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Bruins breakdown: Riding shotgun 02.23.10 at 12:33 pm ET
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On Monday we took a closer look at the Bruins centers, Tuesday is time for the men riding shotgun — the right wingmen.

This group of forwards includes Blake Wheeler, Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder, Miroslav Satan and Byron Bitz. Note that for the sake of breakdown this group is demarcated by official roster designation, not where the player always plays on the ice. For instance, when Wheeler and Ryder are on the same line, as they often are, it will usually be Wheeler who jumps to the left side.

So, let’s take a look at what is cooking on the right side of the aisle. On Wednesday we will look at their left wing counterparts.

Ryder — Is there any other player on the Bruins roster (outside of Tim Thomas currently) who is more persona non grata than Ryder? He was a productive player in Montreal but ended up in Guy Carbonneau’s doghouse and his production suffered. He then came to Boston to reunite with Claude Julien with the hope of regaining his spark. It is not the first time that a player has jumped from Hab to Hub (or vice versa) but, really, two Original Six teams with rabid, unforgiving fan bases one right after the other? No pressure there.

There are a few factors that are always sure to set fans off regarding particular players. One is being a high paid player who does not produce. Another is being a top six forward who in a scoring slump. The third, and most pertinent in this case, is not living up to expectations.

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Read More: Blake Wheeler, Byron Bitz, Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder
Bruins breakdown: Centering in 02.22.10 at 3:48 pm ET
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What is the best thing about the final week of Olympic hockey? Well, despite the drama of the United States first Olympic victory over Canada since the 1960 “Forgotten Miracle” and the excitement of watching Jaromir Jagr play again, the best thing about the final week of the Olympics is that it means the Bruins will be back in action next week. The Hub hockey fans get to see if the four-game road winning streak before the break was a sign that the Bruins are ready to climb back into contention, or if it was a rare positive flash in an otherwise dreadful season.

In that mindset, the Big Bad Blog is going to breakdown the Bruins roster by position this week in an attempt to see where this teams stands. On Monday, we will be looking at the men in the middle ‘€” the centers.

(Note: Practice starts for the non-Olympic players (and those not still playing) on Thursday at Ristuccia Arena.)

The strength of the 2009-10 Bruins is definitely down the middle. Barring injury, the best Boston production Boston has to offer lays on the sticks of Marc Savard, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron. Let’s take a closer look at what each has to offer:

Savard: The gatekeeper of the Bruins attack, Savard has missed significant time though still is third on the team with 31 points in 37 games (behind Bergeron and captain Zdeno Chara). A couple of reporters were joking with P.J. Axelsson last year after he scored a goal playing on a line with Savard, and a reporter said, ‘€œSavard could feed a horse and it would score.’€ Axelsson just laughed and nodded, knowing the jibe was as much about his lack of scoring prowess as much as Savard’€™s innate ability to put the puck in the right place at the right time.

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Update: Bruins in the Olympics 02.18.10 at 3:47 pm ET
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Six Bruins are playing in the Olympics in Vancouver. The first round of preliminary games has been played, let’s take a look how the boys from the black and gold have faired.

Canada

Patrice Bergeron — The Bruins center had 12:50 of ice time in Canada’s 8-0 win against Norway on Tuesday. Bergeron had an assist on Mike Richard’s goal that made it 3-0 in the second period. Bergeron had a plus/minus of 1 and two penalty minutes with an interference call in the second period.

Germany

Marco Sturm — The German captain had 15:14 of ice time and two shots on goal in Sweden’s 2-0 win on Wednesday.

Slovakia

Zdeno Chara — The Slovakian captain had four penalty minutes and a shot on goal in 26:28 of ice time in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Czech Republic.

Miroslav Satan — The Bruins front line forward was a scratch against the Czech’s. Satan sustained a laceration to his hand against Tampa Bay last Thursday before the break.

Czech Republic

David Krejci — The Bruins second line center had a shot of goal in 14:20 of ice time against the Czech’s.

United States

Tim Thomas — Dressed as Ryan Miller’s backup against Switzerland on Tuesday and Norway on Thursday.

Read More: David Krejci, Marco Sturm, Miroslav Satan, Patrice Bergeron
Olympic hockey: Group C breakdown 02.16.10 at 4:56 pm ET
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With all the great names in Group A and B, it is easy to overlook the fact that Group C has the gold and silver medal winners from 2006 in Sweden and Finland, respectively. It also could be called the Group of Brothers, as some prominent siblings dot the rosters such as Daniel and Henrik Sedin of Sweden, Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn of Belarus (though Andrei will not play because of injury), and Jarkko and Tuomo Ruutu as well as Saku and Mikko Koivu of Finland. This group should be a battle between the Nordic clubs, with Belarus able to steal some points and Germany an also-ran unless the injuries that forced some last-minute turnover to the Belarus roster cripples the team.

Schedule (All times ET)

Feb. 17 — Finland vs. Belarus, 3 p.m.

Feb. 17 — Sweden vs. Germany, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 19 — Belarus vs. Sweden, 3 p.m.

Feb. 19 — Finland vs. Germany, midnight

Feb. 20 — Germany vs. Belarus, midnight

Feb. 21 — Sweden vs. Finland, midnight

Sweden

Captain — Nicklas Lidstrom

Assistants — Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Zetterberg

Goaltenders — Jonas Gustavsson, Stefan Liv, Henrik Lundqvist

Players to Watch — Nicklas Backstrom, Peter Forsberg, Daniel and Henrik Sedin

Breakdown — Sweden is the defending goal medal winner and will be tough in Vancouver. Lundqvist could carry the team to the medal round if he gets hot, and the Sedin brothers are a formidable pair wherever they play. Forsberg has two gold medals to his credit, as he scored the game-winner in the 1994 games in a shootout in the gold medal game. The Sedin brothers do not have to travel far, as they play for the Vancouver Canucks and will be in their home building.

Finland

Captain — Saku Koivu

Assistants — Kimmo Timonen, Teemu Selanne

Goaltenders — Niklas Backstrom, Miikka Kiprusoff, Antero Niittymaki

Players to Watch — Tuomo and Jarkko Ruuto, Mikko and Saku Koivu, Selanne and any of the three goaltenders

Breakdown — The biggest decision for Finland coach Jukka Jalonen will be which goaltender will get the majority of the time. Based on NHL numbers this season, the pick would be Kiprusoff (.925 save percentage, 2.18 goals against for Calgary) over Niittymaki (.917, 2.55) but that would be to forget that Niittymaki was the MVP of the 2006 Olympics with only eight goals against during the entire tournament despite losing to Sweden at the end. Selanne was named the best forward in 2006, and with Timonen, they give the team a solid veteran backbone.

Belarus

Captain — Ruslan Salei

Assistants — Viktor Kostiuchenok, Alexei Ugarov

Goaltenders — Vitali Koval, Maxim Malyutin, Andrei Mezin

Players to Watch — Sergei Kostitsyn, Salei

Breakdown — Belarus is ranked eighth in the International Ice Hockey Federation rankings and has a smattering of NHL talent in the Kostitsyn brothers, Salei of the Avalanche and Grabovski of the Maple Leafs. Belarus is not at the level of the Great Seven of the United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, but it definitely has enough talent to be better than Norway, Latvia and Germany. The team has lost a little depth with Andrei Kostitsyn and Mikhail Grabovski missing because of injury along with four other non-NHL players who were on the original roster. A quarterfinals appearance is not out of the realm of possibility.

Germany

Captain — Marco Sturm

Assistants — Dennis Seidenberg, Sven Felski

Players to Watch — Sturm, Seidenberg, Jochen Hecht, Alexander Sulzer, Marcel Goc

Bruins on the roster — Sturm

Breakdown — As Germany is a major industrialized nation, it is a wonder that this country has never been good at hockey, even after being reunified. Sturm, the Bruins’ leading scorer, is the headliner of the roster and Seidenberg is a good defenseman. Predators teammates Sulzer and Goc provide some NHL experience, and Hecht played in the 2002 Olympics but missed the 2006 games with an injury.

Read More: Belarus, Finland, Germany, Marco Sturm
Olympic hockey: Group B breakdown 02.16.10 at 1:55 pm ET
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Continuing to break down the Olympic hockey rosters, Group B looks like the deepest of the three groups. Russia is the standout favorite while the Czech Republic and Slovakia field strong teams. The joke about the group is that if the Czechs and Slovaks were still one country (Czechoslovakia) then it would be a powerhouse. Of course, that is not the case. Latvia will will attempt to fight for respectability.

Note: After the preliminary round, each of the 12 teams will be ranked on the basis of points. The top four teams advance to the quarterfinals, with the remaining teams playing to advance.

Schedule (All times ET)

Feb. 16 ‘€” Russia vs. Latvia, midnight

Feb. 17 ‘€” Czech Republic vs. Slovakia, midnight

Feb. 18 ‘€” Russia vs. Slovakia, midnight

Feb. 19 ‘€” Czech Republic vs. Latvia, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 20 ‘€” Latvia vs. Slovakia, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 21 ‘€” Russia vs. Czech Republic, 3 p.m.

Russia

Captain ‘€” Aleksey Marozov

Assistants ‘€” Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk

Goaltenders ‘€” Evgeni Nobokov, Ilya Bryzgalov, Semyom Varlamov

Players to Watch ‘€” Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Fedorov

Breakdown ‘€” Malkin, Ovechkin and Datsyuk all were finalists for the NHL’s Hart Trophy last year as the league MVP. That is about as impressive of a trio as it gets in Vancouver. The Russians have scoring power to spare but could use a top-flight goaltender to cover the back end. Nobokov is a good, serviceable NHL goaltender but he is never going to be confused with Patrick Roy. The matchup nightmare comes as the Russians roll out line after line of great goal-scorers (Kovalchuk, Ovechkin) mixed with good set-up men (Malkin). Expect the Russians to have a say in the medal rounds.

Czech Republic

Captain ‘€” Patrick Elias

Assistants ‘€” Tomas Kaberle, Jaromir Jagr

Goaltenders ‘€” Tomas Vokoun, Jakub Stepanek, Ondrej Pavelec

Players to Watch ‘€” Jagr, Vokoun, Milan Michalek

Bruins on the roster ‘€” David Krejci

Breakdown ‘€” The Greatest Show on Ice returns to North America. That, of course, means Jagr. Now plying his wares in the KHL, Jagr is one of the top five greatest players of the last 20 years and can still skate well. It will be interesting to watch him take on NHL talent again, and Group B is full of it. Krejci is an interesting member of this team and likely will serve as a second- or third-line center to try to set up Michalek and company. For the Czechs to be there in the end, it will come down to Vokoun. The backstop has played well for a bad Florida Panthers team this year and probably will appreciate having some talent in front of him for once.

Slovakia

Captain ‘€” Zdeno Chara

Assistants ‘€” Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra

Goaltenders ‘€” Jaroslav Halak, Peter Budaj, Rastislav Stana

Players to Watch ‘€” Chara, Halak, Marian Hossa, Miroslav Satan

Bruins on roster ‘€” Chara, Satan

Breakdown ‘€” The strength will be in the defense, with Chara leading the way in front of Halak or Budaj. Milan Jurcina and Andrej Sekera give the Slovakians decent depth on the blue line. The Czechs probably are a little bit deeper overall, but this is a second-tier team that could turn some heads if Hossa gets hot and one of the goaltenders can sustain a roll. Satan will play a part, but do not expect him to carry the team.

Latvia

Captain ‘€” Karlis Skrastins

Assistants ‘€” Herberts Vasiljevs, Aleksandrs Nizivijs

Goaltenders ‘€” Ervins Mustukovs, Sergejs Naumovs, Edgars Masalskis

Players to Watch ‘€” Skrastins, Oskars Bartulis, Martins Karsums

(Former) Bruins on the roster ‘€” Karsums

Breakdown ‘€” Latvia is better known as Dinamo Riga of the KHL. Fifteen players from Dinamo Riga are on the Latvian roster, including Karsums, who was assigned to HC MVD of the KHL from the Tampa Bay Lightning AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals but did not join the team and instead went to Dinamo. Bartulis and Skrastins are both defensemen and the only Latvian players currently on NHL rosters (Flyers and Stars, respectively). Latvia has never finished higher than ninth in any international competition and should get handled easily by the other three teams in the group.

Read More: Czech Republic, David Krejci, Latvia, Martins Karsums
Olympic hockey: Group A breakdown 02.16.10 at 11:05 am ET
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The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics hockey tournament starts at 3 p.m. (ET) on Tuesday at Canada Hockey Place with Team USA taking on Switzerland to begin the Group A preliminary round robin. Throughout the day, we will present short bios of the teams in each group, starting with Group A, where the United States and Canada continue a long international rivalry.

Note: After the preliminary round, each of the 12 teams will be ranked on the basis of points. The top four teams advance to the quarterfinals, with the remaining teams playing to advance.

Schedule (All times ET)

Feb. 16 ‘€” USA vs. Switzerland, 3 p.m.

Feb. 16 ‘€” Canada vs. Norway, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 18 ‘€” USA vs. Norway, 3 p.m.

Feb. 18 ‘€” Canada vs. Switzerland, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 20 ‘€” Norway vs. Switzerland, 3 p.m.

Feb. 21 ‘€” Canada vs. USA, 7:40 p.m.

United States

Captain ‘€” Jamie Langenbrunner

Assistant captains ‘€” Zach Parise, Dustin Brown, Ryan Suter, Brian Rafalski

Goaltenders ‘€” Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick

Players to Watch ‘€” Phil Kessel, Chris Drury, Patrick Kane

Bruins on the roster ‘€” Thomas

Breakdown ‘€” Team USA’s strength is between the pipes. The Sabres’ Miller is likely to get most of the starts for the Americans, but any one of the three goaltenders can get hot and carry the team into the medal round. Drury was a standout at Boston University, where he helped the Terriers to a national championship in 1995. This will be his third Olympic games. Kane and Kessel could give the team some offensive pop, but to stand up to the likes of Russia and Canada the Americans will have to be able to keep pucks out of the net. Team USA definitely has talent, but it may not be enough to propel it to its first gold medal since the 1980 Miracle on Ice, the only other time Team USA took first aside from the 1960 Forgotten Miracle.

Canada

Captain ‘€” Scott Niedermayer

Assistants ‘€” Sidney Crosby, Jerome Iginla, Chris Pronger

Goaltenders – Marc-Andre Fleury, Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur

Players to Watch ‘€” Whom not to watch? With such a star-packed team there are plenty of names to keep an eye on, but look out for Blackhawks young forward Jonathan Toews.

Bruins on the roster ‘€” Patrice Bergeron

Breakdown ‘€” The pressure is on the Canadians to win this tournament going away. It is their sport, their country and their gold medal to lose. With Crosby, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley likely to head up the top line and stout defensemen including Pronger on the blue line, it is an NHL general manager’s dream. Add in Luongo and the timeless Brodeur, and Canada has plus players and depth at every position. Look for Bergeron to man center on the third line and play against opposing teams’ top lines as a defensive forward.

Switzerland

Captain ‘€” Mark Streit

Goaltenders ‘€” Jonas Hiller, Martin Gerber, Tobias Stephan

Players to Watch ‘€” Streit and Hiller are the NHL stalwarts, but some young talent at the minor league level includes Yannick Weber of the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs (Canadiens), Andres Ambuhl of the AHL Hartford Wolfpack (Rangers) and Luca Sbisa of the WHL Portland Winterhawks (Ducks).

Breakdown ‘€” Gerber and Hiller are the strength of Team Switzerland and Streit is a strong captain for the team, but overall the talent is spread too thin to compete with the North Americans. A quarterfinals run would be an outside possibility.

Norway

Captain ‘€” TBD

Goaltenders ‘€” Pal Grotnes, Andre Lysenstoen, Ruben Smith.

Who to Watch – Ole-Kristian Tollefson, Patrick Thoresen, Tommy Jakobsen.

Breakdown ‘€” Tollefson and Thoresen are the only two players that have any NHL experience and neither are currently in the league. Tollefson has had the most success as the 65th pick of the 2002 draft by the Blue Jackets. He is with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Red Wings system. Tollefson and Thorensen are two of only five Norwegian players to ever lace up in the league. Thorensen played with the Oilers and Flyers and now is with Salat Yulaev of the KHL. Jakobsen is the old bear of the team with 131 international appearances. Do not expect much from Norway. The last time it qualified for the Olympics was 1994, and its highest finish in the tournament was eighth in 1972.

Read More: Canada, Norway, Patrice Bergeron, Switzerland
Four in a row: Bruins tame Panthers in shootout 02.13.10 at 9:59 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins played a sleepy game on Saturday in Sunrise but were able to take two points from the Panthers with a 3-2 shootout win. Mark Recchi was the hero for the Bruins in the eighth round of the shootout. Tuukka Rask took the win for his fourth consecutive victory with 26 saves while Tomas Vokoun was the loser for the Panthers with 37 stops.

Mark Recchi tied the game at two in the second half of the third period when he deflected a Dennis Wideman shot passed Vokoun.

The Panthers took the early lead when Nick Tarnasky scored his first of the year at 10:12 in the first period after he was left alone in front of Rask on a rebound. Boston came back when David Krejci scored his 11th of the year at 15:54 when he threw the puck on Vokoun from the corner that beat the net-minder through the legs to tie the game at one.

The lead did not last as Stephen Weiss flew through the neutral zone and put an inside-out move on Zdeno Chara to burn the Bruins captain and knock down Rask’s door with with a wrist shot at 18:54 in the first period.

Three Stars

Mark Recchi — The veteran forward played in his 1550th game to move into ninth on the all-time list and tied the game with his ninth power play goal of the year (team high) in the third period. He had the game-deciding goal in the shootout.

Dennis Wideman — The Bruins defenseman had two assists on the night to give him 19 for the season

Stephen Weiss — The Panthers leading scorer had the best looking goal of the game when he burned through Chara in the first period.

Turning Point

The Bruins went on their first power play of the game at the 9:44 in the third period and made the Panthers pay. Recchi camped in front of Vokoun and was rewarded when he redirected a Wideman shot from the top of the right circle to tie the game at 11:44.

Key Play

The Bruins and Panthers went back and forth in the shootout that went to sudden death eight rounds. Recchi proved to be the hero again when he deposited the puck top-shelf over Vokoun’s shoulders for the game-deciding goal. Krejci and Marc Savard scored in the shootout for the Bruins to keep the Bruins alive. David Booth and Kamil Kreps tallied for the Panthers.

Read More: David Krejci, Florida Panthers, Mark Recchi, Tomas Vokoun
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