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Bruins won’t let Henrik Zetterberg distract them from Pavel Datsyuk

04.24.14 at 2:02 pm ET
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DETROIT — Mike Babcock used the expression “Who knows?” when talking about whether game-time decision Henrik Zetterberg will play in Game 4 against the Bruins.

Claude Julien thinks he knows.

“In my mind, he’s going to be there tonight,” Julien said.

Zetterberg has not played an NHL game since Feb. 8 and had back surgery on Feb. 21 after playing one Olympic game. He skated on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader in Thursday’s morning skate, suggesting he will be in the lineup and play on Detroit’s top line. Babcock did note that he must first be cleared by a doctor.

Babcock matched Datsyuk’s line against David Krejci‘s in Game 3. If he does that again Thursday, it will be interesting for a couple of reasons. For starters, it could potentially make that top line a handful for Krejci’s trio. Having Datsyuk play against a line not centered by Patrice Bergeron is one thing, but Datsyuk and Zetterberg together is a different animal.

For Krejci, his focus won’t change if Zetterberg’s in the lineup. As he sees it, there is one man that absolutely has to be accounted for, and that’s Datsyuk.

“You know what? [Zetterberg] is a good player, but Datsyuk is Datsyuk and we still have to be aware of Datsyuk any time he’s on the ice,” Krejci said.

The Bruins have held Datsuk to one goal on four shots on goal in the first three games of the series. In total, Detroit has scored just two goals through three games.

With Zetterberg skating alongside Datsyuk, Krejci would welcome the challenge of facing such a line. Krejci has led two of the last three postseasons in scoring, but has no points thus far as he has been tasked with keeping Detroit’s offense quiet, especially in Game 3. That’s different from some other series, but it’s working out for Boston.

“It’s kind of fun,” Krejci said. “For most of the year, you’re facing lines that are trying to shut you down and you’re fighting through it. This time, it’s a little bit different. We’re trying to shut their line down. It’s kind of fun. It’s a little bit challenging at times, but I’ve been having lots of fun this series so far.”

If Datsyuk’s line with Zetterberg does play against Krejci’s line, it also means that a player returning from a back injury will have to take regular shifts against Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla — two very physical players — in his first game back.

Asked whether he thought Zetterberg would be up to that physical challenge, Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith laughed.

“Are you serious? Like yeah, obviously I think he can,” Smith said. “I mean, the harder the competition, the better Z is. You look at series before where you have [Ryan] Getzlaf and [Corey] Perry, who are big boys. He just came in and stepped in really well there and then he had to go against [Marian] Hossa and [Jonathan] Toews and just kind of toyed with them.

“He’s an unbelievable player. He’s a top-notch player. Yeah, any first line on any team is going to be tough to come in for your first game, but that’s the type of player he is. He’s a competitor.”

Regardless of which line plays against Datsyuk and Zetterberg, you can bet Zdeno Chara will be on the ice against them. Zetterberg scored two five-on-five goals this season when both Chara and Bergeron were on the ice, which is fairly unheard of.

“They’re very dangerous,” Chara said of Datsyuk and Zetterberg being teamed together. “They play really well together. They know about each other pretty well, even without looking at each other, they know every time where they’re at. It’s a really good line with them being together.”

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Absolutely no surprise: Patrice Bergeron a finalist for Selke

04.24.14 at 1:02 pm ET
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DETROIT — To the surprise of no one, Patrice Bergeron finished in the top three in Selke voting for the trophy annually awarded to the league’s best defensive forward.

The other nominees were Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews; Bergeron will in all likelihood win, with Kopitar likely finishing second and Toews coming in third.

Bergeron won his first Selke in the 2011-12 season and just barely lost to Toews last season. With a 30-goal season, the most faceoff wins and first- and second-place finishes in Corsi and CorsiRel, respectively, this regular season, Bergeron appears to be in line for his second Selke.

“€œI’€™ve always been taught to play the game that way –€“ both sides of the ice,”€ Bergeron said Thursday. “Growing up playing junior my coach put a lot of emphasis on that, and I tried to work on my faceoffs as well.

“I came into the league and guys like Ted Donato and other older guys that were taking a lot of pride in that aspect of the game helped me through it. Obviously, with the coaching staff here now, that’€™s something we put a lot of work on and I’€™m trying to get better at it.”

Zdeno Chara is the main reason as to why the Bruins are such a great defensive team, but its forwards — most notably Bergeron, who plays against other teams’ top lines — is why Boston regularly finishes with one of the league’s top goal-differentials.

“I think there’s no [surprise] about the nomination,” Chara said of Bergeron. “Even before it was announced, a lot of people knew that he would be one of the finalists. [It’s] well-deserved; he works really hard on both ends of the ice. He does so many things offensively, defensively that it’s nice that he’s recognized again. I’m sure he’s probably going to be one of the favorites to win it.”

Bergeron’s 30-goal season was the second of his career, as he scored 31 in the 2005-06 season. Given that he never cheats offensively or risks a potential odd-man rush for the sake of a scoring opportunity, the consensus is that he could score much more if he didn’t play such a responsible game.

Yet throughout his career, Bergeron has never cared to find out just what would happen if he sacrificed two-way play for scoring. That sense of responsibility is why he wears an “A” on his sweater and why the Bruins pay him handsomely. Next year, Bergeron will begin an eight-year, $52 million contract that makes him the team’s highest-paid forward.

“That’€™s the way I want to play the game,” Bergeron said. “It does feel natural for me to play both sides of the ice.”

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Patrice Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist along with Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar

04.24.14 at 11:37 am ET
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Bruins center Patrice Bergeron has been named a finalist for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the NHL‘s best defensive forward. The other two finalists are Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks and Anze Kopitar of the Kings. Bergeron won the award in 2012 and finished second behind Toews last season.

His case for winning a second Selke this year is a strong one. He led the NHL in Corsi percentage (shot attempts for/against while that player is on the ice) and was second in CorsiRel (Corsi relative to his teammates), despite facing the toughest competition of any Bruins forward and starting more shifts in the defensive zone than the offensive zone. In layman’s terms, Bergeron drove possession and flipped the ice in his team’s favor about as well as any player possibly could.

If the more basic plus/minus stat is your thing, Bergeron ranked second in the NHL behind only David Krejci. Bergeron also ranked third in the NHL in faceoff percentage and won more draws than any other player.

Kopitar was third in the NHL in Corsi and fourth in plus/minus, but he drops to 26th in CorsiRel, due mostly to the fact that he plays on a team full of great possession players. Similarly, Toews ranks seventh in Corsi and 17th in plus/minus, but 33rd in CorsiRel. Both Kopitar and Toews start more shifts in the offensive zone than defensive zone, and neither is as good as Bergeron on faceoffs. Both faced slightly tougher competition than Bergeron, however.

The chart below (courtesy of ExtraSkater.com) gives you a visual idea of how Bergeron, Kopitar and Toews were used by their respective teams.

Henrik Zetterberg game-time decision for Red Wings in Game 4 vs. Bruins; Daniel Paille out again

04.24.14 at 11:36 am ET
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DETROIT — Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will be a game-time decision for Game 4 of the first round against the Bruins Thursday night.

Zetterberg, who had back surgery in February, skated on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader and took turns with the power play in Detroit’s morning skate Thursday.

Todd Bertuzzi will play for the Red Wings, with Mike Babcock choosing to scratch Tomas Jurco to allow the veteran in the lineup. Assuming Zetterberg plays, Joakim Andersson will sit. Daniel Alfredsson remains out but could play Game 5.

The lines in morning skate were:

Zetterberg – Datsyuk – Abdelkader
Franzen – Helm – Nyquist
Bertuzzi – Sheahan – Tatar
Miller – Glendening – Legwand

The Bruins’ morning skate featured the same lineup as in Tuesday’s Game 3 win. Daniel Paille was on the ice, but he did not skate with a line and Claude Julien said afterwards that Paille would not play in Game 4. Julien did say, however, that Paille has been cleared for “a little bit of contact.”

With Paille out, Jordan Caron will play on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton again.

For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.

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Bruins don’t mind being the punchline of Jimmy Fallon’s joke

04.23.14 at 4:27 pm ET
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DETROIT — The which-knee-was-hurt video wasn’t the only one involving Brad Marchand that has been circulating over the last 24 hours.

Marchand, Dougie Hamilton and Zdeno Chara were all the butts of Jimmy Fallon‘s jokes in Tuesday’s “Tonight Show” as Fallon gave superlatives to different players in the NHL postseason based solely on their headshots.

Marchand was given the superlative for being the “Most Likely to Play a Pizza Delivery guy in an 80s Movie About Skiing,” Hamilton got “Easiest to Replicate as a Bobblehead” and Chara got “Most Likely to be Two Humans Sewn Together.”

“It’s pretty funny,” Milan Lucic said Wednesday. “At the end of the day, we had something to laugh about this morning.”

Hamilton, who has also said his head shot makes him look like Beeker from The Muppets, said he didn’t understand how he looked like a bobblehead, but did say he prefers Fallon to The Muppets. His teammates felt that Marchand’s superlative was the most accurate.

“I could [see him delivering pizzas],” Lucic said. “Out of the three, that’s probably the best one.”

Brendan Smith on Brad Marchand: ‘That’s why he’s great’

04.23.14 at 3:01 pm ET
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DETROIT — Add Brendan Smith to the list of folks who were suspicious of Brad Marchand‘s actions when Marchand held his right knee after receiving a leg check from Smith on his left leg in the second period of the Bruins’ 3-0 Game 3 victory over the Red Wings.

Though Marchand planted his right leg and twisted it as he fell to the ice, video of the hit made the rounds on the internet suspecting that Marchand, trying to fake an injury in an effort to draw a penalty, forgot which leg to sell.

Smith said he saw a picture of the play and found it “interesting.” Upon having Marchand’s explanation — that he had twisted the other knee — relayed to him Wednesday, Smith sarcastically said “oh” and said “I’ll let you guys be the judge of that.”

“That’s the kind of player he is and he’s lived off of it for a long time and that’s why he’s great,” Smith said. “That’s something that he’s going to do, but it’s kind of funny when you get caught like that when you go down on your left leg and you’ve got your right leg up. But that’s how he is and how he plays.

“It’s worked for him. You think about last year’s playoffs. He baited [Matt] Cooke into maybe fighting and then he wheeled up the wing and put it top shelf, but that’s something that he does. He’s an antagonizer, he’s like a pest kind of a guy, but he’s very good at it and he’s one of the best in the league at that. It’s good that the refs can understand that and go from that.”

Marchand has been going after Smith since the opening shifts of Game 1. Smith denied that Marchand was getting under his skin but did say he has a problem with his cheap shots.

“I don’t know him, so I don’t know,” Smith said. “I don’t like some of the cheap shots here and there. Nobody really does — name somebody and I’ll call you a liar because nobody really likes cheap shots. In that sense, I don’t like how he plays in that sense, I don’t like how he plays in that way. Other than that way, I don’t really know him, so I can’t comment.”

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Henrik Zetterberg getting closer to returning for Red Wings; Daniel Paille still not cleared for Bruins

04.23.14 at 1:28 pm ET
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DETROIT — Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg was more involved in Wednesday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena, fueling speculation that he could be available to return from back injury soon.

Mike Babcock said that the team was letting Zetterberg practice in place of Pavel Datsyuk, whose wife was having a baby. Asked after the skate whether there was any chance that he could play in Thursday’s Game 4 against the Bruins, Datsyuk responded, “I have no idea.”

Zetterberg had back surgery on Feb. 21 and was initially expected to miss the first round. That may still be the case, though Zetterberg said he was ahead of schedule. Both he and Babcock have been relatively tight-lipped about just when he’ll return to Detroit’s lineup.

The Bruins, meanwhile, had an optional practice. Daniel Paille took part in the skate, but Claude Julien said that the player was still not cleared to play. Paille has been skating since last Friday after missing the last game of the regular season with a suspected head injury.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

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