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Bruins release 13 players from training camp

09.20.09 at 4:41 pm ET
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The Boston Bruins announced their first round of cuts from the training camp roster on Sunday afternoon, and released 13 players from the NHL club camp while returning an assortment of young players to minor league camp and their junior hockey teams.

Adam Courchaine, Matt Dalton, Jordan Knackstedt, and Matt Marquardt have been assigned to Boston’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Providence Bruins. Scott Fletcher and Rob Kwiet have been released from their tryout agreement with the Boston Bruins are being returned to Providence.

Alain Goulet and Lane MacDermid are unsigned draft choices who are being released from Boston’s training camp and reporting to Providence’s training camp. Ryan Button, Jordan Caron, Michael Hutchinson, and Tyler Randell are unsigned draft choices who are being returned to their respective junior clubs.

Chris DeSousa, Brad Good, Mark Isherwood, Jason Lawrence, Taylor MacDougall, Peter Stevens, Jason Wilson and Marc Zanetti have been released from their Boston Bruins Rookie Camp tryout agreements. Please note that Wilson participated in Boston’s full training camp in addition to their rookie camp. The Bruins now have 41 players left on their training camp roster.

The B’s take on the Montreal Canadiens in their fourth preseason game Sunday night (7 p.m.) at the Colisee in Quebec City.

Three Things Learned at Bruins/Rangers preseason

09.20.09 at 11:57 am ET
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In anticipation of the regular season slowly crawling our way on Oct. 1, here’s a quick “three pack” of the Things We Learned at yesterday’s Bruins preseason loss to the Rangers, 5-2, at the TD Garden because — after all — this is preseason for the writers just as much as it’s preseason for the players.

1) Marc Savard is healthy and primed for a huge year with the Bruins in his contract season

The playmaking center’s job description for a little more challenging when his big trigger man was traded to the Northeast Division rival Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night, but the 32-year-old didn’t show any evidence of rust or the early training camp knee trouble. He looked fast and smooth going up and down the Garden ice, played a pretty good two-man game with Milan Lucic (didn’t see a lot of early chemistry with Michael Ryder skating on the right wing with them yesterday) and he potted a goal during the first period.

The NHL stars should stand out even more when they’re playing against AHL defenseman and goalies that will be bagging groceries in Saskatoon, and Savard did just that in his first action.

“I feel the best I’ve felt in a long time. Personally, from a personal stand point, we are a little all Swedish, and no Finnish, so we were moving the puck well we just didn’t take those shots,” said Savard after the game. “We were a little too cute, but that comes when you play summer hockey, you just try to be cute out there. I think we just have to get back to Boston Bruins hockey and drive in some shots there. I think we were moving around a little too much as a whole.”

2) Steve Begin is going to become a player that Bruins Nation loves pretty unconditionally

The 31-year-old forward came to Boston with caution flags after throwing a cross-check that broke a bone in Savard’s back two seasons ago, but he’s quickly winning a spot on the club and in the fans’ hearts. He’s already stuck up for teammates – he stepped in to drop the gloves yesterday when Dane Byers came after Drew Fata — and taken on a younger, bigger, stronger opponent in the Maple Leafs preseason game last week.

Begin is coming to Boston as advertised: a fourth-line grinder with a bit of skill and a great deal of snarl in his hockey game at all the right times. As long as the 6-foot, 193-pounder chooses his moments carefully, he’s going to be a valuable asset that the B’s could always use more of. After all, even Shawn Thornton’s hardened knuckles can use a day off every once in a while.

“The thing is it is hard to change a guy who’s been like that his whole life and his whole career and that’s who Begin is.  Tonight he came into the defense of Fata who already had a scrap and is wearing a scar from yesterdays stick in the face,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “He came to the defense of his teammate and that’s the thing we like about Steve Begin.  It doesn’t matter if it’s an exhibition game and who it is. 

“He’s going to play the same way night in and night out.  Yes he is 31, there is a risk of injury and this and that.  He doesn’t care and it’s hard for us to change him because that the reason we went and got him because he comes to play every night the same way and is a hard-nosed player.”

3) Tim Thomas could use a  little more action before he’s ready for a return to Vezina Trophy levels

It was clear early that the All-Star goaltender wasn’t on top of his game when he got a clean look at a Sean Avery blast from the left faceoff dot — and the puck somehow trickled in the net for a Rangers goal. Those type of goals simply don’t happen during the regular season against the Tank, and it’s simply a byproduct of rustiness and sharing reps with the five other goaltenders currently in training camp.

Thomas allowed five goals on 19 shots behind a defense that featured some AHL players and rookies in positions of support, and he knows that this typical training camp fare: get your work in, get the juices flowing and get ready for the regular season.

“It felt somewhat awkward. I think part of that was the product of the game and part of that was that it was the first game in five months,” said Thomas when asked how his first preseason action of the year felt on Saturday afternoon.

Young B’s players that stood out:Zach Hamill, Max Sauve, Johnny Boychuk

Young B’s players that looked a little out of place:Jeff Penner,

Chiarelli: Kessel ‘no longer wanted to play in Boston’

09.19.09 at 12:03 pm ET
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Peter Chiarelli said multiple times that Phil Kessel's agent told him July that he no longer wanted to play in Boston

Peter Chiarelli said multiple times that Phil Kessel's agent told him July that he no longer wanted to play in Boston

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli met with the media on Saturday morning to discuss dealing leading-scorer Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs for three high draft picks over the next years, and stated pointedly on several occasions that the 21-year-old winger “no longer wanted to play in Boston”.

Kessel and agent Wade Arnott had, according to Chiarelli, informed him of a couple of reasons why he no longer wanted to a Bruin, and privately gave the GM a couple of reasons why he needed a change of NHL address.  That spurred the B’s to trade away Kessel for draft picks in excess of the draft pick compensation for a potential offer sheet, and the Maple Leafs emerged as the only team with the draft pick assets and available cash to swing a trade-and-sign for Boston’s restricted free agent.

One of those reasons behind Kessel’s desire to leave is believed to be B’s coach Claude Julien’s “tough love” relationship with him over their two years together. Some believe that Kessel never forgave the coach for benching him during his first playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens, and preaching the importance of a two-way game over simply being a glorified floater on the ice. Kessel scored 36 goals and was a +23 during his breakout season with the Black and Gold last winter, and much of that on-ice success can be traced back to Julien’s “no soft play allowed” coaching style.

“He had his best season under this coach. Enough said on that,” Chiarelli said of Kessel and Julien. “We stress defense first. We stress competitiveness. Having said all that, what were we, first or second in the league in goals scored? And he had 36, 37 goals? Got him a nice raise.”

The B’s coach, for his part, didn’t get all soft and fuzzy on the relationship he had with a slow-to-mature Kessel during their two seasons together in Boston, but he also didn’t feel like the player/coach dynamic was a big factor in the disconnect between Kessel and the Bruins. In his mind, the coach had done everything possible to make things work for both the player and the hockey club.

“I even told him in a conversation that I didn’t get a (salary) bonus for making him into a bad player. Everything I did was to try and make him a better player, and I think that message was understood,” said Julien. “I think last year his season proved that. He seemed to understand the concept of our team, and besides the 36 goals he was a + player. I feel good personally that I did my best to make him the best player I could, and the rest of that stuff has nothing to do with me.

“I’m not going to sugercoat this. He was no different than any other player that you deal with at times. You never have smooth relationships because there’s challenges along the way. What you need to do as a coach is to convince those guys and make them understand and believe that this is what you need to do to be the best team possible. This is what you need to be the best player possible as well. We all know Phil has always grown up as a superstar player, and those guys are a bit of a bigger challenge. But I can tell  you last year there were no issues with him resisting, and there shouldn’t have been because his season proved that it was very successful.” 

Chiarelli addressed the addition of the draft picks and the options that it provides the team with $1.7 million under the salary cap. The swap gives the B’s a grand total of five draft picks in the first two rounds of next year’s draft (two first-rounders and three second-rounders), and affords them plenty of assets should they need a particular player at this season’s trade deadline. The Nashville Predators were the other team seriously in on Kessel and a deal with them would have centered on affordable, young prospects (Ryan Ellis, Jon Blum, Colin Wilson) more than draft picks. But no other team — aside from Brian Burke’s well-heeled Maple Leafs – was willing to pay the 21-year-old $5.4 million a year for four years of restricted free agency and one year of UFA status from Kessel.

In so many ways this move by the Bruins smacks of a New England Patriots-style manuever where there was a particular value on a player, and the B’s front office fortified their long-term future once Toronto’s contract offer shot up into the hockey stratosphere. Many of the same factors and beliefs that were at play in the Richard Seymour deal earlier this month are now rearing up on Causeway Street.

Chiarelli added that he could have matched a potential offer sheet from Toronto and then stored Phil Kessel on LTIR (Long Term Injured Reserve) for the entirety of the regular season if the B’s front office felt it was necessary. That would have been a largely punitive move toward the player, and would have forced the B’s to clear off enough space for his gigantic raise in salary.

Chiarelli surely would have been forced to trade off an Andrew Ference or a Chuck Kobasew — or perhaps Michael Ryder – simply to squeeze Kessel’s $5.4 million under the salary cap. That’s not even broaching the contractual decisions that await Chiarelli next season when Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler and Marc Savard are all looking for new deals. None of his other available options seemed prudent or feasible once Chiarelli viewed the Kessel situation in totality.

“At the end of the day, we want players that want to be here,” said Chiarelli, who also said the perceived threat of the offer sheet played prominently into the eventual trade. “I know this player is a good player. Obviously he is. He can skate and he can shoot the puck. But we want players that want to be here, and we want to grow the team with those type of players. This isn’t about — and I know the history here — but this isn’t about frugality. There was some significant offers made, and there was little to no attempt to negotiate from the other side.

“Phil’s agent gave me a couple of reasons,” added Chiarelli when asked if he knew why Kessel wanted out of Boston. “I was surprised. I don’t know if really there were other reasons. He has that right as a restricted free agent and he can choose (where he signs). It’s all part of this new CBA whether it’s restricted free agency or unrestricted free agency, it comes earlier and arbitration comes earlier so (a player’s) mobility and choice of location comes earlier.”

There were an overflow of ”it’s a business” type quotes from the Bruins players in the aftermath of the Kessel deal, but interesting viewpoints from team Captain Zdeno Chara and close friend Blake Wheeler came to the fore. Several times  during their three years together,  frustration cropped up with Chara toward the youngster’s game, and then bubbled over in practice.

The towering defenseman hinted afterwards that the young sniper still has a few things to learn about being a successful player in the NHL, and some of it simply comes down to a commitment toward off-ice training and improvements to his game. One imagines that Chara will teach Kessel a few of these painful lessons the first time he ventures into the corners of the TD Garden ice decorated in a Maple Leafs sweater.

“We all know he’s a young, skilled player. When you have young players like that – and not just young players but even older players — you have to realize that you can learn something every day, as they say,” said Chara when asked if he had moments of frustration with #81 during his time in Boston. “He has to realize that learning is a part of the game, and sometimes it’s a little easier and sometimes it’s a little bit harder.” 

While Chara said he hadn’t spoken with Kessel at all, Wheeler still chats regularly on the phone with his former University of Minnesota teammate “3 or 4 times a week” and never got the impression that Kessel was quite so dead-set about not coming back to the Bruins.

“Our conversations were never too  much about hockey or the business aspect of it. It was more like ‘whatever happens, happens,” said Wheeler. “We never had that particular conversation. At the end of the day, maybe, if he had to pick he would have wanted to be here (in Boston). But it just didn’t work out.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Peter Chiarelli, Phil Kessel,

Kessel Traded To Leafs for draft picks

09.18.09 at 9:59 pm ET
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Phil Kessel finally has found a new home after a protracted summer of fruitless negotiations with the Bruins as a restricted free agent, and landed in Toronto as part of a much-discussed deal that sent three high draft picks back to Boston.  Late Friday night, the Bruins confirmed the deal, which had been reported as a done deal on both TSN and ESPN earlier in the evening. The Bruins scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m. Saturday at the TD Garden for Boston GM Peter Chiarelli to discuss the bold, but not unexpected, move.

The Spoked 'B' and Phil Kessel filed for divorce on Friday night when he was traded to the Maple Leafs

The Spoked 'B' and Phil Kessel filed for divorce on Friday night when he was traded to the Maple Leafs

The Bruins are set to receive Toronto’s first- and second-round draft pick in 2010, and the Leafs’ first-round pick in 2011. With only $1.7 million worth of room under the salary cap, there was a distinct limit on potential position players coming back to Boston in the deal — and in the end there wasn’t a single prospect or established player sent to the B’s in exchange for a 21-year-old sharpshooter that led the team with 36 goals scored last season.

TSN reported that Kessel agreed to a five-year, $27 million contract with the Maple Leafs, which amounts to $5.4 million per season in average salary and in a cap hit to the Maple Leafs. Kessel had denied that he was looking for a $5 million per season contract earlier this summer while speaking with reporters, but the youngster earned that and then some from Toronto GM Brian Burke. Amazingly, Kessel becomes the highest paid player with the biggest salary cap hit on a Maple Leafs team in desperate need of scoring — and makes nearly $1 million more per season than defenseman Mike Komisarek’s $4.5 million per season.

WEEI.com first reported the schism between Kessel and the Bruins in negotiations several weeks ago, and the young goal-scorer reportedly steered a trade to Toronto by refusing to entertain a contract with any of the other potential trading partners for the Bruins. The Nashville Predators publicly voiced interest in Kessel, but the young sniper was determined to find a landing spot for himself in Toronto.

The question now becomes how an introverted young hockey superstar, known to shun the spotlight, will deal with the heightened scrutiny and attention he’s sure to receive as the new face of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kessel will be Toronto’s highest-paid player at $5.4 million per year, and — as such — will be labeled as the savior for a downtrodden hockey franchise looking to Burke for a way out of the Northeast Division cellar. Kessel has never dealt with the pressure of being “The Man” in a hockey-crazed environment like Toronto, and there are some legitimate questions how he’ll handle the added attention.

Both teams are rolling the dice here. The B’s are keeping the rest of their team intact amid salary cap limitations, and banking that Kessel will never become a game-changing 50-goal scorer with the Maple Leafs. If that happens, then the Bruins could regret the move for years to come. The Maple Leafs are gambling that the 21-year-old hockey wunderkind is just growing into his fast skating speed and deadly wrist shot, and Kessel will turn into the dynamic offensive force Toronto was missing on their roster. 

The 21-year-old winger led the Bruins last season with 36 goals, and he added 24 assists to total a career-high 60 points in 70 games. The return to full health of left wing Marco Sturm from left knee surgery along with continued offensive improvement for Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic and David Krejci will off-set Kessel’s offensive productuon in the minds of B’s executives, but none of those players have the youngster’s set of scoring tools. His game-breaking ability can’t be duplicated by anybody else on the roster, and that’s certainly a factor that looms large if the B’s go through offensive struggles during the regular season.

Kessel was the team’s third-leading scorer in the playoffs, collecting six goals and five assists in 11 games. In fact, throughout his B’s career Kessel was a point-per-game player in the playoffs with 15 total points in 15 playoff games over the last two seasons. But the young forward clashed with B’s coach Claude Julien over his willingness to always play the kind of impassioned two-way hockey that the Bruins coach demands, and was benched for three games during the 2007-08 playoffs.

Kessel, drafted with the fifth overall pick in 2006 out of the University of Minnesota, ends his Bruins career with 126 points on 66 goals and 60 assists in 222 regular-season games.

Kessel, who had offseason rotator cuff and labrum surgery and is expected to be sidelined at least until November, overcame testicular cancer in 2006, his rookie season in the NHL. In 2007, the Wisconsin native was awarded the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey. Kessel also missed 12 games with a bout of mononucleosis and the shoulder injury last season.

Read More: Brian Burke, Peter Chiarelli, Phil Kessel,

Report: Kessel is steering toward a Maple Leafs trade

09.18.09 at 10:16 am ET
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Phil Kessel should be careful about wishing he was playing for Toronto

Phil Kessel should be careful about wishing he was playing for Toronto

The Toronto Maple Leafs are the first choice as a landing spot for B’s winger Phil Kessel, according to a TSN report by Bob McKenzie, and could aggressively come at the Bruins with an offer sheet by this weekend if an agreeable trade isn’t completed. The report underscores genuine interest in Kessel on the part of the Nashville Predators and a desire for the B’s to ship the 21-year-old scorer off to the Western Conference if all things were equal, but the young sniper is reportedly steering a deal exclusively toward Toronto.

The reports paint a picture of Kessel in a cat-bird position of being able to refuse any other contract offers from other teams so long as the Maple Leafs are interested in his sniping services, and estimates that the B’s restricted free agent is in line to cash in on an offer sheet from the Maple Leafs in the neighborhood of five or six years at an annual cap hit of $5.5 million. That’s a healthy step up from the previous estimates that the young forward was looking for a pact of  roughly $4.5 million per season, but speaks to just how badly Toronto needs some offensive punch.

The Boston Globetossed out a potential three-way deal between the Rangers, Bruins and Leafs that would net the B’s draft picks and equally unsigned RFA Brandon Dubinsky, but not sure that’s anything more than some creative spit-balling. It would involve a lot of moving parts to get three teams moving onto the same page this close to the regular season.

A Leafs/Bruins trade has been centered largely upon draft picks during multiple conversations between Toronto GM Brian Burke and Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, but the talks have also also included several young, cost-effective players possibly being sent Boston’s way during a potential deal.

Former UVM skater Viktor Stalberg is one intriguing forward prospect that caught the eye of more than one Bruins player during Wednesday night’s preseason game at the Air Canada Centre. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the former Catamounts forward included in part of a package that already includes multiple draft picks in excess of the offer sheet compensation required to potential sign Kessel (a first round pick, a second round pick and a third round pick).

By all accounts Kessel and agent Wade Arnott are now steering the USS Kessel straight toward Toronto and seem to be locking in on Boston’s Northeast Division rival while holding the requisite leverage that they could simply sign an offer sheet with Toronto should Chiarelli trade him anywhere else. That threat takes on added significance with so many teams so close to finalizing their salary cup numbers and finishing player payroll budgets just shy of the Oct. 1 season-opening deadline to get under the $56.8 million cap.

One cavaet that the Kessel camp should consider carefully before pushing so strongly for a long and prosperous deal with the Maple Leafs: Kessel is significantly Garbo-esque when it comes to dealing with the pressure and expectations from a good-sized media market like Boston, and playing under the the raised pressure and super-sized scrutiny synonymous with the Maple Leafs jersey would be taking it to a much higher level.

The 21-year-old sniper will be paid like a sniping savior for the huddled and weary masses of Leafs Nation, and he isn’t yet equipped with the tools to deal with those kinds of lofty expectations. It could get ugly if Kessel underwhelms while coming back from a shoulder injury, or if his sometimes softer-side-of-Sears approach clashes with the dynamically stern duo of Ron Wilson and Brian Burke. By all accounts Kessel seems hell-bent on a final destination of Toronto, but this could be a classic case of “be careful what you ask for” when the young skater finally gets it.

Interesting comments from B’s coach Claude Julien speaking during the first days of camp about the work put in over the summer by Blake Wheeler. The second-year player put in a great deal of work in the weight room gaining 15 pounds of muscle, and appears on the verge of some very good things working toward a potential spot on the top line with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic.

Julien began the answer addressing Wheeler’s impressive work, but also seemed to provide some pretty interesting comments about where the disconnect might have been with a rare scoring talent like Phil Kessel. The 21-year-old winger made the Bruins team during his first year of pro hockey in 2006-07 under the structurally-challenged regime of Dave Lewis, and developed some bad habits amid an undesirable, losing atmosphere at a crucial point in the young hockey player’s development.  

“The one thing that really played in Blake’s favor was that he had the opportunity to play on a team with a successful regular season,” said Julien.  ”When you win games — and see what it takes to play on a successful team that wins games on a night-in, night out basis — then you’re learning properly.

“Not everybody has the opportunity to be put into those [winning] situations, and you can play a lot — but you’re playing for a team that’s struggling at the bottom of the standings. It doesn’t mean that you’re growing in the right environment. [Blake] was able to [learn properly], and I think that’s an advantage he had over other players.” 

Hmmm. I wonder who the “other player” is?

Read More: Brian Burke, Peter Chiarelli, Phil Kessel,

High Expectations At ‘State Of The Bruins’

09.17.09 at 10:55 pm ET
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Bruins Town Hall Meeting

David Krejci models the Bruins' Winter Classic uniform Thursday night at the TD Garden.

Bruins hockey used to be the sport in Boston. Before the Celtics dynasty, Red Sox fever and Patriots Super Bowl runs, the spoked-B was the name of the game in the Hub.

Perhaps it’s on its way to being so again.

About 2,700 showed up at TD Garden Thursday night for the “State of the Bruins” town hall forum, where season ticket holders were allowed to hold court directly with Bruins owners, management and players. The forum panel consisted of coach Claude Julien, general manager Peter Chiarelli, vice president Cam Neely, owner Jeremy Jacobs and his son, principal owner Charlie Jacobs. Along for the ride were Bruins stalwarts Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron as well as new defenseman Derek Morris.

The theme of the night?

High expectations.

Before the start of the forum, a three-minute video was played on the Garden scoreboard of the 2008-09 Bruins squad that won the Northeast division, the regular-season Eastern Conference crown and a playoff series for the first time in 10 years. It is just a taste of what Hub hockey fans have been craving, and the men on the stage Thursday evening could not agree more.

“We have higher expectations. But that is what we want, high expectations,” Neely said during the discussion.

Bergeron expressed that last season was left with some “unfinished business” while Chiarelli said it had a “hollow feeling.” The Bruins want to drive toward a Stanley Cup and the fans, if the attendance Thursday night was any indicator, will push them hard all year to quench that thirst for success.

“The message I got from just about everybody in management, and I share, is that we have higher expectations this year and we want to deliver,” Charlie Jacobs said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Charlie Jacobs, Derek Morris,

Julien: ‘pretty sure that Savard is 100 percent’

09.17.09 at 2:11 pm ET
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Marc Savard has yet to appear in either of the first two preseason Bruins games, but B’s coach Claude Julien declared the No. 1 center as 100 percent after battling through a left knee issue in the first few days of training camp. Julien wouldn’t say when Savard will appear in a preseason game — the B’s play Saturday afternoon at home against the Rangers and Sunday night against the Canadiens in Quebec City — but confirmed that it’s now a coaching decision rather than a choice left up to the trainers.

Savard said that part of his goal heading into this season was to shed a few pounds and be a bit lighter and quicker on his skates, and he underwent a long-distance running and sprinting program that saw him run 4-6 miles four or five days a week. Warning bells were sounded when Savard needed to leave the ice early on the first day of training camp due to a little knee soreness, but the reports of it being anything serious were greatly exaggerated. 

“It’s just one of those maintenance things because I’ve  been skating hard on it,” said Savard of the left knee. “I want to get in (to a game). There’s always things in the real games that you can’t do in practice.”

The center has looked sleeker on the frozen sheet, certainly, but perhaps all of the hard work caused a little of the left knee discomfort at the beginning of camp. Either way, both Savard and Julien say that the 32-year-old center is ready to drop into game action at this point in training camp.

Savard’s motivation is a good thing to hear at this point in camp, and there shouldn’t any shortage of reasons for the playmaking center to come up with his best season as a Bruins player. He’s in a contract year with his four-year, $20 million set to expire after this season, and he’s already put it out there that this campaign is a resume tape of sorts for the Team Canada Olympic decision-makers this fall.

“We’ll see what kind of lineup I decide on,” said Julien of Savard’s chances of playing this weekend. “I don’t think it’s for any other reason than me picking out my lineup. It’s a choice of mine more than anything else. In Savvy’s case, I’m pretty sure he’s 100 percent. So it’s just a matter of when we decide to put him in.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Marc Savard,
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