|12.09.10 at 3:11 am ET|
With Mark Stuart out for four-to-six weeks with a broken hand, the Bruins for the third time this season have lost a defenseman for an extended period of time. First, there was Johnny Boychuk from Oct. 23 to Nov. 18. More recently, the team lost Matt Hunwick for, you know, ever when they sent the 25-year-old to the Avalanche in exchange for Colby Cohen.
If one were to meet the Bruins’ estimation in the middle and assume that Stuart will miss exactly five weeks from Wednesday, the day of the announcement, the B’s would be without his services for 16 games.
Amidst the one-at-a-time manner in which players have dropped off the Bruins’ blue line, it is no surprise that the Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont tweeted Wednesday that the team’s efforts in the trade market will not be limited to solving salary cap issues. Dupont noted that the team could try to swing a deal with a Western Conference team — he singled out the Stars and the Coyotes — to grab a defenseman.
Yet without having taken care of the first order of business — dumping salary — the team now instead must look at the in-house alternative for blueline help. Though the guess here (and likely everywhere else) is that Marco Sturm will be out of town before long, the team, cuffed by the cap, can only look to the kids of Providence for now.
Matt Bartkowski, who had already gotten his free trip to the Europe when the B’s brought him along for the final two preseason games, was not the lucky guy when it came time to choosing who would be recalled. Instead it was Steven Kampfer, one of the six guys they released from camp the day they left for Belfast. Kampfer has 16 points for Providence Bruins this season, good for second on the team.
In speaking to the media following practice on Wednesday, Kampfer said the same thing any player stepping in due to injury says with the “I’m not trying to come in and replace _____” line. That makes plenty of sense, as he is smaller and less physical than Stuart. He’s more of a puck mover, while Stuart’s fists come in handy more than his hands.
As far as skill sets go, that actually isn’t a problem. If you think about it, and this dates back to last week’s trade of Matt Hunwick, Kampfer isn’t replacing Stuart. Adam McQuaid is. Kampfer is replacing his former Michigan teammate in Hunwick. McQuaid is the bigger, tougher and maybe safer defenseman, like Stuart. Kampfer fills the role of puck-mover that was left unoccupied following the trade of Hunwick.
Another plus for Kampfer that isn’t getting much attention — and perhaps a factor in the team’s decision to give him the call over Bartkowski — is that he’s a right-handed shot. With Kampfer in the lineup, the defense’s dexterity is now even at three lefties and three righties. Considering they opened the season with Johnny Boychuk as the only righty on the blueline, they have, through injury and loss via trade, seen a bit more balance in one respect.
It should also be interested in seeing how this impacts Stuart. He’s playing on a one-year deal worth $1.675 million and is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. He took the one-year pact after missing 26 games last season with a broken left pinky and an infection in his pinky.
The B’s probably wanted to see Stuart stay healthy before they showed him the money (and the years), and Stuart likely wanted to sign a big contract — the very one in which he’d play his prime years — after a season that warranted a bigger deal.
‘I expected after the season that I had if I was going to get a deal it was going to be a one-year deal and then see how I played,” Stuart said after signing the one-year deal in July. “Hopefully, I can have a great year this year and then hopefully, yeah, a long-term deal is in the future.’
Stuart has averaged 16:43 of ice time, which is right around where he sat last season (17:01). He’s got two assists, 23 penalty minutes, and is a plus-3 through 26 games.
|12.08.10 at 2:15 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins forward Marco Sturm has made significant progress of late in his quest back to an NHL lineup from a torn ACL and MCL. He was cleared for contact a while back, but actually began taking it this week. On Wednesday rotated in and out of a line with Blake Wheeler, Patrice Bergeron, and Mark Recchi.
The 32-year-old winger expects to be ready to play in games within the next 10-14 days, but which team he’s a member of at that point is anybody’s guess. The B’s nearly traded him to the Kings last week, with Sturm agreeing to waive his no-trade clause. Sturm said last week that he told Peter Chiarelli that he’d approve of a trade to three teams, something that the Bruins had to have been delighted by. This is presumably because it’s tough to find room for Sturm — salary-cap-wise, of course — on this team. Now Sturm continues to go through the motions and make progress, but uncertainty has been the name of the game.
“Nothing,” Sturm said Tuesday when asked what his talks with Chiarelli have been since that conversation. “I didn’t talk to him once since last week, and that’s it.”
Sturm has been professional throughout what at the very least has been an awkward process. Even so, for a free-agent-to-be to not know his fate in a contract year is concerning.
“I’m happy I’m still here, but I’m not happy with the situation,” Sturm said. “It’s been hard on me and my family. It’s not fun, but I’ve got to try to make the best of it, and we’ll see what happens.”
Because the Kings trade would have solved the team’s cap situation (Sturm has a $3.5 million cap hit) once and for all, it still appears that the team will need to move him prior to activating him. Sturm said he has not heard from the team about a possible assignment to Providence, which would not count against the team’s salary cap.
Sending Sturm, the team’s leader in goals last season, to Providence could get messy. Sturm has another contract to play for, and he’d be far better off building his case on another team than in the AHL. Asked if he still feels that he’ll be traded, Sturm seemed more unsure than confident.
“Honestly, I don’t know anymore,” Sturm said. “I expected it, but it’s been a while. I just don’t know.
“My focus right now is to try to get healthy and get back [in games],” he added. “Hopefully things get squared soon, so I know what’s going on.”
|12.08.10 at 1:40 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — [UPDATE: 5:54 p.m.] Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart is out for four-to-six weeks with a broken hand, an injury suffered in the first period of Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Sabres. Peter Chiarelli issued the following statement Wednesday:
“Mark sustained a fracture to the 4th metacarpal of his right hand (ring finger) and dislocated his 4th metacarpal phlangeal joint. He was evaluated by Dr. Matt Leibman at Newton-Wellesley Hospital and is expected to miss approximately 4-6 weeks.”
In 26 games this season, Stuart has two assists and is a plus-3. His 16:43 of ice time per night is fifth among Bruins blueliners, and his 23 penalty minutes is tied for sixth on the team.
With Stuart out, the team recalled Steven Kampfer from Providence on an emergency basis. The 22-year-old Michigan product led all Providence defensemen with 16 points.
|12.08.10 at 12:56 pm ET|
NESN and NBC Sports hockey analyst Mike Milbury made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday to talk about the Bruins and the NHL. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
Asked about the aborted Marco Sturm trade, Milbury speculated that the Kings must not have been aware of Sturm’s injury situation when they apparently agreed to the deal. “Why would you trade for a guy that’s still six weeks from being ready and pay him for that long a time when he’s making, what, $3 1/2 [million], $4 million, whatever he’s making?” Milbury said. “It didn’t make any sense to me at the time that they were picking him up them, unless the compensation was impacted by Los Angeles’ pickup of the money.
“I just think the ball got dropped on Sturm’s ability to come back and play, and that’s going to hold it up. I still think it’s a possibility, but all bets are off for now, anyway.”
Milbury noted that he has a positive opinion of Sturm. “I think he’s a solid player,” he said. “He’s sort of a ‘tweener, second and third line, for me. On a great team, he’s a wonderful third-line player. But he can certainly play up to the second line. I don’t think he’s a top-three forward on any really good team, but a very useful guy who can play in all sorts of situations. Nice to have his versatility. A little bit prone to injury, but it’s a tough sport.”
Touching on the Bruins’ goalie situation, Milbury continued to push for Tuukka Rask to get more of a chance, while acknowledging how well Tim Thomas has played. “[Thomas has] been spectacular,” Milbury said. “The numbers are what they are. The save percentage, astounding. The goals-against, astounding. The win-loss record, everything’s wonderful. He’s still, what is he, 37 [actually 36]? The future is now for Thomas, and I mean right now.
“I think Tuukka Rask is going to be a wonderful goaltender. I’m worried for the first time that he may be impacted psychologically over this thing, as down to earth as he is. There are a lot of people out there that wonder what they could get if they traded Tim Thomas. Now, wouldn’t that be gutsy? But it’s a thought. But it would be really hard to do right now.
“Tim Thomas is not going to be this good three years from now. That’s just the biological clock speaking. Yeah, he’s the No.1 guy now, you can’t deny it. It’s a wonderful story for Tim Thomas. And I think the Bruins count their blessings that they have a guy of the caliber of Tuukka Rask sitting on the bench. I worry for him that he gets discouraged at some point. That would really be a crime. Because 10 years from now, when he’s in his early 30s and his prime ‘ he’s not even close to his prime right now, and he had a spectacular season last year.
“It is what it is, and I can understand it. But there’s a part of me that says, particularly in the salary cap world, can you afford to do that? Can you afford to have two primo assets in that position, and should they think about trading one? And the only one that they could possibly trade, for me, is Thomas. I know right now that’s sacrilegious speaking.”
|12.08.10 at 11:55 am ET|
The veterans on the Bruins who have been around the block a few times realize that Tuesday night’s 3-2 overtime win against Buffalo was just another win in December. But they also realize that it’s significant for one very important reason.
When you get to April and May and the Stanley Cup playoffs, there are no shootouts and you need to find a way to win overtime games. Another satisfying aspect of this early-December win was the fact the Bruins trailed 2-1 against Ryan Miller – one of the best goalies in the sport – with less than seven minutes remaining in regulation. So before winning in overtime the Bruins had to force the extra period.
The Bruins took advantage of a turnover in front of the Buffalo net and Nathan Horton scored his second goal in as many games to tie the game, 2-2. Again, just like April and May, teams with Cup aspirations need to find a way to just force overtime when you’re down a goal.
“I mean just to come back being down two to one in the third period, but then to finish it off that’s the key because I mean if… theoretically every game that you play in is a Stanley Cup run there are no shootouts in the Stanley Cup playoffs, you need to find a way to win that in overtime,” Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said. “So that’s what we did tonight and that’s a good thing.”
And you need your goalie to make big saves in overtime – just like Thomas did on Derek Roy on the doorstep just 40 seconds into the overtime. And in the Stanley Cup playoffs, you get bizarre circumstances – like scoring the winning goal, only to have play continue for about a minute before a stoppage and video review confirmed Mark Recchi‘s game-winning deflection off Dennis Seidenberg‘s blast from the high slot.
“I don’t know if I have ever been a part of a game like that,” Thomas said. “I’ve seen it on TV and stuff a couple times and actually by the time we actually got a whistle I’d forgotten about that goal. So, when I happened to glance up, I didn’t get to see if the puck went in on the replay but the crowd was happy, so I just started celebrating hoping that the crowd was right.”
“It’s been tough for us, I think, in that area. Number one, as you saw, we used three forwards and one D to try to get some more offense on that five-minute overtime, four-on-four,” Julien said. “Most of our offense has been coming from up front. At the same time, we haven’t been very good in shootouts. We don’t have a very good percentage as a group, so I guess, for the time being, you try to adjust and try and put the odds on your side. We went that way and ended up on the power play and were able to score.”
Recchi added final perspective on the significance of the December win.
“It’s important,” Recchi said. “We’d like not to get [to overtime], but if we do get there then you’ve got to be good and you’ve got to be sharp. We use our bench very well, so guys are pretty fresh when it comes and we don’t have over-tired people. It’s good. Timmy [Thomas] came off a big save and then we were able to capitalize on the power play.”
|12.08.10 at 11:52 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The newly recalled Steven Kampfer took the ice with the Bruins as the team held practice Wednesday at Ristuccia Arena. The team summoned the 22-year-old on an emergency basis following the upper-body injury sufferered by Mark Stuart in Tuesday’s game.
Stuart, as one could have guessed, was not on the ice in practice. He left in midway through the first period of the team’s 3-2 overtime victory over the Sabres. Everybody else was accounted for at practice, including Marco Sturm.
Kampfer was second on the Providence Bruins in scoring with 16 points (3-13) through 20 games.
|12.07.10 at 11:01 pm ET|
It’s the dreaded “upper body injury” for Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart.
Stuart played just four shifts in the first period Tuesday night before suffering an undisclosed ailment, according to Bruins coach Claude Julien.
“He’ll be evaluated and let you know [Wednesday],” Julien said. “We’ll give you more [Wednesday] and he needs to be evaluated. We need to give you the right information.”
The Bruins defenseman totaled three minutes, 56 seconds on the ice in the first period before being forced out of the game. The Bruins practice Wednesday in Wilmington before hosting the New York Islanders on Thursday night at TD Garden. Julien did not speculate on Stuart’s availability on Thursday or Saturday, when the Bruins host the Flyers.