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NHL Power Rankings, 1/27

01.26.10 at 10:30 pm ET
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No changes among the six-pack atop or the five at the bottom of our rankings, but plenty of shuffling in the middle of the pack as the fight for playoff spots begins in earnest.

1. (1) 35-10-8 The Sharks bring a five-game winning streak into a super elite contest against the Blackhawks Thursday. They also have outscored the opposition 26-7 during the five wins. Get ready, Hawks.

2. (2) 35-13-4 The Blackhawks head into San Jose for that Thursday battle with the Sharks with wins in four of their last six prior to a contest in Edmonton Tuesday night.

3. (3) 34-12-6 Thoughts of being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender are growing in D.C., as the Caps have won seven straight. Alex Ovechkin had a nine-game points streak ‘€” with seven goals and 13 assists ‘€” end in a 7-2 win on Long Island Tuesday.

4. (4) 34-16-1 The Devils managed to end an 0-for-23 stretch on the power play during a 4-2 win over the Islanders Saturday. Zach Parise ended a five-game goal-scoring drought and now has three goals in his last two games.

5. (5) 30-14-7 Say what you want about the Bruins struggles, but the Sabres went 1-3-1 during a West Coast trip last week, a poorer showing than the B’s 1-1-1 trek through California. Hey ‘€” it’s something.

6. (6) 30-15-6 Six wins a row for the Avalanche. A great story that’s getting even better.

7. (8) 32-18-2 OK, we were slow to catch on. But it’s a bit surprising to see Henrik Sedin now leading the league in scoring. The Canucks have won five straight, and Sedin has contributed four goals and eight assists during the winning streak. Yeah, that’s good.

8 . (9) 33-20-1 The Penguins showed that when push comes to shove, they can still grind out some tough wins, such as a 2-1 victory in Philadelphia Saturday. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury returned after missing four games with a finger injury to make 28 saves in a 4-2 victory over the Rangers Monday.

9. (10) 30-18-5 The Coyotes rallied from a two-goal deficit for a big win in Detroit Tuesday.

10. (11 ) 30-19-3 The young Kings passed a big test with a win in Detroit Saturday. They’ll arrive at the TD Garden for game four of key five-game road trip Saturday.

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Bears looking for their bite

01.26.10 at 12:43 pm ET
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WILMINGTON ‘€” The Bruins had a workout day at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday, and the only players to take the ice were those returning from injury ‘€” Marc Savard, Byron Bitz and Steve Begin. The three were put through drills by assistant coach Doug Houda that included precision passing and shooting exercises, while the rest of the team went through “dry land” conditioning with meetings that coach Claude Julien said included watching some video.

“We did some other things besides for dry land. You make sure that your days are constructive. We’ve played quite a few games and had a good practice yesterday,” Julien said. “Today was about working in a different direction and kind of build up towards the weekend.”

Part of what has been lacking in the Bruins game during during the month of January has been the physical spark that has spurred previous Bruins teams. Bitz, one of the bigger bodies on the team, was not sure how that aspect of the Bruins game went missing.

“There are a lot of things in our game, including that physical aspect, that we have gotten away from, the staples of what makes us a good team,” Bitz said. “I don’t know why. It is a good question and there is no easy answer. If we knew we would remedy it as quick as we can. It is something we are addressing and we know we have to be better at and we will.”

Part of the lack of physicality has been the lack of the presence of Milan Lucic. The hulking forward has only suited up for 19 games this year and is still looking for his timing in what will be his 10th game back from injury in Buffalo on Friday.

“There is no doubt that when your timing is off, you are getting there a little late or not at all,” Julien said of Lucic. “It is part of his game that you have to be patient with as a coach, because he has hardly played this year. I have said that before, when a guy doesn’t really start the season and comes in halfway though it is a big hurdle to jump over and catch the rest of the players in the league.”

Lucic did pick a fight last Thursday against Columbus forward Jared Boll, but overall, there has not been a lot of bite to these bears of late.

The Bruins need a significant moment soon, or the rest of the season will be lost to the fog in which they currently find themselves. Whether it be a big fight (or series of fights), a big performance or just a night when they break out of their goal-scoring funk and light the lamp with regularity. To this point in the season it has not happened and Bitz said the team might not realize it at the time when (if) it does.

“You know, I guess at the end of the year we will be able to look back and say that ‘Yeah, that game was a defining moment,’ but right now, I guess you never know when that moment is going to come,” Bitz said. “I think you will just have a role and job on the team and I think individually you have to worry about doing that and everything will take care of itself.”

Read More: Byron Bitz, Milan Lucic,

Bruins begin weeklong effort to improve

01.25.10 at 2:25 pm ET
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WILMINGTON ‘€” The Bruins knew they needed to get to work early on Monday.

After a week in which they lost four games and dropped out of the eight playoff positions in the Eastern Conference, the Bruins hit the ice at Ristuccia Arena looking to get the most out of four practice days before Friday’€™s contest in Buffalo.

‘€œWe came in here knowing we needed to skate, everyone came in with a positive attitude looking forward to Friday,’€ forward Daniel Paille said. ‘€œWe have four days to practice and to improve.’€

There is little doubt the Bruins could use plenty of improvement. The team has lost five in a row and has just two wins in its last 10 games (2-7-1).

‘€œWe’€™re obviously making a lot of individual mistakes right now from pressing, at the same time we’€™ve got to find ways to score goals if we plan on winning hockey games,’€ coach Claude Julien said after practice. ‘€œAll that stuff we have an opportunity to work on this week and to stabilize our team a little bit. Hopefully, we’€™ll get the results.’€

It looked like the Bruins couldn’€™t wait to put Sunday’€™s 5-1 debacle in Carolina behind them. Before the Zamboni had finished resurfacing the ice Monday morning, the team was already waiting by the rink door to get on the ice.

‘€œI think it’€™s really good to get out there and work,’€ forward Mark Recchi said. ‘€œHaving the opportunity to have some practices, get some good work days in, get some good habits is a great thing.’€

Julien agreed that getting in a positive practice was probably better for the team than a head-clearing day away from the rink for players.

‘€œIt’€™s not necessarily punishment, its more about we need to work our way out of this. Today was an important day to start that,’€ Julien said.

‘€œOur fans are disappointed in us and rightfully so, we haven’€™t delivered. That’€™s part of accepting what’€™s going on here. And if you accept that, then hopefully you want to do something about it. Our fans and everybody deserves better than what we have been getting. Somehow we have to find that game of ours that will give everybody what they want to see. We have to work our way out of it and that’€™s hopefully what we started to do today.’€

Bruins hit practice with help on the way

01.25.10 at 2:01 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — A Bruins fan taped a sign to the bleachers at the Bruins practice facility at Ristuccia Arena Monday morning that read: “Success is how high you bounce when you hit rock bottom,” ‘€” General George Patton. Monday’s practice was spirited from the get-go, with coach Claude Julien running full ice drills early as he tries to keep his team focused through this extended slump during which time Boston has dropped from the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference to the ninth.

The B’s hope that when they take to the ice for Friday’s game in Buffalo that the team will have a couple of key forwards back in the fold. With three more full practices before then, the Bruins have some housekeeping to take care of as they try to bounce back from this horrendous stretch of losses.

“Today was just things you have to do, things that you have to work on,” defenseman Derek Morris said. “It is going to be a long week of practice. We have to forget about those ones behind us and worry about the ones coming up. Win three, four, five games in a row and we are back up there in fifth moving our way back up. Everybody is kind of counting us out. We are not out yet and we are getting some guys back, we are getting healthy and we just have to worry about the next one.”

Speaking of getting healthy, Marc Savard was slotted into a line with Miroslav Satan and Daniel Paille. It was the first time since he sustained his injury that he has participated in full practice activities with linemates. He is still wearing a brace on his injured knee but says that he does not think about it much.

“It was a good test for it, got a little tired towards the end, but other than that, it felt strong,” Savard said. “Did everything, did the battle drills toward the end, felt good skating, hands felt good. Hopefully this time around I can be more of a presence when I get back.”

Savard said it definitely has been frustrating to watch his teammates and not be able to help out. At the same time, he is making sure that when he does come back that he will be an effective member of the team.

“It seems like when it rains, it pours. It is an old saying, but it seems that is what is happening right now,” Savard said. “Perhaps we just have to get the first goal in a game. We have a good week of preparation this week and we will keep on working until Friday.”

Byron Bitz rejoined practice for the first time since the Bruins came back from their three-game California trip.

“Feel good, full practice today. Stayed out the whole time. Hopefully it keeps progressing,” Bitz said. Bitz now has skated three days in a row and is shooting for Friday as his return date. “Third day in a row now on the ice, [the stamina] is coming back. Only had a week off so you don’t lose too much in that time, and we have three more practices to recover.”

Marco Sturm and Steve Begin, both who have been listed as day-to-day for the last week, did not skate and continue to be on the watch list. Julien does not know when to expect them on the ice and says that he can only go off what the training staff tells him.

“Just to clarify things, we have had players who we were saying were day-to-day, and those guys were day-to-day,” Julien said. “Sometimes day-to-day becomes a week situation. If I had known they would have been out for a week, I would have told you. Right now, Marco is still day-to-day but the hope is that he is going to start skating this week. That is all I can tell you right now.”

Here is the list of participation by sweater color:

Grey — Michael Ryder, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler.

Yellow — Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi, Milan Lucic.

White – Satan, Savard, Paille.

Red — Shawn Thornton (left early), Vladimir Sobotka, Bitz.

Bright Red — Drew Larman, Trent Whitfield.

Defense — Zdeno Chara, Morris, Matt Hunwick, Dennis Wideman, Johnny Boychuck, Mark Stuart, Adam McQuaid.

Goaltenders – Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask.

Read More: Byron Bitz, Derek Morris, Marc Savard, Marco Sturm

Bruins lose another to Senators

01.23.10 at 3:55 pm ET
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Summary — The Senators completed a sweeps week against the Bruins with another victory at TD Garden, 2-1 over in this Saturday’s matinee. Daniel Alfredsson scored Ottawa’s first goal and Jason Spezza had the game winner in the second period. Tim Thomas took his second loss of the week at the hands of the Senators though he played better than Monday when he was pulled from the game in favor or Tuukka Rask.

Daniel Paille scored the Bruins only goal in the second period with a blast from the left wing over Elliot’s glove shoulder to tie the game. The goal was the forward’s seventh of the season.

The Bruins have not won a game in the Garden during the entire month of January (they did when at Fenway) and continue to struggle to score goals without Marc Savard and Marco Sturm. Byron Bitz and Steve Begin also missed the game. None of the four will travel to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes tomorrow night as the Bruins will not have ice time before the game.

Boston is now six points behind Ottawa for second place in the Northeast Division.

Three Stars

Brian Elliott — Ottawa’s goalie was solid in stopping 32 of shots and his team outscored the Bruins 7-2 on the week.

Daniel Alfredsson — In two games this week, Alfredsson has outscored the Bruins 4-2 and been a general menace in the TD Garden. The wingman has six goals and four assists for Ottawa in his last 12 games since coming back from an injury.

Daniel Paille — The wingman skated hard and provided the only spark of offense for the Bruins in another frustrating offensive performance.

Turning Point

For the second game in a row the play hinged not on a goal that was scored, but one that was not. After killing an Ottawa penalty it looked like the Bruins had taken a 2-1 lead late in the second period when Mark Recchi crashed the net and appeared to knock the puck past Brian Elliot. The play was reviewed and determined that Recchi kicked the puck (which ricocheted of Elliot’s skate). About a minute later Spezza scored the go-ahead goal and the Senators did not look back.

Key Play

Jason Spezza was questionable coming into Saturday’s game and the Bruins probably wish that he had delayed his comeback from injury for at least another day. He scored the game winner at 16:39 in the second period and the goal took away any momentum the Bruins had mustered. Spezza was fed in the center of the offensive zone from Alex Kovalev and let out a wily wrist shot that Thomas was able to see and follow, but could not corale.

Read More: Daniel Alfredsson, Daniel Paille, Tim Thomas,

Savard Joins Full Practice

01.22.10 at 12:21 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins are working on some power play drills and some from the corner 2-on-1 drills today at Ristuccia as they try to forget Thursday’s painful upset at the hands of the Blue Jackets. Marc Savard is on the ice wearing a red sweater and lightly participating in the session after a solo workout this morning.

“I felt great today,” Savard said. “I was only going to go out for a bit and ended up staying the whole way . . . We haven’t talked about [playing this weekend.] For now it is still next Friday. It is going to be up to the coaching staff and the training staff and how comfortable they are with it. I don’t have any pain and that is a good sign. I have the brace and felt solid out there.”

Other than that, the lines look like they are the same as last night. Marco Sturm, Steve Begin and Byron Bitz are not on the ice and Drew Larman is sticking around with the big club for at least one more day. Defenseman Andrew Ference is also still on the inactive list.

“Just going day-by-day,” Larman said before the Columbus game. “I am looking to bring my best to the ice.”

For those who may not be familiar with Larman, this is how he describes his game: “Strong two-way player, very solid in the defensive zone and reliable. Strong on face offs, strong on the penalty kill, getting in the right lanes, having and active stick, chipping in offensively with the right timing of a goal,” Larman said.

Larman had seven shifts with 5:29 of ice time on Thursday and recorded one shot.

- Here are the lines by sweater color:

Yellow: Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi, Daniel Paille

White: Michael Ryder, Trent Whitfield, Miroslav Satan

Grey: Blake Wheeler, David Krejci, Milan Lucic

Red: Larman, Vladimir Sobotoka, Shawn Thornton, Savard

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Derek Morris, Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman, Matt Hunwick, Johnny Boychuk

Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas are both present and accounted for in the opposing goals.

- The Bruins will wear their Winter Classic sweaters tomorrow for their matinee rematch against Ottawa. This will be the second of four times that Boston will wear the sweaters this year.

Read More: Marc Savard,

Bruins got shafted but…

01.22.10 at 11:13 am ET
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The Bruins had all the reason in the world to feel they got shafted on Thursday night.

And that shaft belonged to one Anton Stralman, who clipped his teammate Derick Brassard with his stick. But, as everyone knows by now – including the officials – it was Milan Lucic who was incorrectly penalized with a four-minute high-sticking call.

The subsequent power play led to R.J. Umberger re-directing Stralman’s shot past Tuukka Rask for the deciding goal in a 3-2 heart-breaking loss to Columbus.

But after Bruins coach Claude Julien and his staff were given an apology by supervisor of officials Mick McGeough following the game, there was a sense that the officials’ error could have been easily mitigated if only the Bruins could somehow put away a last-place team on their home ice.

That was the focus of several players – including Lucic afterward.

Here’s what they had to say:

Lucic said the third-period must be a time to put away the competition and the Bruins aren’t.

Blake Wheeler said solving the third-period dilemma must be a priority.

Patrice Bergeron said it’s simple – Bruins need to bury their chances when they get them.

Julien pointed to David Krejci missing an open net early in the third period as a turning point.

After getting an apology from referee supervisor, Julien said it was just human error that led to Lucic call.

Julien was asked if instant replay, like in the NFL, would have helped the Bruins.

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