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Chara, Bruins are ready for Ovechkin’s Capitals

10.01.09 at 12:21 pm ET
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Zdeno Chara says Thursday night's opener isn't "him against Ovie"

Zdeno Chara says Thursday night's opener isn't "me against Ovie"

It’s clear by the circumstances surrounding the Bruins season opener against the Washington Capitals that things have changed demonstrably for Boston in one season’s time. Big time.

The fact that the Black and Gold merit a national TV audience on Versus is one clue, and the marquee match-up against Alexander Ovechkin and the electric Caps is quite another. Milan Lucic was among the excited grouping of B’s forwards anxious to get things going in the B’s dressing room Thursday morning, and seemed poised to make a statement about Boston’s worthiness in the Eastern Conference scheme of things with millions of hockey eyeballs ready to bear witness.

“Everyone seems ready to go, and is pretty anxious for the puck to drop. Everybody can feel it in the air, and I think we’re all pretty excited to get things going,” said Lucic. “I see that we’re on Versus, so it’s big across the US and we want to start the season off right.

“When is the last time the Bruins had a chance to start at home? We’re excited to do that. We’ve obviously set the bar high for ourselves and we’re focused on being one of the top teams in the East this year. We need to just focus on ourselves and what we can do to get there this year.”

–The B’s have a couple of new mantras written on the walls within the Bruins dressing room that gives some insight into their goals for the upcoming season. Above the doorway from the dressing room to the hallway reads the painted slogan “Knowing is Not Enough: We Must Apply. Willing is Not Enough: We Must Do.” and above the lockers of goaltenders Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask reads a second painted sign that says: “We are What We Repeatedly Do. Excellence, Therefore, is Not an Act, But a Habit.”

–Confirmed with newly resigned B’s assistant general manager Jim Benning that Vladimir Sobotka does not have to clear through NHL waivers to rejoin Boston this season. Since the 22-year-old Czech Republic forward has been signed for less than three full years, he is exempt from re-entry waivers. It’s apparently an either/or scenario with the three years of service time or maximum of 70 games played as the ceiling, and Sobotka doesn’t have to fit into both criteria.

–Zdeno Chara always gets excited for the defensive challenge presented by high-powered offenses and NHL superstars like Alex Ovechkin, and the scoring threats don’t get any bigger than reigning Hart Trophy-winner Alexander the Great. The 32-year-old defenseman has learned not to get lulled into the one-on-one matchups against big time players like Ovechkin, but takes it as a personal challenge to bottle up the entire explosive Washington unit including Ovechkin, Mike Knuble, Alexander Semin and Mike Green among others.

“We know that [the Caps] have a skilled team and we have to be on top of our game. But it’s a team game and we have to play that way,” said Chara. “If you’re watching just one guy, then everybody else is getting the room. You have to play against them together as a team, and we know that we have to be disciplined as a unit especially when that first unit is on the ice.

“It’s good to have that challenging competition. You have to be on your best game, otherwise they’ll take advantage. That always brings the best out of me and the team. It’s not just me against Ovie, it’s our line against their line on the ice.” 

–Claude Julien indicated that Steve Begin, Marco Sturm and David Krejci are all at full health for Thursday’s opener against the Caps and all will play — a scenario that became obvious when the B’s sent Vladimir Sobotka down to Providence on Wednesday afternoon. Begin will center a fouth line of Shawn Thornton and Byron Bitz, Krejci will center his customary line with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, and Sturm will ride the right wing on Boston’s top line alongside Marc Savard and Milan Lucic. No shock that any of the three are playing as they’ve been skating over the last three days leading up to Thursday afternoon.

Read More: Alexander Ovechkin, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara,

Benning signs multi-year extension with B’s

09.30.09 at 5:53 pm ET
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B’s GM Peter Chiarelli announced Wednesday afternoon that Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning has agreed to a multi-year extension with the club. Benning is entering his fourth year with the B’s — and third season as assistant GM — after departing the Buffalo Sabres organization following a 12-year run in their front office. Don Sweeney was also named an assistant general manager of the Bruins last week, and both Sweeney and Benning will share the far-ranging hockey duties encompassed by the role.

“Jim plays a critical role in our management group,” said Chiarelli. “He takes a very aggressive and proactive approach in his recommendations and assessments underscoring his tremendous management ability and experience.  His player evaluation is amongst the tops in the industry and his business acumen supplements our group greatly.  We were very fortunate as an organization to hire him in 2006 and we are even more fortunate to secure him for the long term.”

Benning and Chiarelli will hold a Thursday morning press conference at the TD Garden to further discuss the deal and the assistant GM’s role within the organization.

Read More: Don Sweeney, Jim Benning, Peter Chiarelli,

Sobotka sent down to Providence

09.30.09 at 4:39 pm ET
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The Boston Bruins have sent Vladimir Sobotka to the AHL’s Providence Bruins on Wednesday afternoon in a surprise move just prior to the beginning of the NHL regular season on Oct. 1. It appeared that Sobotka had made the big club in Boston after a solid final kick during the preseason, but the move sends a pretty clear message that center David Krejci is 100 percent healthy to start the season.

Sobotka appeared headed for a healthy scratch on Thursday night and the foreseeable future as the 13th forward with the Bruins, and wouldn’t have seen much playing time with the club enjoying good health at the season’s beginning. The move to Providence allows Sobotka to stay sharp playing in all situations at the AHL level, and clears a bit more space under the B’s salary cap.

With only two Bruins games spread out over the next six days, there wasn’t going to be much of a chance for Sobotka to crack the lineup.  According to a hockey source, Sobotka was not subject to waivers as a part of Boston’s transaction sending him to the Baby B’s.

The Bruins now have 21 skaters on their active roster with only one extra defenseman and a backup goaltender to go along with the 19 players slated to skate against the Washington Capitals Thursday night. The move sending Sobotka to the P-Bruins was first reported by the Providence Journal on Wednesday afternoon.

Read More: Boston Bruins, David Krejci, Vladimir Sobtka,

Chiarelli on Dale & Holley, 9/30

09.30.09 at 2:05 pm ET
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Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli gave an interview on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday afternoon and discussed the prospects for the upcoming season as well as the Phil Kessel trade. Following is a transcript of the interview. (NOTE: Updated with complete transcript.)

How do you expect to replace the production Phil Kessel gave you last year?

His goals were a different style of goals, so as much as I say, hey, Marco Sturm is going to get his 20-25, maybe to 30, and we believe Bergeron is going to — I really believe [Patrice] Bergeron will have a big year this year. He’s been tremendous in the preseason, so he’s going to score more. The younger players will continue to improve. Milan [Lucic] will score more and [David Krejci] will score more, and Morris on the back end will increase the offense. As much as  Is say all that, we will miss the style of goals Phil scored, because the speed will back off the [defense]. So, we will miss that. Don’t get me wrong, we will miss that. I believe we will make up for the goals with those guys that I mentioned, we just won’t score them the same way.

Why were you so confident that this was a trade that would help the Boston Bruins?

I’m not one who is going to trade a player that has his talent, his ability. He’s got tremendous skill, tremendous speed, and he’s young. The fact of the matter is that he made it clear that he did not want to stay in Boston, that he wanted out. That makes it hard for me to sign him. In fact, that made it impossible for me to sign him, because it takes two to sign a contract. So, now you’re looking at, ‘OK, well do I just give him whatever he wants?’ I could not get a number from him. I did not get one number from him in the negotiation. Unfortunately, that the reality of the business now. Whether it’s another team, or whether it’s an agent and a player, they have tools that they can use against you, and you have to face reality. Having said all that, what we got in return I thought was very, very good. You may get a Phil Kessel out of that, you may get a player that may help us sooner rather than later. You have to balance that, but at the end of the day when there’s someone that doesn’t want to work this us and is unequivocal about it, I have to address it.

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Krejci ‘looking good’ for Thursday’s opener

09.30.09 at 12:40 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Bruins center David Krejci has been ahead of schedule throughout the preseason, and it appears he’ll be ready at the earliest portion of the recovery timetable by playing Opening Night against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 1. The 23-year-old playmaker has been practicing with the team for nearly the entire training camp schedule, and took part in another full practice on Thursday including time on the 5-on-4 and 5-on-3 power play units.

Krejci was also at his old spot centering a line between Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder during the practice, and B’s coach Claude Julien did everything but formally announce his return following Wednesday’s practice.

“The official [decision] will be made tomorrow, but right now he’s looking good,” said Julien. “He’s feeling better and he’s feeling more confident. The official decision, I guess, will come tomorrow, but right now it’s looking good.

“He’s ahead of schedule and a lot of the credit goes to a different group. Obviously [Krejci] because of the way he’s worked at it, but the other thing is also the trainers for the therapy he’s had and how he’s worked with them. Between Donnie [DelNegro] and Scottie Waugh, they’ve done a tremendous job of rehabilitating him and getting him ready to play.”

Julien also indicated there won’t be much in the way of maintenance days or special care for the young pivot’s surgically repaired right hip once he gets into the lineup, and there won’t be any restrictions moving forward.

“That’s the reason behind the surgery, so he could come back at 100 percent,” said Julien. “As we speak right now,  I don’t see any reason why he would need extra days off. Last year he [needed days off] because of those issues, and they’ve been resolved hopefully.”

Bruins brushing up on the power play

09.30.09 at 11:41 am ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins are putting the finishing touches on the team here at practice Wednesday morning at Ristuccia Arena as they ready for Thursday’s season-opener against Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the high-powered Washington Capitals.

A lot of power play work this morning, and a look into what’s going to be one of the more competitive aspects of the Black and Gold team this season. The Bruins legitimately have five or six players that could run the point on the power play, and B’s coach Claude Julien has been nearly giddy in the different options at his disposal in the early going. Both Zdeno Chara and Derek Morris lined up as the top points on the first power play until along with Marc Savard, Milan Lucic and Michael Ryder filling out the forward spots on the top unit. Marco Sturm was also hopping into the top unit and alternating with Lucic.

Andrew Ference and Dennis Wideman manned the spots on the second unit with David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi alternating with Chuck Kobasew as the manpower down low. The 5-on-3 work was even more impressive as Chara and Morris manned the points with Recchi working directly in front of the goalie with puck magicians Savard and Krejci working in the two corners. That’s the kind of PP combo that could make a lot of teams pay for spending time in the penalty box this season. One big change from last year: Bergeron has taken off the point and is working more off the half-wall where he can be a triple-threat ready to pass, shoot, or take it straight toward the net.

Despite the current configurations, Julien has been quick to advise not falling in love with the PP configurations as there could be a heavy “play the hot hand” philosophy on the man advantage with so many qualified players to choose from. The B’s bench boss is also reserving the right to plop the oversized body of 6-foot-9 Chara in tight by the cage if the situations calls for a an extra-big, extra-wide body during PP time.

Matt Hunwick is another player likely to find his way onto the PP units as a point man this season, but the young blueliner has been attempting to find his game through training camp. Julien hinted on Tuesday that some of Hunwick’s struggles may be the player’s attempts to justify the two-year contract he received over the summer, and may be a case of a player attempting to do too much. Either way, Hunwick wasn’t on the PP units Wednesday and will have to work his way back into the rotation.

“You’re likely to see a little bit of both. [Bergeron] may end up playing [the point] and he may end up playing up front too,” said Julien. “There are some players that are still trying to find their games a little bit, and we have to take that into account as well. Right now we’re trying to come up with the best combination to start.

“It allows us some versatility. I don’t when or if it’s really going to happen — but I suspect it will at some point — you can put a guy like Zdeno in front of the net. He’s a big net-front presence if you’ve got the right people on the back end. But a lot of things and decisions are based on the way players are going right at the time. If you have players on a roll or a hot streak, then you want to keep them on that streak by utilizing them in different place. Or maybe sometimes guys are trying to find their games , and it’s not good to put them in different kinds of positions when you’re trying to get them to simplify their games. There’s a lot of thinking that goes behind who should be where [on the power play] and who should be on it.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara,

Turn up the volume: B’s ready for new season

09.29.09 at 9:14 pm ET
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The last time the Bruins played a game that mattered, Carolina’s Scott Walker was dancing in the West end of the TD Bank Garden following his game-winning OT goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

On Thursday night, the Black and Gold go about the business of trying to put that memory further in the past when they take on another team that was also eliminated in the same round of last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Washington Captials, featuring Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and defenseman Mike Green, come calling in the 2009-10 season opener

We present the following audio morsels to get you ready and in the mood for the occasion.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said he is naturally excited for Thursday night.

Julien happy to see hockey fever back in the hub.

Julien said it will be tougher to get to the top of the Eastern standings as they did last year as the No. 1 seed.

Tim Thomas will be the starter on Thursday night in goal but Julien said Tuukka Rask has earned the No. 2 spot.

Captain Zdeno Chara on opening with the talented Capitals.

Michael Ryder said the team is ready to go.

Blake Wheeler said it will be fun for the fans to see the Bruins open against the Capitals.

Wheeler said the Bruins have to be concerned about themselves first, not the Capitals on opening night.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Zdeno Chara,
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