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B’s finally getting some good health news

01.05.09 at 5:15 pm ET
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In a much-needed reprieve from the war of attrition that’s been going on with the Bruins’ squad over the last month, B’s coach Claude Julien and his team needed some good news in the health department — and got it at this morning’s practice in Wilmington.

Andrew Ference took part in the hour plus practice at Ristuccia Arena – though he skated off early for “precautionary reasons” — and was among the healthy-enough-to-skate B’s players that heard Julien’s booming voice screaming during the intense morning of drills. Ward didn’t skate at practice with the team, but Julien deemed that his charley horse situation is improving dramatically.

The “mild” charley horse knocked the 35-year-old out of Saturday’s loss in the second period, and Ward will be a game time decision for tomorrow night’s tilt against the trap-happy Minnesota Wild. Granted Marco Sturm is likely gone for the season with left knee surgery and there’s no timetable for Patrice Bergeron’s road back from his concussion, but things are starting to look up for the band-aid B’s. 

”He’s doing a lot better,” said Julien of Ward. ”His motion and range today was pretty good. He’s going to skate with us tomorrow and we’ll see how he does.”

Ference, out since mid-November following surgery to repair a fractured tibia incurred after blocking a shot during a penalty kill situation, continues to work ahead of schedule and should be back playing in real games over the next week. Tomorrow is a longshot, but nontheless healthy bodies are beginning to fill up the dressing room.  Julien was asked if he could presumably go from having six healthy defenseman to a choice of eight living, breathing, healthy bodies for tomorrow night’s game, and the B’s bench boss didn’t rule out the possibility.

“Ference is still day-to-day and he’s been put through some battle drills today [in practice] so we’ll see how he fares tomorrow,” said Julien, of a Tuesday morning skate that will portend whether Ward or Ference return to the lineup against the Wild. “There’s a possibility that we’ll look at Ward tomorrow and Ference is practicing with us and day-to-day. We’re kind of on the bubble with that.

There’s still some question marks that will be answered tomorrow morning, but we could be [anywhere] from 8 to 6 tomorrow very easily,” added Julien.

All-Star Snub Reaction

Bruins players selected for the Eastern Conference All-Star team will find out Thursday around noontime when the NHL announces the reserve players for the Jan. 25 NHL showpiece event. The B’s didn’t have a single player voted into the Eastern Conference starting lineup — a group filled solely with Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens players – announced over the weekend, and goaltender Tim Thomas felt like it might be a case of too many good Bruins to choose from. Or perhaps not enough tech-savvy, prospering cheaters among the B’s fan base.

Just taking Thomas’ case, it’s a tough decision to choose between Thomas and fellow veteran goaltender Manny Fernandez. Both goaltenders have worked together in seamless fashion to become the best goaltending duo in the NHL this season. Thomas and Fernandez, Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara and Phil Kessel are all certainly deserving of All-Star recognition, and it’s a safe bet that at least two of them will be invited to participate in Montreal’s All-Star weekend three weeks from now.

“I hadn’t thought about it,” said a clearly amused Thomas. “Obviously it was fan voting, so it was unrealistic. The other angle to look at is that this team is so good that it makes it really hard to choose [individual players]. Obviously [the fan voting] was Pittsburgh computer programmers versus Montreal computer programmers. It’s tough to make choices when you could pick so many good players, or you could be like Pittsburgh and Montreal and pick your whole team.” 

Read More: Aaron Ward, Andrew Ference, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien

Report: Sturm to have knee surgery

01.04.09 at 1:19 pm ET
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While most of Bruins Nation is out and about at the Bruins’ Wives Carnival this afternoon posing for pictures in the penalty box and brushing up on their Rock Band 2 skills for a good cause, here’s a few hockey nuggets to chew on: 

Marco Sturm will need surgery on his injured left knee in the coming weeks, according to a report out of the Boston Herald. The German-born winger had just returned from concussion/whiplash symptoms on Dec. 18 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but immediately went down with the knee injury after scoring a first period goal in the victory. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli wouldn’t rule out a return by Sturm this season following the surgery, but that’s certainly a good possibility given the lengthy delay leading up to his knee procedure.

 ‘€œHe’€™s going to have surgery,’€ Chiarelli said. ‘€œIt’€™s just a question of when. It’€™s a matter of letting it settle down and getting some strength back in before they do it. We’€™ll let you know more (next week).’€

Not really shocking considering it had taken this long for enough swelling to go down in Sturm’s left knee to make a determination, and the B’s haven’t exactly struggled making a go of it without the Sturm Face for long stretches this season. The talk of Bruins training camp this year was the amazing depth that Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien had to choose from when picking the final spots on the big club. Now they’ve been forced to utilize their organizational depth, and guys like Vladimir Sobotka and Martin St. Pierre have stepped up and made an impact.

–The NHL announced the starting lineups for this month’s NHL All-Star game set for Jan. 25 in Montreal, and there isn’t one representative from the class of the East: the Boston Bruins. Forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Kovalev were voted in as the starters for the Eastern Conference, and Habs blueliners Andre Markov, Mike Komisarek and goaltender Carey Price were also voted in to round out the starting lineup. It’s likely that Bruins Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas and Phil Kessel will get consideration when the reserves are announced in the coming weeks.

All-Star vote totals can be found here with B’s players Marc Savard (260,974), Patrice Bergeron (253,592), Zdeno Chara (464, 414) and Tim Thomas (96,623) falling well short of the 1 million plus votes that each of the Eastern Conference starting players received.

In related news, ESPN hockey columnist Pierre LeBrun says he can hear the whining emanating from Boston about the snubs and says “Who Cares?” Good attitude for a hockey columnist to have when he makes his living off people caring about the sport, and he makes an even better one when he sees nothing wrong with the Montreal fans ballot-stuffing to make sure four out of the six Eastern Conference starters were Canadiens during the Jan. 25 game at the Bell Centre

–Totally unrelated to the Bruins, but a hilarious video of Washington Capitals scorer Alexander Semin daring to go where few skilled players will venture: the fighting arena. After a big hit by fellow Eastern blocker (and much better pugilist) Alexander Ovechkin, Semin and New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal found themselves in a post-whistle fracas. What follows is the first slap-fight/bongo punch throwing extravaganza in NHL history, and most assuredly the last fight of Semin’s hockey career. Enjoy…

Bruins can’t outwork Sabres in Garden loss

01.03.09 at 9:05 pm ET
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“All good things must come to an end — There is an end to everything, good things as well.”

It’s pretty certain that Chaucer wasn’t thinking of any Boston Bruins winning streaks when he coined the catchy little phrase back in the 14th century, but it was extremely applicable in Saturday afternoon’s 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at the Garden.

The defeat snapped the team’s 10-game winning streak — the franchise’s best in 35 years — and their 14-game home winning streak, and painted a clear picture for the Bruins’ skaters of a rival hockey club that channeled hard work and desperation into Boston loss. It’s a formula that the Bruins have used countless times this season to pile up points, but they certainly don’t have a patent on it.

Tim Thomas wasn’t great between the pipes, but he certainly wasn’t negligent enough to lead to a defeat. Shawn Thornton and Phil Kessel both tallied goals in an offensively disjointed effort, but the B’s had plenty of Grade A scoring chances they simply didn’t capitalize on. The normally leak-free Bruins defense had a few uncharacteristic breakdowns, but — more of than not — the Sabres simply and aggressively took it away from the Bruins and then forced the scoring.

In a time during the NHL season when the standings are starting to sorts themselves out and teams are looking to put themselves at good standing by this month’s All-Star break, Buffalo gritted their collective teeth, strapped on the hard hats and worked dilligently enough for the blue collar victory. It didn’t take long for the Bruins skaters to recognize the lengths the Sabres were going to go to get a ‘W’, and they simply couldn’t match it. 

“They were skating really good and forechecked really hard. Sometimes they forechecked with three guys or two guys and sometimes we made a good breakout, but again, they were working extremely hard tonight,” said Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara, who along with the rest of his Bruins teammates hadn’t suffered a loss at home since way back on Oct. 23 vs. the Maple Leafs. “They were really hungry. You could sense their desperation from the beginning of the game. We kind of did not have it right from the beginning, and we have to improve that.”

The Sabres weren’t all brawn and no brains, though. Once they’d built up a 4-2 lead heading into the third period, Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff went into lockdown mode and confounded the B’s attackers by going into the ultimate prevent defense. The strategy gave the Sabres virtually no presence in the offensive zone, but also limited the quality of Bruins’ chances among their 11 third period shots at the net. The ploy worked, and left the Bruins with something to think about the next time they’re trailing the Sabres headed into the third period.

“In the third period, I haven’€™t ever seen five men back or whatever they were playing. It was kind of different,” said B’s center Marc Savard, who made a great fake-shot-and-then-pass move on Kessel’s power play strike. “It looked a Mighty Ducks movie or something. But it definitely worked. We couldn’€™t get anything going through the neutral zone, or get it over the line cleanly.”

Ward on the injured list again

Veteran blueliner Aaron Ward was only in his third game back from an ankle injury yesterday afternoon, and had to leave in the second period after suffering a charley horse injury. While it’s good news that Ward didn’t reinjure the ankle that’s given him problems over the last month, the aches and pains are beginning to add up for a battle-hardened veteran that only knows how to play one way: the path of pain and resistance paved with body-rattling body checks and bone-shattering blocked shots. 

“It’€™s a slight charlie-horse and right now he’€™s being looked at.  How severe is it?  We don’€™t know yet; those are all things you find out in the next few days,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “(It happened) from the hit in the corner (before Buffalo’€™s third goal.”

Sounds of the game… Sabres 4, Bruins 2

01.03.09 at 3:05 pm ET
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For the first time since Dec. 10, the Bruins tasted defeat on Saturday, snapping a remarkable 10-game run of success. And for the first time since Oct. 23, they lost at home, a 14-game string of victory. How long ago was that? The Red Sox had just lost Game 7 of the ALCS to Tampa Bay four days earlier. Afterward, every Bruin to a man talked about facing adversity and how they plan to learn from this loss. Perhaps Milan Lucic said it best when he said that “good teams don’t lose two in a row and we have to be hungry come our next game.”  That will be the focus when they continue their six-game homestand against Minnesota on Tuesday night. But for now, we look back on a game with the help of coach Claude Julien, who introduced a new term into the lexicon of the Boston sports fan. “We needed some JAM and this was one of those games where you need a little bit more JAM.”  JAM is apparently hockey-talk for juice, energy and desire.

Julien said Saturday wasn’t Boston’s best effort.

Julien said Buffalo earned the win.

Milan Lucic said the Bruins will be hungry to start a new streak.

Marc Savard on the winning streaks coming to an end.

Tim Thomas said it was good to be tested with a loss.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Claude Julien, Jam

Ryder is happy to be out of hockey jail

01.02.09 at 5:29 pm ET
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The telltale signs are all there that Michael Ryder has long since removed the bitter sting of last season’s regrets from his mind. The 28-year-old seemed to take a year-long lap of misery around Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau’s dog house while alternating between the bench and miscast roles for a gifted scorer on the Canadiens’ third and fourth lines.

Ryder’s well-chronicled struggles led to a career-low 14 goals and painful splinters on the pine for much of last season’s Stanley Cup playoff run by the Habs. The phrase rock-bottom comes readily to mind, but his lap of discontent at the Bell Centre essentially seems like it was a million hockey years ago now.

With a hope that all his troubles would be left behind in Quebec, Ryder inked a three-year, $12 million deal with the Bruins last summer but the jury was out after the first month of the season.

Ryder was standing strong along the wall and utilizing his wiry 6-foot, 192-pound frame while adhering to a strong, responsible brand of two-way hockey, but let’s be completely honest here. The 1998 8th round pick of the Habs had scored only three goals through Nov. 26 and critics had stepped forth to question both the signing and Ryder’s desire to finish off scoring plays.

Then Ryder tallied a pair of goals in the traditional afternoon game on the day after Thanksgiving and completely took off on a lamp-lighting tear during the merry, merry month of December. A grand total of nine markers during the 13 Bruins games played in December signaled a goal-scoring bonanza, and Ryder has become an integral part of the Ryder/David Krejci/Blake Wheeler troika that’s been left intact while B’s coach Claude Julien tinkers with the other two top skating lines.

“I was definitely getting the chances at the time and it wasn’t going in,” said Ryder of his struggles early in the season. “I definitely don’t have any ready answers. I just tried to keep working hard and shooting the puck, and said that eventually it will start going in.

“Maybe I was trying to pick my spots a little too much and trying to be a little too fine,” added Ryder. “Once I got on a roll with Krejci and Wheeler as a line, though, things really started working out well.”

One of the keys to Ryder’s success? A short memory. Ryder is done wondering whether Carbonneau had benched him for lack of production, a personality clash or some other perceived misdeed that Montreal’s bench boss never bothered to pass along to the scuffling player at any time last year.

“Last year was a tough year and I honestly don’t even want to think about it any more,” said Ryder. “I’m just trying to fit in here and it hasn’t been that hard. That’s for sure. It’s always easy when you’re playing. That’s the main thing: I wanted to play and help the team.

“I don’t even think about [the last year in Montreal] because I have a job to do here,” added Ryder. “Everybody goes through tough times and people have been there in their careers before. We just need to keep our mind on what we’re doing here and keep our foot on the gas pedal.”

Ryder has packed away the unfulfilled expectations and bitter residue left over from his time donning the Habs sweater in Montreal, and is instead simply focused on the task at hand in the Hub. It’s something that’s allowed a quiet, efficient concentration on taking pucks hard to the net and unloading his unfairly quick snap shot on unsuspecting goaltenders all over the NHL.

This year the team success has melded with Ryder’s individual production, and for all intents and purposes the B’s and Claude Julien have allowed the two-time 30 goal scorer to escape from the depths of hockey jail deep in the heart of Canada. He’s on pace to pot 30 goals again this season while riding shotgun with Krejci and Wheeler, and that’s exactly what GM Peter Chiarelli had in mind when he bagged the free agent.

Julien has seen a return of the skilled shooter that could reel off two or three goals in a game and has always had the knack for potting the right score at the right time — a trait attested by his NHL-best seven game-winning daggers thus far this season.

“I hope he’s enjoying his season a little better…he’s on a team that’s winning a lot of hockey games,” said Julien. “When you lead the league in game-winning goals that has to be a lot of fun to be leading with that stat. I think he’s found a pretty comfortable niche here where he’s enjoying himself with the guys and the guys appreciate him as well.

“He’s been a good fit for us,” added Julien. “Even though he got off to a bit of a slow start in the goal-scoring area, he made up for it with a lot of things. Now he’s found his scoring touch and he’s scoring goals, and there’s no doubt that has to be a lot more fun than being a healthy scratch some nights.”

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

The B’s will be rockin’ on Sunday

01.02.09 at 4:46 pm ET
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WIth the Annual Boston Bruins wives carnival coming up this weekend, here’s an interview with Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward and his wife Kelly on Fox 25 News this morning. Ward and the rest of his teammates will be manning different event stations at the carnival, and a quintet of B’s including Blake Wheeler and Milan Luci will be playing in Rock Band 2 duels on the Wii against lucky fans.

Personally I’m more of a fan of Guitar Hero for the XBOX 360, but sounds like it should be a rockin’ good time for all with B’s — and the best part is that it’s also for a great cause.  My best advice: let the Looch win whenever he wants before he decides to lose his temper and do the rock star guitar-smashing thing on his axe at center stage.

Here’s the release from the Bruins: On Sunday, Zdeno Chara, Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, Tim Thomas, Blake Wheeler and the entire Boston Bruins 2008-09 roster will be participating in the 19th Annual Boston Bruins’ Wives Charity Carnival, presented by Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston. The carnival is broken down in to three sessions from 11:00 – 12:00, 12:00 – 2:00 and 3:00 – 5:00. All sessions are open to the media and the players will be available for interviews throughout the day.

During each session fans will have the opportunity to get autographs and take photos with their favorite Bruins players, as well as play a variety of games which include P.J. Axelsson in ping-pong, David Krejci and Michael Ryder in knock hockey, Dennis Wideman in Nintendo Wii tennis, Andrew Ference in Xbox games. They can also join head coach Claude Julien for a tour of the team’€™s locker room.

In addition, during the General Admission Session of the Carnival from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. is a special Rock Band 2 video game competition. Throughout the session, fans will play head-to-head with Blake Wheeler while special guest judges from Harmonix – the creators of Rock Band – evaluate the participants based on technical ability (accuracy) and performance (enthusiasm). The best players will be selected to move on to compete against the Bruins Band in the Rock Band 2 finale at 5:00 p.m. on stage at center ice.

The Bruins Band consists of Mark Stuart on vocals, Blake Wheeler on drums, Milan Lucic on lead guitar and Matt Lashoff on bass. The Bruins Band is expected to perform Pearl Jam’€™s hit song “Alive.”

The Bruins and Harmonix will be giving away a special prize to the top performer of the competition: a full Rock Band 2 retail bundle for the Nintendo Wii system autographed by the Bruins players.

This year’s carnival proceeds will benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the leading organization in the United States devoted to Cystic Fibrosis.

WHO: Entire Boston Bruins 2008 -09 Roster
          Boston Bruins Coaching Staff
          Boston Bruins Alumni Cam Neely, Ray Bourque, Terry O’Reilly,
          Gerry Cheevers and Johnny Bucyk
          Boston Bruins Wives
          Boston Bruins Ice Girls
          Blades the Boston Bruins Mascot

WHAT:  19th Annual Boston Bruins’€™ Wives Charity Carnival

WHEN: Sunday, January 4, 2009
            VIP Session:               11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
            Early Bird Session:                12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
            General Admission Session:         3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

WHERE: TD Banknorth Garden, 100 Legends Way, Boston, MA, 02114

About the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Since 1955, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has been the driving force behind the pursuit of a cure. The mission of the Foundation, a nonprofit donor-supported organization, is to assure the development of the means to cure and control cystic fibrosis and to improve the quality of life for those with the disease. Thanks to the dedication and financial backing of our supporters- patients, families and friends, clinicians,
researchers, volunteers, individual donors, corporations and staff, we are making a difference.

About Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center
Floating Hospital for Children is the full-service children’s hospital of Tufts Medical Center and the principal teaching hospital of Tufts University School of Medicine. Floating Hospital offers a comprehensive range of services from prevention and primary care to the most sophisticated treatment of rare and unusual conditions. Our focus and mission every day is to improve the lives of children and their families. We treat every child as if they are our own.

About the Boston Bruins Foundation
The Boston Bruins Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation whose mission is to assist charitable organizations that demonstrate a strong commitment to enhancing the quality of life for children throughout New England. Since its inception in July 2003 by the Jacobs Family, it has raised more than $2 million dollars through a series of fundraising events. The Foundation, which provides grants to organizations that meet the standards of its mission, concentrates on athletics, academics, health, and community outreach programs that assist in helping enrich the lives of children throughout New England.

Read More: Aaron Ward, Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, Milan Lucic

Sounds of the game… Bruins 4, Penguins 2

01.02.09 at 8:25 am ET
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In team sports, when you hear something hasn’t been done since 1929, one of two things has happened. Either a team is on a historically bad run and is about to get its coach fired. Or a team is blowing away its competition. Well of course, this is Boston, home of the 19-game winning streak in basketball and now the Boston Bruins are trying to equal their Garden co-tenants. And so far, they’re doing a pretty good job of it. Thursday night, the Bruins opened the New Year by turning away Sidney Crosby and the defending Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-2, on Causeway Street.

Some nuggets about these men of Black and Gold… The Bruins extended their home win streak to 14 games, their longest since a 16-game run from Jan. 10-Mar. 25, 1976. It’€™s the longest in the NHL this season and the fifth-longest behind streaks of 20, 19, 16 and 15 games. ‘€¦ The Bruins 10-game winning streak is the longest since a 10-game streak in the 1972-73 season. ‘€¦ The Bruins drew a crowd of 17,565, their eighth sellout of the season, fourth straight and sixth in seven home games. Boston sports fans always could spot a winner. Let’s hear from them.

Coach Claude Julien said the team is doing a good job with its game-to-game focus.

Julien explains putting Milan Lucic on the third line, producing two goals in his last two games.

Julien said Thursday was just another good, solid win.

Marc Savard said the team isn’t looking at chasing records or its own NHL-best 62 points.

Milan Lucic said winning 10 straight has been no accident.

Lucic said the Bruins are not taking the winning for granted.

Captain Zdeno Chara said the winning makes playing fun right now.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Milan Lucic, Pittsburgh Penguins
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