Archive for May, 2013

Matt Cooke: ‘I can’t control people’s opinions’

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

PITTSBURGH — Matt Cooke hasn’t been suspended in over two years, but the controversial Penguins forward knows that his past is on plenty of people’s minds as he prepares to face the Bruins in Eastern Conference finals.

Cooke, a veteran of 13 seasons, is best known for having a career of dirty hits, none more infamous than his elbow to the head of Bruins center Marc Savard back in 2010. The hit effectively ended Savard’s career, as lingering concussion symptoms have kept him off the ice the last two seasons. Savard last played in 2011, but was shut down for the season after suffering another concussion on a routine check from Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick.

“I can’t control people’s opinions,” Cooke said Thursday. “Fans have emotions towards certain things and they’re going to be attached to them. I need to go out and prepare to play against the Bruins to the best of my ability, and if I’m worried about that, it’s going to affect me in a negative way.”

Asked if he thought about the Savard hit (for which he was not suspended at the time), when he saw that the Penguins would play the Bruins in the conference finals, Cooke shook his head and said, “Nope.”

The Bruins have said this week that they aren’t focused on Cooke now, but they certainly aren’t fans of his. After Cooke’s last suspension, which came in March of 2011 when he was banned for the rest of the season and playoffs for targeting the head of Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, Brad Marchand called for an end to Cooke’s dirty play.

‘€œI think that it’€™s about time he gets ‘€” he’€™s got to be taught a lesson,’€ Marchand said at the time. ‘€œHe’€™s doing that stuff left, right, and center. I expect that he’€™ll probably get a bunch of games, but he’€™s got to be taught a lesson. You can’€™t be running around doing that stuff all the time. He’€™s going to seriously hurt someone again. Look at Savvy, and now McDonagh. He could have easily hurt him.

‘€œIt just seems to be part of his game. He likes to throw cheap shots around. I don’€™t know if he’€™ll learn. Hopefully he does. Hopefully he doesn’€™t hurt someone to the point where their career is over. You want to get that stuff out of the game, and hopefully he does learn his lesson.’€

Cooke, his teammates and coach Dan Bylsma have said Cooke’s been a different player since the forward vowed to change entering last season. He hasn’t been suspended since, though he received heat after it was his skate that accidentally sliced Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson‘s Achilles’ tendon back in February.

“His game and his approach to the game and how he plays has changed significantly since then,” Bylsma said. “I’m not sure Matt’s ever going to get away from some of that reputation throughout the league, but he’s put a significant amount of hockey in between his last suspension and how he’s played the last couple years for us.”

Bylsma added that Cooke has been “one of our best performers in the first two rounds, playing his game, playing well, playing physically.” He noted that if Cooke remains a storyline throughout the series, it’s “probably going to mean Matt’s playing well and we’re playing well vs. the other way around.”

Bruins Thursday notes: ‘Minimal maintenance’ day for David Krejci

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

WILMINGTON — David Krejci was not on the ice on Thursday but coach Claude Julien said it wasn’t that big of a deal.

“Maintenance, minimal maintenance,” the Bruins coach said as Krejci was given the day off.

Krejci was the only player not spotted on the sheet at Ristuccia Arena as the Bruins worked at a fast pace for 20 minutes with their power play and penalty kill units.

Andrew Ference, one of the team’s leading penalty killers, was back on the ice again and was paired with Aaron Johnson on one penalty kill unit. Julien said toward the end of his media briefing after practice that Ference has not yet been medically cleared by team doctors to play in games.

“I haven’t heard from the medical staff so I’d say the answer is ‘no,'” Julien said when asked about Ference’s medical standing as the defenseman attempts to come back from a left foot injury that sidelined him since Game 5 of the first-round series against Toronto.

Tyler Seguin took Krejci’s spot on the power play with Zdeno Chara, Jaromir Jagr, Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic but the units were mixed and matched throughout practice as the team worked more on power play and penalty kill drills than concentrating on specific special teams combinations.

The Bruins will practice one final time on Friday morning at 10:30 at Ristuccia before taking off for Pittsburgh afterward. The Bruins play the Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night at 8 p.m. at the Consol Energy Center.

For more, including reports from Pittsburgh from DJ Bean, visit the Bruins team page at weei.com/bruins.

Matt Bartkowski on going home to Pittsburgh: ‘Everyone’s calling in their favors’ for tickets

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

WILMINGTON — Going home again has its drawbacks. Just ask Matt Bartkowski.

The Bruins’ 24-year-old defenseman is headed back to where it all began for him and he couldn’t be more excited. But the homecoming for the native of nearby Mt. Lebanon, Pa., does have some obligations to fill.

“The last few years it’s been close [to] playing Pittsburgh in the playoffs and now it’s finally happening,” he said after practice on Wednesday. “I’m stoked up, pumped up and ready to go, and I’m sure the rest of these guys are. Everybody’s calling in their favors, this and that and all that crap. It just pumps us up and we’re ready to go.”

The homecoming was made possible the moment the Bruins beat the Rangers in Game 5 on Saturday, less than 24 hours after the Penguins eliminated the Senators, also in five games.

“You can’t believe how many times I’ve been asked that,” Bartkowski said of being asked about heading home. “It’s going to be awesome. I can’t think of any other way of it happening. Playing a role on the team now, and it’s playoff hockey. We’ve been looking at this match up for a while, especially me. It’s going to be awesome.”

When Bartkowski was growing up, his current teammate Jaromir Jagr was helping Mario Lemieux win back-to-back Cups in 1991 and ’92. The Penguins then went through a down period in the early 2000s before Sidney Crosby was drafted in 2005. Pittsburgh, home of the Steelers and Pirates, once again had the hockey bug.

“It died down for four years or so until Crosby got drafted,” Bartkowski said. “It’s the same thing with Jagr-Lemieux era. Now it’s the Crosby-Malkin era. Every time they get big players in Pittsburgh, it seems to jump-start all the little kids playing. It’s good for the area.

“With the Pirates doing [great], what do even you say about them? It’s pretty unfortunate. Every year they have a chance at the playoffs and then they kind of blow it. Once football season is over, it’s a hockey town. And especially with the talent they have now, it’s a hockey town once football season is over.”

His coach isn’t worried about Bartkowski being overwhelmed with it all.

“No, I don’€™t think so,” Claude Julien said. “I think it all depends how you approach it. He seems pretty excited, he’€™s looking forward to it. I think at the end of the day, he knows who he’€™s playing for. He wants to do well for his team. The better he does, the better he looks in everybody’€™s eyes, whether it’€™s his hometown that’€™s rooting for the other team or whether it’€™s us. I don’€™t see an issue with that; if anything, it’€™s a positive, it’€™s exciting. You know that he’€™s going to be ready to play.”

What’s interesting is that, as a defenseman, his idol didn’t play for the Penguins.

“Actually, it was [Scott Stevens] on the Devils,” Bartkowski recalled. “Any chance I got to watch a Devils game, I would. I remember in ’95, they played the Penguins in the playoffs.”

Reminded that it was Stevens who carved a reputation by laying out star players of other teams, like Eric Lindros in the 2000 playoffs, Bartkowski conceded, “Yeah, I don’t think you’d get away with those hits now. We talk about that sometimes.”

When Bartkowski, who was paired Wednesday with Dennis Seidenberg, gets on the ice, he won’t be worried about the fans, tickets or his hometown. The only names he’ll be concerned with are Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Jarome Iginla and the roster of the Penguins.

“I don’t know if many adjustments,” Bartkowski said. “Just making sure you’re hard on the puck and playing as physical as you can in every situation that you can. Don’t get yourself out of position but be as physical as you can.”

Brad Marchand on Matt Cooke: ‘It’s not even in our minds right now’

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

WILMINGTON — The Bruins are not consumed with exacting revenge on Matt Cooke.

As Brad Marchand reminded everyone on Wednesday after practice, the stakes now are way too high to get into revenge games for a hit that happened three seasons ago.

Of course, the hit that is etched in the mind of every Bruins fan when you mention the name Matt Cooke is the blindside hit he laid on the head of Marc Savard on March 7, 2010. That hit resulted in a Grade 2 concussion. After sitting out the first round of the playoffs, Savard scored the game-winner against the Flyers in overtime in Game 1.

Savard, however, was never the same player. After suffering another concussion 10 months later, he was shut down for the season and could not participate in the run to the Cup title.

How do the Bruins deal with their emotions on Cooke?

“Well, it depends what you mean by that,” Claude Julien said. “Are you talking about the Savard thing? Or are you talking about the way Matt Cooke plays. There’€™s different ways of answering that. At one point, you’€™ve got to move on from certain things. Just like the next question will be like [Jarome] Iginla. Stuff like that. We all know about that. The thing we have to focus on is finding a way to win the series. If you just want revenge on this guy or that guy. Is it really the right focus to have? The best way to get that satisfaction is by winning a series. So I think that’€™s where your focus has to be.”

Asked on Wednesday what he thought of Cooke, Marchand, a rookie in 2010, agreed with his coach, adding the Bruins can’t worry about exacting some measure of personal revenge.

“He’s playing well right now,” Marchand began, before offering a bit of backhanded compliment. “If you watched the Ottawa series, he’s running around a bit but he’s doing some things offensively, too. He’s doing good things for the team. We’re not going to focus on any single guy over there. They’ve got four lines that can do damage so he’s just another guy who’s on their team.

“It’s a completely different season. We’re not worried about that at all anymore. It’s a long time ago. There’s much bigger things at stake than that hit. It’s not even in our minds right now.”

Marchand’s primary focus is to work with Patrice Bergeron to try and get linemate Jaromir Jagr into the goal-scoring column against the team he began his NHL career with.

“He’s doing a lot of good things right now, making a lot of plays,” Marchand said of Jagr. “He’s in the right spot a lot of the time. He’s getting a ton of opportunities. You really only have to start worrying when you don’t get any opportunities and that’s not the case for him. So hopefully, they’ll start going in for Jags.”

The other priority will be to keep a close eye on the Penguins‘ highly potent second line of Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla and James Neal. Marchand said keeping the puck in the offensive zone will be a big part of Boston’s defensive attack when those three are on the ice.

“That’s definitely a big part of playing like a line against that,” Marchand said. “They want to play in the offensive zone, and if we can find a way to keep them down in the defensive end and work it down there, it limits their opportunity to score. We want to play in their end as much as possible, but it’s not an easy thing to do with the skill and talent they have over there.”

Bruins Wednesday notes: D mix-and-match, Claude Julien gets shots in, tells players to soak in rays

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

WILMINGTON — It was another day of perfect attendance on Wednesday as the Bruins held their second day of practice in preparation for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference finals series in Pittsburgh Saturday night.

The news of the day was the minor juggling of the defensive pairings, as Dennis Seidenberg was moved to a pairing with Matt Bartkowski while Zdeno Chara was paired with Johnny Boychuk. Adam McQuaid remained paired with Torey Krug, Andrew Ference was with Aaron Johnson and Wade Redden remained with Dougie Hamilton.

The offensive lines were the same. Claude Julien downplayed the significance, saying he like what he saw in his team on Wednesday.

“It’€™s good,” Julien said. “You saw during the season, we mix and match. You guys kept asking a lot of questions about that and I said, ‘€˜You know what? It’€™s important that we do that because at some point you’€™re all going to have to play with each other.’€™ Guys that can play right that are left shots and vice versa, or even playing with different players, knowing how to do that. During the game we mix and match pairs sometimes. It’€™s not necessarily set pairs that you see on the ice all the time. That’€™s not going to change.”

Julien also said Wednesday that he has really liked what he’s seen this week so far from his team in terms of focus and execution in practice.

“It’€™s basically what you’€™re seeing right now, the last couple of days we’€™ve had some good practices,” he told reporters in his post-practice media briefing. “It’€™s been good tempo, good jump, good focus. It’€™s about being able to handle yourselves at this time of year in these types of situations. What I mean by that, when you get to the rink it’€™s all about business. Leave the rink, relax, enjoy the nice weather that’€™s there for you. You know the sun gives you energy, and nothing wrong with being out.

“Really kind of relaxing and making sure you don’€™t waste your energy out there when you should be saving it for the game and the time on the ice. It’€™s about focusing on those little things. Our guys have done a good job of taking care of themselves, eating properly, getting their rest. Right now I have no issues with where our team is based on what I see in practice.”

Other Wednesday tidbits: Doug Houda spent time with the defensemen working on skating drills at center ice, spending particular attention on Andrew Ference, who is coming back from a left foot injury. It was the second straight day of practice and sixth day on the ice since he was cleared to resume skating. … Julien took a hands-on approach in drills with his forwards on one-timers, standing in a corner and feeding a group that included Rich Peverley, Shawn Thornton, Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Chris Kelly. He then worked with the likes of Daniel Paille and Thornton on working on re-directs in front of the net. … Both practices this week have lasted approximately one hour. … The Bruins will be at it again at Ristuccia on Thursday before leaving on Friday for Saturday’s Game 1.

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Pierre McGuire on M&M: Pittsburgh ‘has an answer for the Bruins’ fourth line’

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to preview the Bruins-Penguins Eastern Conference finals.

Boston’s fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton came up big for the Bruins against the Rangers, playing key roles in Games 3 and 5. McGuire said Pittsburgh’s depth will negate that advantage.

“There was no answer from the Rangers for Boston’s fourth line. ‘€¦ Pittsburgh, I can tell you, has an answer for the Bruins’ fourth line,” McGuire said. ” Paille, Campbell and Thornton aren’t going to run around and dominate the way they did the Rangers. Because guys like Jussi Jokinen, guys like Joe Vitale, who played at Northeastern University, a kid out of St. Louis, guys like Craig Adams, who played at Harvard. You’re going to see, these guys can make a mess and they can put you through the boards as much as Thornton can, as much as Paille can, they can fight as much as Campbell can. That’s going to be the X factor that really helped the Bruins last series, it won’t be as much of an impact this series.”

Andrew Ference, who missed the entire Rangers series with what the Bruins called a lower-body injury, skated with his teammates at Tuesday’s practice. That’s let to discussion about which young defenseman the B’s might sit if the team wants to make room for the veteran. McGuire suggested the B’s might want to give Ference more time to recover fully.

“He’s walking around with a walking boot on, so clearly there’s a problem with the lower part of his foot or ankle,” McGuire said. “It’s not easy to come back from something like that at this time of the year. So, I don’t think they’re in a rush. And Andrew would probably be the first person to tell you: You know what, when a team’s playing as well as Boston’s playing, especially those players, you probably don’t take them out of the lineup.”

Another topic of discussion around the Bruins is whether the team should move Tyler Seguin back up to the second line in place of Jaromir Jagr.

“We saw what Jaromir could do in confined areas against the Rangers, and there were points in that series where he really wanted to take the puck over but he was overextending his shifts and you could see he was breaking down a little bit,” McGuire said. “Tyler, you could see, and I talked to Tyler a couple of times during the series, he was fighting it in terms of getting pucks in, but he was still making plays. I know he turned the puck over a couple of times. That’s going to happen with offensive players, you’re going to turn the puck over because they’re trying to make stuff happen with the puck. It’s the checkers that you can’t afford having them turn it over. Because they don’t do much with it. They chip it in and chip it out, and they usually don’t score a lot.

“Tyler will probably get augmented minutes. I’ve got to believe the coaching staff is seeing what we’re seeing, and that is that here’s a kid that’s got a chance to be a difference-maker, and his speed is going to be huge.”

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Bruins open in Pittsburgh Saturday night as NHL announces Eastern schedule

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

The Bruins will open the 2013 Eastern Conference finals in Pittsburgh against the Penguins on Saturday night at the Consol Energy Center. That will be followed by Game 2 in Pittsburgh on Monday. The series then shifts to Boston for Games 3 and 4 next Wednesday and Friday at TD Garden.

The first four games will face-off at 8 p.m. ET.

If necessary, Game 5 will be back in Pittsburgh on June 9. Game 6 would be back in Boston on June 11 and, as was the case in the first round, if the series goes the distance, Game 7 would be the next day back in Pittsburgh.

The NHL held off waiting on making an announcement until the winner was determined in the Kings-Sharks series Tuesday night. The defending Stanley Cup champs advance to the Western finals with a 2-1 win over San Jose. The Kings will face the winner of Wednesday’s Game 7 between the Blackhawks and Red Wings in Chicago.