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Hockey links on a sunny mid-afternoon in FLA

02.20.09 at 12:58 pm ET
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FT MYERS, Fla. — Greetings from mostly sunny Florida where I’ll be covering the two Bruins games over the weekend, and where I’ll be bringing you the early afternoon links. The Bruins really showed much of what they’ve been missing recently in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night, and it will be pivotal that they continue those good habits against the Panthers on Saturday night and then the Tampa Bay Lightning in a rare pre-Academy Awards 5 p.m. at the St. Petersburg Times Forum on Sunday.

With that in mind here’s a few assorted hockey nuggets to keep you warm if you’re not in the welcoming Florida sun.

–The Flying Kostitsyn brothers are apparently running with the wrong crowd (Hells Angels!) in Montreal, yet another sign of the Centennial apocalypse for the Habs in a season that is quickly dropping them in the Eastern Conference standings. In some ways this proves there is hockey karma after the Montreal yahoos celebrated the top-seeded Habs beating the eighth-seeded Bruins in Game 7 last year by burning police cruisers and rioting in the streets. This could get really ugly for the Canadiens if the connection between several Russian players and the Montreal mob runs deeply.

Whispers are beginning to pick up that ESPN is looking to pick up the big ticket NHL hockey games on their TV schedule next season. This would a welcomed development on many fronts, including pouring much more money into the league’s coffers and making them a presence again on the Worldwide Leader — a station that’s relegated them to a priority spot securely behind the World Series of Poker and the WNBA. I say bring back the glowing puck as well.

This particular site also hints that the B’s might be moving closer to a much-discussed deal for Colorado defenseman Jordan Leopold.

This would be a great opportunity to once again tie something Bruins-related in with the Simpsons, but I’m going to refrain from doing it. What a sign of maturity for this particular hockey writer when it would have been so easy to take the easily-traveled low road.

Bruins won’t be headed for European opener next season

02.19.09 at 4:04 pm ET
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Though it seemed like a natural fit for P.J. Axelsson to enjoy a homecoming in Stockholm or for Zdeno Chara to have a hero’s welcome in Trencin, Czechoslovakia, the NHL announced this afternoon that the Red Wing, Blues, Blackhawks and Panthers will be the four teams opening the 2009-10 season in Europe next year. There were previous rumblings that the B’s were being considered for “NHL Premiere 2009″, but instead the four teams will play respective games in Sweden and Finland on Oct. 2-3.

Read More: Boston Bruins, P.J. Axelsson, Zdeno Chara,

Chiarelli: a 60-75 percent chance of a deal before deadline

02.19.09 at 2:25 pm ET
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Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told WEEI’s Dale and Holley this morning that there’s a 60-75 percent chance that he’ll pull off a trade before the NHL trade deadline on March 4. Names like Erik Cole, Keith Tkachuk and Jordan Leopold have been among the most frequent mentioned in trade rumors, and the B’s head honcho answered in the affirmative when asked if he wanted to pull off a deal before the deadline. 

“We recognize the chemistry issue, but we have a couple of areas where we’d like to improve,” said Chiarelli. “We’d like to get bigger up front. When you get into those playoff series and those grinds — and you saw it in the San Jose game — those big forwards can wear you down.”

Check back in a bit for an entire transcript of the interview, but you can hear Chiarelli on with Dale and Holley here.

Glen Murray grievance hearing continued

02.18.09 at 6:51 pm ET
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The NHLPA grievance hearing for former Bruins winger Glen Murray has been continued once again following another round at the NHLPA home offices in Toronto last week, according to NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly. The multi-day hearings began in mid-January concerning Murray and a purported ankle injury at the time of his contractual buy-out by the B’s this summer.

The next Murray hearing date has been scheduled for March 12.

“The Murray matter is a multi-day hearing and we are between hearing dates,” wrote Kelly in an email to WEEI.com. “We hope to finish the case and receive a decision in the near future.”

Once the hearings have concluded, an arbitration ruling is expected to come down 7-10 days following the final day of hearings.

Murray was bought out of his contract this summer, but the team was still on the hook for a $1.38 million salary cap hit this season and next per rules of the CBA. The NHL CBA rules prohibit teams from buying out injured players, and Murray’€™s representation is now claiming that the veteran forward was injured at the time of the buy-out. The team could be on the hook for the $4.15 million owed to Murray in actual salary. A positive ruling for Murray could, however, potentially open up roughly $1.4 million in salary cap space for the Bruins next season.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Glen Murray, Paul Kelly,

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
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