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Kings drop Bruins in shootout

01.30.10 at 10:30 pm ET
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Summary It took overtime and a shootout to decide the winner between the Bruins and Kings in front of a sold out TD Garden on Saturday night. In the end, it was the Kings who were able to claim two points as Jarret Stoll had the game-deciding goal in the shootout. Tim Thomas, despite 31 saves in regulation and overtime, took the loss for the Bruins while Jonathan Quick got the win with 27 saves. The Bruins have lost seven straight, their longest losing streak since the spring of 1997, when they went 0-7-0 from March 17 to April 3 of that year.

Marco Sturm returned to the ice after missing the last six games and scored a goal in the second period. Steve Begin also got back on the ice after missing five games and played forward on the fourth line.

The teams went back and forth with the Kings taking the lead into the second period off a goal by captain Dustin Brown set up by a shot from Anze Kopitar. It looked like another night where the Bruins would have trouble breaking through, but Boston found momentum in the second period when defenseman Mark Stuart leveled Kopitar with a hit on the blue line that led to a scrum with Kings forward Wayne Simmonds.

Sturm tied the game with a power-play goal later in the second, and Boston took the lead early in the third on the power play when Mark Recchi scored off a pass from the half-wall by David Krejci. The Kings came right back with a goal from Kopitar and the play was even through the rest of the third before overtime.

Three Stars

Marco Sturm — The Bruins forward scored his team’s first goal of the game after missing six games with a lower body injury. On the power play in the second period, he found himself camped in front of Quick with time and space off a pass from Marc Savard. He let a defender slide by, waited, waited and found the back of the net on Quick’s stick side.

Anze Kopitar — The Kings’ leading scorer is deadly with the puck from the right wing. Twice from the top of the circle he let go of wily wrist shots that found ways past Thomas. He was credited with an assist in the first period when his shot deflected off Dustin Brown and tied the game in the third when Thomas could not handle a screamer from a couple steps in from the blue line.

Jarret Stoll — The Kings center had the game winner in the sixth round of the sudden death shootout.

Turning Point

A flurry of penalties broke out early in the second period. At 4:58 in the second period, Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart laid Kopitar flat on the ice with a big hit as the Kings forward took a clearing pass at his own blue line. Kings forward Wayne Simmonds immediately took exception to the hit on the rising star center, and he and Stuart immediately went at it, with Stuart tackling Simmonds to the ice.

The result was that Simmonds went to the box with instigator, unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting and misconduct penalties (Stuart also went for fighting) that resulted in a four-minute power play opportunity the Bruins. Tim Thomas gave two minutes of that back with a high stick to Brad Richardson 29 seconds later and the Kings killed the penalties. Still, the Bruins gained momentum over the series of plays that later translated into a game-tying power play goal by Sturm in the period.

Key Play

Stoll turned TD Garden from a rocking venue to a silent arena in a matter of moments when he beat Thomas over the goaltender’s shoulder in the sixth round of the shootout. The Kings ended up winning the series 3-2 for the two points. Stoll’s goal followed up scores from the Bruins’ Marc Savard and Michael Ryder and the Kings’ Kopitar and Ryan Smyth.

Read More: Anze Kopitar, Jarret Stoll, LA Kings, Marco Sturm

Thornton, Sobotka make way for Sturm, Begin

01.30.10 at 7:49 pm ET
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BOSTON  —  The Bruins welcomed their leading goal scorer back to action on Saturday night when Marco Sturm strode onto the TD Garden ice against the Los Angeles Kings.

He missed the last six games with a leg injury, taking his 15 goals with him.

Steve Begin also returned after missing the last five games with a lower body injury. Shawn Thornton and Vladimir Sobotka were healthy scratches to make room on the 20-man game roster.

Thornton, with just one goal in 50 games, and Sobotka (4g, 3a in 43 games) have been very disappointing in their production as forwards and the Bruins are in desperate need of a jump-start to their offense. Entering Saturday, they had an NHL-low 128 goals.

But some of the focus before the game was on those injured Bruins who recently returned – namely Patrice Bergeron and Marc Savard.

“Patrice has been good for us all year,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “It hasn’t been an issue at all with him. He’s been our most reliable player from day one.”

To Julien’s point, the Bruins are 15-5-3 when Bergeron scores or records an assist. Bergeron entered Saturday with 21 assists, second on the team to Zdeno Chara’s 25.

Savard returned on Friday after missing eight games with a knee injury. He had an assist in the 2-1 loss at Buffalo. The team is 11-3-1 when he records a point in a game. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bruins, Marc Savard, Marco Sturm, Patrice Bergeron

Bruins ready to bounce back against Buffalo

01.28.10 at 1:44 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — After a week of practice to get healthy and screw their heads on straight, the Bruins will travel to Buffalo on Friday to take on the Northeast Division leading Sabres. It is an interesting challenge for Boston as the Buffalo is 15 points ahead of the Bruins in the standings but has been in a bit of a funk for the last week, going 1-3-1 in its last five games. The Sabres did snap a three game skid by beating the Devils 2-1 in a shootout on Wednesday night in New Jersey and remain a very dangerous team in the Eastern Conference.

“They are a pretty good team, they are playing well,” coach Claude Julien said. “I saw them play yesterday against New Jersey. They are playing with lots of confidence, they got great goaltender which keeps them in the game. They gave up 40 shots last night and only gave up a goal. We are already challenged a little bit in the goal scoring department so we are going to have to work just that much harder to get past this guy.”

The Sabres goaltender is Ryan Miller who is expected to be the starting net-minder for Team USA in the Vancouver Olympics and is second in the NHL with a 2.06 goals-against average. As Julien said, with the Bruins scoring woes, it will indeed be a challenge. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Buffalo Sabres, Marc Savard, Marco Sturm, Tim Thomas

Andrew Ference skates at Ristuccia

01.28.10 at 11:06 am ET
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WILMINGTON — Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, who has been out of the lineup since injuring his groin on January 5 against Ottawa, skated Thursday morning before the full team workout at Ristuccia Arena.

Ference did some light warm-up skating before being run through some shooting drills by the Bruins strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides. The defenseman has played in 42 games for the Bruins this season and has no goals and five assists with 16 penalty minutes and a plus/minus rating of -3. Ference battled injuries in the second half of the 2008-09 season and only played in 47 games for Boston though he did put up career-high offensive numbers with a goal and 15 assists for 16 total points.

The Big Bad Blog will have more news from Thursday’s practice as it comes.

UPDATE — Marco Sturm has come out with the full team and wore a yellow practice sweater and skated on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Byron Bitz. Sturm has not played (though he skated earlier this week) in a game since sustaining an injury on January 14 against San Jose. Veteran forward Mark Recchi is missing, presumably still on his way back from carrying the Olympic torch Wednesday night in his hometown of Kamloops, British Columbia.

Read More: Andrew Ference,

Recchi to carry torch, Bruins look for confidence

01.27.10 at 1:36 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — When the Bruins came out to skate at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday, veteran forward Mark Recchi was conspicuously missing from the ice at Ristuccia Arena. The first thought to come to mind was that coach Claude Julien and the training staff gave Recchi the practice off. Afterall, Recchi is 41-year old wingman has played 1,541 career NHL games and logged a lot of minutes this year, more than Julien figured he would be giving Recchi at the start of the season.

Instead of having an off day though, Recchi had a higher calling — he traveled to his hometown of Kamloops, British Columbia to carry the 2010 Vancouver Olympic torch and light the Olympic cauldron outside the city’s Hillside Stadium on Wednesday evening.

“It is a nice opportunity for him,” Julien said. “I think he has done a lot in his career to deserve that and also in the town where he is going to be running with it.”

Recchi played for Team Canada in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan where the team finished fourth. The torch passes through Kamloops on Day 90 of its tour through Canada and will finish its journey on February 12 in Vancouver to kick-start the 2010 Olympic games.

Leading scorer Marco Sturm did not skate at Wednesday’s practice and it is looking unlikely that he will be available for the games on Friday and Saturday. Other than Recchi and Sturm, the rest of the Bruins skated and had a vigorous practice that was a notch up from the lively skate the team had on Monday.

Miroslav Satan joined the top line in white practice sweaters with Milan Lucic and Mark Savard. 10 games into his Bruins career the tall Slovak has two goals and two assists and six penalty minutes. Satan said that he sees similarities between this Bruins team and the last team he played for — the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

“That is a good example,” Satan said. “It was the same thing. We slipped from the playoff position. At one point I think we were like the 11th spot. Then, all of a sudden things changed quickly and we had a good end to the year and a good end to the playoffs.”

Whereas the Penguins mid-season swoon last year was a product of the team quitting on its coach (who was fired and the team took off after that), Satan does not see it playing out like that this year in Boston.

“I don’t think that is the case here. I think it is more of injuries and mental mistakes that we do in the games,” Satan said. “We, the players, are responsible for it.”

Boston’s real problem right now is that it is stuck in its own head. The team has a lack of confidence which has created a vicious cycle. No confidence means the team has had trouble scoring goals (dead last in the NHL in scoring) and no scoring means the team is losing confidence.

“It is definitely in the head,” Satan said. “It seems like if it is late in a game we make a mistake and that creates another mistake . . . we have to learn to shake that off and know that if we make one it is not the end of the game.”

Patrice Bergeron agreed with the the assessment that part of the reason that the Bruins are having trouble lighting the lamp is because of a lack of confidence.

“It is pretty much about confidence right now,” Bergeron said. “When things are not going your way, the puck is not going your way, it is hitting skates that it is not supposed to. When you lose games like that, you know, confidence is getting away from yourself a little bit but we have to make sure as a team that we bring some emotion back and bring back some hard work. That is the only way we are going to get out it this.”

There are a couple examples of the Bruins getting snake-bitten with pucks off errant skates but the one Bergeron was probably referring to was last Saturday’s game against Ottawa when a goal was disallowed after going off Recchi and Senators goaltender Brian Elliot’s skates. Ottawa forward Jason Spezza ended up scoring the game winner a few minutes later.

Three out of four days into this long practice week, the Bruins are trying to get back into the right mental state of mind.

“We are looking forward to Friday,” Bergeron said. “We have had a good week of practice so far and we have worked hard and we know our game. Keep it simple and working through to get back in the winning column.”

Here is Wednesday’s practice participation by sweater color:

White – Satan, Savard, Lucic.

Grey – Michael Ryder, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler.

Yellow – Byron Bitz, Bergeron, Daniel Paille

Red – Shawn Thornton, Vladimir Sobotka, Trent Whitfield, Steve Begin

Defensemen – Zdeno Chara, Derek Morris, Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman, Matt Hunwick, Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid.

Goaltenders – Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask.

Read More: Mark Recchi, Miroslav Satan, Patrice Bergeron,

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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,
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