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Ryder, Wheeler among prominent line changes 04.02.10 at 1:57 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — There was a little bit of a new look to the lines at Bruins practice at Ristuccia on Friday.

The normal line groupings by sweater color were blown up by coach Claude Julien. Instead of the normal David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder line wearing grey, Krejci was joined by Marco Sturm and Miroslav Satan in white sweaters to make the All-European line. Wheeler still skated in grey just this time with Vladimir Sobotka and Brad Marchand. Milan Lucic took Sturm’s spot on the line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi.

That left the normal red, checking, line — Steve Begin, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille and Trent Whitfield.

Oh yeah. And Ryder.

“Whoever plays together I think we can definitely play together and get shots on net,” Ryder said by the way of a non-committal response when asked if he saw the red sweater as a demotion.

Julien admitted that the shake up was definitely part of a wake up call that the coaching staff is giving to certain players, like Ryder, Wheeler, Sturm and Lucic, who have been pretty stale of late.

“You saw it today, making some changes, we have got to find some ways of making consistency here,” Julien said. “There is a lot of stuff being done to get those guys going but at the same time we have to make changes on the ice. We are struggling to score goals and, you know, you got certain guys who just aren’t going while and you hope that making changes will either spark them, wake them up or at least give some different lines some better opportunities.”

The situation is getting serious for Ryder. He has one goal since Feb. 13 and has been held without a shot in three of his last four games. For a guy who is supposed to be the sniper, that is not the way things are supposed to work. He admitted that it was in his mind that the demotion to the red sweater could further lead to a demotion where he has no sweater, red, grey or Black and Gold.

“Definitely, it could happen,” Ryder said. “When you are looked at to score goals and you’re not scoring it is definitely in mind but I just have to keep working hard right now and step it up even another notch.”

For Ryder, he would have to step up a first notch before “stepping it up even another,” which he said twice in his five-minute scrum with reporters. He also said that he has been focused on battling though shooting the puck has not been his top priority.

“It makes a difference when everybody on your line is shooting the puck, getting chances and getting more opportunities you have a better chance of scoring,” Ryder said. “I was not thinking about shooting a lot. Sometimes you just have to pound those areas and if you get out of position you don’t get that shot. Now it is just about battling hard and trying to get to those areas and get pucks on net.”

Wheeler was also held without a shot last night and is now on a line with two young players who have been on the fringe of the roster (or in Providence) for most of the year.

“Well, you know, it is sometimes good, almost refreshing to see new faces, play with new guys. Changes like that are always welcome,” Wheeler said. “Anytime you go the majority of two games and zeroes goals, one at the end  of the Devils game, change is probably a good thing.”

Wheeler had the Bruins best opportunity with a short-handed 2-on-1 break with Krejci as his trailer but let the opportunity fizzle out in front of him without putting the puck on net. He explained the play Friday morning.

“It is disappointing,” Wheeler said. “It was a play in the game that could have made it different and obviously you expect more out of yourself and I just didn’t make the play, that is all there is to it.”

After Recchi called out some of his teammates for not giving their best effort Thursday night and two games with only one goal, changes to the lines in some way or form were to be expected on Friday. In the dogfight that the Bruins find themselves, it will definitely take all 20 skaters to make sure their last five games are not their last of the season.

“In a way it is not that complicated, if guys work their butts off things will happen, no matter who they play with,” Julien said.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Claude Julien, Marco Sturm, Michael Ryder
Bruins fall flat in loss to Panthers 04.01.10 at 9:21 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins had that familiar feeling on Thursday as they had trouble finishing chances against the Florida Panthers in a game they lost 1-0 at TD Garden. Tuukka Rask took the loss for Boston on the night with 19 saves while Scott Clemmensen got the shutout for the Panthers in turning away 36 Bruins shots and plethora of opportunities.

The Panthers got on the board in the first period when Keith Ballard pinched the slot with space in front of Rask and went underneath the goaltender’s pads to give Florida a 1-0 lead at 7:15 in the first period. The goal ended a 121:42 shutout streak by Rask over parts of four games.

Boston knocked on the door repeatedly in the second period with 17 shots and two power play opportunities but the Bruins could not beat Clemmensen as every puck that came close was turned away, inches wide or above the net and the game entered the third period with the Panthers still up by the lone goal. Both Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi thought at one point they had scored goals only to see the end result of the puck on the wrong side of the net.

One of Boston’s best chances to score was on a short-handed opportunity in the third period when Blake Wheeler found himself on a 2-on-1 break with David Krejci following him on the right wing. Wheeler ended up waiting too long to make the decision to shoot or pass and put and ineffective tip on the edge of the crease at 4:40.

Rask received the Bruins Seventh Player Award before the game as the player who “went above and beyond the call of duty and exceeded the expectations of Bruins fans during the season.”

Three Stars

Keith Ballard — The defenseman’s first period goal was the only scoring in the game. He also blocked a least a half dozen shots to help his goaltender keep the puck out of the net.

Scott Clemmensen — The former Boston College Eagle was good enough in net to keep the Bruins off the board and out of the win column with (#) saves.

Tuukka Rask — Even in a losing effort the Bruins net minder was solid in turning away the Panthers chances and keeping Boston in the game.

Turning Point – At 15:40 in the second penalty on a delayed penalty the Bruins Mark Recchi thought he had beat Clemmensen with a redirection. He went so far as to raise his hands and stick thinking that it went in but turned out to go wide right. Later in the period on the power play Milan Lucic did almost the same thing as he deflected a puck that went over the net, causing Clemmensen’s water bottle to stir in the process. Lucic raised his hands just as Recchi had but again the puck did not go into the net (though the officials did review Lucic’s tip).

Key Play – Keith Ballard pinched the slot in the first period after a Bruins flurry on the other end of the ice and caught the defense sleeping while the Boston forwards were not being aggressive on the back check. Given a few seconds right in front of a goaltender, most NHL players will take advantage of the situation and Ballard was no exception as he used Rask’s pads against him as he went up and underneath them for the first (and only) goal of the game.

Read More: Keith Ballard, Mark Recchi, Milan Lucic, Scott Clemmensen
Only big games left for Bruins 04.01.10 at 12:56 pm ET
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At this point in the season there are no more trap games, no wake up games, no small games or revenge games.

They are just big games.

“A win is a win or a loss is a loss, no matter who you play,” coach Claude Julien said after Thursday’s morning skate. “Whether you are playing a top team in the league, it is going to be a tough competition, just like it was last game or whether you play a team that is out of the playoffs and is loose and they want to be spoilers. If you look at it, we just can’t afford to lose a game.”

With four teams bunched within two points for the final three playoff spots, the team that can get the hottest right now will be able to separate itself from the pack. If Boston wants to be that team, it has a even chance in front of it. Of the Bruins final six games, three come against also-rans (tonight against Florida, Saturday against the Leafs and April 10 against the Hurricanes) and three comes against the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, including two different trips to D.C. to visit the Capitals.

The Bruins have been playing to the level of their competition all year. For every dramatic 1-0 victory over the Devils there have been 5-3 disappointments against the Lightning. Looking back on the season, it has definitely been a roller coaster for fans of hockey in the Hub.

“You have to take advantage of the opportunities and you have to be ready to play,” Julien said. “We’ve got to be better, got to find ways to win and find some consistency.”

Florida has been in a funk of late as losers of their last four including a 6-2 in Buffalo on Wednesday where they were outshot 41-15 by the surging Sabres. Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was a member of the Panthers the last time the Bruins played them (a 3-2 Bruins shootout win on in Sunrise, Fla on Feb. 13, the last game before the Olympic break). He is adjusting well to his new team and has started to contribute offensively with four points (two goals, two assists) and a plus-four rating in his last five games.

“Every time you play against your old team, it is different,” Seidenberg said. “You know all the guys you play against. But, in this case, you have to put it in the back of your mind and just concentrate on getting the points.”

Yes, the points are crucial and Boston does have a real opportunity to move up a couple of spots in the standings with a win on Thursday, but there are other franchise considerations at play around the league that are hard to not note.

For instance, there is a peculiar conundrum for the Bruins as a organization (though not for the players and coaches) in gaining two points at the expense of the Panthers. Florida currently sits three points ahead of the Maple Leafs (tied with the Islanders) for the third worst spot in the NHL. The significance, of course, is that Boston owns the Leafs first round pick this June and would love to see it be the No. 2 overall. The best way to ensure that would be to lose to the Panthers tonight and then beat the Leafs on Saturday. Nobody on the team would ever dare mention it as a course of action but the fans are well aware of where the Leafs are in the standings. If the playoffs are not in the near future for the Bruins they can still take solace in a lottery pick.

– Ference Watch: Day 7

A fair amount of Julien’s pregame presser centered around the healthy, and potential availability, of oft-injured defenseman Andrew Ference. The blue liner does need offseason surgery for a tear in his abductor muscle in his groin as well as a hernia, but that does not mean he is completely unavailable to the Bruins for the rest of the season. Julien said that the plan at the start of this week was to shut Ference down for the week and then take it day-by-day from there. Ference can play with the injury as there is no further health risk of what he can do to the injured area but that does not mean he would be in anyway effective on the ice. Even if Boston is able to bring him back next week, there is no telling how long he will last. Julien acknowledged this point.

“Exactly, I think that’s the situation. There is no guarantee. There is a guarantee that he will be back and he will be okay,” Julien said. “Now, how long he will last, that’s a gamble. When I say a gamble, there is no health risk to it, but it is a gamble we are willing to take. At least if one of our ‘D’s go down, at least there is someone with experience to step in. You look at Providence right now, [Adam] McQuaid is still out of the lineup, so you need some depth along the way and for him to at least give us that insurance is good for us.”

All other healthy skaters were present and accounted for at the morning skate.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Dennis Seidenberg, Florida Panthers
Bruins playoff tickets available April 7 04.01.10 at 12:03 pm ET
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In the event that the Bruins make the playoffs, the team announced on Thursday that tickets for the first two home games in the first round will be available on April 7 at 11 a.m.

With six games remaining in the regular season, Boston sits in a three-way tie with the Flyers and Canadiens for the final three playoffs spots. With tie-breakers of the equation the Bruins technically have the seventh seed if the playoffs started today (and would play the Buffalo Sabres). The Thrashers sit two points behind the trio with 80 points. Boston has a game in hand on the Canadiens and Atlanta.

Here is the release from the team:

The Boston Bruins announced today that tickets for the club’s first two home playoff games of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs will go on sale at 11:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday, April 7.

Tickets will be available for purchase at the TD Garden Box Office, on www.bostonbruins.com, and via Ticketmaster.

The Bruins currently sit in seventh place of the Eastern Conference.  The dates and times for the two games will be determined by the National Hockey League once the final seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs is set.

If the Bruins do not qualify for the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, full refund of the face value ticket prices will be given for all playoff tickets that were purchased.  Various fees associated with purchasing tickets will not be refunded.

Bruins cannot hold off Sabres stampede 03.29.10 at 9:27 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins could not hold back the Sabres’ stampede in a 3-2 loss Monday night at TD Garden. Ryan Miller got the win for Buffalo with 40 saves while Tim Thomas took the loss by allowing three goals on 13 shots before getting pulled for Tuukka Rask in the second period.

The Bruins had a chance early in the first period when Marco Sturm took a pass from Patrice Bergeron through the neutral zone with a step on Craig Rivet for a breakaway. Rivet hooked Sturm, and the three of them went crashing into the net, with Sturm being awarded a penalty shot. But Miller stuffed Sturm at 3:20 to shut down a key opportunity.

David Krejci continued his great play of late as he extended his point streak to four games when he schooled Miller at 7:43 in the first. Krejci found himself with space in front of the net and circled Miller to almost the goal line before putting the puck off the goaltender’s skate for the first goal of the game.

The Sabres came back with two unanswered strikes in the period, both of which deflected off some part of Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman on the way past Thomas. The first came on a shot from the point by Tyler Myers that went through Wideman’s arms for the redirection at 9:56 to tie the game. The Sabres then went up a goal a few minutes later when Paul Gaustad picked up a rebound n the slot and backhanded it towards the net, sending it off Wideman’s skate in the process to make it 2-1.

Buffalo made it a two-goal game at 6:40 in the second when Tim Kennedy took a shot from the corner of the crease that hit Thomas in the chest but rebounded into the crease where it slipped across the goal line. That was the night for Thomas, as coach Claude Julien sent in Rask for the reigning Vezina Trophy winner.

Boston made it a one-goal game at 14:23 in the third period when Dennis Seidenberg pulled up on the rush and rocketed a slap shot from the point on Miller that the goaltender could not contain as it popped off his pads, over his shoulder and into the goal.

Three Stars

Ryan Miller — The starting goaltender for the USA Olympic team bested his backup by a fair margin in making 40 stops en route to his 38th win of the year.

Tyler Myers — The defenseman scored the Sabres’ first goal of the game and assisted on the second.

David Krejci — The Bruins center continued his hot play by scoring the first goal of the game and has a four-game point streak with three goals and four assists for seven points in that span.

Turning Point — One time could be a fluke but twice makes a trend, one that the Bruins would have been happy to avoid. The second goal that went off Wideman past Thomas came off of Gaustad’s backhander at 9:56 in the first. The ire of the fans will go to Wideman but the goal was set up after a shot from Myers that Thomas let slip into the slot, where the Sabres center was waiting.

Key Play — The weak goal was what did Thomas in. Kennedy had a point-blank opportunity on Thomas but did not have the angle to beat the goaltender. Thomas, however, ended up beating himself as he bobbled the rebound and let it slip behind him into the net. That giveaway brought Rask from the bench to the crease to take over the net-minding responsibilities.

Read More: Dennis Seidenberg, Dennis Wideman, Paul Gaustad, Ryan Miller
Bruins look to sustain momentum versus Sabres 03.29.10 at 12:14 pm ET
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The Bruins will host Ryan Miller and the Sabres Monday night at TD Garden as they try to continue the push to make the playoffs. Boston currently holds the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, two points behind both Philadelphia and Montreal and two points ahead Atlanta. Blake Wheeler said it best this morning after the morning skate “one bad night and we could be in ninth.”

Buffalo, as a divisional opponent, is a team that the Bruins are familiar with and one of the only teams ahead of them in the standings that they can claim any significant success against. In the first four matches of the series this year the Boston is 3-1 against the Sabres and have outscored them 11-4. The Sabres have a five point lead on Ottawa for the division title and are only two points behind Pittsburgh for the No. 2 seed in the conference.

“You are playing the top team in our division, you are playing against a pretty good goaltender who has been good for them all year, a big key to their success” coach Claude Julien said. “A team, I think, over the course of the season that we have played very well. Again, these are big games for every team right now. They are trying to move up, not just in the division but in the conference. It is going to be a tough game tonight but we are up to it. I think our team understands the important-cy of every game and it is something we have to shown every night from here on in.”

Keeping the energy up and the skates moving has been a key for the Bruins this year. The bottom line is that any momentum that the Bruins generate is dependent on their compete level coming out of the gate.

“The effort the last four games has been pretty consistent so I think the guys are pretty happy,” forward Shawn Thornton said. “Come with energy, I suppose. It has to be from the drop of the puck. Can’t wait. You have to carry [the momentum], I don’t know the exact formula but we have to do it.”

“He has done some really good things and there are some things that we have wanted him to get better at,” Julien said. “I think he is a very willing individual and wanting to get better and showing signs of a guy who wants to improve in the areas we want him to.”

– Andrew Ference will not play tonight as he continues to battle a hernia/groin injury that will require off-season surgery.

“We continue to get him checked out. Hopefully by the end of the day we will be a little clearer on his status,” Julien said.

With Ference out, Matt Hunwick will take his spot on the blue line. Hunwick has not had the best of sophomore seasons with a team high plus/minus of -16 for the year.

“He has done some really good things and there are some things that we have wanted him to get better at,” Julien said. “I think he is a very willing individual and wanting to get better and showing signs of a guy who wants to improve in the areas we want him to.”

Hunwick’s younger brother, Shawn, was the goaltender for the Michigan hockey team that lost on Sunday night to Miami of Ohio in the regional finals before the Frozen Four. He made 32 saves but the RedHawks topped the Wolverines in double overtime. Matt said that he watched the game and had not talked to his brother but had sent him a text.

“I told him to keep his head up and that he played really well,” Hunwick said. “He was one of the reasons they got to the tournament and do so well down the stretch … There is not too much to say, sent him a text and told him to keep up.”

– Tim Thomas was the first goaltender off the ice  this morning which is a good indication that he will be the starter tonight.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Matt Hunwick, Ryan Miller
Bruin’s shutout extinguishes Flames 03.27.10 at 3:33 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins found their stroke on Saturday with a 5-0 victory over Calgary at a sold out matinee game at TD Garden. Tim Thomas got the start and the win with his fifth shutout of the year by stopping 31 shots. Miikka Kiprusoff took the loss for the Flames by allowing five goals on 29 shots before giving way to backup Vesa Toskala in the third period.

Boston broke out of its power play funk in a big way after entering the game on an 0-for-22 streak with its last man-advantage  goal coming on a Marco Sturm strike against the Maple Leafs on March 9. Dennis Seidenberg got the credit for snapping the streak at 14:08 in the first period after a Craig Conroy hooking call when he hit a one-timer from the high slot that had eyes to the top of the net for a 1-0 Bruins lead.

In the second period Boston had its way on the power play again. Conroy went back to the box for hooking at :31 which set up David Krejci for a wrist shot from the left circle at 1:29 that got through traffic and beat Kiprusoff high. Zdeno Chara got in on the mix after Rene Bourque took a goaltender interference call when he  plowed through Thomas at 4:34. Chara activated on the next series and took a feed from Krejci in the slot in front of Kiprusoff with enough time and space to choose the location of his wrist shot, high over the stick-side shoulder for the 3-0 lead.

Patrice Bergeron recorded his 17th goal of the season at 4:24 in the third period when he used Conroy as a deflector shield with a shot from the goal line that he put off the center’s knees to beat Kiprusoff. Mark Recchi would match Bergeron with his 17th of the year 1:31 later at 5:51 when he dove for a Sturm rebound to beat Kiprusoff and end the netminder’s night as Toskala came in to replace him.

Bruins’ defenseman Johnny Boychuk received a five-minute elbowing major and a game misconduct at 7:21 in the third when he went in for a hit on in the corner against Rene Bourque with his forearm/elbow raised high enough to catch the Flames’ forward flush across the face.

Three Stars

David Krejci — The center has been on fire of late with eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last five games. Scored the second power play goal and helped set up the third.

Zdeno Chara — The captain had his first multi-point game since a three-point effort on Dec. 23 against Atlanta with a power play goal and an assist. Chara now has six multi-point games for the season.

Tim Thomas — The reigning Vezina Trophey winner was solid for Boston in picking up his 16th win of the year with his fifth shutout.

Turning Point — Chara’s goal was the one that sent the Bruins on their way to a victory without looking back over their shoulders for pursuing Flames. He was set up on the power play by Milan Lucic and Krejci to the point where he could skate down the slot with space straight at Kiprusoff and pick his target for the 3-0 lead.

Key Play — Seidenberg’s strike in the first period broke what was basically and 0-for-March power play for the Bruins. He combined with to make Team Dennis with fellow defenseman Dennis Wideman as they shuffled the puck along the point in the first period to the point that Seidenberg had enough space to pull off a one-timer from the high slot at 14:08 that was heavy and had eyes to the back of the net.

Read More: David Krejci, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Mark Recchi
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