehr to become head of NHLPA

08.25.10 at 7:18 pm ET
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According to a report from Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal, former MLBPA executive Donald Fehr is set to take on the same role with the NHL player’s association.

Fehr had served the NHLPA as an advisor last year after leaving the MLBPA following 13 years as its director. The 62-year-old is known for once netting players $280 million due to owners’ collusion and for leading the players association during the baseball strike of 1994-95.

Though the report has not been confirmed by Fehr or the NHLPA, Mullen writes that other people in contention for the job have been notified that the search is done.

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Providence Bruins schedule released

08.25.10 at 4:40 pm ET
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On the same day that the NHL released its television schedule, the AHL released its regular season schedule, meaning anyone with an interest in seeing some of the Bruins top prospects not named Tyler Seguin should get out their calendars.

The team opens up the season at home, where they will take on the Springfield Falcons, the minor league team of the Columbus Blue Jackets (and formerly of the Pheonix Coyotes — thanks to reader “Malt”). The two will square off at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Friday, October 8. Checking out the farm could be a great way to kick off the season for fans who won’t be in Prague the next day for the big club’s opener.

To see the rest of the schedule, click here.

Read More: Joe Colborne, Jordan Caron, Tyler Seguin,

TV schedule released, very little NBC for B’s

08.25.10 at 4:12 pm ET
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It looks like anyone who fancies watching Sunday hockey on NBC will have to stick to the Rangers. The NHL has released its television schedule for the coming season and the hometown team isn’t exactly well-represented by the network. Here’s where you can find the Bruins in 2010-11 when they’re not on NESN.

VS. (all teams EST)

October 9 vs. Phoenix (Prague, Czech Republic), 6:00 p.m.
October 19 at Washington, 7:30 p.m.
November 17 at New York Rangers, 7:00 p.m.
November 22 at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m.
December 7 vs. Buffalo, 7:30 p.m.
December 20 vs. Anaheim, 7:30 p.m.
December 28 at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m.
January 10 at Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m.
February 9, vs. Montreal, 7:00 p.m.
March 29 vs. Chicago, 7:30 p.m.
April 4 at New York Rangers, 7:30 p.m.

The following two games are NBC “flex” games that the network will have the option of airing:

February 13 at Detroit, TBD
April 10 at New Jersey, TBD

Read More: Marc Savard, Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin,

X-factors: Blake Wheeler

08.25.10 at 6:00 am ET
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Blake Wheeler has gotten attention for all the wrong reasons. (AP)

Blake Wheeler has gotten attention for all the wrong reasons. (AP)

Each day this week, WEEI.com will be putting a player or position in the spotlight based on their “X-factor” status entering the season. So far, we’ve taken a look at Michael Ryder, as well as the goaltending position. Up next is a man who — fairly or unfairly — might have to win some fans back in winger Blake Wheeler following a streaky and up-and-down season.

Something’s being written about Blake Wheeler? This offseason? We know — given his arbitration case, Wheeler may have been the most blogged about Bruin this side of Tyler Seguin, so this one will stay away from the usual stuff. Unlike what seemed to be minute-by-minute updates of the whole arbitration process in Toronto last month, this will be more of a look at how Wheeler can be one of the offense’s top contributors or one of its bigger disappointments. For that reason, it’s impossible to keep Wheeler out of this series.

Wheeler is a similar case to Ryder in that he’s a winger who at times both underachieved and infuriated fans throughout the 2009-10 season. Unlike Ryder, Wheeler is not set to hit free agency following the coming season, but he is playing for a contract in that he’ll be restricted at the end of the season. The motivation is there for Wheeler to put up big numbers, but he seems motivated enough as he prepares for his third NHL season.

Wheeler’s value is as a scorer undoubtedly, but his lack of physicality left people with something to be desired. Factor in that he didn’t crack 20 goals (he chipped in 18) and the naysayers didn’t have much difficulty making an argument against a timid winger who had scoreless stretches of 15, 12, and nine games.

So will this be Wheeler’s breakout season? He’ll be 24 when the season starts and he’s armed with a 6-foot-5 frame that, if filled out and utilized, could serve as an advantage. Based on his offseason evaluations of himself, Wheeler doesn’t expect to warrant any complaints about toughness again.

“I think for me it’s all about — especially on the forecheck — being more physical, more of a presence. I think I’ve gotten so focused on the offensive production and the numbers side of things, especially last year, where I think there’s definitely more ways to be a contributing factor out on the ice,” Wheeler said shortly after inking his deal. “It’s just all about understanding your areas of strengths and your areas of weakness. I think if I can just assert myself more physically, especially on the forecheck and things of that nature, it’s going to create a lot more opportunities for myself and the guys I’m playing with to get more offensive opportunities. Sometimes it’s about less is more, and when you kind of take a step back from things, it’s a little bit easier to notice where you may be able to improve on things.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Blake Wheeler, xfactors,

Ward retires

08.24.10 at 11:51 am ET
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Former Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward has announced his retirement from the league after spending the last season of his 13-year career between the Carolina Hurricanes and Anaheim Ducks. He won three Stanley Cups in his career.

Ward joined the Bruins in a February 2007 trade with the Rangers that sent Belmont native Paul Mara to New York. Ward played 20 games with the Bruins that season and spent the next two in Boston, totaling 26 points with the team. He was traded to the Hurricanes last offseason in exchange for Patrick Eaves and a fourth-round draft pick.

While in Boston, Ward also created his “Cuts for a Cause” charity event with what was at the time WBCN 104.1 FM. In its two year history, which began in 2008, the Bruins had seven and 13 players shave their heads, respectively, to benefit the MassGeneral Hospital for Children.

Read More: Aaron Ward,
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