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Turn up the volume: A special win for the B’s

11.08.09 at 12:35 am ET
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The Bruins finally broke through on the power play on Saturday and not coincidentally, so did Zdeno Chara.

Mark Recchi redirected a Derek Morris shot from the right point on Boston’s first power play of the night at 3:18 of the first period. That snapped an 0-for-20 on the power play.

Then, later in the same period, Zdeno Chara got off the snide. After scoring 17 goals in his first season in Boston and another 19 last year with the Bruins, Chara entered Saturday night still having yet to find the back of the net.

But that ended 13 minutes later when Chara’s blast from the high slot got past 21-year-old rookie Jhonas Enroth.

Between killing all seven Buffalo power plays and scoring on 2-of-3 man-advantage chances, the Bruins special teams shone on this night.

Afterward, the Bruins talked about getting the monkey off their backs.

Shawn Thornton, with an assist and a motivational first-period fight with Steve Montador on the night, said it was a relief the Bruins finally scored on the power play.

Chara admitted it was a relief to finally get his first goal of the season.

Chara said it was great that the special teams came through.

Coach Claude Julien said it was evident the Bruins had the power play clicking early.

Julien said it was a good night overall for the special teams.

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B’s face 21-year-old rookie in net

11.07.09 at 6:46 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask gets his fifth start of the season between the pipes tonight for the Bruins as they host the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. Rask is 2-1-1 this season in his four previous games with a 2.41 goals against.

The Sabres, who lost on Friday night at home to Philadelphia, counter with 21-year-old rookie Jhonas Enroth, who is making his NHL debut in net for the first-place Sabres.

The Bruins, with 14 points, trail the Sabres by five points in the Northeast Division.

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Morning skate: Sabres edition

11.07.09 at 11:13 am ET
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Greetings from the TD Garden where the Bruins will take on the Northeast Division first place Buffalo Sabres, who are playing back-to-back games after dropping a 5-2 home game to the Flyers on Friday night.

Here are a few notes to mull over while the Bruins are conducting their morning skate, and the Sabres hold an optional run-through following Boston.

–The Sabres have allowed the fewest goals in the NHL this season (29) and, according to former Sabres forward — and current Bruin — Daniel Paille, have tweaked their systems quite a bit – from an aggressive, offensively explosive attack several years ago with Thomas Vanek and Daniel Briere to a defensively-sound system geared to take advantage of goaltender Ryan Miller.

“There has been a couple of system changes that they wanted to do. One of the things for them [they wanted to change] was bearing down in the defensive zone,” said Paille. “It’s one of those things were you’re just chipping the puck out at the right time and not turning the puck over in the defensive zone; just being at the right place at the right through the whole ‘D’ zone. They wanted to focus and improve on that, and they’ve definitely done that. Having a very good goalie in Ryan Miller helps as well.”

–The two tallest players in the NHL will tangle in Saturday night’s game as 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara gets the rare experience of looking another hockey player straight into the eyes along the TD Garden ice. Sabres rookie defenseman Tyler Myers is the second tallest NHL player this season at 6-foot-8, and he’s impressed Buffalo enough that the team opted not to return the 19-year-old to his junior team after nine games. Myers has 3 goals and 4 assists and is a plus-4 in 13 games and is averaging 20:48 of ice time per game.

–First game back at the TD Garden for Will Ferrell look-a-like Steve Montador, who joined Boston’s defenseman corps down the stretch last season in a trade deadline move with the Anaheim Ducks. Montador was thrust into a bigger role with the Bruins once injuries hit the blueline during the playoffs, and had his share of turnovers during the semifinals loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The 29-year-old Montador has three assists in 13 games this season after signing with Buffalo last summer.

–For all those hoping for a showdown between Tim Thomas and Ryan Miller, expect 20-year-old Sabres rookie Jhonas Enroth to possibly get the start between the pipes for Buffalo. Miller is coming off giving up four goals on 37 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Flyers on Friday night, and could use a night off after starting in 12 of Buffalo’s first 13 games this season. Backup Patrick Lalime is battling a groin issue that’s led to Enroth’s recall from the Portland Pirates.

Thomas and Miller are two of the bigger NHL household names competing for spots on the US Olympic hockey team set to be named during the Jan. 1 telecast of the NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park. Miller has been one of the best goalies in the NHL this season and is off to a 9-2-1 start with a 1.89 goals against average and a .936 save percentage.

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Paille looking forward to meeting with Sabres

11.07.09 at 8:37 am ET
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Daniel Paille wouldn’t use the word frustrating to describe his situation with the Buffalo Sabres prior to an October 20 trade that brought the gritty winger to Boston.

He wouldn’t deny there’s a little bit of extra motivation for Saturday night’s home tilt against the first place Sabres, however. Just this once anyway, the 25-year-old penalty killer and third-line skater will be looking to show a little something to GM Darcy Regier and head coach Lindy Ruff after Paille found himself trapped in healthy scratch limbo with Buffalo this season.

“There’s definitely motivation. It’s a division rival team and it’s huge because of that, but playing against them for the first time. For sure there is motivation. You just don’t want to get caught up in that,” said Paille, who said playing one playoff game with the Sabres during his first season was one of his career highlights in Buffalo. “I felt like I gave everything I had [in Buffalo], and I’ve got no regrets. It was a positive experience for me, and I felt just the same when I was traded here.

“I always felt good and I worked every night. But there were times I guess where in their opinion I didn’t fit in. You have to respect that and move on.”

Paille only played in two games for the Sabres over the first three weeks of the season, and averaged 10:22 of ice time before heading to the B’s in exchange for a third-round pick and a conditional draft pick. Paille hasn’t missed a game for Boston since arriving with the Spoked B, and he’s made a tangible impact since donning the Black and Gold.

In eight games Paille has piled up four assists and lived up to his reputation as a physical player with good wheels and a solid skill level capable of excelling on the penalty kill. It’s hard to imagine the 25-year-old wasn’t good enough to earn ice time in Buffalo, but he described it as being caught up in a number’s game with a team shifting over to a more defense-based system.

“They had their thoughts and I just kept working. For me, I think it just came down to numbers,” said Paille. “I wasn’t part of it and I’ve moved on. It’s disappointing. Not so much frustrating. Everybody wants to play, and for that particular team I wasn’t a good fit.

“Obviously I was hoping for [playing time] here, but I could just as easily get scratched here too. I just have to make sure I don’t get too comfortable. I have to work hard every day.”

Paille clearly learned something from washing out of the organization that drafted and developed him, and Boston is reaping the benefits.

Give Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli a heap of credit for diagnosing a potentially serious issue early this season when the penalty kill faltered. Bringing Paille into the fold to help add the needed speedy, dangerous element to a sagging special teams unit was exactly what the doctor ordered. The Sabres forward along with Brad Marchand reintroduced an aggressive, fast, hard-nosed brand of penalty killing back to the Bruins – and Paille says it’s a part of the job he’s taken a lot of pride in during his four-year NHL career.

The proof is in the numbers, however, and the B’s have been much more difficult to pin down short-handed since Paille helped fortify a rotation of penalty killing forwards that also includes Patrice Bergeron, Steve Begin, David Krejci and Brad Marchand.

Paille ranks fifth among that quartet of forwards with 1:20 of short-handed ice time per game, and the Bruins have successfully killed off 18-out-of-19 penalties since the Sabres castaway hopped on board. That’s a 94.7 percent success rate over eight games that’s allowed the B’s to climb up to 18th overall with a 78.8 percent success rate while short-handed. Pretty damned good, and one of the big improvements that’s pushing the Bruins back toward respectability after some early troubles with inconsistent play and defensive breakdowns.


– As expected, Bruins forward Mikko Lehtonen was returned to the Providence Bruins on Friday afternoon after filling in for the B’s Thursday night in their 2-1 shootout loss to the Canadiens. Lehtonen was held scoreless in 7:08 of ice time Thursday night, and will head back to the P-Bruins to build on his 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) and 25 penalty minutes in 11 AHL games.

Lehtonen was recalled on an emergency basis on Wednesday night, but was expected to return to Providence once Byron Bitz made it through Friday’s practice without aggravating his groin injury. Bitz thought he’d be ready to go for Saturday’s game against the Northeast Division-leading Sabres, who have allowed the fewest goals (24) in the NHL this season. Bitz skated with Trent Whitfield and Shawn Thornton

“I feel pretty good. It’s one of those things where one day it feels better and hopefully I’m turning the corner here,” said Bitz. “It feels pretty good. Hopefully it holds up. It’s always tough to watch, but it’s out of your control. If you’re injured, you’re injured. You just hope to heal as quickly as you can so you can get back out there.”

Bitz also has the distinction of being David Krejci’s roommate on road trips, and the Cornell alum was admittedly a bit concerned that he might also come down with the H1N1 virus after staying in the same hotel room with the center in Detroit. But he hasn’t started exhibiting any of the telltale symptoms, and hopes he’s out of the woods.

“I thought about that a little bit when I first heard about, but I’ve been feeling fine, knock on wood,” said Bitz. “Everybody is so careful about washing their hands and trying not to spread any kind of a flu bug. I just saw it online that [Krejci] had the swine flu, and I was surprised. He didn’t say anything about feeling under the weather to me.”

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Lehtonen returned to Providence

11.06.09 at 6:21 pm ET
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As expected, Bruins forward Mikko Lehtonen was returned to the Providence Bruins on Friday afternoon after filling in for the B’s Thursday night in their 2-1 shootout loss to the Canadiens. Lehtonen was held scoreless in 7:08 of ice time Thursday night, and will head back to the P-Bruins to build on his 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) and 25 penalty minutes in 11 AHL games.

Lehtonen was recalled on an emergency basis on Wednesday night, but was expected to return to Providence once Byron Bitz made it through Friday’s practice without aggravating his groin injury. Bitz thought he’d be ready to go for Saturday’s game against the Northeast Division-leading Sabres, who have allowed the fewest goals (24) in the NHL this season. Bitz skated with Trent Whitfield and Shawn Thornton

“I feel pretty good. It’s one of those things where one day it feels better and hopefully I’m turning the corner here,” said Bitz. “It feels pretty good. Hopefully it holds up. It’s always tough to watch, but it’s out of your control. If you’re injured, you’re injured. You just hope to heal as quickly as you can so you can get back out there.”

Bitz also has the distinction of being David Krejci’s roommate on road trips, and the Cornell alum was admittedly a bit concerned that he might also come down with the H1N1 virus after staying in the same hotel room with the center in Detroit. But he hasn’t started exhibiting any of the telltale symptoms, and hopes he’s out of the woods.

“I thought about that a little bit when I first heard about, but I’ve been feeling fine, knock on wood,” said Bitz. “Everybody is so careful about washing their hands and trying not to spread any kind of a flu bug. I just saw it online that [Krejci] had the swine flu, and I was surprised. He didn’t say anything about feeling under the weather to me.”

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Bitz is back to practice with the B’s

11.06.09 at 12:53 pm ET
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WILMINGTON, Mass. – The good news: Byron Bitz was back on the ice with the rest of the team practicing Friday morning after missing three games with a strained groin muscle. This also means that Bitz – David Krejci’s roommate on road trips – hasn’t succumbed to the H1N1 virus that felled the 23-year-old playmaking pivot earlier this week.

The bad news: the Bruins are still mired in an offensive funk without the services of Marc Savard and Milan Lucic.

Bitz skated on a right wing with Trent Whitfield and Shawn Thornton during practice at Ristuccia Arena, and rookie Mikko Lehtonen was also still with the team practicing as the 13th forward.

If Bitz is healthy enough to play Saturday against the NHL’s stingiest defense in the Buffalo Sabres – allowing a league-best 24 goals this season, six better than the next-best team – then the emergency call-up will likely be returned to the Providence Bruins.

Here are today’s lines from practice:

Marco Sturm – Patrice Bergeron – Mark Recchi
Blake Wheeler – Vladimir Sobotka – Michael Ryder
Daniel Paille – Steve Begin – Brad Marchand
Shawn Thornton – Trent Whitfield – Byron Bitz/Mikko Lehtonen

We’ll have more in a bit.

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Turn up the volume: no one will feel sorry for us

11.06.09 at 2:05 am ET
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Say this much for Bruins head coach Claude Julien – he’s not looking for sympathy.

In the opening month of the season, he has lost his leading playmaker Marc Savard, his leading tough guy in Milan Lucic and now, David Krejci, one of his most skilled young forwards has been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus.

Add to that the team’s power play is dead last among the 30 NHL clubs and you have a team that is having a hard time scoring. How hard? Try 192 minutes, six seconds without lighting the lamp between Vladimir Sobotka’s tally on Saturday and Patrice Bergeron’s game-tying goal with 51.7 seconds to go on Thursday.

Still, the Bruins had to settle for just the one point as the trio of Blake Wheeler, Bergeron and Mark Recchi could not solve Carey Price in the shootout and fell 2-1 to the Montreal Canadiens.

Claude Julien said no one will feel sorry for the Bruins.

Julien said Bergeron deserved a star Thursday as Boston’s best player.

Montreal’s Carey Price said he could tell Bruins were desperate to score.

Tim Thomas said the Bruins couldn’t get discouraged when the Bergeron goal was disallowed in the second period.

Patrice Bergeron said the Bruins had to keep going, even after disallowed goal.

Bergeron said this is one step forward for the Bruins.

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