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Krejci set to return for B’s

11.10.09 at 6:41 pm ET
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Tim Thomas gets the call in net tonight for the Bruins while the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins counter with Marc-Andre Fleury.

Center David Krejci is taking part in warmups and is expected to make his return after missing the last two games with H1N1 virus.

After missing practice on Monday, Michael Ryder is available tonight for the B’s.

Read More: Bruins, David Krejci, NHL, Penguins

‘Under the weather’ Ryder misses practice

11.09.09 at 2:09 pm ET
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WILMINGTON, Mass. ‘€“ David Krejci returned to practice Monday morning at Ristuccia Arena, but it appears that right wing Michael Ryder has taken the center’€™s place in Boston’€™s revolving sick bay unit.

B’€™s coach Claude Julien termed Ryder, who missed practice and had Vladimir Sobotka instead skating in his place with Krejci and winger Blake Wheeler, as ‘€œunder the weather’€. Julien also added that he didn’€™t anticipate Ryder’€™s illness being another B’€™s player succumbing to the N1N1 virus, though the B’€™s coach also clearly didn’€™t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

‘€œHe’€™s a little under the weather,’€ said Julien. ‘€œThere are no H1N1 symptoms if that’€™s the thing that people want to know. But then again I’€™m not a doctor. Every time somebody is under the weather we’€™re going to play it safe and get it checked out. But there’€™s nothing indicating that it’€™s got anything to do with [swine flu].’€

With Ryder out for precautionary reasons on Monday, it’€™s too early to determine whether Ryder might be out for Tuesday night’€™s big game against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ryder has been battling through a cold streak on the ice as well, and hasn’€™t cracked the score sheet in eight games with only one goal in his last 11 games.

Wheeler said that there was minimal adjustment time to get used to Sobotka on the wing rather than skating beside him at center, and they’€™d be perfectly comfortable as a trio should Ryder be unable to answer the bell against the Pens.

‘€œIt’€™s all the same. As long as you are comfortable playing with players, it doesn’€™t even really matter where they are out on the ice,’€ said Wheeler. ‘€œHow many times in a game do you actually end on the right side of the ice? Where you are on the back check is where you’€™re going to end up on the ice.

‘€œAs long as you have a comfort level with the guys on the ice it shouldn’€™t matter, and Vladdy and I have had a comfort level for a bit. It’€™s also great to have Krejci back.’€

–Krejci was diagnosed with the H1N1 virus last Thursday, and he’€™s back on the ice practicing with his teammates this morning after a full recovery from the swine flu. He’€™s taking part in all battle drills after missing three days of games or practices with the illness, and appears to be ready for game action Tuesday night against the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins.

Krejci was paired Wheeler on the left side and obotka on the right, and Michael Ryder appears to be missing from practice.

Here are the forward lines from practice:

Mark Recchi ‘€“ Patrice Bergeron ‘€“ Marco Sturm
Blake Wheeler ‘€“ David Krejci ‘€“ Vladimir Sobotka
Daniel Paille ‘€“ Trent Whitfield ‘€“ Brad Marchand
Shawn Thornton ‘€“ Steve Begin ‘€“ Byron Bitz

Bruins Find the Mark Against Sabres

11.08.09 at 1:45 am ET
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Finally tired of putting in a full effort and culling no results, the Bruins got their offense and power play on track while potting a whopping (for them anyway) four goals in a 4-2 win over the first-place Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden.

The convincing win ‘€“ which saw the B’€™s snap off 37 shots on net ‘€“ ceased a three-game losing streak and gave Boston the same offensive output they had posted in the last five games combined. It also marked a return of the Big Bad Bruins snarl as Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves twice, and Mark Stuart engaged in a brawl at the tail end of the third period. This could be the start of a good rivalry between the Bruins and a hard-nosed Sabres bunch this season.

“Of course we’re looking for scoring and making goals, and it’s no secret you have to shoot the puck to get it in the net,” said Steve Begin, who was wearing the “A” on his sweater for the first time in Saturday night’s win. “That’s what we did tonight. The whole team put out a great effort, so that’s all I can say.

“Everything you saw tonight, that’s what we need to do. Great work from everybody. It’s easy when you stick with the game plan. You win games and it’s easy.

Perhaps it was a Bruins team simply getting ‘€œup’€ for the first-place team in its division. Maybe it was the opportunity to torment a rookie goaltender, Jhonas Enroth, in his first NHL start. Regardless, the B’€™s managed to throw all kinds of offense at a Buffalo team that’€™s losing significant steam as of late after a solid first month.

The Bruins snapped an 0-for-20 rut on the power play with a pair of first-period strikes from Mark Recchi and Zdeno Chara to jump out to an early lead. Both Byron Bitz and Marco Sturm added to the lead in the second period with goals of their own, and the third period became the main card in Fight Night at the Garden.

The Sturm score was set up by Patrice Bergeron‘€™s mix of brawn and on-ice awareness, as the pivot dished back for a prototypical strike for the German forward. Sturm fired a laser past the 21-year-old Enroth, and snapped a 12-game scoreless streak for the left wing.

“A lot of guys were [breaking out of slumps], and it was nice to see this happening,” said Sturm. “We’ve waited a long time for this, so we were happy. But we still need to focus on the tough challenges.”

It was amazing how different the Bruins forward group looked breaking out of their end and bombarding the Buffalo attack zone with speed and aggression. That ideal combo showed in their offensive output, both when skating 5-on-5 and on special teams, where the B’s notched two power-play goals along with a handful of short-handed threats. The resurgent attack totaled 28 shots on goal after two periods, and generally looked like the team people thought they’€™d be when the season began.

Chara’€™s power-play goal also marked his first strike of the season in his 15th game after potting 19 goals last season. Chara’s strike on a long bomb from the right point stands as a positive sign that the man advantage is beginning to gain some traction after struggling so mightily over the last few weeks without Marc Savard.

YOU’€™RE THE BEST AROUND, NOTHING’€™S EVER GONNA GET YOU DOWN: The Bruins penalty kill has been off the charts since Claude Julien made some adjustments and inserted forwards like Brad Marchand and Daniel Paille. They did allow one power play goal in seven Buffalo opportunities on the night, but have killed 24 out of 26 penalties over the last nine games.

Special credit also goes out to cagey 41-year-old veteran Recchi for helping breathe life back into the power play with a tip of a Derek Morris shot for Boston’€™s first goal. Recchi’€™s willingness to mix it up in front of the cage between Buffalo defenders helped break the seal and kick-start the B’€™s offense.

GOAT HORNS: Buffalo didn’t show much life for a team attempting to make a statement within the division. The Sabre’€™s reckless style of pinching defensemen and going for broke opened up plenty of scoring chances for the Bruins, and the rookie goaltender took a few minutes to settle down. It adds to games in which the Sabres have been buried by the Islanders and Flyers as of late. Full credit goes to the Bruins for taking a solid win, but the Sabres receive demerits for their game Saturday night.

Turn up the volume: A special win for the B’s

11.08.09 at 12:35 am ET
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The Bruins finally broke through on the power play on Saturday and not coincidentally, so did Zdeno Chara.

Mark Recchi redirected a Derek Morris shot from the right point on Boston’s first power play of the night at 3:18 of the first period. That snapped an 0-for-20 on the power play.

Then, later in the same period, Zdeno Chara got off the snide. After scoring 17 goals in his first season in Boston and another 19 last year with the Bruins, Chara entered Saturday night still having yet to find the back of the net.

But that ended 13 minutes later when Chara’s blast from the high slot got past 21-year-old rookie Jhonas Enroth.

Between killing all seven Buffalo power plays and scoring on 2-of-3 man-advantage chances, the Bruins special teams shone on this night.

Afterward, the Bruins talked about getting the monkey off their backs.

Shawn Thornton, with an assist and a motivational first-period fight with Steve Montador on the night, said it was a relief the Bruins finally scored on the power play.

Chara admitted it was a relief to finally get his first goal of the season.

Chara said it was great that the special teams came through.

Coach Claude Julien said it was evident the Bruins had the power play clicking early.

Julien said it was a good night overall for the special teams.

Read More: Bruins, Zdeno Chara,

B’s face 21-year-old rookie in net

11.07.09 at 6:46 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask gets his fifth start of the season between the pipes tonight for the Bruins as they host the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. Rask is 2-1-1 this season in his four previous games with a 2.41 goals against.

The Sabres, who lost on Friday night at home to Philadelphia, counter with 21-year-old rookie Jhonas Enroth, who is making his NHL debut in net for the first-place Sabres.

The Bruins, with 14 points, trail the Sabres by five points in the Northeast Division.

Read More: Bruins, NHL, Sabres,

Morning skate: Sabres edition

11.07.09 at 11:13 am ET
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Greetings from the TD Garden where the Bruins will take on the Northeast Division first place Buffalo Sabres, who are playing back-to-back games after dropping a 5-2 home game to the Flyers on Friday night.

Here are a few notes to mull over while the Bruins are conducting their morning skate, and the Sabres hold an optional run-through following Boston.

–The Sabres have allowed the fewest goals in the NHL this season (29) and, according to former Sabres forward — and current Bruin — Daniel Paille, have tweaked their systems quite a bit ‘€“ from an aggressive, offensively explosive attack several years ago with Thomas Vanek and Daniel Briere to a defensively-sound system geared to take advantage of goaltender Ryan Miller.

‘€œThere has been a couple of system changes that they wanted to do. One of the things for them [they wanted to change] was bearing down in the defensive zone,’€ said Paille. ‘€œIt’€™s one of those things were you’€™re just chipping the puck out at the right time and not turning the puck over in the defensive zone; just being at the right place at the right through the whole ‘€˜D’€™ zone. They wanted to focus and improve on that, and they’€™ve definitely done that. Having a very good goalie in Ryan Miller helps as well.’€

–The two tallest players in the NHL will tangle in Saturday night’€™s game as 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara gets the rare experience of looking another hockey player straight into the eyes along the TD Garden ice. Sabres rookie defenseman Tyler Myers is the second tallest NHL player this season at 6-foot-8, and he’€™s impressed Buffalo enough that the team opted not to return the 19-year-old to his junior team after nine games. Myers has 3 goals and 4 assists and is a plus-4 in 13 games and is averaging 20:48 of ice time per game.

–First game back at the TD Garden for Will Ferrell look-a-like Steve Montador, who joined Boston’€™s defenseman corps down the stretch last season in a trade deadline move with the Anaheim Ducks. Montador was thrust into a bigger role with the Bruins once injuries hit the blueline during the playoffs, and had his share of turnovers during the semifinals loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The 29-year-old Montador has three assists in 13 games this season after signing with Buffalo last summer.

–For all those hoping for a showdown between Tim Thomas and Ryan Miller, expect 20-year-old Sabres rookie Jhonas Enroth to possibly get the start between the pipes for Buffalo. Miller is coming off giving up four goals on 37 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Flyers on Friday night, and could use a night off after starting in 12 of Buffalo’€™s first 13 games this season. Backup Patrick Lalime is battling a groin issue that’€™s led to Enroth’€™s recall from the Portland Pirates.

Thomas and Miller are two of the bigger NHL household names competing for spots on the US Olympic hockey team set to be named during the Jan. 1 telecast of the NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park. Miller has been one of the best goalies in the NHL this season and is off to a 9-2-1 start with a 1.89 goals against average and a .936 save percentage.

Paille looking forward to meeting with Sabres

11.07.09 at 8:37 am ET
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Daniel Paille wouldn’€™t use the word frustrating to describe his situation with the Buffalo Sabres prior to an October 20 trade that brought the gritty winger to Boston.

He wouldn’€™t deny there’€™s a little bit of extra motivation for Saturday night’€™s home tilt against the first place Sabres, however. Just this once anyway, the 25-year-old penalty killer and third-line skater will be looking to show a little something to GM Darcy Regier and head coach Lindy Ruff after Paille found himself trapped in healthy scratch limbo with Buffalo this season.

‘€œThere’€™s definitely motivation. It’€™s a division rival team and it’€™s huge because of that, but playing against them for the first time. For sure there is motivation. You just don’€™t want to get caught up in that,’€ said Paille, who said playing one playoff game with the Sabres during his first season was one of his career highlights in Buffalo. ‘€œI felt like I gave everything I had [in Buffalo], and I’€™ve got no regrets. It was a positive experience for me, and I felt just the same when I was traded here.

‘€œI always felt good and I worked every night. But there were times I guess where in their opinion I didn’€™t fit in. You have to respect that and move on.’€

Paille only played in two games for the Sabres over the first three weeks of the season, and averaged 10:22 of ice time before heading to the B’€™s in exchange for a third-round pick and a conditional draft pick. Paille hasn’€™t missed a game for Boston since arriving with the Spoked B, and he’€™s made a tangible impact since donning the Black and Gold.

In eight games Paille has piled up four assists and lived up to his reputation as a physical player with good wheels and a solid skill level capable of excelling on the penalty kill. It’€™s hard to imagine the 25-year-old wasn’€™t good enough to earn ice time in Buffalo, but he described it as being caught up in a number’€™s game with a team shifting over to a more defense-based system.

‘€œThey had their thoughts and I just kept working. For me, I think it just came down to numbers,’€ said Paille. ‘€œI wasn’€™t part of it and I’€™ve moved on. It’€™s disappointing. Not so much frustrating. Everybody wants to play, and for that particular team I wasn’€™t a good fit.

‘€œObviously I was hoping for [playing time] here, but I could just as easily get scratched here too. I just have to make sure I don’€™t get too comfortable. I have to work hard every day.’€

Paille clearly learned something from washing out of the organization that drafted and developed him, and Boston is reaping the benefits.

Give Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli a heap of credit for diagnosing a potentially serious issue early this season when the penalty kill faltered. Bringing Paille into the fold to help add the needed speedy, dangerous element to a sagging special teams unit was exactly what the doctor ordered. The Sabres forward along with Brad Marchand reintroduced an aggressive, fast, hard-nosed brand of penalty killing back to the Bruins ‘€“ and Paille says it’€™s a part of the job he’€™s taken a lot of pride in during his four-year NHL career.

The proof is in the numbers, however, and the B’€™s have been much more difficult to pin down short-handed since Paille helped fortify a rotation of penalty killing forwards that also includes Patrice Bergeron, Steve Begin, David Krejci and Brad Marchand.

Paille ranks fifth among that quartet of forwards with 1:20 of short-handed ice time per game, and the Bruins have successfully killed off 18-out-of-19 penalties since the Sabres castaway hopped on board. That’€™s a 94.7 percent success rate over eight games that’€™s allowed the B’€™s to climb up to 18th overall with a 78.8 percent success rate while short-handed. Pretty damned good, and one of the big improvements that’€™s pushing the Bruins back toward respectability after some early troubles with inconsistent play and defensive breakdowns.

‘€¨– As expected, Bruins forward Mikko Lehtonen was returned to the Providence Bruins on Friday afternoon after filling in for the B’€™s Thursday night in their 2-1 shootout loss to the Canadiens. Lehtonen was held scoreless in 7:08 of ice time Thursday night, and will head back to the P-Bruins to build on his 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) and 25 penalty minutes in 11 AHL games.

Lehtonen was recalled on an emergency basis on Wednesday night, but was expected to return to Providence once Byron Bitz made it through Friday’€™s practice without aggravating his groin injury. Bitz thought he’€™d be ready to go for Saturday’€™s game against the Northeast Division-leading Sabres, who have allowed the fewest goals (24) in the NHL this season. Bitz skated with Trent Whitfield and Shawn Thornton

‘€œI feel pretty good. It’€™s one of those things where one day it feels better and hopefully I’€™m turning the corner here,’€ said Bitz. ‘€œIt feels pretty good. Hopefully it holds up. It’€™s always tough to watch, but it’€™s out of your control. If you’€™re injured, you’€™re injured. You just hope to heal as quickly as you can so you can get back out there.’€

Bitz also has the distinction of being David Krejci’€™s roommate on road trips, and the Cornell alum was admittedly a bit concerned that he might also come down with the H1N1 virus after staying in the same hotel room with the center in Detroit. But he hasn’€™t started exhibiting any of the telltale symptoms, and hopes he’€™s out of the woods.

‘€œI thought about that a little bit when I first heard about, but I’€™ve been feeling fine, knock on wood,’€ said Bitz. ‘€œEverybody is so careful about washing their hands and trying not to spread any kind of a flu bug. I just saw it online that [Krejci] had the swine flu, and I was surprised. He didn’€™t say anything about feeling under the weather to me.’€

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