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Game pregame notes from North Carolina

05.08.09 at 7:39 pm ET
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RALEIGH, NC — A few quick pregame notes:

Shawn Thornton is a healthy scratch for the Boston Bruins, and Byron Bitz is in on the fourth line tonight. Interesting move by coach Claude Julien, as there might have been a different option or two that could have been chosen.

–NC State head coach Sidney Lowe was the guest siren cranker for the Hurricanes prior to the game starting. The NASCAR crowd looks fired up and ready to go on the Friday night at the old ice rink — this should be an interesting one.

Bruins hold players-only meetings to address on-ice issues

05.08.09 at 1:15 pm ET
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RALEIGH, N.C. – The Bruins need to wake up. And they need to do it right now.

That was the message expressed by the B’s veteran leadership group in several players-only meetings held during Thursday’s off-day. The meetings were designed to snap Boston out of a series-long puck malaise that has them looking at a 2-1 deficit in the best-of-seven showdown against a surprisingly strong Carolina Hurricanes team. Another defeat at the hands of the Canes would have the Bruins hanging on the precipice of season elimination with virtually no room for error.

The B’s skaters were — to steal a phrase from that master motivator Pete Carroll – - jacked and pumped to play a clearly inferior Montreal Canadiens team in the opening round of the postseason, and blasted them right off the ice and straight into playoff oblivion. It’s plainly obvious to veteran performers like Mark Recchi, Aaron Ward and Zdeno that the Bruins haven’t brandished the same emotional intensity and fiery focus mustered up against the Habs — and during a handful of regular season rivalry games sprinkled throughout the year.

“I think it’s a little bit of hesitation or a lack of expressing the emotions,” said Chara. “We need to bring that (emotion) more and show it. Don’t get me wrong, we try to play in a way that we don’t take bad penalties. In the series against Montreal and during the series against the Rangers and rivals like Philadelphia, we were more intense and emotionally involved. We need to take that part of our (game) and bring it to another level.

“I think when we play with that edge, then we’re playing much better (hockey).”

In many ways the first three games of this Carolina/Boston series has been “nice guy hockey” played by two of the least-penalized teams in the entire NHL during the regular season, and there isn’t a natural agitator on the Canes roster that’s going to invoke the fury out of B’s bruisers like Milan Lucic. There’s no Mike Komisarek figure twirling his mustache or Sean Avery wannabee lining somebody up from behind in the treacherous corner.

 The biggest infractions have consistent of nudging goaltenders, which every team worth their salt is going to attempt/follow through on in the playoffs when they’re playing a hot goalie. In essence, the Black and Gold Bears descended into hibernation after eight days off between the Montreal sweep and their current set against the Hurricanes, and they were never shaken awake by a squeaky-clean Canes bunch.

It’s high time that the Bruins awoke from the slumber even if nobody is poking the bear in the cage — and that was the exact message expressed by several members of the B’s during Friday morning’s pregame skate at the RBC Center.

“We’ve been sleeping,” said Recchi. “To say the least. I think we understand that now. (The Canes) want us to sleep, number one. We’ve just let it happen. But the great thing about it is that it’s only 2-1 (in the series) and we have an opportunity to make it 2-2. If we had lost the series and you were thinking about it you’d be pretty pissed off if you were done and you said ‘(expletive), we didn’t give it our best shot.’

“I think that’s what the guys were all talking about (on the off-day) is that we need to give it our best shot. We need to play the way we’re capable of playing, and if we do that then we’re going to be a handful. We need to make players (into)  factors that should be factors because we haven’t been playing the way we’re capable of playing. I think it’s very important that we start that (on Friday).”

B’s GM Peter Chiarelli was pleased to hear his players took the initiative to meet on Thursday and address some of the things lacking (emotion, work ethic, poise with the puck, puck cycling, dumping pucks in deep) during the first three games of the series. Now it’s imperative that the team make the meetings meaningful by transforming all of the talk out onto the ice in a critical Game 4 setting against a sky-high Hurricanes squad.

“It’s a critical game and we expect performance out of our best players,” said Chiarelli. “The work ethic thing is something we haven’t had in the first three games. We just haven’t.

“I know that the players met a couple of times. We’ve come along this far in the season, so we don’t have to browbeat somebody. We know what we have to do. The (meetings) happen a lot at times like this, and it’s encouraging. But it doesn’t always work.”

It’s incumbent on the still-bright future of this hockey season that all of the hockey talk does develop into results when the Bruins take the ice tonight for a pivotal Game 4 in their semi-final series.

Julien: “We have to make adjustments with our players”

05.07.09 at 1:32 pm ET
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RALEIGH — Expect perhaps some different line combos or perhaps an eye brow-raising scratch when the Bruins hit the ice for Game 4 at the RBC Center on Friday night. Bruins coach Claude Julien gave his team a complete day off to step away from the scene of Wednesday night’s Game 3 crime, but the bench boss also admitted that there will be “adjustments” to Boston’s game headed into Game 3.

Phil Kessel has been held scoreless in each of the last two games — both losses — after riding a five-game point streak during Boston’s five game postseason winning streak, and the David Krejci/Blake Wheeler/Michael Ryder line has been ineffective in the last two games for Boston. Wheeler could be out of the Boston lineup on Friday night after blocking a shot in Game 3, and any scratches up front would obviously give big forward Byron Bitz his second taste of the NHL playoffs after suiting up for Game 3 of the Montreal series.

Andrew Ference left Game 3 in the second period with an undisclosed injury, and it’s likely that Shane Hnidy will be inserted into the lineup for Boston should Ference be unable to recover by Friday night. With the players having a day off, here’s Claude Julien during a Thursday morning press briefing at the Raleigh Renaissance hotel:

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Recchi: Bruins need to “play best game of the year” in Game 4

05.07.09 at 3:57 am ET
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RALEIGH — Down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series and facing another game at the hostile hockey environs of the RBC Center on Friday in Game 4, some of the more experienced Cup veterans know that their next game is the biggest of the postseason. The Black and Gold have become their own worst enemy when it comes to offensive miscues and forcing the play, and they’ve given their Carolina Hurricane foes a dangerous gift: hope.

Hope came in the form of a 3-2 OT win for the Canes over the B’s in Game 3 on Wednesday night.

After shutting the B’s down on the Garden ice in Game 2 and pulling out a dominant overtime victory on Wednesday night in Game 3, the Bruins skaters should be armed and ready to handle everything that North Carolina has to offer. It’s a pivotal game in the series, and it’s vital that Boston come away with the victory and keep a potential elimination game at bay.

The B’s announced that there won’t be any practice on Thursday and there will be no media availability for the Bruins skaters — only Claude Julien will be available at the team hotel. The Bruins are most certainly circling the wagons and putting everything into 60 minutes of playoff hockey on Friday.

“We’ll regroup tomorrow and talk about things,” said Carolina forward Mark Recchi. “It’s desperate times now. We don’t want to go down 3-1. We’re going to have to play the best game of the year on Friday. But we’ll come out tomorrow as a group and talk about things, and try and build on some positive things that have happened.

“We’re going to have to work hard. We’ve got to get to the level that (the Hurricanes) are at right away. We’re throwing pucks away and not handling pucks. That’s not our game. Puck possession is a pretty big part of the Bruins game, and we’ve got to be very strong and very composed. I think guys are starting to realize that we have to play the best game of the year on Friday to tie this thing up.”

Jokinen pots game-winner for Hurricanes in Game 3

05.06.09 at 10:19 pm ET
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RALEIGH — No Andrew Ference in the third period for the Bruins, we’ll update that when we can.

18:53: The Bruins are hitting the Canes hard here in OT. Good strong rush down the slot by Lucic, but Ward was able to turn away the forehand bid.

18:15: Krejci from behind the net to a rushing Michael Ryder in front, but Ryder fanned on the shot attempt in close.

17:12: Jussi Jokinen goal for the game-winner off a rebound of a Sergei Samsonov shot. More later.

The B’s have lost to the Canes in overtime by a 3-2 score during Game 3 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, NC.

Recchi’s first goal of playoffs ties it up in third

05.06.09 at 9:29 pm ET
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RALEIGH — The Canes come right back out with jump and aggression to start the third.

19:45: Chad LaRose takes the puck away from Zdeno Chara in the corner, drives down the middle of the ice and puts a strong forehand shot on Thomas. Thomas kicks away the reboud to Matt Cullen, who misses high with a rebound attempt in tight.

13:32: Good shot by Dennis Wideman from the left faceoff circle off a cross-ice dish from P.J. Axelsson, but Ward kicked the puck into the corner. The Bruins have settled things down a little here.

10:57: Just wrote about all of the things Recchi has been doing even though he hasn’t been scoring. Well, now he’s scoring too. He plopped himself in front of the net and tipped a puck from Chuck Kobasew by the sideboard that slipped through Ward’s pads to tie things up. Big goal.

8:46: David Krejci has not been very good tonight. Just gave up a puck to Erik Cole in the nuetral zone that allowed the Canes winger to squeeze a shot off on Thomas.

7:50: Another bad giveaway by Krejci in the defensive end. This isn’t going on his Greatest Hits mix tape tonight.

3:43: Pretty close to a hold by Michael Ryder going up the ice against the Canes. It appears the refs are suffering from a bout of third period-itis.

2:38: Good calm save by Thomas on a Dennis Seidenberg bomb from the high slot with a pile of bodies in front.

00:38.3: Big save by Thomas on a Wallin shot from the right point. The Canes have been dangerous in these final seconds and kept the ice tilted toward Boston’s end.

Big clear by Savard in the waning seconds, so now we’ll go to overtime.

The Canes and Bruins are tied at a 2-2 score at the end of three periods, so now we’ll go to OT in Game 3 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, NC.

Canes score two quick ones to take a 2-1 lead in second

05.06.09 at 8:35 pm ET
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RALEIGH — I have confirmation of an excellent aborted goal call by Jack Edwards during the NESN broadcast, followed by a weird shot of the B’s broadcaster from behind.  I’ll have to check the tape later on that one.

Anyway, back to the action.

18:23: Great diving scoop save by Thomas on a Sergei Samsonov shot that hit the side of the net and then bounced dangerously toward the crease area before the B’s goalie gloved it.

17:02: Quick glove save by Thomas on Tuomo Ruutu on a high slot shot with two Hurricanes skaters bearing down on the Boston crease.

15:20: Aaron Ward and Ray Whitney battling for a puck speeding toward the Boston net, and Whitney ended up crashing to the ice and hitting his neck against the left post. Whitney has walked back to the Canes dressing room to get looked at.

11:41: Things getting a little testy after Ryan Bayda crashed the Bruins net at the end of a whistle following a Thomas save on a Pat Eaves shot. A lot of jawing between Chuck Kobasew and Rod Brind’Amour.

10:36: Big missed opportunity as Chara fed Aaron Ward at the left post when Ward was down and out, and Ward slammed the puck right into Ward’s right pad. Tuomo Ruutu knocked Ward down after the save, though and was whistled for interference.

8:51: Much better puck movement by the B’s PP unit tonight, but still no goal.

Whitney back out on the ice for the Canes.

7:13: Staal got a great feed from Whitney after he found a seam behind the Bruins D and the skilled forward came in all alone. He missed wide right with his hot shot slapper bid on Thomas, though. Bullet dodged.

5:40: Staal to Cole in front and the big winger missed wide right. Big shift by Carolina’s top unit with a bevy of shots that ends up drawing an interference penalty on Michael Ryder after he belted Pitkanen in the middle of the ice without the puck. Great shift by the Canes, and you can really feel the energy shifting in this one.

3:58: Great diving play by Savard to break up the Canes PP and knock the puck out of the zone. Aaron Ward blocked a shot earlier in the kill that looked pretty painful.

3:01: And this place just went ballistic. Staal is a playmaker and that’s exactly what he did. Staal took the puck from Steve Montador behind the Boston net when he fanned on a clearing attempt, and then turned and whipped a top shelf blast by Thomas. All tied up.

2:02: The Canes strike again. Sergie Samsonov strikes on a wrister from just outside the right faceoff circle, and the momentum is squarely in Carolina’s corner.

00:38.3: Niclas Wallin just wall-papered Stephane Yelle into the boards from behind, and Yelle is shaken up. Wallin to the box, and Shawn Thornton was jawing with Scott Walker after the play.

00:3.5: Marc Savard drills Cam Ward from behind and goes directly to the box for goalie interference. That was a stupid penalty.

The Canes have taken a 2-1 lead at the end of two full periods of play during Game 3 at the RBC Center

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