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Looking for a few good votes

11.06.08 at 12:31 pm ET
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The Official Bruins fan write-in campaign to send Tim Thomas to the NHL All-Star game has quickly kicked over at hubhockey.com — where they’ve taken a rather Patriotic view of Thomas’ run to make the All-Star festivities in Montreal during late January.

Big props to the Bruins blog site HubHockey.com for creating a little PhotoShop magic when they combined a poster of Good Old Reliable Uncle Sam with the B’s netminder. The actual voting doesn’t begin until Nov. 12 — and yes, there is a write-in campaign component for wronged puck players like Thomas — and fans can go to www.Vote.NHL.com to let their voices be heard.

No word on whether Tim the Goalie Man is going to start growing a white billy goat/Billy Koch beard to match with the poster. 

–Dallas coach Dave Tippett “addressed some things”with Sean Avery and Steve Ott in light of turning last Saturday night’s game against the Bruins at the TD Banknorth Garden into their own personal Romper Room. The Mike Modano comments about his team being “idiotic and stupid” are being downplayed by the coach, but for a team that I picked to win the Stanley Cup this year the Stars are making me look really, really bad.

–The Joy of playing in New York. If you’re a fan of the NHL then the Puck Daddy blog  at yahoo.com should be required reading – in addition to something I like to call Pucks with Haggs. The Daddy goes on a New York Rangers/media rant that sounds more than a little like something that could just as easily be scrawled on these pages as well. Here’s a good one that’s just as relevant in Boston as it is in the Big Apple: “2. When combined with the amplifier of sports talk radio, they can literally run an athlete or coach out of town if they all get behind the campaign. Or, at the very least, make even the most dedicated athlete look like a greedy bum. ”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

–Even-strength scoring is up 6 percent from what it was last season and a whopping 22 percent from the the final 2003-2004 season of hockey prior to the NHL lockout. Interesting story in USA Today about how the European influence — among other things — has opened up the game along with the change in rules following the lockout.

“I think puck movement…is at an all-time high,” said Anaheim GM Brian Burke in the story. “I think the European influence has really made a difference.”

Scoring is up, fighting is up…looks like the pieces are in place for the NHL to make a real comeback, doesn’t it?

Hockey Notes: Home is where the ‘B’ is

11.06.08 at 4:27 am ET
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It might seem strange to say after only 12 games of the season have passed, but the worst of the NHL season just might be over for the Boston Bruins.

The B’s have already treked out West (Colorado, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton) twice in the first dozen hockey games, and they won’t be heading any farther west than Chicago again this season. Amazingly, the Black and Gold will travel just one time zone over only four times (Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis and Chicago) over the course of their remaining 70 games — and the Chicago tilt will be marked off their list after the next road trip.

Much of the remaining schedule consists of hockey games all along the Atlantic Coast complete with abbreviated plane rides and much less wear and tear on a group of hockey bodies that could use some R and R after being in a constant state of flux throughout the first six weeks of the hockey season.

“I think the key there is crossing the time zones, and that’s the most challenging part for teams is to have to adjust that and I think we’ve gone through the worst part of it,” said Bruins Claude Julien. “Now it becomes a matter of working withthe rest of the schedule and stretching our bench out to deal with the consecutive games that we have.

“We’ve been better this year in back-to-back games in a short time period and I think we’ve handled them better,” added Julien. “The schedule gets bombarded with some consecutive games, and stretching out your bench and having guys that are able to do that is going to help out in the long run.”

The Bruins have 9 of 13 games on their home ice at the TD BanknorthGarden during the monthof November, and seven of those baker’s dozen worth of hockey games will be against Northeast Divsion opponents that could go a long way toward cementing Boston’s playoff pole position in the Eastern Conference.

The biggest scheduling challenge still facing Boston: a series of 13 back-to-back games that Julien referenced and will test both the depth and resiliency of a hockey club hungry to move up the ladder in the Eastern Conference. So, what did the travel-heavy portion of the schedule right out of the gate signify to the players, and what does it mean to be at home now?

“The first thing I thought when I saw our schedule back in July is that somebody in the National Hockey League doesn’t like us,” joked Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward. “Seriously, you can take it two different ways: you can think that it’s going to be a challenge and build it up to be something that it’s not going to be, or you can take it as an opportunity to really come together and find out what your identity is going to be.

“You get plenty of opportunities on the road to be together,” added Ward. “It was good for us. Now we have to change our mentality and find our home presence. Saturday night’s game [against the Stars] was a good catalyst for that. I wouldn’t say that we’re playing at our maximum ability, and we have room to grow both systematically and individually. That’s a good thing.”

The Hockey Code

Interesting story in Forbes Magazine on fighting in the NHL with the Bruins’ own Shawn Thornton ranking as the third best valuefor the money in the Hockey Fight Club. Many players and keen hockey observers rightly gave a lot of credit to Thornton following the Stars/Bruins slugfest the other night, as the tough-as-nails, scrap-iron Thornton gives the rest of his teammates a certain degree more toughness and fearlessness merely by his presence in the lineup. That element was missing last season when Thornton went down for a time with a broken foot, and it’s been noticeable throughout this season.

Thornton has been part of a fourth line (along with Petteri Nokelainen and Stephane Yelle) that’s given the B’s a great deal of jump and grit through the season’s first 12 games, and the 6-foot-2, 209-pounder has surprised with his ability to sprinkle opportunistic offense in with his fist-first tendencies.

It was interesting to hear Thornton’s thoughts when asked, in light of the Sean Avery/Steve Ott three-ring circus last weekend, if the “Hockey Code” still exists. Here’s what Thornton had to say:

“It depends…not everybody is playing like that I suppose, but it definitely has been going the way [of martial law on the ice],” said Thornton. “I’m a big believer in policing the game ourselves and I’ve been doing it a long time. We always policed things out on the ice in the minors and it worked out well.”

What in particular gets the blood boiling for a guy doing the “enforcer” job in this day of age of the NHL?

“I think I have a little different belief with the head checks than the other guys,” said Thornton. “Some of the ones that have happened recently, if a guy is open then you finish him off. If I’m in that situation and somebody gets a chance to finish me then I’m expecting them to. Now if the elbow lifts up and goes into the head that’s a different story, but if it’s body–on-body? That’s a clean hit.

“The hits from behind, the knees, the elbows…I don’t think there’s any place for that in the game and I think it’s up to the players to take it upon themselves to not do it,” added Thornton. “I’m all for playing hard and I respect guys that play hard, but guys that try to take liberties on other people…well then they should be ready for one of us to come police it ourselves.”

The ghost of Glen Murray

It was clear watching Glen Murray last season that age and foot injuries had conspired to wipe away the winger’s ability to keep up in today’s NHL, and he simply wasn’t able to get himself into the spots needed to release his still-booming shot. Not surprisingly, Murray didn’t find anyone interested in his services once the Bruins cleared him off the decks this summer, and now “Muzz” is reportedly looking to recover the full amount from the Black and Gold’s buyout package.

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli knew of one single letter  filed by Murray’s representation claiming that his client had a pre-existing ankle injury at the time of Boston’s buyout — a no-no according to the CBA rules for buyouts of NHL contracts –and that the forward was having surgery on the ankle this year.

Murray was set to make $4.1 million this season, and the B’s shaved $1.38 million off that figure by executing a buyout before the season started. The Bruins currently still have Murray’s $1.38 million cap hit on their salary cap for the next two seasons, however, and Chiarelli said it was unclear what the cap ramifications would be if Murray’s appeal was upheld.

Unsung Hockey Heroes

Great column by Michael Farber on SI.com about the “Stealth MVPs” in the NHL thus far this season, and Melrose’s own TIm Burke, the Director of Scouting for the San Jose Sharks, notched the No. 2 spot behind Blackhawks forward Tim Burke.

No Bruins were mentioned in the story, so my own suggestion for B’s Stealth MVP: Andrew Ference. He’s been a tone-setter with physical play when it’s been needed and he leads all defensemen in assists (five) and +/- (7) while logging the third most ice-time (22:30) on the team this season. 

Here’s what Farber had to say about the hard-working and talented Burke, who has been a huge part of the never-ending supply of young puck talent that courses through the Sharks organization and deserved any acclaim that comes his way:

Burke is every bit as perspicacious as the more celebrated David Conte, who pulls rabbits out of the hat for the New Jersey Devils. Burke continually unearths talent whether the Sharks are drafting high – Patrick Marleau, No. 2 in 1997 –or low — goalie Evgeni Nabokov, 219th in 1994. (Burke was in Russia to scout another player, saw an ad for the goalie, and drafted Nabokov in the ninth round, sight unseen.)

In 2001, the Sharks actually ran the table: all six players they drafted – Marcel Goc, Christian Ehrhoff,Dimitri Patzold, Tomas Plihal, Ryane Clowe and Tom Cavanagh – have played in the NHL. In 2005, general manager Doug Wilson raised some eyebrows when he traded up from the 12th pick to the 8th in order to draft Devin Setoguchi, a Burke recommendation who has blossomed into a top-line winger with Marleau and Joe Thornton this season. If you were going to start a franchise, Burke would be among the first people you would hire.

 

Thomas reacts to All-Star snub

11.05.08 at 10:21 am ET
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One day after learning that he was again left off the NHL All-Star ballot, Tim Thomas was ready to face the questions concerning his reaction and the intrepid goalie’s response was both predictable and classy. The 34-year-old netminder is leading the league in save percentage and sits second in the NHL in goals against and many members of Bruins Nation were appropriately perturbed when he didn’t make the cut — particularly after appearing in and winning last year’s NHL Mid-Winter Classic.

So what did Thomas think of again not making the cut among the Eastern Conference’s best 10 goaltenders?

“I know that everybody wants to know [my reaction],” said Thomas. “But I can only control what I can control and do the best I can to help this team out. Other than that, I’m not going to comment.”

Does the well-traveled netminder use this kind of NHL snub as motivation — just as the many doubting Thomases’ (no pun intended) continually cast pessimism on his ability to make it at the highest level of hockey as an unorthodox goaltender getting by more on enthusiasm, athleticism and sheer force of will than practiced technique?

“Yeah, it always has throughout my career. I think I’ve been underestimated quite a few times and I think it just feeds the fire to keep getting better, you know. You don’t want to totally look at it as always proving people wrong, but that seems to be what it boils down to.”

B’s coach Claude Julien understandably didn’t want to get tossed into a controversy about an individual honor (in this case a berth on the NHL All-Star ballot) when all concentration should be on the team and Thursday night’s rematch with Nik Antropov Mike Van Ryn and the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I don’t know what to say about that. He’s played well and I don’t know how it’s chosen or anything. It’s unfortunate for him because every time he keeps battling, but you know that’s Timmy’s story,” said Julien. “He’s a battler. He’s in there every year and he does his job. That’s just the way it goes. There are bigger things for Timmy to worry about, and that’s continuing to help his team win.

“That should certainly, hopefully open some eyes. Who knows? Last year, even though he was there because of an injury, he was still there and I guess as a team we felt he deserved to be there. And that’s the important thing. It’s not so much the perception from the outside as much as its about what your team and your teammates think of you.”

Thomas left off All-Star ballot

11.04.08 at 2:20 pm ET
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Tim Thomas clearly is the Rodney Dangerfield of NHL goalies.

NHL Eastern Conference All-Star last year? Check.

Leading the entire NHL with a .944 save percentage? Check. 

Second in the NHL behind the excellent Ryan Miller with a 1.82 goals against average thus far this season? Check. 

Thomas had a breakout season last year where he actually picked up the win during the NHL All-Star game and helped lead an overachieving Bruins team to a Stanley Cup playoff berth, but that didn’t seem to be enough to qualify Thomas as one of the 10 Eastern Conference goaltenders good enough for the All-Star ballot. It seems that there isn’t anything the athletic, do-or-die Thomas can do to rise any higher than the already admittedly-excellent inspirational story of a  journeyman turned regular netminder in the NHL.

Thomas won 28 games, finished fourth in the NHL with a .921 save percentage last season and piled up three shutouts while firmly establishing himself between the Black and Gold’s pipes, but that’s obviously done nothing for his rep around the loathe-to-change NHL.

“”He’s certainly found his groove. He’s been extremely good for us, especially in the last week. So we’ve been riding him,” said Claude Julien of Thomas before learning about the NHL All-Star Ballot snub. “We’ve said from Day 1 that if somebody was going to start playing extremely well, we would take advantage of it. We also have Manny, who I thought has played well also. But Timmy’s caught fire.

“We think he played extremely well that last week where he’s given us some opportunities to win some pretty important games. That’s Tim battling as usual,” added Julien.

Here’s the full release from the NHL:

The NHL released the 104-player ballot for XM/NHL All-Star
Fan Balloting presented by 2K Sports today, with Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno
Chara
and Marc Savard representing the Bruins. Voting opens Nov. 12.

Bergeron has posted 3-5=8 totals, a +5 rating and has won 58.7 percent
of his faceoffs (eighth in the league) in the Bruins 12 games this
season, while Savard has recorded five goals, 10 assists and a +6
rating.  Savard’€™s 15 points rank tied for third in the NHL as of
Tuesday, November 4.  A Norris Trophy finalist last year, Chara has
three assists on the season while averaging a team high 26:41 of ice
time per game.

Chara, Savard, and goaltender Tim Thomas appeared in last year’s
all-star festivities.  Thomas was the winning goaltender in the All Star
game, Savard tallied the winning goal and Chara won the Hardest Shot
competition with a 103.1 MPH blast during the SuperSkills event.

In a first for all major professional sports leagues, the NHL will
provide real-time All-Star fan balloting results online at NHL.com. From
Nov. 12 through Jan. 2, NHL fans will be able to vote as often as they
like to select the starting lineups for the 2009 NHL All-Star Game in
Montreal. Fans around the world can vote online via interactive English
and French ballots at Vote.NHL.com. Those in the U.S. and Canada also
will be able to cast their votes via text message using any wireless
carrier. During the voting period, real-time results will be available
exclusively on Vote.NHL.com/results. This marks the third consecutive
year the All-Star Balloting process is entirely digital.

Fans can vote for up to six Eastern Conference players and six Western
Conference players: three forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender.
For the first time, fans will be permitted to select as few as one
player — a balloted player or write-in — per online ballot at
Vote.NHL.com or via text message. The three forwards, two defensemen and
one goaltender from each Conference receiving the most votes will
comprise the starting lineups. Each of the 30 NHL clubs has at least two
representatives on the ballot.

The NHL will promote XM NHL All-Star Fan Balloting presented by 2K
Sports across its TV, print, online and wireless advertising platforms.
Promotional support will be provided by the NHL Network, NHL Radio and
broadcast partners VERSUS (U.S.), CBC (Canada) and RDS (Canada).
Promotional materials for the campaign, in both English and French, will
launch on Wednesday, Nov. 12, the first day of balloting.

The 2009 NHL All-Star Weekend in Montreal will celebrate the Montreal
Canadiens
‘€™ Centennial season with live national broadcasts of the
Honda/NHL SuperSkills event on Saturday, Jan. 24 and the NHL All-Star
Game on Sunday, Jan. 25, on VERSUS in the United States and CBC and RDS
in Canada.

The Bruins return to action on Thursday, November 6 when they host the
Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:00 p.m. ET.

2008-09 XM / NHL All-Star Fan Ballot

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Goaltenders
Martin Biron, Philadelphia Flyers, Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils,
Rick DiPietro, New York Islanders, Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh
Penguins
, Kari Lehtonen, Atlanta Thrashers, Henrik Lundqvist, New York
Rangers
, Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres, Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens,
Vesa Toskala, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tomas Vokoun, Florida Panthers

Defensemen
Jay Bouwmeester, Florida Panthers, Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins, Sergei
Gonchar, Pittsburgh Penguins, Mike Green, Washington Capitals, Tomas
Kaberle
, Toronto Maple Leafs, Mike Komisarek, Montreal Canadiens, Andrei
Markov, Montreal Canadiens, Teppo Numminen, Buffalo Sabres, Chris
Phillips, Ottawa Senators, Wade Redden, New York Rangers, Kimmo Timonen,
Philadelphia Flyers, Ryan Whitney, Pittsburgh Penguins

Forwards
Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators, Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins,
Daniel Briere, Philadelphia Flyers, Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina
Hurricanes
, Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins, Chris Drury, New York
Rangers, Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils, Simon Gagne, Philadelphia
Flyers, Scott Gomez, New York Rangers, Dany Heatley, Ottawa Senators,
Trent Hunter, New York Islanders, Saku Koivu, Montreal Canadiens, Ilya
Kovalchuk
, Atlanta Thrashers, Alex Kovalev, Montreal Canadiens, Vincent
Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning, Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins,
Markus Naslund, New York Rangers, Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils, Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers,
Brian Rolston, New Jersey Devils, Derek Roy, Buffalo Sabres, Martin St.
Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning, Marc Savard, Boston Bruins, Alexander Semin,
Washington Capitals, Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators, Eric Staal, Carolina
Hurricanes, Alex Tanguay, Montreal Canadiens, Thomas Vanek, Buffalo
Sabres, Ray Whitney, Carolina Hurricanes

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Goaltenders
Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild, Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes, J.S.
Giguere, Anaheim Ducks, Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames, Pascal
Leclaire, Columbus Blue Jackets, Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks,
Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks, Chris Osgood, Detroit Red Wings, Marty
Turco
, Dallas Stars

Defensemen
Rob Blake, San Jose Sharks, Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks, Brent Burns,
Minnesota Wild, Brian Campbell, Chicago Blackhawks, Nicklas Lidstrom,
Detroit Red Wings, Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks, Dion Phaneuf,
Calgary Flames, Chris Pronger, Anaheim Ducks, Brian Rafalski, Detroit
Red Wings, Robyn Regehr, Calgary Flames, Sheldon Souray, Edmonton
Oilers
, Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

Forwards
Jason Arnott, Nashville Predators, Brad Boyes, St. Louis Blues, Dustin
Brown
, Los Angeles Kings, Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings, Shane Doan,
Phoenix Coyotes, Marian Gaborik, Minnesota Wild, Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim
Ducks, Milan Hejduk, Colorado Avalanche, Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers,
Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton Oilers, Marian Hossa, Detroit Red Wings, Jarome
Iginla, Calgary Flames, Olli Jokinen, Phoenix Coyotes, Patrick Kane,
Chicago Blackhawks, Paul Kariya, St. Louis Blues, Mikko Koivu, Minnesota
Wild, Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings, Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks,
Mike Modano, Dallas Stars, Brenden Morrow, Dallas Stars, Rick Nash,
Columbus Blue Jackets, Mike Ribeiro, Dallas Stars, Brad Richards, Dallas
Stars, Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche, Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks,
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks, Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche, Joe
Thornton
, San Jose Sharks, Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis Blues, Jonathan
Toews, Chicago Blackhawks, Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

Sobotka sent to Providence

11.04.08 at 1:26 pm ET
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Matt Hunwick and Vladimir Sobotka have both been piling up the DNP-CD’s for Bruins coach Claude Julien as this year’s version of the Black and Gold begins to take shape, and the B’s made a move this afternoon in clear recognition of that.

Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has assigned forward Vladimir Sobotka to the Providence Bruins (AHL). Since being recalled to Boston on October 14, Sobotka has appeared in five games with the Bruins during the 2008-2009 season and has been a healthy scratch in the last four.

The move seems a likely precursor to a return by skilled, scrappy winger Chuck Kobasew to the Bruins lineup on Thursday after missing nearly a month with a fractured right ankle. Kobasew went down during the Oct. 9 season opener when he took a slapshot off the right ankle, but has been skating with the team over a week in anticipation of a return.

Prior to being recalled, Sobotka posted 2-2=4 totals to go along with seven penalty minutes in two games with Providence. He also posted a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” in an Oct. 12 game against Springfield, notching an overtime goal, an assist, and a fight. Sobotka 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 Boston Bruins return to action on Thursday, November 6 when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:00 p.m. ET.  The P-Bruins play three games in three nights beginning Friday, November 7 when they host the Chicago Wolves, travel to Albany to face the River Rats on Saturday, November 8 and return home to play the Philadelphia Phantoms on Sunday, November 9.

“He’s going to go down to play a few games, and I think we need to give those guys an opportunity to keep developing,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “Playing three games in three nights [in Providence] is going to help [Sobotka].”

The move to drop Sobotka’s $750,000 salary cap hit leaves the Bruins roughly $1.5 million under the salary cap.

Read More: AHL, Boston Bruins, Chuck Kobasew, Claude Julien

Notes from a frozen sheet

11.03.08 at 12:04 pm ET
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A light practice for the B’s this morning with only a handful of guys twirling around on the ice (Blake Wheeler, Chuck Kobasew, David Krejci, Michael Ryder, Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez) and everybody else getting in a quick work out and then bolting into a crisp November afternoon in New England.

A bit more of a media presence at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington this morning with several local news stations getting some reaction after Saturday night’s compelling, in-your-face win over the Dallas Stars. Every player to a man agreed that playing Bruins’ hockey isn’t necessarily about being the aggressor, and is perhaps more about standing up for teammates when they’re the victims of the cheap shots that have become much too par for the NHL course.

For a while B’s management and coach Claude Julien have preached the importance being a passionate, hard-hitting team that is difficult to play against, and Saturday evening was compelling evidence that they’ve at least partially reached their objective — and added more skill and scoring potential to the mix for good measure this season.

“We showed a lot of emotion. We’re not a team that can really float through games and not show a lot of emotion,” said B’s defenseman Andrew Ference, who changed the momentum of the third period with a jaw-dropping open ice hit against Steve Ott in the third period of Saturday night’s win and then followed by immediately duking it out with Vogue intern Sean Avery. “There are teams that can get away with winning those dull kind of games. But I think we have a lot of guys who play really well with emotion and play really well when they’re physically involved.”

Bruins coach Claude Julien wasn’t ready to jump into the Delorean and crown his team as the successor to the Big, Bad Bruins of yore from twenty and thirty years ago, but his comments continue to suggest that the Black and Gold won’t shy away from physical entanglements when they’re warranted — or smashing timid teams off the puck with their teeth-chattering style.

“I think we want to be a hard team to play against. First and foremost it’s being a physical team and finishing our checks, and I think we’ve got guys that are capable of doing that,” said Julien. “We’re not going to back down from that. I don’t think we’re trying to live back in the 1960′s and 1970′s because the rules have changed and we’re not allowed to do a lot of that kind of stuff.

“But we can still play a tough game within the parameters of what is allowed,” added Julien.

The B’s don’t lace on the skates for real again until Thursday night at the Garden, but it should be another intense effort following a listless 4-2 loss to the Leafs the last time the B’s played them — a hockey contest that will likely forever be known as the “Lucic Glass Shattering” game.

“We’ve been gone on the road a lot and all over the map since training camp, so it’s nice to have a few days at home to practice,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s important [to carry over the intensity] when you have a few days off like this without a game. You don’t want to be too relaxed. Last time we played against Toronto we didn’t have our best effort and we lost to them. We want to make it an even series with them.” 

–While the B’s are off to a solid start, it’s been a bit of slow going for towering Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara as the Captain recovers from off-season shoulder labrum surgery. Big Z — a noted conditioning freak and cycling enthusiast during the summer – missed nearly all of the preseason while rehabbing the repaired shoulder and has collected only three assists along with a -1 in Boston’s first 12 games. Chara has battled with consistency and turned the puck over at inopportune times while looking a step behind the hockey action through the first dozen games – the kinds of things that a player typically exhibits when he’s shaking rust off and testing out a surgically repaired part of his body.

The 31-year-old Chara also still hasn’t really brandished his boomer of a slap-shot from the point that annually registers as one of the hardest in all of the NHL, and — according to coach Claude Julien — is probably just recently starting to feel like his 6-foot-9 brain-beating behemoth self again.

“I think he’s one of those guys that’s coming along and getting better,” said Julien. “I think he’d be the first one to say that he’s not at the top of his game yet. He’s come off an injury and surgery over the summer, and in his book he’s a little behind where he normally is because of the way he trains.

“For the last little while you’re starting to see the Zdeno that we’ve all seen in the past because of his physical presence, his good stick and he’s breaking up a lot of plays,” added Julien. “His game is really starting to come along.  The one thing that’s encouraging is that he’s going to keep getting better, and what that means for us is that he’s going to create more scoring chances. He’s got a good shot and it’s going to get better. It’s one of this situations that’s made him a bit of late departure.” 

–Chuck Kobasew skated again with the team and is getting very close to a return to the Bruins lineup — an addition that will add more scoring skill and grit to the lineup but might also necessitate a roster move to clear up space. The B’s are one spot under the maximum of 23 players on their roster, but a young player like Vladimir Sobotka — or perhaps even Blake Wheeler – could be tapped for a return to Providence upon Kobasew’s return. B’s coach Claude Julien is understandably hesitant, however, to bust up a team that’s playing pretty good hockey as of late.

“We’ll wait and see how these next two days go. We’ve got a team that’s playing pretty well right now. We have to see whether he’s 100 percent,” said Julien. “If we’re going to put him in then he’s got to be 100 percent. We’ve got a couple of days to evaluate him and make a decision on what we see.”

Sounds of the game… Bruins 5, Stars 1

11.01.08 at 8:20 pm ET
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For the Bruins, Saturday night was alright for fighting and pounding the opponent into submission. Marco Sturm scored twice and the two teams combined to take 36 penalties for 146 penalty minutes, including seven game misconducts (Dallas 4, Boston 3) as the Bruins scored three third period goals to shoot down the Stars at TD Banknorth Garden.

Milan Lucic said while Sean Avery and Steve Ott were trying to draw them into a cheap game, the Bruins kept their cool.

Lucic said it was great to get Marco Sturm rolling with his first two-goal game of the season.

Mark Stuart, who scored in third period, said it was great to give Tim Thomas some support in net.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said it was a physical game.

Chara said the Bruins weren’t about to get pushed around in their building.

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