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Kessel out a month with mono

01.12.09 at 9:52 pm ET
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With Marco Sturm and Patrice Bergeron already on the shelf with injuries, the injured reserve list grew by one yesterday when Phil Kessel was put on the shelf with mononucleosis. The illness is believed to be about a month-long recovery process from the high-scoring winger with a team-high 24 goals, and leaves the B’s with a gaping hole on their top line.

The B’s brass has been resolute in their desire to fill any roster vacancies with in-house solutions, and — truth be told — things didn’t seem all that bad when it was simply Sturm and Bergeron on the injured reserve. The B’s have won all season with Sturm alternating between an ice-cold start to his season and injuries that nagged at him all winter long leading up to the knee issue. In Bergeron’s case, he’s laced up the skates and made it out on the ice and is weeks away — rather than months from a return to game action.

But there isn’t anybody capable of replacing a potential 40-goal scorer in Kessel over the next month when the Black and Gold will play 13 games and head into the stretch run prior to the playoffs. A large B’s cushion in both the Northeast Division and the Eastern Conference will allow them some patience in trying out some Providence Wanna-B’s — but the need for a trade may become an inevitability.

After playing in all 82 regular season games last season, Kessel skated in all 42 games this season and has potted a team-high 24 goals and added 17 assists. His 24 goals rank tied for third in the entire NHL and
he owns the longest point streak in the league, having accumulated points in 18 consecutive games from November 13-December 21, 2008.

Boston’s first round pick (5th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, the 21-year-old Kessel has recorded 54-53=107 totals in 194 career NHL games. He had played in 167 straight regular season games, dating back to January 9, 2007.

Along with Kessel’s trip to the injured reserve, the B’s assigned both South Boston native Kevin Regan and defenseman Matt Lashoff back to Providence and called both center Martin St. Pierre and Tuukka Rask back up to Boston. The move appears to be an admission that the “minor issue” involving Manny Fernandez won’t be sufficiently resolved by tomorrow night’s game against the Canadiens, but — then again — that situation seems to keep changing by the minute.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Manny Fernandez, Marco Sturm

Bergeron back on the ice this morning

01.12.09 at 10:42 am ET
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Just days after Patrice Bergeron vowed to return to the Bruins this season, the 23-year-old center skated on the ice at Ristuccia Arena for roughly a half-hour this morning. There’s still no timetable on Bergeron’s return, but getting back on the ice is a significant step in Bergeron’s progress. The B’s center also skated briefly yesterday as well. Bergeron was joined by Shane Hnidy — with a visor attached to his helmet protecting the still-massive shiner on his left eye — as well as Milan LucicAaron Ward and Andew Ference for some turns on the practice ice before the rest of the team conducted regular practice. 



“[Bergeron] did well. He was out there for over a half-hour,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “He continues to progress. “It’s nice to see him back on the ice and it’s encouraging for him too. It means he’s a step closer to his goal of returning. It’s great for him and great for the team.”

–Julien also indicated that Manny Fernandez wasn’t on the ice today, and is dealing with a minor injury “issue”. Julien indicated that Fernandez won’t be a scratch for tomorrow, and that likely means Kevin Regan’s one-day dress rehearsal with the Bruins will have him back down in Providence tomorrow. The sheer mathematics of a Boy Goaltender from Southie coming up with enough game tickets to satiate family and friends is mind-blowing. Then add in the fact that it’s against the hated Habs. I simply can’t wrap my simpleton journalistic head around it.

For what it’s worth, Fernandez’s nameplate was also missing from its usual location within the Ristuccia Arena dressing room this morning – which should send Bruins conspiracy theorists into orbit. Kevin Regan was moved into the vacant locker in between Tim Thomas and Fernandez, and it looked as if Fernandez’s nameplate had been yanked from its spot. Could mean nothing, or it could mean that the wheels are in full spin toward dealing Manny Fernandez for a top flight defenseman or for some help/healthy bodies at forward. Stay tuned.

Read More: Aaron Ward, Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Manny Fernandez

Boy Goalie from Southie called up to B’s

01.12.09 at 7:29 am ET
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Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has recalled goaltender Kevin Regan from the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League) on an emergency basis. Regan will join the club today and practice with the team at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington at 10:30 a.m. in place of injured goaltender Manny Fernandez.

Fernandez appears to be out for today’s practice with what coach Claude Julien termed a “minor thing”.

Regan, a South Boston native, has appeared in 14 games this season for Providence and posted a 6-4-1 record with a 3.33 Goals Against Average and .875 save percentage. Regan played four years at the University of New Hampshire from 2004-2008, finishing as the Wildcats’ all-time leader in wins and the only goaltender in school history to record back-to-back 20 win seasons. His 2007-2008 honors included a unanimous selection as Hockey East Player of the Year, finalist for the Hobey Baker Award for the nation’s top collegiate player, First Team All-American, Fist Team All-Hockey East and the Walter Brown Award as the top American-born player in New England.

He made his professional debut lat year with the Providence Bruins at the conclusion of his college season and earned a 3-0 shutout on April 12, 2008 against Manchester.

The 24-year-old Regan was drafted by the Bruins in the ninth round (277th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

The Bruins conclude their six game homestand Tuesday night, January 13, against the Montreal Canadiens at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Kevin Regan, Manny Fernandez, Peter Chiarelli

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.

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