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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,

Sturm Will Be Counted On In Bruins Offense

09.29.09 at 10:43 am ET
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Before last year, it had been a while since the Hub of Hockey could say that its team was a legitimate offensive powerhouse in the National Hockey League. In 2006-07 the Bruins finished with 210 goals (2.56 per game), ranking them 25th in the league. The 2007-08 team was slightly worse, with 206 goals (2.51 per game), ranking 24th in the league, as Boston captured the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, due mostly to its tough, defensive-minded game plan.

Last season? The Northeast Division champions finished second in the league with 270 goals (3.29 per game) and regularly abused opposing goaltenders. They did so with a mixture of ascending youth (Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic) and crafty veterans (Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi), finishing the campaign with astounding balance as seven players finished with more than 20 goals (six if you do not count Recchi’s 13 goals with the Tampa Bay Lightning before being acquired at the trade deadline). Chara and Lucic both came close to 20 (19 and 17, respectively).

It was all done without Marco Sturm.

The veteran wingman figured to be an important part of Boston’s goal-scoring mix going into last season, balancing the production between the proven producers and the aspiring young guns. Yet, because of injuries, Sturm’s force never materialized. He had been a staple in the the B’s scheme in those offensively challenged years (27 goals in each of 2006-07 and 2007-08) yet tallied only seven last year in 19 games before going down with a knee injury on Dec. 19 against Toronto. He went from the player kids idolized before the season with “The Perfect Sturm” posters to the quintessential Forgotten Man. One would be hard pressed to find many Sturm posters floating around TD Garden this time around.

Through the frustration of last season, Sturm stayed active with the team. It would have been easy to hide in the rehab room and disappear to the Land of The Lost, but he did not. He supported his teammates all year to the point where he actually designed the “Stay Hungry” hats that were the trademark of the Bruins’ postseason run. That is in the past, though. It is a new season, and Sturm is ready to go come opening night on Thursday against the Washington Capitals.

“It feels great. You know, it was a long time ago that I played to this crowd, so I really look forward to Thursday night and hopefully a good start,” Sturm said.

The big question for the Bruins this year is how to replace Kessel and his 36 goals after the young winger was traded to Toronto. The answer comes in a couple of variations, but it looks like Boston’s front office is counting on Sturm to make up for at least part of the slack. Mix the 31-year-old wingman with gains made by the young corps, and Boston probably will have the firepower to stay near the top of the league in the lamp-lighting category this year.

“We are confident with the team that we have here, no doubt,” coach Claude Julien said during media day on Monday at the TD Garden. “We have Marco Sturm back and healthy, so as a group we are a strong team. We feel stronger as well with some young guys having matured and Marco Sturm in.”

It appears that at the beginning of the year Sturm will be a direct fill-in for Kessel on the right wing of the first line with the Savard (center) and Lucic (left wing). Sturm plays a similar game to Kessel ‘€” both are speedsters, have a good shot and have a nose for the back of the net. Savard is excited to give the pairing a shot.

“We lost Sturm all of last season and it looks like he is going to start on wing with us, so we are excited to have him,” Savard said. “He brings a ton of speed, like Kessel had, and he can finish when he has the opportunity. We are excited for that, we have a good mix and hopefully we can produce those goals that we are going to lose. It is going to have to come from a lot of people and I think we are capable.”

Sturm will have to earn it, though. No player on Julien-coached teams gets free passes for jobs well done in the past. The right wing spot is probably Sturm’s at the start, but as Julien said, “Nothing is carved in stone.”

“We’€™d certainly like, to a certain extent, put some speed again on that wing, and [Savard] is good at finding those guys so we will give [the speedsters] a try,” Julien said. “We are going to put the best lines together as we can possibly find and if that means tweaking them and moving them around, we will until we find the right combination. I think right now it is worth having a look at, and Marco has played the off wing before and he feels comfortable there. So, again, there is a guy who hasn’€™t played in a while, so we have to take that into consideration whether he’€™s on top of his game or whether he is trying to find it again.”

Make no mistake about it, there will be rust. Not many players in any sport can miss tw0-thirds of a season (as Sturm did last year with his 63 DNPs) and come straight out the next year as if nothing happened. NHL hockey, especially after the lockout and the new rules to open up the ice for skill players, is a flow game. Before going down last year, Sturm had lost his flow, probably due to his balky knee. Despite his plus-9 rating, it appeared that he was out of sync at times, either by making a bad pass or just being out of position.

It will be difficult, at least at the start, to come back as the same player he was in 2007-08. It is hard to get back into mental shape while in the workout room or during the summer. For that matter, Sturm has only played in two preseason games for the Bruins this year (with no goals and two assists). Not that it will stop him from trying to get in rhythm with Savard in the early going.

“You know, obviously with Savvy in the middle, playing on the right side I will have a lot of chances,” Sturm said. “He will give me the puck, so I have to use my speed, use my game, and the puck will come to me, I know that. So I just have to find the rhythm with him, and hopefully we click pretty soon.”

The Bruins feel that they have the talent to compete in the highest tier of the NHL this season and shoot for a Stanley Cup. If Sturm is on top of his game, they just may be right.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Marc Savard, Marco Sturm,

Ference unconcerned about union issues in dressing room

09.29.09 at 10:26 am ET
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It hasn’€™t been the most tranquil of summers for Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference after a full slate of off-ice responsibilities as the team’€™s NHL Player Association player representative.

Ference was one of the key point people in the controversial ouster of NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly after a long, late-night advisory board meeting in Chicago last month, and he’€™s been facing a consistent firing line of tough questions in that aftermath since arriving in Boston for B’€™s training camp several weeks ago.

The Bruins defenseman joined Matt Stajan, Mike Komisarek and Brad Boyes in forming an investigative subcommittee that interviewed NHLPA office employees and looked into allegations that Kelly had broken the spirit of the NHLPA constitution ‘€“ and therefore was unfit to lead the body of NHL players. There’s been plenty of details involving the unauthorized acquisition of union meeting minutes and cloak-and-dagger subterfuge to stab Kelly in the back behind the scenes, but — like just about everything in life — there’s seems to be three sides to the situation.

There’€™s a he said/she said element to the dismissal, of course, but there’€™s also no denying things were running smoothly under Kelly’€™s leadership and the NHL was gaining back the popularity it frittered away during the lockout in 2004-05.

The investigation of a Ference-led subcommittee evolved into Kelly’€™s firing after his largely successful two-year run, and it spurred on the placement of general counsel Ian Penney into an interim leadership position within the players’€™ union. As with any change of leadership in a position of such high visibility, there’€™s been plenty of tumult in the aftermath of Kelly’€™s sacking and the murmurs simply aren’€™t going away with time. There was an NHLPA-sponsored conference call among players on Monday night to discuss process and actions going forward, and perhaps even a bit of a circle-the-wagons type message.

The pro-Kelly camp claims that the hard-working, no-nonsense, Boston-bred Kelly was railroaded by a group of power-hungry individuals within the union, and that the player reps were hoodwinked into making the ultimate choice of removal.

There were certainly plenty of veteran Bruins players looking for answers to the NHLPA situation when training camp began two weeks ago. The bold move to displace Kelly was another in a long line of borderline embarrassing episodes (Ted Saskin, Alan Eagleson etc.) for the hockey players’€™ union leadership, and some of Ference’€™s teammates are clearly upset that such a change in the union’€™s corner office came without any warning or consultation prior to a bleary-eyed 3 a.m. vote on Aug. 31.

Ference had a closed-door meeting with the rest of his teammates about the Kelly fiasco last week that some sources described as ‘€œheated’€ at points, but the 30-year-old blueliner maintained at Monday’€™s media day session that the NHLPA issues wouldn’€™t be affecting the team’€™s unique chemistry off the ice.

The issues were discussed and differences of opinion were listened to and hashed out, said Ference, but there was clearly a difference of opinion in the way things eventually transpired. There remains a disconnect between the 22 player reps voting to sack Kelly/NHLPA execs still remaining with the union infrastructure, and the rank-and-file players left with the unpleasant feeling that a rug had been pulled out from underneath them without their consent or endorsement.

Ference is doggedly sticking to his guns that the union was justified in dismissing Kelly from its top spot, and that hasn’€™t been a major talking point among the union’€™s membership in the B’€™s locker room.

‘€œThere were questions about the timing of it and whether or not we should have waited until [training] camp and we can have a difference of opinion about that,’€ said Ference. ‘€œIt doesn’€™t mean there’€™s tension or fighting. But the No. 1 thing that’€™s misrepresented is about whether or not [Kelly] should have been fired.

‘€œThe guys that have the facts say it’€™s not about that, we agree that [Kelly] had to go. It’€™s more about the timing and the decision to do it in Chicago instead of training camp. We have very good reasons for that and why we couldn’€™t wait and why it had to happen based on that meeting. But those are topics that we bring up and it’€™s a healthy thing to do. But these tensions within the team are a fictional report by a sports reporter. It’€™s frustrating to read. We talk about it in the locker room and it’€™s like ‘€˜Gee, where is this coming from?’€™ It is what it is and it’€™s ridiculous. But I guess some guys are just going to write what they want to write.’€

There are heavy indications that fellow veteran players ‘€“ with Mark Recchi chief among them ‘€“ will toss their names into the running for the B’€™s player rep position when it comes up for reelection in the next few weeks. There’€™s clearly ‘€“ at the very least ‘€“ a level of unhappiness with the way the process played out leading to the bloodless coup in the NHLPA offices.

It seems that some of the more influential veterans within the league are beginning to stand up and take notice, and there may be big alterations in the offing when election time hits for the player rep population.

Unsolicited, Ference admitted that there was a difference of opinion with 41-year-old veteran forward Mark Recchi when it came down to process and the unfortunate timing of the decision. But the defenseman said there was accordance on the one bottom line subject: that the move on Kelly had to be made by the NHLPA’€™s voting body.

Other than that, the Bruins defenseman said any union disagreements had zilch to do with chemistry on the ice or good vibes within the Bruins’€™ dressing room. That, Ference said, was much more fiction than fact as his team sits on the cusp of an NHL regular season with the highest of expectations.

‘€œWe have a reporter out there that’€™s writing down this stuff and it’€™s a tad ridiculous,’€ said Ference. ‘€œWe have a locker room that’€™s open and we talk about things, and we can have differences of opinion. But it’€™s out there and we’€™re open, and that’€™s what makes our locker room so open and good.

‘€œBut this stuff about [Recchi] confronting [me], and all this other stuff? Rex and I talked about the issues, and the bottom line is that we both agree that Paul Kelly had to go. That’€™s the stuff that doesn’€™t get reported. I don’€™t know if there’€™s a slanted perspective or some ulterior thing going when the stuff is being written, but the fact is that we do talk about it. It’€™s healthy to talk about it and we’€™re men about it. If there’€™s an issue then we talk about it, put it out in the open and we have good communication about it. Me and Rex talk about this stuff all the time.’€

B’€™s coach Claude Julien was aware of the differing opinions on union matters within the locker room, but didn’€™t feel like things were going to affect the on-ice chemistry between players arguing over unfair dismissals or advisory boards.

‘€œYou can ask those guys those kinds of questions, but for you’€™ve got to be able to separate things,’€ said Julien. ‘€œYou have troubles at home then you don’€™t bring them to the rink with you.’€

It remains to be seen if any cracks suddenly appear within Boston’€™s team foundation, but the B’€™s players would do well to keep the off-ice union issues exactly where they currently reside: away from the ice.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Mark Recchi,
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