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Bruins ready to bounce back against Buffalo 01.28.10 at 1:44 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — After a week of practice to get healthy and screw their heads on straight, the Bruins will travel to Buffalo on Friday to take on the Northeast Division leading Sabres. It is an interesting challenge for Boston as the Buffalo is 15 points ahead of the Bruins in the standings but has been in a bit of a funk for the last week, going 1-3-1 in its last five games. The Sabres did snap a three game skid by beating the Devils 2-1 in a shootout on Wednesday night in New Jersey and remain a very dangerous team in the Eastern Conference.

“They are a pretty good team, they are playing well,” coach Claude Julien said. “I saw them play yesterday against New Jersey. They are playing with lots of confidence, they got great goaltender which keeps them in the game. They gave up 40 shots last night and only gave up a goal. We are already challenged a little bit in the goal scoring department so we are going to have to work just that much harder to get past this guy.”

The Sabres goaltender is Ryan Miller who is expected to be the starting net-minder for Team USA in the Vancouver Olympics and is second in the NHL with a 2.06 goals-against average. As Julien said, with the Bruins scoring woes, it will indeed be a challenge. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andrew Ference skates at Ristuccia 01.28.10 at 11:06 am ET
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WILMINGTON — Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, who has been out of the lineup since injuring his groin on January 5 against Ottawa, skated Thursday morning before the full team workout at Ristuccia Arena.

Ference did some light warm-up skating before being run through some shooting drills by the Bruins strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides. The defenseman has played in 42 games for the Bruins this season and has no goals and five assists with 16 penalty minutes and a plus/minus rating of -3. Ference battled injuries in the second half of the 2008-09 season and only played in 47 games for Boston though he did put up career-high offensive numbers with a goal and 15 assists for 16 total points.

The Big Bad Blog will have more news from Thursday’s practice as it comes.

UPDATE — Marco Sturm has come out with the full team and wore a yellow practice sweater and skated on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Byron Bitz. Sturm has not played (though he skated earlier this week) in a game since sustaining an injury on January 14 against San Jose. Veteran forward Mark Recchi is missing, presumably still on his way back from carrying the Olympic torch Wednesday night in his hometown of Kamloops, British Columbia.

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Recchi to carry torch, Bruins look for confidence 01.27.10 at 1:36 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — When the Bruins came out to skate at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday, veteran forward Mark Recchi was conspicuously missing from the ice at Ristuccia Arena. The first thought to come to mind was that coach Claude Julien and the training staff gave Recchi the practice off. Afterall, Recchi is 41-year old wingman has played 1,541 career NHL games and logged a lot of minutes this year, more than Julien figured he would be giving Recchi at the start of the season.

Instead of having an off day though, Recchi had a higher calling — he traveled to his hometown of Kamloops, British Columbia to carry the 2010 Vancouver Olympic torch and light the Olympic cauldron outside the city’s Hillside Stadium on Wednesday evening.

“It is a nice opportunity for him,” Julien said. “I think he has done a lot in his career to deserve that and also in the town where he is going to be running with it.”

Recchi played for Team Canada in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan where the team finished fourth. The torch passes through Kamloops on Day 90 of its tour through Canada and will finish its journey on February 12 in Vancouver to kick-start the 2010 Olympic games.

Leading scorer Marco Sturm did not skate at Wednesday’s practice and it is looking unlikely that he will be available for the games on Friday and Saturday. Other than Recchi and Sturm, the rest of the Bruins skated and had a vigorous practice that was a notch up from the lively skate the team had on Monday.

Miroslav Satan joined the top line in white practice sweaters with Milan Lucic and Mark Savard. 10 games into his Bruins career the tall Slovak has two goals and two assists and six penalty minutes. Satan said that he sees similarities between this Bruins team and the last team he played for — the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

“That is a good example,” Satan said. “It was the same thing. We slipped from the playoff position. At one point I think we were like the 11th spot. Then, all of a sudden things changed quickly and we had a good end to the year and a good end to the playoffs.”

Whereas the Penguins mid-season swoon last year was a product of the team quitting on its coach (who was fired and the team took off after that), Satan does not see it playing out like that this year in Boston.

“I don’t think that is the case here. I think it is more of injuries and mental mistakes that we do in the games,” Satan said. “We, the players, are responsible for it.”

Boston’s real problem right now is that it is stuck in its own head. The team has a lack of confidence which has created a vicious cycle. No confidence means the team has had trouble scoring goals (dead last in the NHL in scoring) and no scoring means the team is losing confidence.

“It is definitely in the head,” Satan said. “It seems like if it is late in a game we make a mistake and that creates another mistake . . . we have to learn to shake that off and know that if we make one it is not the end of the game.”

Patrice Bergeron agreed with the the assessment that part of the reason that the Bruins are having trouble lighting the lamp is because of a lack of confidence.

“It is pretty much about confidence right now,” Bergeron said. “When things are not going your way, the puck is not going your way, it is hitting skates that it is not supposed to. When you lose games like that, you know, confidence is getting away from yourself a little bit but we have to make sure as a team that we bring some emotion back and bring back some hard work. That is the only way we are going to get out it this.”

There are a couple examples of the Bruins getting snake-bitten with pucks off errant skates but the one Bergeron was probably referring to was last Saturday’s game against Ottawa when a goal was disallowed after going off Recchi and Senators goaltender Brian Elliot’s skates. Ottawa forward Jason Spezza ended up scoring the game winner a few minutes later.

Three out of four days into this long practice week, the Bruins are trying to get back into the right mental state of mind.

“We are looking forward to Friday,” Bergeron said. “We have had a good week of practice so far and we have worked hard and we know our game. Keep it simple and working through to get back in the winning column.”

Here is Wednesday’s practice participation by sweater color:

White – Satan, Savard, Lucic.

Grey – Michael Ryder, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler.

Yellow – Byron Bitz, Bergeron, Daniel Paille

Red – Shawn Thornton, Vladimir Sobotka, Trent Whitfield, Steve Begin

Defensemen – Zdeno Chara, Derek Morris, Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman, Matt Hunwick, Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid.

Goaltenders – Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask.

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Bears looking for their bite 01.26.10 at 12:43 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins had a workout day at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday, and the only players to take the ice were those returning from injury — Marc Savard, Byron Bitz and Steve Begin. The three were put through drills by assistant coach Doug Houda that included precision passing and shooting exercises, while the rest of the team went through “dry land” conditioning with meetings that coach Claude Julien said included watching some video.

“We did some other things besides for dry land. You make sure that your days are constructive. We’ve played quite a few games and had a good practice yesterday,” Julien said. “Today was about working in a different direction and kind of build up towards the weekend.”

Part of what has been lacking in the Bruins game during during the month of January has been the physical spark that has spurred previous Bruins teams. Bitz, one of the bigger bodies on the team, was not sure how that aspect of the Bruins game went missing.

“There are a lot of things in our game, including that physical aspect, that we have gotten away from, the staples of what makes us a good team,” Bitz said. “I don’t know why. It is a good question and there is no easy answer. If we knew we would remedy it as quick as we can. It is something we are addressing and we know we have to be better at and we will.”

Part of the lack of physicality has been the lack of the presence of Milan Lucic. The hulking forward has only suited up for 19 games this year and is still looking for his timing in what will be his 10th game back from injury in Buffalo on Friday.

“There is no doubt that when your timing is off, you are getting there a little late or not at all,” Julien said of Lucic. “It is part of his game that you have to be patient with as a coach, because he has hardly played this year. I have said that before, when a guy doesn’t really start the season and comes in halfway though it is a big hurdle to jump over and catch the rest of the players in the league.”

Lucic did pick a fight last Thursday against Columbus forward Jared Boll, but overall, there has not been a lot of bite to these bears of late.

The Bruins need a significant moment soon, or the rest of the season will be lost to the fog in which they currently find themselves. Whether it be a big fight (or series of fights), a big performance or just a night when they break out of their goal-scoring funk and light the lamp with regularity. To this point in the season it has not happened and Bitz said the team might not realize it at the time when (if) it does.

“You know, I guess at the end of the year we will be able to look back and say that ‘Yeah, that game was a defining moment,’ but right now, I guess you never know when that moment is going to come,” Bitz said. “I think you will just have a role and job on the team and I think individually you have to worry about doing that and everything will take care of itself.”

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Bruins hit practice with help on the way 01.25.10 at 2:01 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — A Bruins fan taped a sign to the bleachers at the Bruins practice facility at Ristuccia Arena Monday morning that read: “Success is how high you bounce when you hit rock bottom,” — General George Patton. Monday’s practice was spirited from the get-go, with coach Claude Julien running full ice drills early as he tries to keep his team focused through this extended slump during which time Boston has dropped from the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference to the ninth.

The B’s hope that when they take to the ice for Friday’s game in Buffalo that the team will have a couple of key forwards back in the fold. With three more full practices before then, the Bruins have some housekeeping to take care of as they try to bounce back from this horrendous stretch of losses.

“Today was just things you have to do, things that you have to work on,” defenseman Derek Morris said. “It is going to be a long week of practice. We have to forget about those ones behind us and worry about the ones coming up. Win three, four, five games in a row and we are back up there in fifth moving our way back up. Everybody is kind of counting us out. We are not out yet and we are getting some guys back, we are getting healthy and we just have to worry about the next one.”

Speaking of getting healthy, Marc Savard was slotted into a line with Miroslav Satan and Daniel Paille. It was the first time since he sustained his injury that he has participated in full practice activities with linemates. He is still wearing a brace on his injured knee but says that he does not think about it much.

“It was a good test for it, got a little tired towards the end, but other than that, it felt strong,” Savard said. “Did everything, did the battle drills toward the end, felt good skating, hands felt good. Hopefully this time around I can be more of a presence when I get back.”

Savard said it definitely has been frustrating to watch his teammates and not be able to help out. At the same time, he is making sure that when he does come back that he will be an effective member of the team.

“It seems like when it rains, it pours. It is an old saying, but it seems that is what is happening right now,” Savard said. “Perhaps we just have to get the first goal in a game. We have a good week of preparation this week and we will keep on working until Friday.”

Byron Bitz rejoined practice for the first time since the Bruins came back from their three-game California trip.

“Feel good, full practice today. Stayed out the whole time. Hopefully it keeps progressing,” Bitz said. Bitz now has skated three days in a row and is shooting for Friday as his return date. “Third day in a row now on the ice, [the stamina] is coming back. Only had a week off so you don’t lose too much in that time, and we have three more practices to recover.”

Marco Sturm and Steve Begin, both who have been listed as day-to-day for the last week, did not skate and continue to be on the watch list. Julien does not know when to expect them on the ice and says that he can only go off what the training staff tells him.

“Just to clarify things, we have had players who we were saying were day-to-day, and those guys were day-to-day,” Julien said. “Sometimes day-to-day becomes a week situation. If I had known they would have been out for a week, I would have told you. Right now, Marco is still day-to-day but the hope is that he is going to start skating this week. That is all I can tell you right now.”

Here is the list of participation by sweater color:

Grey — Michael Ryder, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler.

Yellow — Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi, Milan Lucic.

White – Satan, Savard, Paille.

Red — Shawn Thornton (left early), Vladimir Sobotka, Bitz.

Bright Red — Drew Larman, Trent Whitfield.

Defense — Zdeno Chara, Morris, Matt Hunwick, Dennis Wideman, Johnny Boychuck, Mark Stuart, Adam McQuaid.

Goaltenders – Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask.

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Bruins lose another to Senators 01.23.10 at 3:55 pm ET
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Summary — The Senators completed a sweeps week against the Bruins with another victory at TD Garden, 2-1 over in this Saturday’s matinee. Daniel Alfredsson scored Ottawa’s first goal and Jason Spezza had the game winner in the second period. Tim Thomas took his second loss of the week at the hands of the Senators though he played better than Monday when he was pulled from the game in favor or Tuukka Rask.

Daniel Paille scored the Bruins only goal in the second period with a blast from the left wing over Elliot’s glove shoulder to tie the game. The goal was the forward’s seventh of the season.

The Bruins have not won a game in the Garden during the entire month of January (they did when at Fenway) and continue to struggle to score goals without Marc Savard and Marco Sturm. Byron Bitz and Steve Begin also missed the game. None of the four will travel to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes tomorrow night as the Bruins will not have ice time before the game.

Boston is now six points behind Ottawa for second place in the Northeast Division.

Three Stars

Brian Elliott — Ottawa’s goalie was solid in stopping 32 of shots and his team outscored the Bruins 7-2 on the week.

Daniel Alfredsson — In two games this week, Alfredsson has outscored the Bruins 4-2 and been a general menace in the TD Garden. The wingman has six goals and four assists for Ottawa in his last 12 games since coming back from an injury.

Daniel Paille — The wingman skated hard and provided the only spark of offense for the Bruins in another frustrating offensive performance.

Turning Point

For the second game in a row the play hinged not on a goal that was scored, but one that was not. After killing an Ottawa penalty it looked like the Bruins had taken a 2-1 lead late in the second period when Mark Recchi crashed the net and appeared to knock the puck past Brian Elliot. The play was reviewed and determined that Recchi kicked the puck (which ricocheted of Elliot’s skate). About a minute later Spezza scored the go-ahead goal and the Senators did not look back.

Key Play

Jason Spezza was questionable coming into Saturday’s game and the Bruins probably wish that he had delayed his comeback from injury for at least another day. He scored the game winner at 16:39 in the second period and the goal took away any momentum the Bruins had mustered. Spezza was fed in the center of the offensive zone from Alex Kovalev and let out a wily wrist shot that Thomas was able to see and follow, but could not corale.

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Savard Joins Full Practice 01.22.10 at 12:21 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins are working on some power play drills and some from the corner 2-on-1 drills today at Ristuccia as they try to forget Thursday’s painful upset at the hands of the Blue Jackets. Marc Savard is on the ice wearing a red sweater and lightly participating in the session after a solo workout this morning.

“I felt great today,” Savard said. “I was only going to go out for a bit and ended up staying the whole way . . . We haven’t talked about [playing this weekend.] For now it is still next Friday. It is going to be up to the coaching staff and the training staff and how comfortable they are with it. I don’t have any pain and that is a good sign. I have the brace and felt solid out there.”

Other than that, the lines look like they are the same as last night. Marco Sturm, Steve Begin and Byron Bitz are not on the ice and Drew Larman is sticking around with the big club for at least one more day. Defenseman Andrew Ference is also still on the inactive list.

“Just going day-by-day,” Larman said before the Columbus game. “I am looking to bring my best to the ice.”

For those who may not be familiar with Larman, this is how he describes his game: “Strong two-way player, very solid in the defensive zone and reliable. Strong on face offs, strong on the penalty kill, getting in the right lanes, having and active stick, chipping in offensively with the right timing of a goal,” Larman said.

Larman had seven shifts with 5:29 of ice time on Thursday and recorded one shot.

- Here are the lines by sweater color:

Yellow: Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi, Daniel Paille

White: Michael Ryder, Trent Whitfield, Miroslav Satan

Grey: Blake Wheeler, David Krejci, Milan Lucic

Red: Larman, Vladimir Sobotoka, Shawn Thornton, Savard

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Derek Morris, Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman, Matt Hunwick, Johnny Boychuk

Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas are both present and accounted for in the opposing goals.

- The Bruins will wear their Winter Classic sweaters tomorrow for their matinee rematch against Ottawa. This will be the second of four times that Boston will wear the sweaters this year.

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