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Who are the Bruins talking about, and what would they cost?

02.18.09 at 3:54 pm ET
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With the NHL trade deadline looming exactly two weeks away, hockey’s version of the hot stove is sparking up with rumors and whispers involving the Bruins, and an expected move or two in the coming 14 days. The Boston Herald tossed out a quick aside recently that Edmonton Oilers right wing Erik Cole is telling friends he expects to be traded to Boston soon, but there doesn’t seem to be anything immediately substantial or concrete in place at this point.

Towering forward Nik Antropov is sure to be dealt by hard-line Toronto GM Brian Burke prior to the deadline, and could be an asset before he departs for free agency following the season. Injuries to Chris Neil (leg injury) and Doug Weight (knee injury) have either lessened or extinguished the possibilities of each skater getting traded by the deadline ‘€” a shame, given that Weight would have been a pretty affordable fit for the B’s and has already experienced life as an NHL rent-a-player.

The best remaining round peg in a round hole for what the Bruins are lacking? (power play scoring ability, intimidating size and a left-handed shot) That would be none other than Bay State native Keith Tkachuk, who provides all of the above in one offensively-skilled package that could/should available at the trade deadline.

Here’s a snapshot of what Cole, Antropov and Tkachuk have done for their teams in the last few weeks, and what it might cost the Bruins to pry each of these “rental players” away from their respective teams during the walk years of their contracts.

Nik Antropov: The 29-year-old has collected 5 goals and 2 assists in the 10 games following the NHL All-Star break, and has used his imposing 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame more frequently in front of the net since he was called out by Burke last week. Antropov also has five power play strikes for the Leafs this season. The Leafs GM said the following about Antropov to a Toronto radio station last week: “I have not had a chance to talk to his agent about a future here. From my take at this point, I don’t see any reason to put a new contract offer on the table here … I think it just might be time for a change of scenery for Nik Antropov. I’m going to sit down with him in the next week or so and we’ll talk about that and see. I have a harder time with that because I don’t think his play has merited that discussion to this point, where some of the other players have.” Cost for Antropov: A second- or third-round pick in the 2009 NHL draft.

Dominic Moore: Another son of Toronto ‘€” who holds the proper Harvard pedigree ‘€” is another asset that Burke might be interested in dealing in the coming weeks. The 28-year-old is also a lefty shot and can play center or the wing, and is making only $900,000 this season before entering free agency. The Leafs and Moore have, according to sources, had some preliminary discussions on a contract extension, but Toronto may instead sell high on a player that’s collected 2 goals and 11 assists while playing at a +4 in 10 games since the NHL All-Star break. Moore has 4 power play goals and 9 total power play points in what’s amounting to a career year for him. Cost for Moore: A mid-round draft pick in the 2009 draft.

Erik Cole: The odds-on favorite to land with the Bruins if you subscribe to the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” philosophy, but the physical right wing hasn’t had the most productive season while playing in Edmonton this year. Since the All-Star break, Cole has managed only two goals and zero assists in 11 games and has been a -2 while really not making much of an impact for the Oil. He does have five power-play goals and has plenty of playoff experience, which are skills that could benefit the B’s. The chatter in Edmonton has been the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Cole hasn’t been a “good fit” for the Oilers, and he’s averaged less than two shots a game since the All-Star break. So exactly what kind of fit would that make him in Boston? Cost for Cole: A mid-level prospect and a third- or fourth-round draft pick. Perhaps a good landing spot for a defenseman like restricted free agent to be Matt Lashoff, who has struggled to break the Bruins roster over the last two seasons.

Keith Tkachuk: Sources close to Tkachuk recently told a St. Louis radio station reporter that Boston was his top choice if he waived the “no movement” clause in his contract, and his home city is obviously a natural draw for the 36-year-old bruising forward. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Tkachuk can play either center or wing, but hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in the second half with two goals and an assist along with a +1 rating in 10 games since the All-Star break. The three big factors with Tkachuk: his 11 power play goals and his clear ability on the man advantage, his potential contract extension demands in exchange for waiving his “no movement” clause (which would effectively kill any interest Boston would have in Tkachuk) and St. Louis’s indecision as to whether they’re buyers or sellers with the deadline loomingCost for Tkachuk: A young player capable of making the Blues roster (think Vladimir Sobotka, Matt Hunwick or Lashoff) and a lower-to-mid round draft pick.

Jordan Leopold: Several reports from the Rocky Mountain State had a bevy of Bruins scouts watching the Colorado Avalanche, and the 28-year-old from Golden Valley, Minnesota seemed a natural fit to fortify and add depth to Boston’s blue line. Leopold has a goal and an assist in 11 games with Colorado since the All-Star break and has a -3 rating during that time. Not exactly the sexiest choice for a trade, but he could be invaluable depth-wise if anything were to happen to Dennis Wideman, Aaron Ward or Andrew Ference over the final few months. Cost for Leopold: A mid-level draft pick and a prospect for a rebuilding Colorado team.

Bruins strike back and take third-period momentum

02.17.09 at 11:14 pm ET
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During the recent four-game losing binge that had some questioning just how good a hockey team they can be, the Bruins were uncharacteristically searching for answers and struggling in the third period. The irony is striking, given how much success the team enjoyed over the first half of the season in that very same third period. The Black and Gold were so good and so unstoppable while blowing people away in the final hockey stanza, and it was a formula that many thought would last the whole year through.

Funny how things can change so quickly.

The young Bruins skaters reclaimed the third period and then some when they potted three third-period goals Tuesday night en route to a closer-than-the-final-score 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center on Glen Wesley Night. The Black and Gold also used a victory over the Eastern Conference bottom-dwelling ‘Canes to notch their 40th win of the season ‘€” the first NHL club to earn that distinction this season and just one win away from last year’s entire win total.

The B’s are second in the NHL with 70 goals scored in the third period in 58 NHL games this season (1.20 goals per game in the third period), and the final 20 minutes of regulation represent Boston’s most prolific period through the current season. But they’d suffered third-period collapses against both the Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks, and scored a grand total of two third-period goals in the last six B’s games leading into last night’s tilt.

Much of the third-period slowdown seemed to be right in line with the offensive swoon that a host of Boston’s younger players had suffered since the NHL All-Star break, but familiar names like Blake Wheeler, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron ‘€” among others ‘€” seemed to have finally shaken free of the fatigue and are again fighting for more ice time and all-important points.

Phil Kessel was a buzzing, irritating threat while skating with new linemates Krejci and Vladimir Sobotka, and fired off three shots while showing some pretty good competition and grit levels looking for loose pucks all over the ice. Milan Lucic also rebounded from a so-so effort against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, and Wheeler looked strong and energetic in the third period last night while drawing penalties, creating mismatches on the ice and appearing every bit the big, rangy, talent he appeared to be as he flashed on the scene in the early going.

Wheeler also seemed energized skating with Lucic and center Marc Savard on Boston’s top line, and each jiggling of the lines seemed to finally click in and start working for the Spoked B during the all-important third period. The biggest piece of credit obviously goes to Krejci, who is again playing good hockey as evidenced by his 17:20 of ice time,  two points and a +2 for the evening and a team-high six shots on net for the Czech Republic prodigy.

Medical Ward: Several players were dinged up during the first two stops (P.J. Axelsson, Bergeron) on Boston’s southern road swing through Nashville and Carolina, but it didn’t appear that any of the injuries were significant.

Goat Horns: Dennis Wideman didn’t have any points and finished with a -1 on the night after getting turned into a turnstile by yet another hockey player recently. Wideman struggled a bit defensively and didn’t really have much to on offense as well, and Ray Whitney’s ability to speed right around Wideman set up Carolina’s only goal on the evening. That being said, it was a pretty strong all-around effort for the Black and Gold.

Player of the Game: The aforementioned Krejci really upped his tenacity, grit and compete levels along with his creative, finesse game — a pair of necessary elements needed along with the breathtaking skill out on the ice that’s made him such a bright major league prospect.

Turning Point in the Game: The game completely turned in favor of the Bruins when Bergeron collected the puck during the PK and threaded out a lark of a pass toward the neutral zone that sprang Krejci free. The nifty center outraced the Hurricanes defense, and skated in all alone on the Carolina net. Krejci grabbed himself a filthy backhander as the finishing touch — a deft hockey move that’s was the one-on-one equal of every great offensive player in the league. More efforts like this from Krejci and the Bruins will be right back on track for the playoffs.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, David Krejci, Dennis Wideman

Former Bruin Glen Wesley enjoys number retirement

02.17.09 at 7:19 pm ET
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I remember him as “Foggy” and as an integral part of my experience with Sega Genesis NHL 93 when I used to ride former Bruins skaters Glen Wesley and Bobby Carpenter to ridiculous heights along the way to complete Black and Gold video game domination.

Some also remember Wesley as the guy that missed a wide open net in triple OT against the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Finals way back in 1990, but why dredge that up on the day that the Carolina Hurricanes are retiring “Foggy’s” No. 2 and raising it up to the rafters at the RBC Center. 

Here’s the release from the ‘Canes:

Glen Wesley Night: Originally drafted third overall in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft by the Boston Bruins, defenseman Glen Wesley completed his playing career ranked sixth on the NHL’€™s all-time list of games played by a defenseman, skating in 1,457 total games over 20 seasons with Boston, Hartford, Toronto and Carolina.

The Red Deer, Alb. native debuted with Boston straight out of junior hockey in his draft year, and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team after earning 37 points (7g, 30a) and leading all rookies with a plus-21 plus/minus rating. Wesley played in the NHL All-Star Game in 1989, and completed his career with 128 goals, 409 assists (537 points) and 1,045 penalty minutes. He appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals four times, reaching the Finals with Boston in 1988 and 1990 and with Carolina in 2002 and 2006, capturing the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006.

The Hartford Whalers acquired Wesley on Aug. 25, 1994, in exchange for first-round draft picks in 1995 (Kyle McLaren), 1996 (Jonathan Aitken) and 1997 (Sergei Samsonov). Wesley went on to play 13 seasons for the franchise, and is the only player to have played for the Hurricanes in every season (prior to 2008-09) since the team relocated to North Carolina in 1997. He played more games (913) for the Hurricanes franchise than any player in the history of the team other than Ron Francis, and his 728 games played for the Hurricanes are the most of any player in a Carolina uniform. Wesley totaled 227 points (51g, 176a) for the Whalers and Hurricanes, and ranks 10th in team history in assists (176).

Wesley completed his 13th season with the Hurricanes franchise in 2007-08, leading all Hurricanes skaters in blocked shots (110) and finishing the season with one goal and seven assists (8 points) in 78 games played. He was selected by the Carolina chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’€™ Association as its nominee for the 2007-08 Masterton Trophy, which honors perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

Read More: Bobby Carpenter, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Glen Wesley

Strange days indeed for the Montreal Canadiens

02.17.09 at 6:25 pm ET
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Despite the shot in the arm that would normally accompany an NHL deadline deal for puck-moving blueliner Matthieu Schneider, the Montreal Canadiens are continuing to navigate through some choppy waters as they tumble through the Eastern Conference.

Watching wunderkind goalie Carey Price struggle through each and every game has been bad enough, but the epic struggles of Montreal’s power play have been downright incomprehensible after lighting it up on the PP one season ago.  Meanwhile at Habs practice on Tuesday morning, things got even worse for Les Habitants as the other shoe finally dropped on underperforming forward Alex Kovalev. 

According to the Gazette’s Habs Inside Out blog, the enigmatic Canadiens forward is being kept home for the next two games against Washington and Pittsburgh because he hasn’t displayed the proper emotion and passion out on the ice while skating for his floundering Canadiens. Canadiens GM Bob Gainey said that Kovalev hasn’t demanded a trade, so this looks like a strict punitive hockey measure designed to light a fire under a notoriously moody, tremendously talented scorer.

Given Kovalev’s aversion to discipline back to Claude Julien’s days as the Habs coach, it should be interesting hockey theater going forward and could signal serious trouble for Boston’s arch-rivals. 

According to the blog: Montreal General Manager Bob Gainey said he told Kovalev the team has no need of Kovalev’s services the way he’s currently playing. He added that Kovalev was tired and wasn’t playing with any emotion. The GM said Kovalev’s situation would be re-evaluated at the end of the week but wouldn’t commit himself to saying that Kovalev would be back in the lineup for Saturday’s home game against Ottawa.

Read More: Alex Kovalev, Bob Gainey, Boston Bruins, Carey Price

Michael Ryder gets back on the ice with the Bruins

02.16.09 at 5:19 pm ET
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Injured Bruins winger Michael Ryder returned to the practice ice on Monday afternoon and took part in his first on-ice drills with the team since getting hit in the face with a high stick vs. the Ottawa Senators back on Feb. 5. Ryder suffered significant injuries to the nose and sinus areas of his face that ultimately required surgery. To protect himself during practice, Ryder skated with the team wearing a facial cage similar to the ones used by college hockey players and also confirmed that he’ll be wearing a protective visor for the rest of the season. The doctors described the facial injury as something akin to a “crushed egg-shell”. 

Ryder estimated he is roughly 2-3 weeks away from returning to game action as he regains his “wind” following the inactivity. Ryder also said he’ll travel with the team through Carolina, Tampa and Florida and continue practicing with the team while he heals.

“It was good to be back on the ice with the team,” said Ryder, who said the cage would take some getting used to for breathing and sight purposes. “(The injury) felt good enough to get back out and skate. I was lucky that it wasn’t my eye. That was a major concern.

“You’ve seen a lot of guys get hit there and it can be really bad damage, so I’m just fortunate that it’s only a fracture and that it’s going to heal,” added Ryder.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Michael Ryder,

Bruins do what’s necessary to get the point

02.14.09 at 11:47 pm ET
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The B’s have now trudged through a season-worst four games without notching a win after Saturday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators, but they did accomplish something that every veteran team needs to manage when it clearly “isn’t their night.”

They grabbed a valuable point where there almost was none.

Trailing 2-1 in the waning minutes of a contest during which they hadn’t always played their best hockey, the B’s kept oressing on with the attack around the net and didn’t relent until they’d scored the tying goal with 1:16 remaining in the game. It was the exact kind of point-saving tally that an experienced, hardened playoff-caliber team will eke out during the second half of the season, and it’s something that the Stanley Cup-era New Jersey Devils made an art form out of.

It was — to borrow a phrase from everybody’s favorite used car salesman/college basketball coach John Calipari — a sterling example of ‘Refuse to Lose’. Or in the world of the NHL, ‘Refuse to Waste a Point’ is more like it.

Just as he was on Friday night against the Devils, Patrice Bergeron was also among the best Bruins skaters on the ice in Saturday’s loss at the paws of the Preds at the Sommet Center. Bergeron finished with three shots on goal and three hits, and set up Zdeno Chara’s game-tying score in the third period with a deft touch pass from behind Boston’s net. The huge score came with Manny Fernandez pulled out of the net in the frantic final moments in Music City.

Bergeron’s finesse around the net was an encouraging sign, but the skater’s willingness to both dish out and sustain physical contact is also a huge blinking neon sign of encouragement. It says to everyone that the 23-year-old’s concussion worries are squarely behind him.

Encouraging sign number two from Saturday night’s shootout loss: the chemistry exhibited by the Blake Wheeler/David Krejci/Vladimir Sobotka was again present in spurts and led to Boston’s other goal on the evening — a second period Wheeler score assisted by Krejci and Sobotka. It marked only the fifth goal produced by Krejci and Wheeler’s formerly prolific line in 10 games since the NHL All-Star break, but there have been plenty of hints in the last two games that their puck mojo is returning.

The score was a rebound/second effort score from Big Wheeler around the net, and it epitomized exactly what he’s been knowingly replying to people asking him about his recent struggles. When the pucks aren’t going in, Wheeler said it was time to simplify, hang around the net and try to get in on some dirty goals — and that’s exactly what he did to get Boston on the board in the second period.

Wheeler also successfully scored during the shootout, and continued what’s been a pretty fair level of success (4 for 7, a 57 percent success rate) when it comes to the post-overtime shootout sessions. It appears that the rookie’s combination of long limbs, good hands, careful stickwork and superior hand-eye coordination make him a pretty dangerous weapon during the shootouts.

Medical Ward: Still no Petteri Nokelainen (eye) or Chuck Kobasew (upper body injury) in the lineup for the Bruins. The B’s flew back to Boston following Saturday night’s game against Nashville, and word will likely come down at practice Monday concerning whether either player could be ready to take the upcoming Sun Belt southern swing through Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida.

Player of the Game: For the second straight game Patrice Bergeron was one of the best Bruins on the ice and was doling out hits and physical play along with his normally heady play. The youngster is at his best when he’ combining the hit game and skill game in one package, and there hasn’t been any trace of hesitation or tentativeness in his game. Three hits, three shots attempted and a big, important assist for a player that finally looks up to speed.

Chara also deserved special mention for the game-tying goal, a team-high four shots attempted and a game-high 27:51 of ice time. It’s a ho-hum night for the Norris Trophy-worthy Chara for sure, but it’s still worth noting.

Goat Horns: Milan Lucic hasn’t had many games when you could say he wasn’t a physical presence for the B’s out on the ice, but Saturday night was one of the. One shot attempted, one hit registered and not much else to note for Big Looch on a night when he really didn’t distinguish himself. The PP unit was also again 0-for-4 and dropped to 5th in the NHL with a 22.1 percent success rate after last night’s contest.

Turning Point: As stated up above, the B’s did just enough to salvage a point and keep building on their Eastern Conference lead when Chara scored a game-tying goal with less than two minutes to go. The late score pushed the game to overtime, and stemmed some of the negative momentum that a pair of regulation losses had saddled the Bruins with. Bergeron’s heady play and pass from behind the net in the third period to Chara was exactly what the hockey doctor ordered.

New Jersey Devils seem to have the B’s number

02.13.09 at 11:15 pm ET
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The biggest moral from last night’s 1-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils in the Garden State?

Be afraid. Be very afraid of facing this Devils squad in the playoffs. The skaters with the pointy tails and the hybrid pitchforks are big, skilled, experienced, gritty, strong to the puck and disciplined, and have a boatload of playoff experience. In the last two games against the Devils, who moved into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference with last night’s victory, the Bruins simply haven’t been able to find enough answers to eke out a win.  Jersey’s skaters are clicking on all cylinders right now, and have won 9 of their last 11 in the middle of the NHL’s stretch run.

The Black and Gold had plenty to beam about, however, after suffering their third straight loss for the first time since late in October ‘€” even more so when you consider the Bruins had a number of Providence Bruins players skating in prominent roles against a pretty healthy Devils unit. Martins Karsums and Vladimir Sobotka provided plenty of jump, and Patrice Bergeron played one of his best games this season ‘€” and certainly his  most physically involved game since coming back from his latest concussion. Bergeron finished the game with a team-high seven shots on net, and even laid a few hits on Devils players in an encouragng sign for the forward in the future.

Despite all that ‘€” and some pretty good chemistry between Sobotka and linemates David Krejci and Blake Wheeler ‘€” the Bruins outshot the Devils by nearly a 2-to-1 margin and still couldn’t solve the riddle of a determined and defensive-minded New Jersey outfit. The Devils have created mismatches with the Bruins all season due to their sheer physical size and strength around the net both offensively and defensively, and that was the case again last night when many of Boston’s shots originated from outside/perimeter spots in the attack zone.

Black and Gold fans have to hope that they can hold on to capture the Eastern Conference and the Devils remain in their current No. 2 spot when the season ends and seeding for the playoffs begins. A difficult matchup against New Jersey will get even trickier for the B’s when Martin Brodeur comes back from a detached biceps muscle in the next few weeks and gives the Devils their All-World goaltender along with the formidable lineup.

Medical Watch: The Bruins seemed to get through this game relatively unscathed, and may get Chuck Kobasew (lower body injury) back in time for Saturday night’s game against the Nashville Predators. Petteri Nokelainen is likely to stay in Boston while still recovering from the nasty eye injury he suffered from a high-stick Tuesday night.

Player of the Night: Got to give it to the former Boston College netminder Scott Clemmensen, who made 31 saves on the night and stood tall during a couple of good flurries by the Bruins in the second and third period. His save on a puck that skidded off Vladimir Sobotka’s skate secured the win for the Devils and handed him his second straight shutout aided by a gritty Jersey defense.

Goat Horns: Tim Thomas would be the first to admit he should have stopped the one and only goal of the night. It was a soft low liner of a wrist shot from the point by stay-at-home Jersey defenseman Bryce Salvador from the high point. The shot didn’t have a lot of body traffic in front of it, and the change up of a shot slipped right through the five hole between Thomas’s pads. You can count the number of goals like that on one hand that Thomas will surrender in any given season.

Turning Point in the Game: The Salvador goal was obviously the biggest turning point, but the play started with Boston’s best faceoff man, Patrice Bergeron, losing a draw to the grizzled, gritty John Madden in the defensive zone. Two quick mistakes for a team in their own zone are all it takes in a tight, playoff-style one goal game against an opponent like the Devils.

Read More: Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas
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