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Bruins lines against the Predators

10.21.09 at 6:41 pm ET
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According to the pregame skate, the Bruins lines for Wednesday night’s game against the Nashville Predators should be as follows:

Sturm–Krejci–Recchi,

Wheeler–Whitfield–Sobotka,

Marchand–Bergeron–Ryder,

 Paille–Begin–Bitz.

Savard to miss 4-6 weeks with broken foot

10.21.09 at 12:13 pm ET
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The news just keeps getting worse for the Bruins, who announced Wednesday morning that top scorer Marc Savard was being placed on long-term injured reserve with a broken left foot. The injury is expected to keep Savard out for 4-6 weeks and leaves the team without two of its top-line skaters from the opening night lineup – Milan Lucic is out with a broken right index finger — for at least the next month.

“When he’s on his game, he’s good offensively and good defensively,” B’s coach Claude Julien said. “That’s why we use him on the penalty kill. He anticipates well and he reads the game pretty well. That’s why he excels when he’s on top of his game. That’s why I’ve always said he’s much more than a point-producer when he sets his mind to it.”

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli revealed that Savard originally injured the foot blocking a shot during training camp, but managed to play through the injury until aggravating it in practice Tuesday morning at Ristuccia Arena. It was a seemingly harmless hit on the sensitive spot for Savard, and he spent the better part of Tuesday getting MRIs and CAT scans that determined he was playing through the early portion of the season with a broken left foot.

“It wasn’t hurting that much,” said Savard, who will be in a protective boot for the next two weeks. “I just re-aggravated it yesterday. We took some MRIs and it was broken. The best thing now is to shut it down for a couple weeks here and let it heal.”

The 32-year-old Savard was Boston’s leading scorer with seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) through the team’s first seven games, and this leaves Boston with a gaping hole on its first line and top power-play unit along with its scuffling PK squad.

The team’s core has been through injuries like these before — in 2007-08 the B’s lost Patrice Bergeron for the balance of the season and Savard for the last month — and Julien stressed that they’ll absorb the loss as a team. All that being said, the pressure drops heavily onto the shoulders of 23-year-old David Krejci. The slick, young, playmaking center will be expected to shoulder the scoring and power-play burden just as he did when Savard went down with a broken bone in his back at the end of the 2007-08 season.

“I think you have to lean on everybody when it comes to [filling in for Savard],” Julien said. “Is David a part of that equation? Absolutely. I think that to say that David Krejci has to replace Savard — I don’t know that you’d want to do that because first of all David Krejci just has to play like David Krejci. He was injured and got operated on over the course of the summer and has already played seven games, so it’s up to him to find his game.

“I don’t think he needs to replace Savvy as he just needs to play his game. If [Krejci] plays his game, then that will help us immensely.”

Shawn Thornton is a “big question mark” and “very doubtful” for Wednesday night’s game against the Nashville Predators with an undisclosed injury, but the B’s coach said that he’s rapidly improving and could potentially be available come game-time.

“We put him on the ice early this morning and he skated on his own this morning. He’s very doubtful for tonight unless the trainers tell us that he’s ready to go when he gets here tonight,” Julien said. “That just goes to show you that he is a day-to-day player because morning to night time he could actually improve that much. He could be available anytime.”

Dennis Wideman will play for the B’s in Wednesday night’s game against after missing the weekend road games against Dallas and Phoenix with an injured left shoulder.

“He felt good all week in both practices, and there’s no issues,” Julien said. “So he should be ready to go.”

• Expect to see Daniel Paille on Boston’s struggling penalty kill (a 69.7 percent success rate thus far this season) after he filled that role for the Sabres during his career in Buffalo. The B’s certainly are in need of some grit and experience in that particular area of special teams, and Boston is hopeful that Paille can provide it.

“He’s got speed. Obviously he’s got some grit, and it’s a job he did really well in Buffalo,” Julien said. “It’s something he really takes some pride in he should help us in that area. We certainly plan on giving him an opportunity to fill that role on our team.”

Tim Thomas is expected to start in net for the Bruins for the third straight game.

Here’s an educated guess for the forward lines against the Predators assuming that Thornton can’t answer the bell:

Marco SturmDavid KrejciMark Recchi

Daniel PaillePatrice BergeronMichael Ryder

Vladimir SobotkaTrent WhitfieldBlake Wheeler

Brad MarchandSteve BeginByron Bitz

Read More: Claude Julien, Marc Savard, Shawn Thornton,

NHL Power Rankings

10.21.09 at 8:18 am ET
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pr_header2

There are a ton of cool success stories in the NHL this season, even if that hasn’t been the case in Boston thus far. The Avalanche, Oilers and Senators all have sneaked into the top 10 without marquee names or much fanfare, as the wins keep piling up for each of these surprise franchises.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and forward Sidney Crosby are sitting pretty at No. 1 in the rankings.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and forward Sidney Crosby are sitting pretty at No. 1 in the rankings. (AP)

Meanwhile, the No. 1 spot continues to reside with Pittsburgh, where the talk is about how boring the season’s first few weeks have been for an awesome hockey power that hasn’t been challenged by anything or anyone in the early going. Barring injury, there might not be a week this season when the Penguins aren’t waddling their way through the very top of the power rankings.

For big movers and shakers, we’re buying into the Thrashers, at least as quasi-real. Atlanta has moved up 11 spots from No. 26 to No. 15. The Flyers, on the other hand, have dropped seven spots from No. 6 to No. 13 after a three-game winless streak. Meanwhile, the Bruins sit at No. 19 behind many teams that have nowhere near the talent that sits on the Boston roster.

At least the Maple Leafs continue to stink.

As New England Sports Museum curator Dick Johnson wrote in my favorite Facebook quote of the week:

“The Maple Leaf situation reminds me of an old joke. … Dark brown is beef stock … light brown is chicken stock … and royal blue is laughing stock.”

Well played, Dick, well played.

Here are the WEEI.com NHL power rankings:

Pittsburgh Penguins1. 7-1-0 (1 last week). No hangover for these Penguins after last year’s Stanley Cup championship. That seems to have only made a hungry bunch more determined and confident than ever. Pittsburgh is undefeated on the road and has taken down just about everyone in their path. The only question is how on earth defenseman Sergei Gonchar is a minus-2 on this dynastic club.

Chicago Blackhawks2. 5-2-1 (4) The Blackhawks have one incredibly weak link in Cristobal Huet but have been rolling otherwise. The Hawks are — in many ways — the Western Conference mirror image of the Bruins, but have done a much better job handling raised expectations and adversity in the early season. Who could have guessed that UVM’s Patrick Sharp would be their leading scorer with 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) through eight games?

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B’s pull off trade with Sabres for Paille

10.20.09 at 7:03 pm ET
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The Boston Bruins made a counter-move Tuesday two days after the Chuck Kobasew deal and traded a pair of 2010 draft picks — a third round pick and a conditional fourth-round pick — for Buffalo Sabres forward Daniel Paille. The hard-edged, skilled Paille had 12 goals and 15 assists for 27 points in Buffalo last season and has one assist in two games for the Sabres this season.

 The 25-year-old Paille had his best season for the Sabres in 2007-08 when he had 19 goals and 16 assists in 77 games. The move gives the Bruins a solid left wing with a cap hit of only $1.125 million that can potentially replace Lucic on the second line for the next two months while the hulking forward recovers from a broken right index finger. Paille will be a restricted free agent following this season. 

According to the Bruins press release, it’s the first trade ever executed between the Boston and Buffalo organizations dating back to their Adams Division days as head-to-head rivals. The Bruins did trade the rights to unsigned free agent Andre Savard to the Sabres for fellow unsigned free agent Peter McNab, but that swap was never officially recognized as a trade by the NHL, according to the Bruins PR staff.

B’s GM Peter Chiarelli was also able to pull off the deal without raiding his treasure chest of nine first and second round draft picks in the 2010 and 2011 NHL drafts. Paille is expected to be available to play Wednesday against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden.

Read More: Chuck Kobasew, Daniel Paille, Peter Chiarelli,

New lines beginning to form for Bruins

10.20.09 at 11:37 am ET
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WILMINGTON — The lines are beginning to take shape in the wake of the Chuck Kobasew trade to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday morning, and it appears that coach Claude Julien will be taking advantage of Johnny Boychuk’s versatility for the time being.

Rookie Brad Marchand has stepped in for Kobasew and is skating the left wing alongside Patrice Bergeron and — surprise, surprise – Michael Ryder. Vladimir Sobotka is filling in for the injured Milan Lucic, and is skating the left wing along with David Krejci and Blake Wheeler. Boychuk, who has played forward as well as defenseman during his pro career, is filling in for Shawn Thornton and skating the wing along with Steve Begin and Byron Bitz.

Thornton missed his second straight day of practice and is “banged up” according to Julien, but it didn’t seem like the B’s head coach was all that concerned about his brawler missing Wednesday’s game against the Nashville Predators.

“It’s maintenance. I think he’s day to day. He’s banged up a little bit and it was advised to us to give him another day,” said Julien. “With the number of players we’re just looking to put four lines together. One day it’s Hunwick, one day it’s Boychuk. The next day it may be somebody else. It’s never a bad thing anyway to do those things, so in a pinch it gives him a chance to practice at those positions.” 

A situation like this shows why the B’s have so much value placed in both Boychuk and Matt Hunwick. Both defensemen have also shown a demonstrated ability to play the forward position, and give Julien all sorts of options when injuries can and do arise.

Thornton is missing from the second consecutive of practice after Julien said that it was a maintenance day for the forward Monday.

So the lines look like this:

Marco Sturm — Marc Savard — Mark Recchi

Vladimir Sobotka — David Krejci — Blake Wheeler

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron — Michael Ryder

Byron Bitz – Steve Begin — Johnny Boychuk

–Andrew Ference also left the practice ice after an hour when he apparently took either a stick or puck to the face, and didn’t return to the Tuesday morning session.

Wideman optimistic about playing Wednesday

10.19.09 at 5:19 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Dennis Wideman missed last weekend’s two-game road trip through Dallas and Phoenix with an injured left shoulder, but skated with his teammates Monday morning at practice. The 26-year-old defenseman injured the shoulder after taking an awkward tumble into the boards during the second period of Boston’s shootout loss to the New York Islanders more than a week ago. He was optimistic that his shoulder would be healed up enough to suit up against the Nashville Predators Wednesday night at TD Garden, but wasn’t ready to pronounce himself a definite go.

“It feels good, but we’ll see. I’ll take another step and we’ll see how the next couple of days go,” said Wideman. “It felt pretty good today. It was a little different. That was probably the first time I missed a road trip with an injury and couldn’t go. So it’s a different thing. For as long as you play something like that is going to happen eventually.”

Kobasew trade sends message to remaining Bruins

10.19.09 at 2:47 pm ET
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Kobasew will be a missed leadership presence in the B's dressing room after getting traded to the Wild

Kobasew will be a missed leadership presence in the B's dressing room after getting traded to the Wild

WILMINGTON — Chuck Kobasew was a beloved member of the Bruins, and if trading him to the Minnesota Wild Sunday was a message of dissatisfaction from management — as it was articulated by both general manager and coach in its aftermath – well, then the cannon ball shot was received loud and clear by the players on Monday morning.

The 27-year-old Kobasew stumbled out of the gate this season with only a single assist in seven games, and seemed to be an unwitting victim of a hibernating Bruins unit unable to snap out of their prolonged .500 slumber. The hard-nosed veteran and 20-goal scorer was traded for both salary cap reasons and a little bit of good-old fashioned message-sending from B’s GM Peter Chiarelli.

The B’s top decision-maker hopes that the addition of some young P-Bruins blood in Vladimir Sobotka and Brad Marchand can spark a team that’s been the very definition of lethargic for far too long this autumn. The Black and Gold have been unable to shake a funk of inconsistency to start the season, and have flashed little passion or anger in their game — aside from a revenge special against the Carolina Hurricanes. Chiarelli felt it was time to make things a tad bit uncomfortable in the B’s dressing room. Judging from the reaction of the players at practice and after the session was over, it was mission accomplished.

The B’s executive also admitted that he couldn’t have summoned Marchand and Sobotka from Providence without jettisoning Kobasew and effectively unlocking the salary cap handcuffs wrapped around the team. The reports that the team had $1.6 million in cap space prior to the deal appear to have been greatly exaggerated. The B’s couldn’t even afford to keep Sobotka in Boston to begin the season, which spurred his demotion to Providence.

“It’s a combination of a number of factors. Certainly our play has been on and off and that was part of it,” said Chiarelli, who had been in discussions with several clubs for a period two weeks. “The two guys we brought up have been playing pretty well in Providence. It also gives us a little of salary cap flexibility for this year and for next year, so it was a good time for all those things. But it was primarily based on our play.

“The fellows we brought up our young, energetic and enthusiastic, and I thought that we needed an injection of that into our lineup. It’s a little bit of [frustration]. It’s not a complete reactionary move. It’s something that addresses a lot of things. I’m not satisfied with our start. Friday night,  I thought we a terrific game in all areas and then it was disappointing to see Saturday. Work is being done and we’re turning the corner a bit, but in large part on a game-to-game basis I don’t see the passion that I saw before. We have to get that back.”

Tim Thomas was a little more succinct.

“My gut feeling tells me that [the trade] is a shot across the bow. Wake up or else changes will be made,” said Thomas. “My first reaction was surprise. I guess I hadn’t been thinking along those lines of any trades at all. It’s a funny business where a guy can be a teammate for going on three years, and then he’s gone.”

The deal obviously clears Kobasew’s $2.3 million from the books both this year and next year — which could become a factor in extension talks with Marc Savard — and allows Boston much more financial flexibility moving forward. Kobasew’s cap hit was something of a luxury for a third-line grinder in this brave, new world of salary cap era hockey.

All that being said, Kobasew is another veteran leader in the B’s dressing room that has now moved on, and joins a leadership exodus that included Aaron Ward, Stephane Yelle, P.J. Axelsson, Shane Hnidy and now the veteran right winger.

The move perhaps hit closest with 23-year-old Patrice Bergeron, who has watched several great friends move on from Boston after the two-way center developed close relationships with them. First it was Marty Lapointe that mentored Bergeron and allowed the rookie to live with his family during his first NHL season. Then it was Brad Boyes after Bergeron had formed into a dynamic scoring tandem with the natural goal-scorer before his trade to the St. Louis Blues. Now it’s Bergeron’s roommate during road trips, Kobasew, that has been shipped off to a different NHL locale.

It’s all part of the pro sports business, but the move should certainly shake up the B’s locker room’s comfort level. In the view of the decision-makers, the players still seems to be daydreaming about the Stanley Cup rather than rolling up their sleeves and working toward it. Bergeron said he spoke with Kobasew on Sunday following the deal, and the gritty forward was understandably reluctant to leave his home for the last three seasons in Boston.

“You never worried about his work ethic. He was my roommate on the road too. It’s always hard to see somebody go, but it happens. It’s tough, but at the same time it’s a business,” said Bergeron. “I really wish him the best. He’s such a good guy. The type of guy you always want on your team. But with the way things were going, that’s something that’s going to happen. We just have to deal with this as a team when somebody like that has to go because of the situation.”

The Bruins have now paid a price for their sluggish seven-game start to a season filled with sky-high expectations. It’s up to the remaining Black and Gold skaters to heed the unmistakable message and act on it.

Read More: Chuck Kobasew, Patrice Bergeron, Peter Chiarelli,
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