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Bitz is back to practice with the B’s

11.06.09 at 12:53 pm ET
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WILMINGTON, Mass. ‘€“ The good news: Byron Bitz was back on the ice with the rest of the team practicing Friday morning after missing three games with a strained groin muscle. This also means that Bitz ‘€“ David Krejci‘€™s roommate on road trips ‘€“ hasn’€™t succumbed to the H1N1 virus that felled the 23-year-old playmaking pivot earlier this week.

The bad news: the Bruins are still mired in an offensive funk without the services of Marc Savard and Milan Lucic.

Bitz skated on a right wing with Trent Whitfield and Shawn Thornton during practice at Ristuccia Arena, and rookie Mikko Lehtonen was also still with the team practicing as the 13th forward.

If Bitz is healthy enough to play Saturday against the NHL‘€™s stingiest defense in the Buffalo Sabres ‘€“ allowing a league-best 24 goals this season, six better than the next-best team ‘€“ then the emergency call-up will likely be returned to the Providence Bruins.

Here are today’€™s lines from practice:

Marco Sturm ‘€“ Patrice Bergeron ‘€“ Mark Recchi
Blake Wheeler ‘€“ Vladimir Sobotka ‘€“ Michael Ryder
Daniel Paille ‘€“ Steve Begin ‘€“ Brad Marchand
Shawn Thornton ‘€“ Trent Whitfield ‘€“ Byron Bitz/Mikko Lehtonen

We’ll have more in a bit.

Turn up the volume: no one will feel sorry for us

11.06.09 at 2:05 am ET
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Say this much for Bruins head coach Claude Julien – he’s not looking for sympathy.

In the opening month of the season, he has lost his leading playmaker Marc Savard, his leading tough guy in Milan Lucic and now, David Krejci, one of his most skilled young forwards has been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus.

Add to that the team’s power play is dead last among the 30 NHL clubs and you have a team that is having a hard time scoring. How hard? Try 192 minutes, six seconds without lighting the lamp between Vladimir Sobotka’s tally on Saturday and Patrice Bergeron’s game-tying goal with 51.7 seconds to go on Thursday.

Still, the Bruins had to settle for just the one point as the trio of Blake Wheeler, Bergeron and Mark Recchi could not solve Carey Price in the shootout and fell 2-1 to the Montreal Canadiens.

Claude Julien said no one will feel sorry for the Bruins.

Julien said Bergeron deserved a star Thursday as Boston’s best player.

Montreal’s Carey Price said he could tell Bruins were desperate to score.

Tim Thomas said the Bruins couldn’t get discouraged when the Bergeron goal was disallowed in the second period.

Patrice Bergeron said the Bruins had to keep going, even after disallowed goal.

Bergeron said this is one step forward for the Bruins.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, NHL,

Bruins once again are shooting mostly blanks

11.05.09 at 9:46 pm ET
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The Bruins once again seemed to be all up, over and around the net, and — lo and behold — there was even a measly goal scored. The B’s hadn’t potted a point in 192 minutes and 6 seconds deep into the third period of Thursday night’s tilt against the Canadiens,  but they finally broke the proverbial ice with a Patrice Bergeron special with 52 seconds remaining on the clock. Boston salvaged a point, but they still ended up losing a 2-1 shootout to the hated Habs at TD Garden.

The defeat allowed them to avoid their third straight shutout loss, but it still shines a glaring light over a Black and Gold offensive problem that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. The last time the B’s had been shut out in three straight games? That would be way back in the Eddie Shore days of the 1929. Old Time Hockey. The B’s did win the Stanley Cup that season, but something tells me lightning isn’t striking twice.

Tim Thomas called it “breaking the seal” and that’s exactly what it was for a hockey gang that couldn’t shoot straight.

“We’re shooting the puck and now we have to get a bit more dirty and try and [reach] those rebounds,” said Steve Begin, who was his normal human pinball machine self against his old team. “That’s how we are going to score goals. It’s not going to be nice. It’s going to be ugly goals. It’s tough, but like I said we have to keep pushing ourselves. It’s going to happen.”

The Bruins actually looked to have ended the drought in the second period when Patrice Bergeron hustled after a loose rebound at Carey Price’s feet, and appeared to squeeze a shot through a sliver between the right post and Price’s leg pads. Bergeron was following a Sturm speed rush up the left side of the ice, and the B’s bench exhaled a large sigh of relief when the lamp went red for the first time in three games.

But a review of the goal found that Sturm — while battling with Roman Hamrlik by the right post in question — appeared to have slightly lifted the goal post just as the puck squirted past Price. Replays showed that the puck actually slid under the post after Sturm’s little lifting session. No goal and the scoreless streak was still on.

This was no case of Price standing on his head or a goaltender dazzling the B’s skaters with a flurry of show-stopping saves. Thursday night was Exhibit A of a Boston offense flailing their way through an epic struggle that would have seemed a near impossibility for last season’s goal-happy bunch.

Montreal’s only goal came in the first period when Andrei Kostitsyn took advantage of a Dennis Wideman spill in the neutral zone, and flashed toward the net with the puck. Kostitsyn attempted the wraparound score, and the puck somehow found its way to Glen Metropolit waiting out in front. Metropolit slammed a shot into the vacant portion of the net, and the Habs appeared to have all the offensive firepower they would need against the offensively-challenged Bruins.

But Bergeron managed the last-second rebound goal with Zdeno Chara occupying three different Canadiens defenders with his gargantuan 6-foot-9 frame in front of the Habs net, and Boston scraped together a point. Bergeron, Wheeler and Recchi all came up short in the shootout after a scoreless overtime, and Mike Cammalleri beat Thomas with a sizzling top-shelf wrister.

YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND AND NOTHING’S EVER GONNA GET YOU DOWN: Bergeron has been the best thing about the Bruins this season, and it’s no coincidence he was the player to finally snap Boston’s streak of futility. Both Bergeron and Sturm landed seven shots on net and were all over the ice in attempts to resuscitate a flatlining offense.

GOAT HORNS: Over three hours of scoreless hockey and absolutely nothing to show for three power play chances. The B’s are now fruitless in their last 20 power play tries, have scored only once in 23 attempts since Marc Savard went down with his broken left foot. I’d say anybody in Thursday night’s audience is wearing the goat horns right about now if the B’s hadn’t pulled out that last-ditch goal. Dennis Wideman had another neutral zone mistake that cost the B’s a score in the first period, but the slate is officially clean after Bergeron mercifully lit the lamp.

Turn up the volume: Chiarelli on Rask

11.05.09 at 7:16 pm ET
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Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli addressed the media prior to Thursday’s game with Montreal and explained why the club decided to sign goaltender Tuukka Rask to a two-year contract extension through the 2011-12 season.

Chiarelli said they have seen steady improvement from Rask since they drafted him from Finland.

Chiarelli said veteran Tim Thomas is still the team’s No. 1 and a great role model for the 22-year-old Rask.

Chiarelli explained the origin and motivation of the Rask contract talks.

More from the team release below:

Rask has appeared in nine NHL games in his career  – all with the Bruins – and has registered a 5-2-2 record, 2.43 Goals Against Average, .917 save percentage and two shutouts. He has played in four games this year for the Bruins and has posted a 2-1-1 record, 2.41 GAA and .920 save percentage. He is coming off a 2-0 shutout win of the Edmonton Oilers in his last start on October 31.

Rask made his NHL debut for the Bruins on November 20, 2007 against the Toronto Maple Leafs and recorded his first NHL victory in that game. He spent the majority of the last two seasons in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins where he had a 60-33-6 record and five shutouts in 102 appearances. He opened the season on an NHL roster for the first time in his career this year.

The 6’€™2’€™’€™, 171-pound native of Savolinna, Finland played two seasons in the Finnish Elite League before coming to North America in 2007 and he has represented Team Finland in three World Junior Championships.

Read More: Boston Bruins, NHL, Tuukka Rask,

Turn up the volume: Chiarelli on H1N1

11.05.09 at 7:01 pm ET
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Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli addressed the media prior to Thursday night’s game against Montreal announced the club’€™s medical staff has confirmed a diagnosis of H1N1 for David Krejci.

Based on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations, Krejci will be isolated from the rest of the team until he is symptom and fever free for 24 hours.

Chiarelli said the team is taking all precautions to ensure that facilities are kept sanitized.

Chiarelli said the team is taking this diagnosis very seriously.

Chiarelli admitted this adds to a very frustrating time for a team trying to find it’s early season rhythm.

Read More: Boston Bruins, H1N1, NHL, Peter Chiarelli

Bruins lock up another young asset in Rask

11.05.09 at 6:44 pm ET
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Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli had a bright young hockey asset taken from him last summer when Toronto leveraged the threat of a contract offer sheet into a trade for Phil Kessel just prior to the season’€™s start.

 

Give the B’€™s GM full marks for not letting that happen again as he locked up another talented youngster in Tuukka Rask to a two-year contract extension that will take the Finnish netminder through the 2011-2012 season. Reports have the salary pinned between $2.6-2.8 million overall with a cap hit in the $1.35 million neighborhood, but exact figures haven’€™t yet been unearthed.

 

The 22-year-old was set to become a restricted free agent following the current season, but ‘€“ along with Milan Lucic ‘€“ Chiarelli made the determination to keep his prized youngster away from potentially damaging offer sheets.

 

‘€œI guess you’€™ve got to change with the times,’€ said Chiarelli about getting more proactive toward locking up players mid-season, particularly younger players with expiring rookie contracts. ‘€œTo a certain degree I went through it this summer with Phil [Kessel] and Toronto and I have to consider that. I have to put that into the equation now.’€

 

Rask is 2-1-1 in four games with a 2.41 goals against average and a .915 save percentage, and has already flashed the kind of cool, calm collected style between the pipes that’€™s made him one of the best goaltending prospects in the world.

 

The Bruins still have restricted free agents Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart to contend with following this season as well as an organizationally important negotiation with unrestricted free agent Marc Savard. Tying up Rask allows Chiarelli to concentrate on other matters at hand with his goaltending completely covered for the next three seasons.

 

–The picture cleared a little bit more for swine-flu ridden center David Krejci, who will miss at least two games while recovering from a bout with the H1N1 virus diagnosed on Thursday. Krejci will be away from the ice for at least the next 3-5 days in quarantine, and might miss a third game when the Bruins taken on the Penguins next Tuesday night at TD Garden.

 

‘€œHe had a raspy throat and it kind of sunk it into his chest and that’€™s when they brought him to get it diagnosed. [He’€™ll be] 3-5 days in quarantine, so he’€™ll spend that time at home in quarantine.’€

Read More: David Krejci, Peter Chiarelli, Tuukka Rask,

Pregame B’s notes for Garden

11.05.09 at 1:16 pm ET
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David Krejci became at least the fifth documented case of H1N1 virus in the NHL this season when the Bruins announced that the 23-year-old pivot will miss tonight’€™s game against the Canadiens with what’€™s commonly referred to as the ‘€œswine flu.’€

The B’€™s have termed Krejci out indefinitely and the center is being quarantined until he is both symptom-free and fever-free for a 24 hour period, per Center for Disease Control regulations. Vladimir Sobotka takes Krejci’€™s place centering the second line between Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, and will presumably fill the nifty forward’€™s roll on Boston’€™s sputtering power play.

Rookie winger Mikko Lehtonen was recalled Wednesday night from Providence to replace Krejci on an emergency basis, and will skate on the fourth line right wing with Shawn Thornton and Trent Whitfield.

B’€™s coach Claude Julien said that Krejci began feeling the symptoms immediately after Tuesday night’€™s 2-0 loss to the Red Wings, but Krejci’€™s road roommate, Byron Bitz, didn’€™t seem to be feeling any of the early symptoms of the virus.
It’€™s unknown at this point how long Krejci will be out, but his 23-year-old immune system could be a major help toward a speedy recovery. It’€™s not out of the realm that Krejci could be back in time for Saturday’€™s tilt against the Buffalo Sabres.

Thirty-eight year old Islanders forward Doug Weight missed three games and a full week of action after contracting H1NI in mid-October, but 23-year-old Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ladislav Smid missed minimal practice time and no games due to the illness. Smid skated against the B’€™s last week after quickly recovering from his bout with the swine flu.

Julien wasn’€™t expecting any sympathy and certainly won’€™t get any from those outside the New England area as the B’€™s battle both the swine flu and whatever manner of airborne illness has afflicted their power play.

‘€œWe just have to deal with our own issues and hope that he gets better quickly,’€ said Julien. ‘€œThis is the reality of what’€™s going on in North America these days and we’€™ll be aware of it and do the best we can. Everyone involved is taking all the precautions we can to avoid it. Unfortunately, it’€™s still around us.

‘€œDavid Krejci is not around the team, and hopefully that’€™s where it will stop. But there is no guarantee. We are all vulnerable to it. We just have to deal with it the best way we can.’€

Wheeler said that the team has recently installed more hand sanitizers in the TD Garden dressing room and at the B’€™s practice facility in Wilmington, and the young winger even has a bottle of hand sanitizer in his car for moments of need.

‘€œIt’€™s a league-wide issue right now. You have to take normal steps of using a lot of hand sanitizer and not putting your hands in your eyes ‘€“ all of the stuff that your mom taught you when you were little,’€ said Wheeler. ‘€œYou have to be very careful. You have to take it to almost an OCD level right now.

‘€œLast few days, I don’€™t even know why but guys started carrying hand sanitizer a little more on this road trip. I just started using it more and more all the time. We have a lot of bottles at home. I even have one in my car. It’€™s just the nature of the world we’€™re living in. You’€™ve got to be careful.’€

For a team that hasn’€™t scored in their last 132 minutes, 58 seconds of action and is 0-for-17 on the power play entering Thursday night, missing a big play guy like Krejci isn’€™t necessarily the recipe for an offensive breakthrough.

But the Bruins players are done with the injury excuses and victim of circumstance alibis that have permeated the team through the first month of the season. It’€™s all about wins and losses, and getting on the scoreboard starting tonight against a Montreal Canadiens team that needs a win just as badly as Boston. Though Krejci was off to a slow start with a goal and four assists in 14 games, his elite offensive skill level certainly will be missed.

‘€œ[The Krejci illness] kind of took me by surprise like everyone else, but that’€™s the way of the world today,’€ said Wheeler, who was just reunited with Krejci and Michael Ryder prior to the Detroit game. ‘€œIt’€™s kind of been like that so far this year: it’€™s been one thing after another. But we have enough guys in here that can get the job done.

‘€œWe’€™re definitely very confident in what we bring to the table. There are no excuses any more for this team. No moral victories. It’€™s all about getting the job done.’€

–Bitz is out of the lineup Thursday night against the Canadiens with a balky groin, and Julien said that the bruising forward has been recovering a bit more slowly than expected. Bitz did skate separately from the team prior to their morning skate, and could be ready within a matter of days. Lehtonen will take Bitz’€™s spot on the fourth line’€™s right wing, but doesn’€™t bring the same physical element to the table.

‘€œHe has become a day-to-day,’€ said Julien. ‘€œWe were actually hoping that he would be better quicker and that didn’€™t happen. It’€™s why we brought him on the road. Hopefully it’€™s just a matter of days if everything continues to go well.’€

–Lehtonen was understandably excited to be skating with the big club, but one gets the feeling that the team is running through the appropriate farm team reserve players more quickly than they’€™d prefer. The rangy winger should bring a little offense and skill to the fourth line, but he’€™s not exactly a hard-charging, board-rattling grinder in the mold of players like Steve Begin and Thornton.

‘€œHe’€™s the best player available, let’€™s put it that way,’€ said Julien. ‘€œWe have called so many guys up. [Brad] Marchand, [Vladimir] Sobotka, [Trent] Whitfield, and now he is the next one on the list. Hopefully he is one of those guys. He has a big body, skates well, has skill and maybe he can help us produce a little up front.’€

–Canadiens coach Jacques Martin confirmed that it will be Carey Price in net for the Habs. Tim Thomas will get his third straight start for the Bruins after playing solidly against both the Rangers and Red Wings during the last road trip. Price is 2-6 with a 3.63 goals against average and an .883 save percentage, and the 22-year-old hasn’€™t won a game in over a month dating back to an Oct. 3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

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