Archive for December, 2008

St. Pierre sent down, Bergeron to injured reserve

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

The Bruins announced this morning that rookie Martin St. Pierre, fresh off scoring his first goal as a Boston Bruin in last night’s win, was sent back down to the AHL’s Providence Bruins and center Patrice Bergeron was placed on injured reserve. Per the NHL’s injured reserve rules, Bergeron will be out for at least the next seven days with the post-concussion symptoms while on the list and the move also allows GM Peter Chiarelli to replace Bergeron’s roster spot.

I still continue to think that the B’s will be appropriately cautious with Bergeron while he shakes off the headaches associated with his Dec. 20 concussion, and that we may not see him much before February. The Bruins, to their credit, are refusing to put timetables on Bergeron’s return and continue to play the waiting game for the 23-year-old’s symptoms to completely abate.

In the case of St. Pierre’s trip back to the Baby B’s, Petteri Nokelainen’s balky shoulder must be healthy to start finally skating in games and perhaps the Bruins are ready to make another in their long list of call-ups from Providence this year (a return bid for Martin Karsums, perhaps?). Here’s the release from the B’s:

Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has assigned center Martin St. Pierre to the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League) and placed forward Patrice Bergeron on injured reserve.

St. Pierre saw action in all five games during the Bruins recent road trip since being recalled on December 20, and recorded one goal and one assist. His first goal as a Bruin came on a shorthanded tally against the Penguins on Tuesday night. The leading scorer for the P-Bruins this season, St. Pierre has registered a 10-25=35 line in 30 games. His 25 assists lead the team and his 10 goals rank tied for second.

The 25-year-old St. Pierre has appeared in 26 NHL games in his career – 21 with Chicago, five with Boston – and has tallied two goals and four assists. Signed as a free agent by the Blackhawks on November 12, 2005, St. Pierre was acquired by the Bruins on July 24, 2008 in exchange for Pascal Pelletier. The 5′€™9′€™’€™, 185-pound Ottawa, Ontario native spent the majority of the 2007-2008 campaign playing for Chicago’€™s AHL affiliate in Rockford where he earned 21-67=88 totals in 69 games.

In 31 games this season, Bergeron compiled a 4-14=18 line and has 76 goals and 131 assists in 270 career NHL games. He was injured during the Bruins/Hurricanes game on Saturday, December 20.

Winners of nine straight, the Bruins will host the Penguins on Thursday, January 1 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Bruins capture ninth in a row

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

It’s not too bad when your hometown team nets all three Stars of the Game following any NHL game, and the situation gets even better when said contest is a game at the Igloo against the high-flying Pittsburgh Penguins.

The sweet victory gets yet even better when it’s a solidly-played 5-2 victory over Sidney Crosby’s boys that includes a goal and a pair of assists from both First Star Marc Savard and Second Star Dennis Wideman in commendable all-around effort. Following up that dynamic duo was Third Star Phil Kessel, who snapped a key goal toward the end of the second period that both staved off some Penguins’ momentum and preserved a two-goal lead for the Black and Gold.

For a team that had been accused of playing somewhat ragged and distinctly un-Bruins-like hockey over the last handful of listless games, Boston’s triumph in Steel City was a remarkably solid one against a Pittsburgh squad obviously looking to make an Eastern Conference statement against the new kid atop the block.

While Savard and Wideman were the obvious headline-grabbers with their big offensive outputs, rookie Martin St. Pierre potted his first Bruins goal — and his second career score in the NHL — while on the penalty kill at the beginning of the third period. St. Pierre earned 2:04 of ice time during the penalty kill among his 11:10 of ice time for the game and really appears to have impressed Julien and the B’s coaching staff — a simple fact of Bruins life given the situations that St. Pierre has been placed in since getting the big call up from Providence.

In addition to his current lot on the “energy” line and PK unit, St Pierre will have a story to tell his grandkids someday about blocking Sid the Kid’s pass attempt on a Penguins power play and then taking in the puck at the Pens’ net for an always welcome “shortie” score.

Axy getting in on the act

P.J. Axelsson has been mired in a season-long slump, but seemed to be amazingly snap out of it when coach Claude Julien opted to place the typically defense-first Swede on the top scoring line with both Kessel and Savard. Axy couldn’t add any markers to his paltry total of one goal for the season, but he did notch a pair of assists in the impressive wire-to-wire victory and finished at a +1 in 18:10 of ice time.

For Axelsson it was only his third multiple-point game of the season, but it’s also signified the second such game he’s enjoyed in the last two weeks of hockey. Perhaps that’s a sign that Axelsson — one of the few slow starters still lagging behind thus far for the Black and Gold this season — is beginning to find his stride in his 10th year with the Boston Bruins.

The Mighty Looch Roars Again

Many expected Milan Lucic to come storming out of the starting gate last night with fire in his eyes and the familiar desire to smash anything that moved within his path — a byproduct of understandable, constructive anger felt by a player busted down from the top scoring line to a trio alongside Stephane Yelle and Chuck Kobasew. The young hulking Lucic finished with only a single shot on goal, was a -1 and totalled only two hits in a night that showed he still has a way to go before he’s again in the flow of things on the ice.

But Looch did — no pun intended — slap an exclamation point on Boston’s victory with a third period showdown against a sadly overmatched youngster Tim Wallace, who made the mistake of tugging on hockey superman’s cape with less than five minutes to go and the game well in hand. Lucic seemed to focus all angst from his recent struggles into the trading of hockey haymakers with Wallace, and the bout was another clear victory for the Looch Ness Monster.

Wallace bravely stood in and took a beating from Lucic in the fight as the wild punches flew all about, but I have to agree with NESN play-by-play guy Jack Edwards. One of the best things about the entire bout was Wallace and then Looch both tossing off their helmets before they did the whole pugilist thing. That is Old Time Hockey. Here’s the bout, scored a 92 percent knockout for Looch at www.hockeyfights.com :

A promotional opportunity…

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Just wanted to let all my loyal readers know that A) I thank them a million times over for their patronage, B) that we’ll be taking a page out of the Bill Belichick handbook and looking ahead to what 2009 holds in store for the New England Patriots on Wednesday as well as a look at the 2008-09 Boston College men’s hoops team as they finish up non-ACC play with Sacred Heart on Wednesday and get ready for No. 1 North Carolina this weekend. And C) wish everyone a safe and prosperous 2009!

With that aside, the Patriots did make some procedural moves on Tuesday, signing five players to future contracts. The release from the team is below:

The New England Patriots signed five players to future contracts today – defensive lineman Titus Adams, linebacker Angelo Craig, punter Tom Malone, linebacker Darrell Robertson and offensive lineman Ryan Wendell. Terms of the agreements were not disclosed. All five players ended the 2008 season as members of the Patriots practice squad.

Adams, 25, spent the entire 2008 regular season on the Patriots practice squad. He was originally selected by the New York Jets in the seventh round of the 2006 NFL Draft out of Nebraska. The 6-foot-4-inch, 305-pound defensive lineman has not played in an NFL game, but has been signed by the New York Jets (2006 training camp), New York Giants (2007 offseason), San Diego Chargers (2007 training camp) and Cincinnati Bengals (2007 practice squad). He was released by the Bengals on July 7, 2008 and was signed by the Patriots on July 24, 2008.

Craig, 23, was a member of the Patriots practice squad from Dec. 3 through the end of the 2008 season. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of the University of Cincinnati. The 6-foot-5-inch, 242-pound linebacker was released by the Bengals in the final preseason roster cutdown on Aug. 31, 2008. He was signed to the Carolina Panthers practice squad on Sept. 3, 2008 and was released the following day.

Malone, 24, had two stints on the Patriots practice squad in 2008 – from Sept. 10 to Sept. 15 and from Nov. 26 through the end of the season. He was also on the Patriots practice squad late in the 2006 season and was with the team for its 2007 training camp. He was signed to the Patriots practice squad on December 20, 2006, and was signed to the active roster on January 23, 2007 before being released on Aug. 22, 2007. The 6-foot, 205-pound punter was originally signed by the San Francisco 49ers as a rookie free agent on May 5, 2006, out of the University of Southern California.

Robertson, 22, was a member of the Patriots practice squad from Nov. 17 through the end of the 2008 season. He was originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie free agent following the 2008 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-4-inch, 246-pound linebacker was released by the Cowboys on Aug. 30, 2008. He was signed by the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League on Sept. 9, 2008 and played in two games for Edmonton, recording six tackles before being released on Sept. 29.

Wendell, 22, was a member of the Patriots practice squad from Sept. 24 through the end of the 2008 season. He was originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Fresno State on May 2, 2008. The 6-foot-2-inch, 275-pound guard/center was with the Patriots throughout their 2008 training camp and was released on Aug. 26. Wendell was a four-year starter at Fresno State and was a first-team All-WAC selection as a senior in 2007.

Bergeron’s agent: His first concussion wasn’t necessarily a contributing factor

Monday, December 29th, 2008

The bad news is that Patrice Bergeron is still battling the recurrent, nagging headaches that typically linger after suffering a concussion brought on by a violent NHL collision gone wrong. The two-way center is not going to be in the lineup when the Bruins and Penguins face off against each other at the TD Banknorth Garden on New Year’s Day, and there’s a strong possibility the calendar could be into February or March before he’s again donning the Spoked B in an NHL game.

But…the 23-year-old center also received some encouraging news last week as well when he met with Bruins team physician Dr. Peter Asnis and noted Boston neurologist Dr. Robert Cantu. Cantu related to Bergeron that “99 percent” of NHL players would have similarly suffered a significant concussion in the manner of collision that saw the side of Bergeron’s face smack into the unforgiving shoulder pads of Dennis Seidenberg with such violent force.

Cantu’s statement was meant to assure Bergeron that his second concussion wasn’t the sign of a player that’s becoming more and more succeptible to head injuries and hockey dings — as players like Eric Lindros and Pat LaFontaine both became increasingly fragile when a career full of head hits began to take their toll. The concussion was instead simply another stroke of bad luck for a player chock full of the stuff over the last calendar year. Cantu’s assessment of the hit and the damage done, according to Bergeron’s agent Kent Hughes, was encouraging to Bergeron, who might have understandably feared that he could become another cautionary concussion tale in the NHL.

Here’s a quick Q&A with Hughes, who gave an update that should put a little skip in the step of Bruins’ fans hoping that Bergeron can make another heroic hockey return sooner rather than later. It seems — reading between the lines of what Hughes is saying here – that a six week absence might be a reasonable span of time if Bergeron continues to improve at his current rate, but that’s still very much in question.

As Hughes correctly states, it’s always uncertain when it comes to a timetable for the brain’s healing process. So we’ll wait and see. Here’s Hughes:

How is Patrice doing? KH: He’s doing well. This injury is not of the same severity as the last one that he suffered.

Is he still experiencing the headaches at this point, or are they starting to dissipate? KH:I just got back into town so I haven’t checked in with him [Tuesday] on the symptoms, but the neurologist told him that the concussion he suffered the first time around was not necessarily the contributing factor in this one. [The neurologist said that] the hit that he took would have caused a concussion in 99 percent of the people that were on the receiving end whether they had previously been concussed or not.

That’s good news…KH:As far as concussions go, most don’t have a timeline in terms of recovery because it’s really a question of the brain and how it responds. That’s the experience I’ve had with all of my clients dealing with concussions, as well as with Patrice last year. It’s something we really went back and forth with [Bergeron] last year. You typically wait for the person to be asymptomatic at rest for a period of time and then you introduce some physical activity. Then you see if the player has a relapse of any kind with the post-concussion symptoms. That process continues until the athlete can go through the whole course of physical activity without any relapse.  

And the recovery seems to be very much on a case-by-case basis. KH: Yeah, and the other integral part is that there really isn’t really any kind of time frame like with an ACL tear, whether it be a short or long. You know how badly you tear your knee and you know that you can potentially miss an entire season because of an injury.

The problem with the brain injury is that the majority of concussions don’t show up on any kind of imaging. They really rely on how the brain responds. At the outset you could say it’s a three-week injury, but it could be one week or it could be six weeks depending on the brain and the body and how they react to the physical activity. It could be six [weeks], or it could be longer.

The doctor believes that whether he’d suffered that previous concussion or not, he was very, very likely to suffer a concussion after the hit he took [against Carolina]. There are some guys you see that have been concussed so many times that the slightest hit dings them, or whatever. Patrice Bergeron is really a little bit of a victim here in that he’s taken two really bad blows in a span of only about 30 games. It’s a really physical sport, but it’s not often you take two blows like that in such a short span [of games]. There are some [players] that, for lack of a better term, have softened and are susceptible and it might not take such strong blows to cause a concussion.

How is Patrice’s state of mind as he’s handling all of this a second time around? Is he angry? Frustrated? Is he encouraged by the news from the doctor? KH: Yeah. I was with him on Saturday and there was certainly a level of frustration with him because he was concerned about when he can go [and play]. I think there was also a level of enthusiasm after what he learned [from Cantu and Asnis].

I think the last time around there was a series of moments where he would improve steadily and then he would be down if he there was a setback. My guess is that this time around he’ll be a bit more guarded in reacting to how the process is going, and just let the healing process take its course.

Separated at birth, Big Haggs-style

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Okay, so I always make fun of my dad because he seems to stretch the bounds of reality attempting to find everyday walk-of-life people that could be separated at birth from celebrities and athletes. I’ll admit it’s a fun game, though. Sometimes he takes it way too far, but I can’t help but do the same thing when I spot people that look alike within the world of professional sports. Just blame it on my genetics, I guess.

So here’s a couple that have been percolating for a while:

This first one — in complete and full disclosure – I have to actually give all due credit to Comcast SportsNet anchor Gary Tanguay for because he was the one that brought it to my attention. He told me that people tell him quite frequently that he looks just like former Sox GM Dan Duquette, and I really didn’t see it at first. Maybe it was Duquette’s glasses? Maybe it was Tanguay’s rake-ish charm? Who knows?

Anyway, I hadn’t really spotted it until I spoke with Duquette at the MLB WInter Meetings down in Las Vegas a few weeks back after he had opted to comb his hair down and go with these wild bangs that cover his forehead. I don’t what it was about the ‘doo, but I can now say that I see what everybody else is talking about: these guys could be twins.

 You need to take the glasses off and wipe the paranoid “Who’s going to screw me in the media?” expression off Duquette’s face, but there’s no denying these two long lost brothers must have come from the same French-Canadian tribe.

Sacre bleu! In all fairness to Tanguay, he thinks I was separated at birth from Bob Hoskins, so it could be a lot worse than looking just like the much-maligned Duke. I’d take dweeby GM over portly, balding Englishman any day of the week. Thanks Tanger!

The other one is even more fun as it involves WEEI.com’s favorite new columnist: Curt Schilling. The Big Schill has been providing us with excellent content, as I’m sure you’ve already heard from our fearless WEEI.com leader and ringmaster Rob Bradford.

So the last couple of times that I’ve watched the Bruins play the Thrashers, I couldn’t help but think that I knew Atlanta head coach John Anderson from somewhere. I’ve obviously sat in on postgame press conferences with the main Atlanta man before, but there was something very familiar about him that filled me with the urge to blog.

Then it came to me, Anderson is a dead ringer for Schilling. Perhaps Anderson appears a tad bit older, and is maybe where the Big Schill will be when he’s hovering around 45-50 years old, but these guys could be brothers — and are most certainly dopplegangers of the highest order.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more of these as the year goes on (Mike Felger and Red Sox prospect Chris Carter anybody?) but let me know what you think of these two.

Things tighten up for B’s in weekend sweep

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

The intensity level and heart-thumping pulse of NHL games traditionally rises as the season marches forward, and things begin to tighten up a bit both offensively and defensively — a puck phenomenon that’s coming to life right before the eyes of Bruins’ followers.

 Both the Carolina Hurricanes and the Atlanta Thrashers forced the Black and Gold to work extensively in back-to-back efforts in order to take a sweep of the weekend games – including Sunday night’s 2-1 win over Atlanta at Phillips Arena – and put their overall winning streak at eight games.

The B’s have handled the Trashers, out of that hockey hotbed deep in the heart of Atlanta, all season long, but Sunday’s taut triumph was most hotly contested of the season against the Thrash. It’s also indicative of the kind of tooth and nail games that await the Boston Golden Bears over their next 40 plus games. 

NHL hockey is a much different animal in January, February, March and April — with teams jostling for playoff pole position as the NHL standings begin to settle – than it is in the opening months of October and November, and things certainly won’t be as swimmingly easy as they seemed for Boston over the season’s first few months. Add the tricked-out intensity to the host of injuries the B’s continue to battle through, and you have a pretty impressive effort for the weekend. A Tuesday night tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins is all that’s standing between the Black and Gold and a five game sweep during their current holiday road trip.

Not to be confused, of course, with the Griswold theme song otherwise known as Lindsay Buckingham’s “Holiday Road”.

The B’s are the King of the Eastern Conference Hill right now, and they’re going to get everybody’s best from here on out. With that in mind, here’s a few observations from the solid victory over the Thrashers:

–Now may be the time for everybody to stow away those Manny Fernandez trade proposals. There’s no way the Bruins are a better team this season without hockey’s version of Manny Being Manny splitting time with Tim Thomas between the pipes. 

They’ve formed the best Boston goaltending duo since the unforgettable Andy Moog/Reggie Lemelinteam in the 80′s and 90′s, and they still lead the NHL in team save percentage this season. Thomas and Fernandez have put together a .930 save percentage thus far, which puts them .06 percentage points ahead of both the Minnesota Wild and the Florida Panthers for NHL bragging rights.

Last night was a game the Bruins likely wouldn’t have won if not for the 34-year-old Fernandez, and the graceful butterfly style he used to make 32 saves Sunday night. His successive saves on Thrashers forwards Erik Christensen and Bryan Little with less than a minute to go in the third period were things of beauty, and were among a handful of saves that preserved the ‘W’ for the Bruins. Fernandez is now 12-2-1 on the season, and has pushed himself into a vital, irreplaceable role on this Bruins’ team.

It would be the worst kind of hockey karma to break this Killer B’s tandem up — a notion that all the hockey krishnas outthere should be nodding in harmonious agreement with.

Ryder equals Mr. Clutch

The game-winning third period goal was obviously hatched by the breathtaking David Krejci-authored saucer pass to a streaking Michael Ryder while he crashed the Atlanta net, but it also highlighted an interesting piece of Ryder trivia. The score — a quick redirect of the skidding puck through Thrashers goalie Keri Lehtonen’s pads — was Ryder’s team-leading seventh game-winning goal of the season thus far.

Ryder also leads the NHL with his collection of seven game-winning tallies, and sits two GWG’s ahead of fellow NHL luminaries Jeff Carter, Patrick Marleau, Daniel Sedin, Johan Franzen and Petr Sykora this season. It seemed symbolic that his seventh game-winner of the season was also his 14thoverall lamp lighter – the exact same goal-production total he managed in 70 restless, unhappy games with the Montreal Canadiens last season.

Congrats to Coach Julien

A tip of the PWH chapeau to Bruins coach Claude Julien, who has seemingly wrapped up the Eastern Conference coaching honors at the NHL All-Star Game after leading his Bruins squad to such a commanding lead during the first three months of the season. According to the fountain of first-hand knowledge known as wikipedia, since 1996 the head coaches for the two All-Star Game have been the coaches of the two teams that are leading their respective conferences in point percentage (i.e. fraction of points obtained out of total possible points) as of January 1.

With a commanding point lead over everyone else in the Eastern Conference, that would leave Julien to man the bench at the Bell Centre — a building that was once the coach’s home turf while he ran the show with the Montreal Canadiens from 2002-06. For a hockey building that’s housed some pretty high-intensity Bruins/Habs moments over the last two years, it will certainly be a proud moment for the Quebec native to play a prominent role in one of the Canadiens’ showpiece events during their 2008-09 Centennial celebration.

It should also be one of several honors bestowed on Julien in a season that’s been a testament to his ability to preach defensive responsibility, teamwork, patience and accountability to a dressing room full of young men on skates that have been ready to learn since Day One of training camp.  

Hockey Notes: The 12 Days of Bruins Christmas

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

The Black and Gold resuscitated the puck pride and the hockey love in the pre-Christmas portion of the 2008-09 schedule, and now they simply have to keep the puck pedal to the metal during the hockey club’s traditional stretch run.

Normally a Bruins team didn’t really start gaining momentum until after New Year’s Day, but the sellouts, W’s and enthusiasm have bloomed a bit early this year. They now simply have to keep it up while protecting their playoff pole position as the intensity level starts to heighten.

And then the B’s have to win a playoff round or two to truly cement the love connection between the fan base and the blue collar, rough and tumble Bruins. They’ve impressed and captured the imagination of legions over the last few months, but they need to succeed and conquer in the postseason to settle in with the rest of Boston’s dynastic teams. 

As an aside, every sporting goods store that I visited while Christmas shopping was out of Bruins’ merchandise and reported that it was flying off the shelves. Another great sign to all of the hockey krishnas out there that the Bruins are truly back, and perhaps now a new generation of Spoked B heroes will inspire another hockey talent boom in New England.

The day and age existed not long ago when Massachusetts high school hockey talent would be plentiful in the first round of the NHL draft, but that currently seems to be the domain of Minnesota high school hockey. I hope that can change. With that particular request on my Christmas Wish List, here’s a list of Christmas gifts left under the tree by jolly St. Looch. It seemed an appropriate time to dole out gifts to the Bruins players and organization on a day when most people are out and about returning clothing that didn’t quite fit or exchanging that Cosby sweater from grandma that just had Huxtable written all over it.

Marc Savard – a spot on Team Canada. The playmaking center has clearly become the apple of Don Cherry’s eye on Hockey Night in Canada. By my count, it’s four straight weeks that Grapes has mentioned Savvy in one way or another and last week he matter-of-factly said that Savard should be assured a spot on the national team. The two-way talent has proven he belongs with the hockey elite from his country, and it goes without saying that he’s the key cog for the Bruins.

David Krejci — good health and a catchy nickname. That’s all you can give to the slick, young, humble, talented playmaking center that is the future of this Bruins franchise. Anybody who has ever skated with or against Krejci leaves the experience raving about just how good he is, and how high his skill level goes. The kid is simply special.

Phil Kessel — An All-Star nod. The 21-year-old is on pace for the first 50-goal season since Cam Neely memorably scored 50 in 49 games back in 1993-94 and has busted his way onto the NHL national scene. He is the latest scoring superstar in the Lecavalier, Vanek mode and should be another puck constellation in Montreal with the galaxy of hockey stars next month.

Michael Ryder — Plenty of crow to feed his critics.

Bruins doubters were chomping at the bit to jump all over Ryder after he served as the $12 million consolation prize this summer following Marian Hossa’s deal with the Detroit Red Wings. The 28-year-old scored 14 goals and found himself on the pine during the playoffs last year with the Habs and started hearing it in Boston after scoring only two goals in the first 17 games. Now Ryder is third on the team with 12 goals and on pace for the 30 goal season expected out of him to begin with.

Milan Lucic — Brass knuckles and an awesome pair of nunchucks.The Looch is going to need everything in his arsenal when the Habs come visit Boston on Jan. 13 during the next round of the completely electrified Bruins/Habs rivalry. Big Georges Laraque will be gunning for the Looch and this might be the right time for The Rumble in the Hub.

Zdeno Chara — A copy of Rocky IV. Whenever I think of Chara’s speech patterns, his insanely crafted conditioning program that includes world class cycling and his towering frame, I think of only one man: Ivan Drago. I must break you. If he dies, he dies.

Blake Wheeler — a Calder Trophy. Wheeler already has a hat trick and a highlight reel goal to his credit in his first 34 games in the Black and Gold and is among the top NHL rookie producers this season. This is a signing that Peter Chiarelli, Don Sweeney, Cam Neely and Jim Benning can look at as a huge win for the organization, and validation that they’re on the right path.

Dennis Wideman — An oxygen machine. Behind Chara’s amazing 26 minutes per game that he’s averaged since the start of the season, the 25-year-old blueliner is averaging 25:22 of ice time while playing good offensive and defensive hockey. Wideman is a good role model for young puck-moving defenseman in the system such as Matt Lashoff, and his continued improvement has mitigated the need to deal for a puck-moving defenseman.

Patrice Bergeron — Good health and a fast recovery from his second concussion.

There was scary silence in the Garden stands when he went down against Carolina with his second concussion, and the reports of lingering headaches make you fear for the worst. Bruins fan can only hope and pray that he doesn’t become the latest concussion cautionary tale. Everybody is rooting for #37.

Chuck Kobasew — An opportunity to take part in the playoffs. Kobasew went down with injury just prior to the playoffs last season and missed a chance to take part in the franchise-altering series against the Canadiens. Kobasew plays a gritty game and is made for playoff hockey, and hopefully should be a healthy factor for the B’s this time around.

Matt Hunwick — A permanent NHL paycheck. Necessity is the mother of invention…at least that’s what I’ve been told. With injuries all over the blueline, Hunwick was called up from Providence after being one of the last cuts during training camp, and he’s been among the best rookie defenseman in the NHL this season. His compete levels and tenacity have improved, and he could always move the puck and serve as an offensive partner with more defense-minded D-men like Aaron Ward and Mark Stuart.

Marco Sturm — a “Sturm Face” mask that the German-born winger can market for next Halloween. With Bruins merchandise again gaining popularity in the Hub, who wouldn’t want to wear a “Sturm Face” mask for Halloween. I can picture a Halloween tilt at the Garden next season with thousands of fans donning their Sturm masks as a clear sign of mental warfare against the opponent. Frightening.

P.J. Axelsson — a DVD copy of the movie “Zoolander”. Not sure if the Swede has ever seen the movie, but it could give him some new fashion ideas for the New Year. A couple more goals in the second half of the year might be nice too.

Stephane Yelle — A carbon copy of his first 34 games. There was some questioning of the Yelle move because it displaced younger players for the time being, but his opportunistic offense, PK abilities, faceoff skills, big game experience and quiet leadership are final ingredients that the team badly needed. Yelle will be valuable come playoff time.

Shane Hnidy — A Sheriff Shane Hnidy badge from NESN’s Jack Edwards.

The 33-year-old had his career year with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006-07 when he totaled 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) and a +15, and he’s in line to surpass those totals while providing valuable play amid the defenseman injuries in Boston. Another solid underrated pickup by GM Peter Chiarelli and the B’s front office during his time in Boston.

Andrew Ference — Good health. Don Cherry said that Ference showed “Good Canadian fighting spirit” when he continued killing off a penalty with a broken tibia earlier this year. His toughness, offensive ability on the power play and willingness to stand up for his teammates are attributes that make him a key part of this team. Despite the team’s success, he’s been missed while recuperating from the broken leg. Ference is another guy that raises his game noticeable levels in the postseason and will be needed.

Shawn Thornton — a bucket of ice for his right punching hand. Signing Thornton away from the Ducks was one of Chiarelli’s first moves when he decided the Bruins needed to be tougher to play against, and he’s given the Black and Gold exactly what they were searching for. Isn’t afraid to scrap with players twice his size — something he’s done numerous times in so many blowout wins this year – and has enough offensive ability to sting a team that takes his fourth line lightly. Has taken as many or more shots on goal (58) than David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler, Chuck Kobasew and Marco Sturm thus far this season.

Mark Stuart — A Captain Caveman T-shirt. Teammates have said at times that Stuart has “caveman strength” and he’s shown it off in developing the Aaron Ward-style forearm shiver he throws puck carriers around with. Stuart isn’t flashy, but he has a booming shot, he’s physical and his ability to stand up for his teammates makes him a perfect fit for this team.

Aaron Ward — A bionic body. Ward inevitably breaks down each season given the way he throws around his 35-year-old body, blocks shots and plays a physical game to neutralize young, faster opponents. But the Bruins need his leadership. Ward knows what it takes a win a Cup, and is invaluable in a young locker room.

Petteri Nokelainen — A couple of goals. Nokelainen works hard — as attested by the 10 penalties he’s drawn while skating on the fourth line — and plays a physical game and deserves a few fortunate bounces of the puck in the second half of the season.

Vladimir Sobotka — a roster spot with the Bruins. Sobotka aggravates, irritates and has the clear offensive ability to make things happen on the ice. Signing a veteran like Yelle was the right move, but Sobotka also clearly belongs in Boston.

Martin St. Pierre, Martin Karsums, Matt Lashoff, Johnny Boychuk — More playing time…in Providence. Each young player has done exactly what was expected out of them when called up from the AHL, and is a testament to the B’s organizational depth. But more ice time in Boston for each means more injuries, and that’s about the only thing that can derail this Bruins train.

Tim Thomas — a new three-year contract extension. Thomas has proven that he will excel as part of a two-goalie tandem, which frankly is something that all NHL teams should be looking at adopting. Sources have indicated to me that Thomas and the Bruins are making good progress on a three-year deal, so that’s a great sign. One goalie expected to play 70 games leaves a team in a dire situation if an injury occurs, and has clearly led to goaltender fatigue during the postseasons in the recent past. That won’t happen with the B’s this season.

Manny Fernandez — a hearty handshake and an interested NHL suitor following the end of this season. Fernandez has been excellent in tandem and it would be tempting to simply sign both Thomas and Fernandez for the next 2-3 years, but Thomas and Rask will be the future between the Boston pipes. I think it would be foolish to break up the best goaltending tandem during a run to the playoffs, and there will be ample interest in Fernandez after he puts up numbers this season.

Claude Julien — A shiny Jack Adams trophy for the mantle piece. Julien has coached circles around the rest of the NHL for the last two years, and he should finally get the award this season after a pair of very deserving years. He’s been able to adjust his style with whatever talent the Bruins have on their roster, and that’s the true sign of good coaching. He’s the best coach and mentor of young players that the Bruins have had behind their bench in a long, long time.

Peter Chiarelli — A contract extension. Chiarelli has done everything he said he was going to upon his arrival in Boston, and he’s proven to be the right guy to bring back another worthy chapter in the history of the Big Bad Bruins. He has surrounded himself with talented front office people and has avoided dealing young talent before it was in full bloom. His decision not to deal Phil Kessel last year is paying off huge dividends as he’s blossomed into an elite sniper this season.

 

Cam Neely — A new #8 sweater in the third alternate home jersey.

Is it wrong to hope that — just prior to Game 7 of a playoff matchup with the Canadiens this season — the spotlight goes up to Neely in the GM’s box, he rips off his suit to show his Bruins sweater underneath, and he storms pro wrestling-style onto the ice to skate with the B’s and puts them over the top against the dreaded Habs. I’m not asking for the mighty, mighty Cam to hit Georges Laraque with a folding aluminum chair, or anything like that. That’s not too crazy, is it?

Jeremy and Charlie Jacobs — a few thank yous from a Boston fan base that continues to be way too harsh on them. There was a time when it was en vogue to trash JJ and — by proxy — CJ, and they did deserve skepticism for their past unwillingness to spend money. But that time is over now. There’s a salary cap in the NHL and the ownership is spending to the cap limit. Not only that, but they gulped down the contracts of Peter Schaefer and Glen Murray when it was deemed necessary by hockey operations. Their willingness to spend money and hire the new wave of hockey executives is a big part of the Bruins again gaining relevance.