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Krejci puts up All-Star performance in victory

01.10.09 at 10:35 pm ET
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Rookie Blake Wheeler is going to be in Montreal two weeks from now at the NHL All-Star weekend as part of the Young Guns game between the rookies and the sophomores, but he appropriately called the decision to omit linemate David Krejci from the YoungStars game as a “head-scratcher”.

Well, the head-scratching festivities kicked up another notch when the 22-year-old puck prodigy notched a goal and collected assists on a pair of highlight-reel passes in a 5-1 taming of the Hurricanes at the TD Banknorth Garden yesterday afternoon. You can find sound from the postgame locker room here.

Krejci himself didn’t seem altogether surprised — after the game – that he wouldn’t be playing in the NHL main event All-Star game, but wasn’t quite sure how his NHL All-Star YoungStars invitation blew off the doorstep of his Boston Garden mailbox. Milan Lucic will be returning to play for the second-year players after taking part in last year’s rookie game, and a group of five new players (Brandon Dubinsky, Bryan Little, Mason Raymond, Andrew Cogliano, Devin Setoguchi) were hand-picked ahead of the wunderkind playcaller to take part in the showcase event for the game’s youth movement.

Kudos to the NHL for skipping over a creative, skilled magician on the ice capable of executing breathtaking passes and stickworking mastery while making teammates around him better — the exact kind of hockey player that the league should be trying to show off at each and every possible turn.

Or maybe not since — as it stands right now — Krejci is in the NHL’s top 10 in both assists and overall points and has been one of the key factors in Boston’s offensive explosion this season. He won’t be among the galaxy of NHL stars in Montreal, and the youngster has made peace with it after some initial diappointment.

“There wasn’t even a thought from me about going to the big [game], but when I heard about the second-year players going [to the YoungStars game] I’m not going to lie to you…I thought I was going to go,” said Krejci. “But they didn’t pick me, so I’m just going to enjoy my four days. Honestly the All-Star game is the All-Star game. The Young Stars game is something else and it was a bigger deal to me. I would go if I were invited, but I wasn’t. So I’m making plans for the weekend.”

So while Krejci makes some All-Star break plans apart from five of his teammates and a head coach that were all invited to take part in the Mid-Winter Classic festivities, the nifty young center took out any Young Guns frustrations on the unsuspecting Hurricanes yesterday. The first goal was a simple play with Wheeler carrying the puck on the sideboard and then connecting with Krejci as he came bombing down the slot. The center showed off his quick hands and scoring ability by simply flipping a backhanded shot under the crossbar to open up the B’s scoring.

A Stephane Yelle redirect made it a 2-0 lead and then Krejci uncorked a spin-o-rama pass to a wide open Michael Ryder right in front of the Carolina net, and — just like that — the rout of the ‘Canes was on. That particular pass from Krejci and the behind-the-back effort that led to Ryder’s second score later in the second period also led to plenty of “ooohs” and “aaahhs” among the sold out Garden crowd. The passing clinic put on by Czech Republic youngster even turned Boston’s bench boss into an admiring fan during Krejci’s afternoon of Hockey Skill 101.

“I think that second goal that [Michael] Ryder scored, that play.  I kind of just looked at my assistant coaches and just kind of shook my head,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “You don’€™t stop those guys from making those plays when they’€™ve got that kind of ability.  He’€™s a pretty smart player and I think the most important thing with him is that he seems to be gaining more and more confidence all the time. 

“He seems to be wanting to control the play a lot more.  I think it’€™s about taking advantage of his play like that and riding it.”

While Julien certainly feels that Krejci, Dennis Wideman and Phil Kessel were all similarly deserving of some kind of NHL All-Star honors after an amazing first half of the hockey season, he was clear about where the team’s priorities should stand with regard to individual recognition. It’s all about getting closer to raising Lord Stanley’s Cup during the first week of June rather than playing in some hockey exhibition half-way throught he grueling NHL season.

“I think we make way too much of that whole All-Star situation. I mean, unfortunately the way it’€™s set up right now, there are disappointments everywhere, not just our hockey club,” said Julien. Does [Krejci] deserve to be there? Sure.  So does [Phil] Kessel, just to name a few, so does [Dennis] Wideman, and there are a lot of guys.  That would make six on the all-star team, and two more with the [YoungStars game], and now we have eight guys going. 

“I think what’€™s important right now is that they are being recognized.  Whether they are there or not it’€™s about thinking about what’€™s more important right now: our hockey team here and what we’€™re doing or is it that little nomination. That obviously them not being on the team is one thing, but being mentioned by everybody goes to show that they probably deserved to be there, and that should be good enough.

Good Debut by Bitz

It was a bit of a surprise when word filtered out that hulking Providence forward and Cornell alum Byron Bitz was making his way to Boston for yesterday’s game, but it made a great deal of sense with intimidating force Milan Lucic out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Bitz is another player that wasn’t afraid to throw his weight around in Providence, and that was exactly his role skating on the fourth line with Stephane Yelle and Shawn Thornton on the fourth line.

Bitz rocked a few Hurricanes with thunderous body checks and even picked up his first career assist while clearly showing he could keep up with the speed of the NHL game. It clearly served as another successful call-up from the deep well at Providence, and both Bitz and Martin Karsums picked up their first career NHL points yesterday.

“Everyone’€™s so welcoming when you come up,” said Bitz, whose parents made it from Western Canada in time to catch yesterday’s victory. “Everyone’€™s giving you the congratulations and the handshakes, but the coaches were good.  They went over the systems before the game, which are pretty similar to what we do down in Providence anyway, so just a little bit of a refresher, and then just go out there and play.”

And then, of course, there’s the first career fight for B’s defenseman Matt “One Punch” Hunwick, who blew up Carolina forward Justin Williams in the neutral zone and then dropped him with a big right handed shot in the ensuing fracas.


Sounds of the game… Bruins 5, Hurricanes 1

01.10.09 at 5:15 pm ET
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The Bruins have followed up two straight losses with two straight wins, dominating the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-1, at TD Banknorth Garden on Saturday. Michael Ryder scored twice as the Bruins improved to 3-2 on their season-long six-game homestand, which concludes on Tuesday night against Montreal. Some other notes… Byron Bitz played his first NHL game, becoming the third Bruin to play his first NHL game this season,
joining Blake Wheeler (Oct. 9 at Colorado) and Martins Karsums (Dec. 13 vs. Atlanta). Bitz recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Boston’€™s third goal tonight, becoming the second Bruin this season to record a point in his first NHL game (Wheeler, goal on Oct. 9 at Colorado). Martins Karsums recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Boston’€™s second goal today ‘€¦ It came in his second career NHL game. Zdeno Chara recorded an assist on Boston’€™s third goal ‘€¦ It is the 200th assist of his NHL career. Carolina’€™s Sergei Samsonov played his 700th NHL game today ‘€¦ It came against the team that drafted him (second pick, eighth overall, in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft) with a pick that the Bruins received from Hartford in the Glen Wesley trade. Without further delay, here’s what they had to say.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said the Bruins made sure to match Carolina’s intensity.

Marc Savard said that was a quality 60-minute performance.

Zdeno Chara said that game was one of Boston’s better performances of the season.

Chara said the Bruins won the battle for loose pucks.

Tim Thomas said the Bruins were ready for the Hurricanes.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Marc Savard, Tim Thomas

Julien named Eastern Conference All-Star head coach

01.10.09 at 11:58 am ET
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Proving that you can go home again, Bruins coach Claude Julien was officially named by the NHL as the head coach for the Eastern Conference All-Star team at the NHL All-Star Game scheduled for Jan. 25 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Julien’s first head coaching job was with the dreaded Habs, but he said that he harbors no ill will toward the Canadiens in going back to coach the Mid-Winter Classic.

“It’s a great honor,” said Julien. “Those kinds of things, honestly, it’s a great honor. But it’s because of the people around you. It’s the players. The head coach always gets the credit, yet his assistant coaches are doing an unbelievable job. They make him look good as well.

“I think going there and ‘representing’ our team is the right term because of everybody around me that I got the opportunity to go to the game,” added Julien. “It’s more of an honor to be coaching and representing the Bruins than anything else for me.”

Under the selection process for All-Star coaches, the head coach and assistant coach for the Eastern Conference All-Stars are the head coaches of the two teams with the top points percentages in the Eastern Conference through games of tonight, the halfway point of the 2008-09 regular season.

The head coach and assistant coach of the Western Conference All-Stars are the head coaches of the two teams with the best points percentages in the Western Conference. Julien has guided Boston to its best start since 1929-30 with a points percentage of .780, posting 64 points in 41 games (30-7-4); the Bruins are assured of having the Conference’s top points percentage through Saturday.

 Julien will make his first career NHL All-Star coaching appearance in the city where he coached the Canadiens for 159 games over three seasons from 2002-03 to 2005-06. Head coaches Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals (27-12-3, .679) and Guy Carbonneau of the Canadiens (24-10-6, .675) still are in contention for the Eastern Conference assistant coaching berth, which will go to the winner of tonight’s game between the clubs at Montreal.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Montreal Canadiens,

Tuukka Time

01.10.09 at 11:09 am ET
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Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has recalled goaltender Tuukka Rask from the Providence Bruins on an emergency basis. Rask was called up this morning because goalie Manny Fernandez is dealing with an undisclosed “issue”. Tim Thomas will get the start in net this afternoon.

“Tuukka [Rask] has come in to be a backup, and he is going to be replacing Manny,” said B’s coach Claude Julien prior to this afternoon’s game. “With [Fernandez] it’s just a minor thing. It’s really a day-to-day kind of thing. It was actually a last minute call up. Probably about nine o’clock this morning.”

Rask will join the team today and be available for this afternoon’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. This is his first recall to Boston this season.

Rask has started 30 games this season for Providence and has posted a 17-13-0 record with a 2.42 Goals Against Average and .919 save percentage, including a 4-1 win over Bridgeport last night. His 17 victories are the second most in the AHL. Rask played in four games last year for Boston and registered a 2-1-1 record, with his first NHL game and first NHL victory coming on November 20, 2007 in a 4-2 win at Toronto. He was recalled on four occasions last season and dressed as a backup for 16 games while playing in four.

In his first professional season last year with Providence, he compiled a 27-13-2 record and a 2.33 Goals Against Average and helped lead the P-Bruins to the best regular season record in the AHL.

Originally drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round (21st overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, the 21-year-old Rask was acquired by the Bruins on June 24, 2006 in exchange for goaltender Andrew Raycroft.

Bitz, Karsums called up from Providence

01.10.09 at 7:53 am ET
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Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has recalled forwards Byron Bitz and Martins Karsums from the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League). Bitz gives the Bruins a skilled big body that can replicate a little bit of the unique size/skill set that Milan Lucic brought to the table before his injury (which will keep him out again today) and Karsums is once again called up to Boston in the never-ending carousel from Providence.

Yesterday morning Chiarelli voiced a preference to find in-house solutions capable of dealing with the potential loss of Marco Sturm for the season and Patrice Bergeron for an extended period of time, and the 22-year-old Karsums would seem to be getting his chance. Expect this to be a longer stint than the one-and-done experience earlier this season for Karsums, but Bitz is headed back for the Baby B’s once Lucic is healthy enough for a return. 

Don’t discount the chance that the B’s could make a move outside the organization (trade, free agent signing etc.) if they don’t find another reliable scoring option with both Sturm and Bergeron out for the near future.  

They will join the team today and be available for this afternoon’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Bitz has registered three goals and seven assists in 37 games for Providence this year. The 24-year-old scored 13 goals and made 14 assists in 61 games with the Providence Bruins last year. Before joining the P-Bruins in 2007, Bitz played four seasons at Cornell University with 28-60=88 totals and 155 penalty minutes in 124 career games.

The 6’5″, 215-pound Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native was originally drafted by the Bruins in the 4th round (107th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. This is the first recall of Bitz’ professional career.

Karsums is currently the leading scorer for Providence with 16 goals and 23 assists in 38 games, and ranks 8th in points overall in the AHL. Recently named an AHL All-Star, he will play for the Planet USA team in the AHL All-Star Classic on January 26.

He was recalled by Boston earlier this year and made his NHL debut against the Atlanta Thrashers on December 13. He tallied a career-best 20 goals and 43 assists in 79 games during his second professional season with the Providence Bruins last year and joined the P-Bruins in 2006 after playing three seasons of junior hockey with Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

The 5’10′€™”, 198-pound Riga, Latvia native was originally drafted by the Bruins in the 2nd round (64th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The Bruins play the fifth game of a six-game homestand on Saturday,
January 10 when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Byrod Bitz, Marco Sturm, Martin Karsums

Bergeron speaks…

01.09.09 at 11:25 am ET
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There was one overiding theme to Friday’s media availability with Patrice Bergeron at TD Banknorth Garden. “This year is different.” From Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to coach Claude Julien to the man himself, everyone wanted to make sure this much was clear – this year’s concussion, suffered on Dec. 20 against Carolina, is NOT like last year’s grade 3 concussion that ended Bergeron’s 2007-08 season in October against Philadelphia. Last season, Bergeron addressed the media in December before a press room full of reporters and it was an uncomfortable if not traumatic experience for everyone in the organization, including Bergeron. This year, while crowded with cameras and reporters to the right of his locker stall, Bergeron look far more at ease as he took questions. Last season, there were concerns not just about his career but his long-term health. While those concerns are there for every player, Bergeron talked about getting his heart rate up to 140 beats a minute for 35 minutes while doing cardio. And last year, till the very end of the season, there was no indication when he might return. This year, reading between the lines, it seems as though a return somewhere around the All-Star break at the end of the month may not be out of the question. Joe Haggerty has the full story at Pucks with Haggs. Let’s listen to what the parties had to say Friday at the Garden.

Bergeron said it’s been tough staying positive after taking the hit from Dennis Seidenberg.

Bergeron is confident he’ll be back.

Bergeron said he’s not the first to get a concussion from the jaw.

Chiarelli admits he was nervous when Bergeron took the hit to the jaw.

Chiarelli said Bergeron has peace of mind now.

Chiarelli is confident Bergeron will be back.

Julien said everyone wants to see him back.

Julien said this concusion is not comparable to last season’s hit against Philadelphia.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, concussion, Patrice Bergeron

Lucic and Wheeler invited to All-Star Weekend

01.09.09 at 11:16 am ET
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A bit of good news/bad news here for the Bruins as — according to media relations guru Matt Chmura — second-year winger Milan Lucic and rookie forward Blake Wheeler were the only fresh-faced Bruins players asked to take part in the NHL All-Star Game’s newly adopted Rookies vs. Sophomores Game. The game will take place on Saturday’s All-Star Skills Competition along with traditional fare like the NHL’s hardest shot competition — a test of shooting strength that towering blueliner Zdeno Chara has turned into his own personal playground over the last few years.

In the Bad News Dept.: Somehow both second-year center David Krejci and rookie blueliner Matt Hunwick were bypassed for the game despite Krejci’s place among the NHL’s top 20 scorers this season and Hunwick’s place among rookie defenseman. Hunwick is perhaps understandable in that he’s not a household name, but Krejci has easily been among the best players in the entire NHL this season, and should have merited more consideration for the main event game at the Bell Centre on Sunday — never mind a showcase event for the NHL’s Young Guns one day prior.

–B’s General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced that Bruins winger Marco Sturm will undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and may also potentially be facing ACL surgery during the same procedure. If Sturm’s ACL is torn — a notion that Chiarelli said appears to be be likely but won’t be certain until the doctors look at the injury during surgery — then the German forward will be lost for the duration of the 2008-09 season.

Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli also announced today that the Bruins have assigned forwards Martin St. Pierre and Vladimir Sobotka to the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League). Chiarelli also informed the assembled media that the B’s would call up two forwards from Providence to take their place on the roster — as Milan Lucic will be out of the lineup with the undisclosed injury again Saturday afternoon — for tomorrow’s matinee against the Carolina Hurricanes.

St. Pierre has seen action in nine games for Boston this year and recorded 1-2=3 totals. In 30 games with the P-Bruins this season, he registered a 10-25=35 line.

The 25-year-old St. Pierre has appeared in 30 NHL games in his career – 21 with Chicago, 9 with Boston – and has tallied two goals and five assists. Signed as a free agent by the Blackhawks on November 12, 2005, St. Pierre was acquired by the Bruins on July 24, 2008 in exchange for Pascal Pelletier.

Sobotka has played in 15 games for Boston during the 2008-2009 season and recorded 1-1=2 totals. In 17 games with the P-Bruins this year, Sobotka tallied 10 goals and 11 assists.

He split the 2007-2008 season between Boston and Providence. With Boston, he saw action in 48 regular season games and contributed one goal and six assists and added two goals in six postseason games. With Providence last year, he had 10-10=20 totals in 18 regular season games and added four assists over six postseason games. Sobotka was originally drafted by the Bruins in the 4th round (106th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

The Bruins play the fifth game of a six-game homestand on Saturday, January 10 when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, David Krejci, Martin St. Pierre
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