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Cultural differences Part 3: Weird Gatorade

10.01.10 at 8:28 pm ET
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BELFAST — I ventured into the Belfast Giants‘ locker room Friday to chat with Brett Hemingway, a forward for the Giants. I had gone to college with Hemingway but had never met him, so having the city of Belfast described in terms relative to Durham, N.H. was something this scribe could get on board with. The conversation revolved mainly around hockey and Jose Bautista (Hemingway is a Blue Jays fan), but one thing I had to bring up was what the guy next to him was drinking.

I had noticed this weird Sunny Delight-looking stuff that some of the Bruins were drinking when they were on the ice and later saw it in the team’s refrigerator next to Zdeno Chara‘s locker. Hemingway said it’s a drink called Lucozade, which is “like Gatorade here.” He did point out that though there is Powerade, Vitamin Water, and other American beverages in Northern Ireland, he had never spotted Lucozade. Not sure it’s worth trying. Still kind of looks like weird Sunny Delight.

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Source on Chara deal before season: ‘Not sure it is possible’

10.01.10 at 7:02 pm ET
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BELFAST — Zdeno Chara expressed on Friday his desire to stay with the Bruins beyond this season, the final one of his contract. Though Chara has said throughout the process that he would like to have a contract extension wrapped up before the regular season begins, a source familiar with the negotiations has told WEEI.com that though they are “shooting for” finishing a deal before the Oct. 9 opener against the Coyotes in Prague, they are “not sure it is possible.”

Chara is planning on playing until he is 45, something he feels he can do based on his tireless commitment to his fitness. It is unlikely that this deal will be his last, given the scrutiny placed by the league on deals that go past a player’s 40th birthday and that such a pact would be an 11-year deal. Chara understands that it might take more than one contract to get him through the rest of his career, but is hopeful that any progress made since an offseason “pause” in negotiations can eventually lead to another pact.

Chara is entering the fifth year of a five-year, $37.5 million deal signed in 2006 after beginning his career with the Islanders and Senators. He has served as captain for his entire Bruins career. In 847 career games in the NHL, the Slovakian defenseman has scored 111 goals and picked up 252 assists 363 points.

Read More: European Trip, Zdeno Chara,

Cultural differences: Part 2

10.01.10 at 5:08 pm ET
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BELFAST — Yield =

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The Bruins had better be careful…

10.01.10 at 11:46 am ET
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BELFAST — …Because if they get clever on Saturday night, they may get a reminder that they’re squaring off with the 2009 Knock-Out Cup champions. So yeah, there’s that.

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Top line feels it’s still a work in progress

10.01.10 at 11:30 am ET
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BELFAST — The offensive lines, for all intents and purposes, seem to be just about set for when the Bruins begin the season next weekend against the Coyotes. Assuming nothing changes, the top line will be David Krejci between Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, the second will feature Patrice Bergeron in the middle of Mark Recchi and Jordan Caron, Tyler Seguin will likely be in the middle of Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler on the third line, and Gregory Campbell will center Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton, with Brian McGrattan likely the 13th forward.

Time is running out for these lines to hit their stride and for players to get comfortable with one another. In Seguin’s case, he’s still picking up the little things needed to round out his game in his own end, plus there’s the adjustment to a couple of new linemates in a new league.

Considering that each of the team’s four lines has a newcomer on it, the line that has impressed most thus far in training camp has been that top line of Krejci, Lucic, and Horton. The former Panther in Horton has picked up a pair of goals so far in the preseason, and Krejci seems ready to shine as a No. 1 center. Factor in Lucic’s aspirations to score at least 20 goals this season without losing his physical mentality, and the makings seem to be there for something special. Even with the promise shown, nobody is satisfied yet.

“I don’t think we click together very well yet,” Krejci said Friday. “I think we’ve had some good shifts, some good chemistry on some shifts, but I don’t think we’ve brought it every shift. I believe that there is something and we’re going to try to find it in each shift when we go out there.”

Horton agreed. Though Seguin and Caron might not have gigantic expectations because of their age, Horton, 25, is expected to put up career numbers in his first season in Boston.

“I think we’re getting better,” Horton said. “Obviously, we need to get better, but we’re just trying to work on things, getting used to each other’s games. It will come, I think. We’ve got two more games to get ready for the regular season.”

Asked if players can get by on talent alone in the preseason before having to show more cohesion with linemates when it counts, Krecji didn’t feel the difference between an exhibition and a regular season game was substantial enough.

“It’s not really much different than the [regular season] games,” Krejci said. “Everybody works so hard, does the same things, but you’ve got to know how to use experience and buy some time. That’s what happened when Horton scored that goal against Florida at home, so little things like that could help, and hopefully that’s going to help us tomorrow and the first exhibition game in Czech. Then, hopefully we can carry it into regular season games.”

Read More: David Krejci, European Trip, Nathan Horton,

Wide ice an overseas obstacle

10.01.10 at 10:04 am ET
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BELFAST — Sprints from side to side along the blue lines and center ice at the Odyssey Arena appears to be a bit more of a tiring affair than usual for the Bruins, and it’s not because of jet lag. Because the Bruins are playing in Europe, they will have to get used to European ice, which is wider and thus makes for a more offensive game.

“You have to really adjust your defensive game,” captain Zdeno Chara said Friday. “You know that the opponent has way more ice to take. You can’t be running out of your position. You’ve got to play more as far as dots on the ice. You can’t get too carries away running to the boards.

“There’s probably an extra 10 feet on each side, so there’s going to be way more room for forwards. As a defenseman, you still have to play that structure and tight defensively.”

Though the defensemen have to be much more careful to prevent a high-scoring game, David Krejci and the forwards have enjoyed how spacious playing in the offensive zone is.

“There’s so much room,” Krejci said. “We did some drills today in the corners. Back in Boston, it’s so tight, you don’t have much room. Here, you’ve got so much room and a little more time, too. It’s going to take a little more time to get used to, so you don’t have to move [the puck] too quick. You can hold it a little bit longer — not too long — but a little longer and make some smarter plays.”

As for getting used to new ice, a new time zone, and not falling apart in the process, Nathan Horton doesn’t think the team has lost any steam since arriving at around 10:30 a.m. local time (5:30 a.m. EST).

“I think everyone felt better today,” Horton, who slept for two hours on the plane but joked that “you can’t doze off” when films such as The A-Team and the Jaden Smith remake of The Karate Kid were being shown. “I think it was a better practice overall, and I think we’re getting better every day.”

Read More: David Krejci, European Trip, Zdeno Chara,

Apple doesn’t fall far from tree for Thornton

10.01.10 at 9:32 am ET
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BELFAST — Shawn Thornton has a reputation on the ice as a guy who is in his element when his hands are bare. In the locker room, he’s got a reputation as the nicest guy you’d meet, and with such a sense of humor that taking his words literally could confuse the common man (an Irish cameraman almost tried placating him Thursday when he sarcastically complimented him on having the brightest lights ever).

In spending some time with Thornton’s mother, Christine, who is visiting Belfast for the first time since she was four years old, it’s quite clear where he gets his sense of humor from. In fact, she said time and time again Friday while watching the Bruins practice at Odyssey Arena that, “now you see where he gets his sense of humor from.”

There were quite a few members of the Mills (Christine’s maiden name) in attendance on Friday, with Thornton’s mother often standing up to take a picture of her son and jokingly venting frustration over Thornton’s not looking at the camera. Here’s a snapshot of the family members in attendance (Christine is second in from the left). To clear up any confusion that may be caused by the picture, Thornton is not related to any NESN or Boston Herald employees.

Read More: European Trip, Shawn Thornton,
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