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Canadiens set to invade TD Garden 02.04.10 at 1:27 pm ET
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If there was ever a game for the Bruins to get back to their winning ways, Thursday night against archrival Montreal Canadiens would be it. Boston has fallen from fifth to 12th in the Eastern Conference standings during its eight game losing streak and has watched division opponents like the Habs leapfrog them in the standings.

Over the past three games the Bruins have played with good energy and decent emotion but have not seen the results on the scoreboard. The team has not had a positive seminal moment during the season, a game that defines the squad and sets the pace for winning hockey. With the Canadiens in town and all the fanfare that comes along with them, Thursday could be a good time to turn things around.

“There is a lot of history in it, the crowd always gets into it. It is kind of cool when they have all those Montreal Canadiens fans in the crowd. It always gets us excited every time we play these guys,” Milan Lucic said.

Yes, there is history between these two Original Six hockey clubs, but recent history between the players on each roster is not worth much going into Thurday’s contest. Last year Boston and Montreal hooked up for a memorable, fight filled battle in the Bruins last home game of the regular season and tensions and between the two were high during the Boston’s three game, first round sweep in the playoffs. Yet, significant agitators on last year’s Habs roster such as Mike Komisarek (Toronto), Saku Koivu (Anaheim), Georges Laraque (released late January) and Andrei Kostitsyn (knee injury, out till after Olympics) are not around as are several players from last year’s Bruins roster. Hence, there are not many hard feelings carried over between the players going into Thursday’s contest.

“I wish [there was carry over] but they have kind of revamped their lineup so a lot of those guys who we had the big rivalries with in the last three years are gone. I would not mind creating new ones, I suppose,” Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton said. “We don’t like each other, we haven’t for years. I think it will be a fun game to play in, I think everybody will be up for it. So, I hope we will turn it around, yeah.”

The Bruins roster turmoil has had some effect on their goal output recently as they strive for chemistry on newly formed lines with the roster turnover or players returning from injury. As players such as Marco Sturm and Marc Savard get their health and timing back, the hope is that Boston can start generating more goals and find a way to win some games.

“We have not helped ourselves either with all the different line combinations but we are not the only team going through that and we are not going to make excuses but we have not had the same lines,” coach Claude Julien said. “The chemistry with injuries and the lines, it is a challenge and kind of have to fight through that and hopefully as we are getting a little healthier hopefully that comes back.”

At the same time, the Bruins goaltenders would do the rest of the team a big favor if they could completely shutdown an opposing team. Tuukka Rask was the first goalie off the ice after Thursday’s morning skate and will likely get the start against the Canadiens. He said that both him and Tim Thomas are always approach games with the notion that the goaltender might be able to steal a win for the team.

“We got to have that state of mind before every game. The past few games have been like that, we can’t let in any weak goals. We approach games that way that we are going to steal them and hopefully it is going to happen soon,” Rask said. “We really feel that we have been playing better and better here just without the results but I am trying to get the win here today.”

10 Bruins forwards participated in the morning skate with Mark Recchi, Savard, Sturm and Michael Ryder the missing men. On the blue line Boston had six skaters with Andrew Ference taking the ice and Dennis Wideman absent. Ference has missed the last 12 games with a groin injury. Mark Stuart will still be sidelined with a broken finger he sustained against the Kings last Saturday and is expected to be out until after the Olympics at the very least. It remains doubtful that Ference will play against the Canadiens which probably means that Adam McQuaid and Wideman will be on the rink when the puck drops barring a last minute change of plans.

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Hot goaltenders contribute to B’s woes 02.02.10 at 11:29 pm ET
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Boston has not seen its hockey team have a stretch this bad since the days when Vic Stasiuk used to lace up his skates at the old Garden in 1956 when the Bruins had a stretch where they went 0-8-0.

With an 0-6-2 record in its last eight games, this season’s Bruins have not seen a win since beating the Western Conference leaders from San Jose  on Jan. 14. It would have been odd to see the Bruins sandwich seven losses in a row with wins against both conference leaders, but it was not to be in a 3-1 loss to the Capitals on Tuesday.

Everybody knows what the problem is. There’s no hiding what ails these bears — they cannot score. Through the past eight contests, the Bruins have 12 goals, or 1.5 per game. After a stretch where the team simply did not play well, the Bruins have had decent efforts and good scoring chances in the past few contests and have run into some pretty good goaltending along the way. Why can’t the Bruins score? It is kind of a chicken or egg type of question.

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Bruins come up short against Capitals 02.02.10 at 9:33 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins hung tough with the best team in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday but ultimately could not hang with the Capitals as they dropped their eighth straight game 4-1 in front of a sold out TD Garden. Brooks Laich had the game-winner for Washington early in the third period off a feed from Alexander Semin and Boyd Gordon added a goal later to break a 1-1 tie to start the final frame. Tim Thomas took the loss for the Bruins with 21 saves while Jose Theodore stood on his head at times stopping 41 Bruins shots. The eight game losing streak is tied for the second longest in Bruins history and longest since Dec. 22, 1955 to Jan. 12, 1956.

The Bruins struck in the first by taking advantage of a 5-on-3 power play at 6:58 when Marc Savard cross the puck to David Krejci on the baseline. Krejci bent his knee and whipped a shot back across Theodore’s pads for the early lead. The score was Krejci’s 10th of the year. The Bruins were able to keep the pressure on most of the period and outshot the Capitals 12-5 heading into the second.

It would not take long for Washington to come back. At 2:04 in the second Tom Poti broke deep down the left wing and crossed a pass to a crashing Mike Knuble who was able to beat Thomas out of position for the game-tying goal.

Then something happened that you do not see in regulation NHL hockey all that often — a penalty shot awarded on a shorthanded breakaway. With Marco Sturm in the box for holding, David Krejci found himself alone with the puck facing down Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore. Knuble caught Krejci from behind and hooked him a couple of times and Krejci missed the ensuing shot. The officials gave Krejci a penalty shot, which he subsequently missed wide right to end the unusual drama. It was the Bruins second shorthanded penalty shot of the season after Marco Sturm was unsuccessful against the Rangers Henrik Lundqvist on Jan. 9.

Three Stars

Brooks Laich — The Washington center scored the game-winner with his 17th of the year in the third period off a feed from Alexander Semin.

David Krejci — The Bruins second line center now has a two game point streak after his first period goal and though he was unsuccessful on the penalty shot he was able to put himself in position for the play and helped kill Boston’s penalties on the night.

Tom Poti — The Capitals defenseman assisted on Washington’s first and third goals of the night and now has two goals and 17 assists for the season.

Turning Point

The Bruins best chance of getting on top of Washington came in the second period when Blake Wheeler and Krejci had near open net chances against Theodore but were unable to slam the puck home. Wheeler had two points blank chances and Krejci missed on the follow up and the Capitals cleared the puck to end the threat. The Bruins would never really threaten Theodore for the rest of the game.

Key Play

Semin was able to redeem himself after taking three penalties through the first two periods when he founds the puck in space off the half wall in the offensive end and flipped it through the circle to Laich in front of Thomas. Laich let go of a wrist shot that beat the Bruins goaltender on the stick side for the game-winner at 5:04 in the third.

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Capitals knot it up, Bruins hang tough 02.02.10 at 8:46 pm ET
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It did not take long for the Capitals to come back. Washington came out for the second period and was able keep the pressure in the Bruins zone and turned the aggression into a game-tying goal at 2:04 when defenseman Tom Poti carried the puck hard down the left wing and centered to a crashing Mike Knuble. Boston goaltender Tim Thomas was not quick enough across the crease and the Capitals were back in the at a goal apiece.

Then something happened that you do not see in regulation NHL hockey all that often — a penalty shot awarded on a shorthanded breakaway. With Marco Sturm in the box for holding, David Krejci found himself alone with the puck facing down Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore. Knuble caught Krejci from behind and hooked him a couple of times and Krejci missed the ensuing shot. The officials gave Krejci a penalty shot, which he subsequently missed wide right to end the unusual drama.

The Bruins still had to kill off Sturm’s penalty and he was joined by Patrice Bergeron at 11:09 to give Washington a :19 second two-man advantage. Boston killed off both and were able to turn around and put some pressure on itself a couple minutes later. Alexander Semin took went to the penalty box for a hook (his third penalty of the game) after Blake Wheeler and David Krejci had multiple opportunities against Theodore that Washington was able to thwart. Boston had more opportunities on the ensuing power play with Bergeron hitting a post as the Bruins rained shots on goal.

After the rocky start to the period, the Bruins have stayed tough and stayed within their game and have been able to generate shots and keep Alex Ovechkin from causing any havoc on the ice.

Second period shots (total):

Bruins 16 (29)

Capitals 12 (17)

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Bruins use power play to gain momentum 02.02.10 at 7:46 pm ET
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The Capitals are giving the Bruins some power play chances early. For once, Boston has been able to capitalize.

The Bruins got on the power play early when Washington center Nicklas Backstrom went to the box for a hold at 1:04. It was for naught though as the Bruins’ Blake Wheeler gave the man-advantage back with an interference call at 2:16. The Bruins may have lost the opportunity but were able to kill the rest of Wheeler’s penalty to get back to even strength.

Minutes later, the Bruins found themselves with a golden opportunity to jump on the best team in the Eastern Conference. Capitals’ forward Matt Bradley went to the box for a hold and was joined 1:12 later by Alexander Semin on a high stick. Boston wasted no time with the two-man advantage as seconds later Marc Savard crossed the puck across the crease to David Krejci on the baseline. Krejci bent his knees and torqued a shot back across Washington goalie Jose Theodore’s pads to the back of the net for a 1-0 Boston advantage.

The Bruins are doing what they need to do — putting pucks in front of the net, keeping the pressure on and limiting the explosive Capitals chances. It has resulted in a significant shot advantage and, most importantly, a one goal lead heading into the second period.

Shots:

Bruins – 13

Capitals – 5

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Struggling B’s sparked by Stuart 01.31.10 at 12:57 am ET
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The losses are piling up. The Bruins are going to end January without a win in the TD Garden for the month and just eight points since the start of the new year. There have been stretches this month where the team has been wretched to watch, playing dull, flat-skated hockey that has resulted in some poor losses, such as the 5-1 defeats against Carolina and Ottawa. The Bruins now have 55 points through 53 games, would not qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today, and cannot score a goal to save their lives.

Yet everybody around the team insists that the Bruins are ready to turn the corner and turn back into a playoff team.

Now, if you have been sitting in the stands at TD Garden, you might not actually believe that. But the Bruins do and, at this moment, that is all that matters.

“We played a little bit more physical and a little bit more into it and that is why, overall, I feel like we are turning the corner and heading in the right direction,” coach Claude Julien said. “That is two games in a row now where we competed a lot better than we had in the past. This is what we have to build on and emotion is a part of that and the guys are wanting to turn the corner so they are getting a little bit more involved.”

There have been glimpses of the emotion and physicality that were trademarks of the 2008-09 Boston Bruins, a team that won the top spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Bruins have worked hard in their last two games but have been betrayed by some penalties and an inability to find the net on the power play.

The momentum swing against the Kings on Saturday night took place early in the second period. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles’ rising star center and leading scorer, was passing his own blue line on a clearing pass when he met the shoulder of Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart. In a flash, Kopitar went from moving forward to being thrown backward, the type of hit that makes highlight reels. It was clean and the crowd roared.

“Yeah, I am pretty sure if it wasn’t clean I wouldn’t be sitting here right now because he could have taken my head off,” Kopitar said. “Maybe I am fortunate that he is not as tall as [Zdeno] Chara because he would have definitely taken my head off. It is one of those plays that happens in the game that caught me looking backward. I have not seen it in the replay yet but it wasn’t a dirty hit.”

Kings forward Wayne Simmonds was trailing the play and saw the hit develop. His first reaction was to go after Stuart for knocking his team’s best player off his keister. Stuart and Simmonds went at it for a few seconds and penalties piled up. Simmonds went to the box for two two-minute minors for instigating and unsportsmanlike conduct, a five-minute fighting major and a 10-minute misconduct. Stuart also took a penalty for fighting.

“I kind saw it coming before I saw him pinching up and I saw [Kopitar] looking at him from the side and he got caught and as soon as he got caught it was my first instinct to jump in there,” Simmonds said. “You know, when one of your teammates gets hit that hard you have to step up there and do something.”

The Bruins were not able to break through on the resulting power play (and remain quite snake bitten in that area), but the team definitely had regained some swagger. After that moment the Bruins scored two goals to regain the lead before Kopitar had his revenge in the third. It was not a full blown instance of a big fight and brawl that can help turn a team around, but it was also not the type of play that the Bruins have seen much of in January.

“It is definitely a big hit,” Bruins forward Michael Ryder said. “[Stuart] is a physical player and he is at his best when he does that. He made a great hit there on one of their top players and when you do that it kind of gets the team going and I think we built off that hit and made up the momentum from there.”

Looking back on last season, the Bruins really came alive after a game-long brawl with Steve Avery, Steve Ott and the Dallas Stars. Boston has not seen the same type of emotion-filled physical game this year. The Bruins lack a defining moment this season and the doldrums of near-miss losses has worn on the team psyche to the point that it has played some very mediocre hockey that has led to its longest losing streak in nearly 13 years.

The hit that Stuart put on Kopitar was a good reminder that these Bruins have what it takes to be big and bad once again. Did the team turn the corner back towards winnings ways? Not on Saturday, but it could be a start.

“We’ve got to keep working through this,” Julien said. “We’re the only ones who can do it, so it’s up to us to keep our heads up and keep working hard and competing hard hard and at one point you know that you may end up getting a break.”

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Kings drop Bruins in shootout 01.30.10 at 10:30 pm ET
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Summary It took overtime and a shootout to decide the winner between the Bruins and Kings in front of a sold out TD Garden on Saturday night. In the end, it was the Kings who were able to claim two points as Jarret Stoll had the game-deciding goal in the shootout. Tim Thomas, despite 31 saves in regulation and overtime, took the loss for the Bruins while Jonathan Quick got the win with 27 saves. The Bruins have lost seven straight, their longest losing streak since the spring of 1997, when they went 0-7-0 from March 17 to April 3 of that year.

Marco Sturm returned to the ice after missing the last six games and scored a goal in the second period. Steve Begin also got back on the ice after missing five games and played forward on the fourth line.

The teams went back and forth with the Kings taking the lead into the second period off a goal by captain Dustin Brown set up by a shot from Anze Kopitar. It looked like another night where the Bruins would have trouble breaking through, but Boston found momentum in the second period when defenseman Mark Stuart leveled Kopitar with a hit on the blue line that led to a scrum with Kings forward Wayne Simmonds.

Sturm tied the game with a power-play goal later in the second, and Boston took the lead early in the third on the power play when Mark Recchi scored off a pass from the half-wall by David Krejci. The Kings came right back with a goal from Kopitar and the play was even through the rest of the third before overtime.

Three Stars

Marco Sturm — The Bruins forward scored his team’s first goal of the game after missing six games with a lower body injury. On the power play in the second period, he found himself camped in front of Quick with time and space off a pass from Marc Savard. He let a defender slide by, waited, waited and found the back of the net on Quick’s stick side.

Anze Kopitar — The Kings’ leading scorer is deadly with the puck from the right wing. Twice from the top of the circle he let go of wily wrist shots that found ways past Thomas. He was credited with an assist in the first period when his shot deflected off Dustin Brown and tied the game in the third when Thomas could not handle a screamer from a couple steps in from the blue line.

Jarret Stoll — The Kings center had the game winner in the sixth round of the sudden death shootout.

Turning Point

A flurry of penalties broke out early in the second period. At 4:58 in the second period, Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart laid Kopitar flat on the ice with a big hit as the Kings forward took a clearing pass at his own blue line. Kings forward Wayne Simmonds immediately took exception to the hit on the rising star center, and he and Stuart immediately went at it, with Stuart tackling Simmonds to the ice.

The result was that Simmonds went to the box with instigator, unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting and misconduct penalties (Stuart also went for fighting) that resulted in a four-minute power play opportunity the Bruins. Tim Thomas gave two minutes of that back with a high stick to Brad Richardson 29 seconds later and the Kings killed the penalties. Still, the Bruins gained momentum over the series of plays that later translated into a game-tying power play goal by Sturm in the period.

Key Play

Stoll turned TD Garden from a rocking venue to a silent arena in a matter of moments when he beat Thomas over the goaltender’s shoulder in the sixth round of the shootout. The Kings ended up winning the series 3-2 for the two points. Stoll’s goal followed up scores from the Bruins’ Marc Savard and Michael Ryder and the Kings’ Kopitar and Ryan Smyth.

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