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Bruins set lineup for Maple Leafs preseason tilt

09.16.09 at 11:47 am ET
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Blake Wheeler leads a Boston Bruins traveling party for a Wednesday night preseason game against the Toronto Maple Leafs following up on Tuesday night’s 2-1 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Wheeler, Byron Bitz, Brad Marchand, Jamie Arniel and Vladimir Sobotka will play among the forward group for the second straight game, and both Matt Hunwick and Adam McQuaid will play for the second straight day.

The B’s players getting their first taste of preseason action include: Steve Begin, Patrice Bergeron, Drew Larman, Guillaume Lefebvre, Jeff LoVecchio, Michael Ryder and Shawn Thornton at forward, and Derek Morris, Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman and Any Wozniewski on defense. Dany Sabourin is expected to get the call between the pipes for the Bruins, and will play the whole game as Tuukka Rask did Tuesday night against the Rangers.

“I think we saw a lot of good things from the younger players (against the Rangers),” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “Of course Max Sauve had the game-winning goal, but more than that probably surpassed what we expected from him and played well. Tuukka played well between the pipes, and Brad Marchand played well. Zach Hamill made some plays and he continued what he started at the rookie camps.

“You could see the Penners and the Bodnarchuks, you could see they have a year of pro under their belts and they were able to handle the pressure of the forecheck a lot better.”

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Claude Julien, Dany Sabourin,

Voice of the Bruins passes away at 90

09.15.09 at 4:59 pm ET
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Fred Cusick, the radio and television play-by-play voice for generations of Bruins fans, passed away according to a Tuesday afternoon report from the Boston Globe. Cusick was on tap to be inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame on Wednesday night, and will be inducted posthumously.

The longtime announcer was perhaps best known for his trademark “Score!” call after Bruins goals throughout his 45-year association with the B’s. Cusick was the radio voice of the B’s from 1952-1970, and then moved over to the television side where he continued as play-by-play man until the conclusion of the 1997 season.

A large group of B’s officials shared their feelings on a day of mourning and remembrance for Black and Gold fans everywhere:

Principal Charlie Jacobs:
On behalf of the entire Bruins organization I’d like to extend my deepest sympathies to Fred’s family. For 45-years, half his life, Fred was the voice of the Boston Bruins. His memory will certainly live on in the hearts and minds of all Bruins fans, as one cannot recall some of the greatest moments in the history of this club without hearing his voice.

Senior Advisor to the Owner Harry Sinden:
What he was, was a Bruin. He was absolutely an admired, respected and beloved member of the Bruins family for many years. He is a huge, huge part of Bruins history. There’€™s no doubt of the impact he had on the
broadcasting of hockey. He was a pioneer and the way hockey games are broadcast really originated with Fred. A lot of the camera work that they use was at his suggestion. He had a number of ideas that he brought in and they still use.

Vice President Cam Neely:
It’s always a sad day when you lose a member of the Bruins family. Fred was one of the best play-by-play announcers in the business and he’ll always be remembered for his voice and 45-year career with the Bruins. On behalf of all the players whose names that Fred announced, I would like to send my condolences to Fred’€™s family. I hope that they can find some solace in knowing how much we respected Fred, and that we will always consider him part of the Bruins family.

Hall of Famer John Bucyk:
I’€™m terribly sad to hear about Fred. He was a great broadcaster and we spent a lot of years together, with him broadcasting our games when I played and then working with him in the booth. He is going to be dearly missed.

Current Bruins Play-by-Play Announcer on NESN Jack Edwards:
Those fortunate enough to inherit the position Fred Cusick created are merely playing on the land he cleared. None of us ever will have the impact he had in generating the fan base for this team. Fred was passionate and willing to share how much the game thrilled him every night, and he drew us in with those qualities. We have lost a great pioneer.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Fred Cusick,

Rask in net against Rangers in preseason opener

09.15.09 at 12:11 pm ET
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Bruins rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask will get the nod for the entire game on Tuesday night against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in the B’s preseason opener, and 29-year-old veteran Dany Sabourin will get the start in goal against the Toronto Maple Leads on Wednesday night.

The two goaltenders are in a competition for the backup spot to goaltender Tim Thomas, and B’s coach Claude Julien was anxious to get a look at both goaltenders. Rookie center Zach Hamill will also get a long look on the top line vs. the Rangers as he’ll get play between Blake Wheeler and Marco Sturm, who is playing in his first game since wrenching his right knee against the Maple Leafs on Dec. 18.

 The other members of the B’s traveling party set to play against the Rags on Tuesday: Jamie Arniel, Byron Bitz, Chuck Kobasew, Mikko Lehtonen, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Max Sauve, Vladmir Sobotka and Trent Whitfield at forward; Andrew Bodnarchuk, Johnny Boychuk, Zdeno Chara, Matt Hunwick, Adam McQuaid and Jeff Penner; goaltenders Rask and Sabourin.

“(Sturm) is in good shape and his knee is 100 percent, so I said why not get out of his system right away and a get his first game under his belt?” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “It’s a long camp and getting him in that first game will give us some more options and then we can see him more if we need to.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Dany Sabourin, Tuukka Rask,

Stuart ready to show his strengths on the ice

09.15.09 at 10:10 am ET
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There’s a word to describe just how mighty Mark Stuart is on the ice when he gets his physicality and aggression working for him, and starts intimidating opponents with his seismic body checks and ever-improving Aaron Ward-style forearm shiver.

Stuart, the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer and Captain Caveman all have something in common: they are all “caveman strong.”

So physically strong that sometimes the 25-year-old defenseman momentarily forgets just how much of a physical factor he can be in his own end with each and every shift. Stuart is still considered one of the kids on a young-ish Boston Bruins team, but he’s treated like something of a young veteran because he’s been logging D-man shifts with the B’s since he was a 21-year-old fresh out of Colorado College back in 2005-06.

“You always know what you’re going to get with (Stuart),” said B’s defenseman Dennis Wideman, who has been Stuart’s sometimes ‘D’ partner over the last two seasons. “He’s going to be working hard, shutting down cycles and punishing people. Then he hopefully gets the puck and you get it going.

“When Stuey gets angry you’d probably want to stay away from him because he’s a strong, strong man. Sometimes I think he doesn’t even know how strong he really is.”

It’s easy to forget some of the names that dotted the lineup for Stuart’s first NHL game on March 11, 2006: Marius Czerkawski, Tom Fitzgerald, Travis Green, Dan LaCouture, Brian Leetch, Marty Reasoner, David Tanabe, and the immortal Pat Leahy. Stuart experienced the post-Thornton trade dark times the Black and Gold went through before Peter Chiarelli and Co. cleaned up the franchise, and that gives him a little bit of perspective in a locker room seeking more leadership with influential players like Aaron Ward, Stephane, Yelle, P.J. Axelsson and Shane Hnidy having moved on to other hockey destinations. 

Stuart is eagerly looking forward to taking on that challenge as his role on the ice is likely to expand this season.

“I think I do need to (step into a leadership role). There’s a few guys that need to do that because we lost a few pieces of our leadership, but we still have a pretty good group that’s obviously led by ‘Z’ and Mark Recchi, who has got a lot of experience in this league,” said Stuart. “But some of us that have been here three or four years really need to step up now because we never had to before.

“You’ve got to find a happy medium between being vocal and setting an example. Just be a hard worker. I obviously don’t think I’ll be making too many flashy plays, so I’ll just get it done with hard work. Then I’ll throw a few (verbal) things in there every once in a while.”

Though Stuart has been logging minutes in NHL games for the last four seasons, last year was something of a breakout campaign for the defenseman that played in all 82 games for the second straight season and posted career-highs in nearly every single statistical category. That in and of itself is an accomplishment for Stuart, who isn’t a defenseman that’s ever going to be judged on gaudy conventional statistics. Grime-covered stats like hits and blocked shots will tell some of the tale with Stuart, but many of the skills he brings to the table were honed and perfected while watching the rough-and-tumble Aaron Ward play a very similar style of ‘D’ over the last two seasons.

With Ward now taking defenseman shifts in his adopted home state of North Carolina after a trade to the Carolina Hurricanes, Stuart remains behind as the only pure stay-at-home, physical blueliner capable of riding even the strongest of forwards into the corners and moving bodies around in front of the net. All of these things are clearly a part of Zdeno Chara’s game as well, but he’s clearly more of a hybrid defenseman given his offensive skills and power play responsibilities. That being said, there may be more offensive upside with Stuart after putting together a career-best 17 points last season with 5 goals and 12 assists.

Stuart has always threatened with a booming slap shot from just inside the blue line, but he’ll have to pile up all his points during even strength situations. He said he concentrated on working with his hands over the summer to improve himself a bit offensively, but Stuart isn’t likely to electrify with one-man defenseman rushes up the ice. 

With Patrice Bergeron, Derek MorrisAndrew Ference, Dennis Wideman, Zdeno Chara and Matt Hunwick all capable power play point men embroiled in an interesting competition for four point spots on the two power play units during camp, Stuart won’t be seeing much in the way of PP time this season.

“I think this year we’ve got an abundance of guys to choose from to stay on (the power play),” said Wideman. “This year if everybody stays healthy there’ll be a lot of pressure to stay on there, and if you’re not producing then there will be one, two or three guys ready to take your spot. There’ll be some healthy competition for the PP.”

Instead the 6-foot-2, 213-pounder will focus on what’s expected in the D zone, chipping in during the odd offensive moment that presents itself and continue cultivating himself as part of the young leadership group on the hockey club. Stuart should get a lot more playing time than last seasons 15:25 of ice time per game to flash all of those skills among a defensemen corps, where he’s much more one of a kind with his impressive feats of on-ice strength.

Read More: Dennis Wideman, Mark Stuart, Zdeno Chara,

Backup goaltender spot not a given for Rask

09.14.09 at 3:38 pm ET
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There’s a been a great deal of assuming that the Boston Bruins backup goaltender spot has already been pre-ordained to Finnish phenom Tuukka Rask, but that seems to be a classic case of overstating the case. Rask is highly touted, and deserving of the plaudits after a pair of seasons fine-tuning his game with the Providence Bruins, but B’s coach Claude Julien said that Thomas’ backup is a wide open job search.

The B’s coach indicated there’s a wide-ranging competition among the five goaltenders without a Vezina Trophy for the role as backup to Tim Thomas, but the competition is solely a two-man race between journeyman Sabourin and vaunted prospect Rask. The 29-year-old Sabourin has played in 57 NHL games with a career 2.88 goals against average and an .898 save percentage, and appeared in 19 games with the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins last season as a backup to Marc-Andre Fluery.

Sabourin certainly isn’t the answer for the B’s goaltending future, but he’s proven an ability handle the backup role without a major drop-off in performance. Not the easiest of tricks for a young goaltender. 

Rask, meanwhile, is a 22-year-old prototype right out of the Finland goalie factory with a long, lean frame and a wide butterfly stance that envelops the bottom half of the net. Rask and Montreal’s Carey Price were, in fact, considered the two best young goaltending prospects in the world under the age of 21 just a few short years ago, and Rask has markedly improved his strength and skill during a two-year apprenticeship with the P-Bruins.

All that being said, the young prospect is going to need to impress the B’s coaching staff with his dilligence, attitude and effort much like he did last season while playing like best goaltender in Boston’s camp. The youngster was sent down to Providence — and was spitting nails nearly all the way back — but put his head down and pulled together a solid season at the AHL level complete with a nice postseason run to boot.

Rask has proven himself in the minors, but now the 6-foot-2, 171-pounder needs to show the necessary skills to back up Thomas. The Tank’s netminding understudy will easily play between 30-40 games this season — a workload that would serve as the perfect way to introduce Rask to the NHL in easily-digestible bite-sized pieces.

While it’s the perfect scenario to break in the young phenom, Julien needs to see Rask take hold of an NHL netminding job opportunity with both hands.

“I think Tuukka has to understanding that he’s got a great opportunity here. He’s got to seize it,” said Julien. “He’s got some competition. There’s a guy by the name of Sabourin that’s got some experience in this league. There are several goalies here pushing, but we all know realistically that it’s Sabourin and Rask in competition to see who’s working with Timmy this year.”

Is it a given that Rask wins the job, and Sabourin starts the year with the Baby B’s in Providence?

“Absolutely not,” said Julien without missing a beat. “That much I can tell you, truthfully.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Dany Sabourin, Tuukka Rask,

Krejci says ’10 percent’ chance he’ll be ready for season opener

09.14.09 at 12:45 pm ET
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David Krejci termed himself doubtful for the Bruins season opening game against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 1 while discussing his recovery from right hip surgery on Monday morning. Krejci skated with the rest of his teammates for the first time during training camp, and spent nearly an hour on the TD Garden ice Monday morning.

The pivot said that the only time he still feels pain is when he crosses over on the right side. While the playmaking center still harbors a great deal of desire to be ready for the beginning of the season, he labeled it a “10 percent chance” that he’ll be ready to go when the puck drops on the NHL season.

“If I didn’t feel any pain then I’d be 100 percent and ready to play,” said Krejci. “I feel pretty good when I skate straight or when I cross over on the left side. When I cross over on the right side that hurts. It feels like it hasn’t healed yet.

“What do we have 17 days? Two-and-a-half weeks? I don’t know. I’ll say there might a little chance. Not a big one, but maybe a little one. I’d say…I don’t know, 10 percent. I can’t say there’s zero percent because I feel pretty good in the ice, and I don’t know how I’m going to feel one week from now.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, David Krejci,

First day of B’s training camp is in the books

09.13.09 at 6:55 pm ET
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As is the custom during Bruins training camp, the 54 camp invitees are broken into two different groups scheduled to skate in separate sessions during the camp days. Group A opened Sunday morning with a 90-minute skate and Group B following with a session that began at noontime. Here are the breakdowns of the players from Group A and Group B. Line pairing aren’t all that important at this point as Claude Julien and staff will be mixing and matching a lot of different player combinations over the next two weeks.

As previously mentioned, David Krejci, Lane MacDermid, Jordan Knackstedt, Kevin Regan, Jordan Caron and Zach MacKelvie were among a group of players that skated early non-contact drills. Krejci is expected to join with Group B when he returns to the regular practices in the next few days after making an impressive recovery from right hip surgery.

“Somebody asked me about the condition of the team yesterday, and the guys are in really good shape,” said Claude Julien after the first day of training camp had concluded. “That bodes well. I think the second group today had better ice so they probably looked a little bit better. The first group the puck was jumping around a lot and they didn’t get the real flow in their drills, but we got the things done that we wanted accomplished.

The B’s will be on the Garden ice again bright and early on Monday morning at 10 a.m., and Group B will lead things off this time. 

Here’s a breakdown of Group A and Group B:

Group A
Forwards

Patrice Bergeron
Zach Hamill
Drew Larman
Jeff LoVecchio
Milan Lucic
Brad Marchand
Kirk MacDonald
Tyler Randell
Mark Recchi
Michael Ryder
Max Sauve
Blake Wheeler

Defensemen

Johnny Boychuk
Ryan Button
Zdeno Chara
Rob Kwiet
Derek Morris
Jeff Penner
Mark Stuart
Andy Wozniewski

Goalies

Adam Courchaine
Matt Dalton
Tim Thomas

Group B Forwards

Jamie Arniel
Steve Begin
Byron Bitz
Chuck Kobasew
Guillaume Lefebvre
Mikko Lehtonen
Matt Marquardt
Marc Savard
Vladimir Sobotka
Marco Sturm
Shawn Thornton
Trent Whitfield
Jason Wilson

Defensemen

Andrew Bodnarchuk
Drew Fata
Andrew Ference
Alain Goulet
Matt Hunwick
Zach McKelvie
Adam McQuaid
Dennis Wideman

Goalies

Michael Hutchinson
Tuukka Rask
Dany Sabourin

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