Archive for September, 2009

Benning signs multi-year extension with B’s

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

B’s GM Peter Chiarelli announced Wednesday afternoon that Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning has agreed to a multi-year extension with the club. Benning is entering his fourth year with the B’s — and third season as assistant GM — after departing the Buffalo Sabres organization following a 12-year run in their front office. Don Sweeney was also named an assistant general manager of the Bruins last week, and both Sweeney and Benning will share the far-ranging hockey duties encompassed by the role.

‘€œJim plays a critical role in our management group,’€ said Chiarelli. ‘€œHe takes a very aggressive and proactive approach in his recommendations and assessments underscoring his tremendous management ability and experience.  His player evaluation is amongst the tops in the industry and his business acumen supplements our group greatly.  We were very fortunate as an organization to hire him in 2006 and we are even more fortunate to secure him for the long term.’€

Benning and Chiarelli will hold a Thursday morning press conference at the TD Garden to further discuss the deal and the assistant GM’s role within the organization.

Sobotka sent down to Providence

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

The Boston Bruins have sent Vladimir Sobotka to the AHL’s Providence Bruins on Wednesday afternoon in a surprise move just prior to the beginning of the NHL regular season on Oct. 1. It appeared that Sobotka had made the big club in Boston after a solid final kick during the preseason, but the move sends a pretty clear message that center David Krejci is 100 percent healthy to start the season.

Sobotka appeared headed for a healthy scratch on Thursday night and the foreseeable future as the 13th forward with the Bruins, and wouldn’t have seen much playing time with the club enjoying good health at the season’s beginning. The move to Providence allows Sobotka to stay sharp playing in all situations at the AHL level, and clears a bit more space under the B’s salary cap.

With only two Bruins games spread out over the next six days, there wasn’t going to be much of a chance for Sobotka to crack the lineup.  According to a hockey source, Sobotka was not subject to waivers as a part of Boston’s transaction sending him to the Baby B’s.

The Bruins now have 21 skaters on their active roster with only one extra defenseman and a backup goaltender to go along with the 19 players slated to skate against the Washington Capitals Thursday night. The move sending Sobotka to the P-Bruins was first reported by the Providence Journal on Wednesday afternoon.

Chiarelli on Dale & Holley, 9/30

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli gave an interview on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday afternoon and discussed the prospects for the upcoming season as well as the Phil Kessel trade. Following is a transcript of the interview. (NOTE: Updated with complete transcript.)

How do you expect to replace the production Phil Kessel gave you last year?

His goals were a different style of goals, so as much as I say, hey, Marco Sturm is going to get his 20-25, maybe to 30, and we believe Bergeron is going to ‘€” I really believe [Patrice] Bergeron will have a big year this year. He’s been tremendous in the preseason, so he’s going to score more. The younger players will continue to improve. Milan [Lucic] will score more and [David Krejci] will score more, and Morris on the back end will increase the offense. As much as  Is say all that, we will miss the style of goals Phil scored, because the speed will back off the [defense]. So, we will miss that. Don’t get me wrong, we will miss that. I believe we will make up for the goals with those guys that I mentioned, we just won’t score them the same way.

Why were you so confident that this was a trade that would help the Boston Bruins?

I’m not one who is going to trade a player that has his talent, his ability. He’s got tremendous skill, tremendous speed, and he’s young. The fact of the matter is that he made it clear that he did not want to stay in Boston, that he wanted out. That makes it hard for me to sign him. In fact, that made it impossible for me to sign him, because it takes two to sign a contract. So, now you’re looking at, ‘OK, well do I just give him whatever he wants?’ I could not get a number from him. I did not get one number from him in the negotiation. Unfortunately, that the reality of the business now. Whether it’s another team, or whether it’s an agent and a player, they have tools that they can use against you, and you have to face reality. Having said all that, what we got in return I thought was very, very good. You may get a Phil Kessel out of that, you may get a player that may help us sooner rather than later. You have to balance that, but at the end of the day when there’s someone that doesn’t want to work this us and is unequivocal about it, I have to address it.

(more…)

Krejci ‘looking good’ for Thursday’s opener

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

WILMINGTON — Bruins center David Krejci has been ahead of schedule throughout the preseason, and it appears he’ll be ready at the earliest portion of the recovery timetable by playing Opening Night against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 1. The 23-year-old playmaker has been practicing with the team for nearly the entire training camp schedule, and took part in another full practice on Thursday including time on the 5-on-4 and 5-on-3 power play units.

Krejci was also at his old spot centering a line between Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder during the practice, and B’s coach Claude Julien did everything but formally announce his return following Wednesday’s practice.

“The official [decision] will be made tomorrow, but right now he’s looking good,” said Julien. “He’s feeling better and he’s feeling more confident. The official decision, I guess, will come tomorrow, but right now it’s looking good.

“He’s ahead of schedule and a lot of the credit goes to a different group. Obviously [Krejci] because of the way he’s worked at it, but the other thing is also the trainers for the therapy he’s had and how he’s worked with them. Between Donnie [DelNegro] and Scottie Waugh, they’ve done a tremendous job of rehabilitating him and getting him ready to play.”

Julien also indicated there won’t be much in the way of maintenance days or special care for the young pivot’s surgically repaired right hip once he gets into the lineup, and there won’t be any restrictions moving forward.

“That’s the reason behind the surgery, so he could come back at 100 percent,” said Julien. “As we speak right now,  I don’t see any reason why he would need extra days off. Last year he [needed days off] because of those issues, and they’ve been resolved hopefully.”

Bruins brushing up on the power play

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

WILMINGTON — The Bruins are putting the finishing touches on the team here at practice Wednesday morning at Ristuccia Arena as they ready for Thursday’s season-opener against Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the high-powered Washington Capitals.

A lot of power play work this morning, and a look into what’s going to be one of the more competitive aspects of the Black and Gold team this season. The Bruins legitimately have five or six players that could run the point on the power play, and B’s coach Claude Julien has been nearly giddy in the different options at his disposal in the early going. Both Zdeno Chara and Derek Morris lined up as the top points on the first power play until along with Marc Savard, Milan Lucic and Michael Ryder filling out the forward spots on the top unit. Marco Sturm was also hopping into the top unit and alternating with Lucic.

Andrew Ference and Dennis Wideman manned the spots on the second unit with David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi alternating with Chuck Kobasew as the manpower down low. The 5-on-3 work was even more impressive as Chara and Morris manned the points with Recchi working directly in front of the goalie with puck magicians Savard and Krejci working in the two corners. That’s the kind of PP combo that could make a lot of teams pay for spending time in the penalty box this season. One big change from last year: Bergeron has taken off the point and is working more off the half-wall where he can be a triple-threat ready to pass, shoot, or take it straight toward the net.

Despite the current configurations, Julien has been quick to advise not falling in love with the PP configurations as there could be a heavy “play the hot hand” philosophy on the man advantage with so many qualified players to choose from. The B’s bench boss is also reserving the right to plop the oversized body of 6-foot-9 Chara in tight by the cage if the situations calls for a an extra-big, extra-wide body during PP time.

Matt Hunwick is another player likely to find his way onto the PP units as a point man this season, but the young blueliner has been attempting to find his game through training camp. Julien hinted on Tuesday that some of Hunwick’s struggles may be the player’s attempts to justify the two-year contract he received over the summer, and may be a case of a player attempting to do too much. Either way, Hunwick wasn’t on the PP units Wednesday and will have to work his way back into the rotation.

“You’re likely to see a little bit of both. [Bergeron] may end up playing [the point] and he may end up playing up front too,” said Julien. “There are some players that are still trying to find their games a little bit, and we have to take that into account as well. Right now we’re trying to come up with the best combination to start.

“It allows us some versatility. I don’t when or if it’s really going to happen — but I suspect it will at some point — you can put a guy like Zdeno in front of the net. He’s a big net-front presence if you’ve got the right people on the back end. But a lot of things and decisions are based on the way players are going right at the time. If you have players on a roll or a hot streak, then you want to keep them on that streak by utilizing them in different place. Or maybe sometimes guys are trying to find their games , and it’s not good to put them in different kinds of positions when you’re trying to get them to simplify their games. There’s a lot of thinking that goes behind who should be where [on the power play] and who should be on it.”

Turn up the volume: B’s ready for new season

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

The last time the Bruins played a game that mattered, Carolina’s Scott Walker was dancing in the West end of the TD Bank Garden following his game-winning OT goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

On Thursday night, the Black and Gold go about the business of trying to put that memory further in the past when they take on another team that was also eliminated in the same round of last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Washington Captials, featuring Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and defenseman Mike Green, come calling in the 2009-10 season opener

We present the following audio morsels to get you ready and in the mood for the occasion.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said he is naturally excited for Thursday night.

Julien happy to see hockey fever back in the hub.

Julien said it will be tougher to get to the top of the Eastern standings as they did last year as the No. 1 seed.

Tim Thomas will be the starter on Thursday night in goal but Julien said Tuukka Rask has earned the No. 2 spot.

Captain Zdeno Chara on opening with the talented Capitals.

Michael Ryder said the team is ready to go.

Blake Wheeler said it will be fun for the fans to see the Bruins open against the Capitals.

Wheeler said the Bruins have to be concerned about themselves first, not the Capitals on opening night.

Sturm Will Be Counted On In Bruins Offense

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Before last year, it had been a while since the Hub of Hockey could say that its team was a legitimate offensive powerhouse in the National Hockey League. In 2006-07 the Bruins finished with 210 goals (2.56 per game), ranking them 25th in the league. The 2007-08 team was slightly worse, with 206 goals (2.51 per game), ranking 24th in the league, as Boston captured the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, due mostly to its tough, defensive-minded game plan.

Last season? The Northeast Division champions finished second in the league with 270 goals (3.29 per game) and regularly abused opposing goaltenders. They did so with a mixture of ascending youth (Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic) and crafty veterans (Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi), finishing the campaign with astounding balance as seven players finished with more than 20 goals (six if you do not count Recchi’s 13 goals with the Tampa Bay Lightning before being acquired at the trade deadline). Chara and Lucic both came close to 20 (19 and 17, respectively).

It was all done without Marco Sturm.

The veteran wingman figured to be an important part of Boston’s goal-scoring mix going into last season, balancing the production between the proven producers and the aspiring young guns. Yet, because of injuries, Sturm’s force never materialized. He had been a staple in the the B’s scheme in those offensively challenged years (27 goals in each of 2006-07 and 2007-08) yet tallied only seven last year in 19 games before going down with a knee injury on Dec. 19 against Toronto. He went from the player kids idolized before the season with “The Perfect Sturm” posters to the quintessential Forgotten Man. One would be hard pressed to find many Sturm posters floating around TD Garden this time around.

Through the frustration of last season, Sturm stayed active with the team. It would have been easy to hide in the rehab room and disappear to the Land of The Lost, but he did not. He supported his teammates all year to the point where he actually designed the “Stay Hungry” hats that were the trademark of the Bruins’ postseason run. That is in the past, though. It is a new season, and Sturm is ready to go come opening night on Thursday against the Washington Capitals.

“It feels great. You know, it was a long time ago that I played to this crowd, so I really look forward to Thursday night and hopefully a good start,” Sturm said.

The big question for the Bruins this year is how to replace Kessel and his 36 goals after the young winger was traded to Toronto. The answer comes in a couple of variations, but it looks like Boston’s front office is counting on Sturm to make up for at least part of the slack. Mix the 31-year-old wingman with gains made by the young corps, and Boston probably will have the firepower to stay near the top of the league in the lamp-lighting category this year.

“We are confident with the team that we have here, no doubt,” coach Claude Julien said during media day on Monday at the TD Garden. “We have Marco Sturm back and healthy, so as a group we are a strong team. We feel stronger as well with some young guys having matured and Marco Sturm in.”

It appears that at the beginning of the year Sturm will be a direct fill-in for Kessel on the right wing of the first line with the Savard (center) and Lucic (left wing). Sturm plays a similar game to Kessel ‘€” both are speedsters, have a good shot and have a nose for the back of the net. Savard is excited to give the pairing a shot.

“We lost Sturm all of last season and it looks like he is going to start on wing with us, so we are excited to have him,” Savard said. “He brings a ton of speed, like Kessel had, and he can finish when he has the opportunity. We are excited for that, we have a good mix and hopefully we can produce those goals that we are going to lose. It is going to have to come from a lot of people and I think we are capable.”

Sturm will have to earn it, though. No player on Julien-coached teams gets free passes for jobs well done in the past. The right wing spot is probably Sturm’s at the start, but as Julien said, “Nothing is carved in stone.”

“We’€™d certainly like, to a certain extent, put some speed again on that wing, and [Savard] is good at finding those guys so we will give [the speedsters] a try,” Julien said. “We are going to put the best lines together as we can possibly find and if that means tweaking them and moving them around, we will until we find the right combination. I think right now it is worth having a look at, and Marco has played the off wing before and he feels comfortable there. So, again, there is a guy who hasn’€™t played in a while, so we have to take that into consideration whether he’€™s on top of his game or whether he is trying to find it again.”

Make no mistake about it, there will be rust. Not many players in any sport can miss tw0-thirds of a season (as Sturm did last year with his 63 DNPs) and come straight out the next year as if nothing happened. NHL hockey, especially after the lockout and the new rules to open up the ice for skill players, is a flow game. Before going down last year, Sturm had lost his flow, probably due to his balky knee. Despite his plus-9 rating, it appeared that he was out of sync at times, either by making a bad pass or just being out of position.

It will be difficult, at least at the start, to come back as the same player he was in 2007-08. It is hard to get back into mental shape while in the workout room or during the summer. For that matter, Sturm has only played in two preseason games for the Bruins this year (with no goals and two assists). Not that it will stop him from trying to get in rhythm with Savard in the early going.

“You know, obviously with Savvy in the middle, playing on the right side I will have a lot of chances,” Sturm said. “He will give me the puck, so I have to use my speed, use my game, and the puck will come to me, I know that. So I just have to find the rhythm with him, and hopefully we click pretty soon.”

The Bruins feel that they have the talent to compete in the highest tier of the NHL this season and shoot for a Stanley Cup. If Sturm is on top of his game, they just may be right.