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Why can’t the Bruins beat the Hurricanes? 02.01.12 at 4:22 pm ET
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They say that in order to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. The Bruins’ problem this season is that they can’t beat the worst.

The Hurricanes will enter the Garden Thursday night with just 45 points on the season, which puts them dead last in the Eastern Conference, but they’ll also come in having won all three previous meetings against the Bruins this season.

For one reason or another, the Hurricanes have given the Bruins, who are a point out of first place in the conference, fits. Whether it was on Oct. 18, when Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic lost their cool on Tim Gleason late in the third period, or in their last meeting, when the B’s blew a third-period lead and saw Carolina score three unanswered goals, the Bruins simply haven’t been up to the challenge against perhaps the least challenging opponent in the East.

“To be honest, I don’t think we’ve played well against them,” Gregory Campbell said after Wednesday’s practice. “That’s no discredit to them. The first two losses came within a week, and that was probably when we were playing some of our poorest hockey of the season. I thought the last time we were in there, they played an awesome game. They were hard on us, and we weren’t prepared for that. We weren’t prepared to skate, and they were all over us. They basically smothered us, and they deserved to win that game.”

If there’s been one certainty with the Bruins this season, it’s been their dominant third-period play. They have a plus-66 goal differential in the third period this season, but the Hurricanes have even beaten them there. Only three Bruins opponents have outscored them in the third period this season: the Avalanche (who scored their only goal of the game in teams’ lone meeting), the Canadiens (who have scored four goals against the B’s in the third compared to Boston’s three) and the Hurricanes. Of those teams, the Hurricanes have the best third-period differential against the Bruins, as they’ve outscored Boston, 7-4, in the third period when the teams have met this season.

The Hurricanes recently locked up Gleason with a four-year, $16 million deal, meaning perhaps the best defensive option for the trade deadline has been taken off the market. It also means the Hurricanes will remain equipped to continue to bring it to the B’s as they continue to face them.

But for the Bruins and their struggles against the Hurricanes, they aren’t thinking about the opponent. They’re focused on the way they’ve played the opponent, and it hasn’t been up to par.

“I think it’s not really about us focusing on what they’re doing to beat us,” Campbell said. “It’s more so us focusing on brining our game and seeing what that presents.”

If the Bruins can win, perhaps they can use it as a springboard to get them back to where they were prior to their current stretch of sloppy play. The B’s are 4-3-1 in their last eight games, and failed to show up in the first 40 minutes before beating the Senators Tuesday with a third-period comeback.

“Things have slipped. It’s no secret in here,” Campbell said. “Claude [Julien] has been realistic with us. We’re not playing up to the potential we’re capable of. They’ve done their job. Our job as players is to get back to that, and it’s no secret. We just have to play our game like we did in November and December, and that’s a formula that brings success for us.”

Between their previous inability to beat the conference’s worst team and a desire to get back to the level of play they found during their 21-3-1 stretch, a lot of things can change for the Bruins Thursday night.

Said Campbell: “Good teams find a way to be consistent. That’s our issue right now.”

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Adam McQuaid missing from Bruins practice 02.01.12 at 11:59 am ET
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WILMINGTON — Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid was not on the ice as the team returned to practice Wednesday at Ristuccia Arena.

McQuaid played 14:39 in Tuesday’s 4-3 win over the Senators Tuesday, but suffered a lower-body injury after catching a rut late in the third period.

Coach Claude Julien said that McQuaid came back to the bench “a little shaken up” after the play. The team hopes McQuaid can return to the ice Thursday against the Hurricanes, but it seems the defenseman’s status is up in the air.

“He got injured last night, so we just felt that it was better to keep him off the ice today,” Julien said after Wednesday’s practice. “We’ll reevaluate his situation tomorrow morning.”

The Bruins will be getting defenseman Andrew Ference back from a three-game suspension Thursday, so in the event that McQuaid is unable to go, the B’s would not need to call a defenseman up from Providence. In 42 games this season, the 25-year-old blueliner has two goals and five assists for seven points and a plus-16 rating.

Nathan Horton (concussion) was the only other player missing from practice.

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Bruins wake up late, win in third period again 01.31.12 at 9:32 pm ET
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The Bruins returned from the All-Star break two periods late Tuesday night, but by the time they awoke, they were back to their old ways and defeated the Senators, 4-3, with a dominant third period.

The B’s came back from a 3-2 deficit in the third period, with Dennis Seidenberg scoring the unlikely game-winner with a slapshot from center ice that beat Senators goaltender Craig Anderson. The win improved the B’s to 6-8-1 when trailing after the second period.

The Bruins took the lead in the first period on a power play goal from Zdeno Chara. Colin Greening tied the game late in the first thanks to a nice pass from Milan Michalek. The Senators then dominated the B’s in the second period, getting goals from Kyle Turris and Erik Karlsson before Milan Lucic brought Boston within one with 45 seconds left to play in the period.

In a fashion that’s been somewhat typical this season, the Bruins won the game in the third period. Brad Marchand‘s hard work in front paid off in the form of the game-tying goal. Seidenberg gave them lead less than five minutes later.

Tim Thomas got the start in net for the Bruins, manning the pipes in Boston for the first time since blowing off last Monday’s trip to the White House. The reigning Vezina and Conn Smythe winner was given a loud ovation from the fans on hand at TD Garden.

The Bruins will return to action Thursday when they host the Hurricanes at TD Garden.


– Chara’s first-period power-play goal was the captain’s first tally in 17 games, as his last goal came way back on Dec. 17 in the Bruins’ 6-0 win over the Flyers. The goal featured some nice work in front screening by Milan Lucic, who on Monday said that the hardest shot contest serves as an annual reminder that he’s pretty crazy to stand in front of that shot each time the B’s go on the power play.

– Great persistence from the Little Ball of Nicknames on Marchand’s goal to tie the game in the third period. After Joe Corvo put the puck on net from the point, Marchand out battled Chris Phillips in front of the net with Anderson sprawled out and tied the game with his 18th goal of the season.

– Good to see Corvo with a two-point night for the Bruins. If there were to be one spot the B’s might need to upgrade it would be Corvo’s after his disappointing showing thus far with the B’s, but his second half got off to a much better start.

– Seidenberg has a knack for scoring goals from center ice. The German defenseman also picked up a goal from the red line last season when he faked a dump-in on Lightning goaltender Mike Smith and put the puck on net.

Tuesday’s goal was a case of horrifically weak stuff from Anderson, as unlike Smith, Anderson hadn’t left his net and saw the puck as it went past him and in.


– In allowing three goals, the Bruins extended their season-long streak of games with three or more goals allowed to four games. Prior to the last four games, the Bruins’ longest such stretch was two games.

The team has sloppy play to credit to the development, and the fact that Thomas wasn’t at his best Tuesday didn’t help.

– The B’s took the second period off, though they were fortunate to get a goal in the final minute from Lucic. Ottawa outshot the B’s, 13-5, in the second period, and the Bruins went a long stretch without hitting the net after Steven Kampfer’s shot from the point about four minutes in. Teams talk about wanting to put together 60-minute efforts, and the Bruins failed to do that Tuesday.

– It was Tyler Seguin‘s birthday, but he and hits line played like they had a birthday party to get to. Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Marchand seemed out of sync as a unit, as Seguin’s pass to Marchand on a second-period 2-on-1 was well ahead of his line-mate. Marchand made up for his line’s uncharacteristic play with his game-tying goal.

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Bruins-Senators Live Blog: Dennis Seidenberg gives Bruins lead 01.31.12 at 7:08 pm ET
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Bruins-Senators Live Blog

Shawn Thornton: Senators ‘not sneaking up on anyone anymore’ 01.31.12 at 12:38 pm ET
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The standings are deceiving. The Bruins are running away with the Northeast division.

While the Senators (27-19-6, 60 points) currently sit just four points behind the B’s (31-14-2, 65 points), Ottawa has played 52 games this season to Boston’s 47. That means the time to worry about losing the division won’t be coming soon, but it doesn’t mean the Bruins shouldn’t be mindful of the only other team in their division that’s currently in line for a playoff spot.

The Senators should enter Tuesday night’s game with a full head of steam. No, they haven’t played well of late (see below), but they should be on a hockey high after hosting the All-Star game this weekend. They weren’t expected to compete as well as they have this season, but they’ve certainly gotten the Bruins’ attention.

“[They’re] a hard-working team that’s pretty well coached with a goalie that’s fairly hot this year,” Shawn Thornton said following the Bruins’ morning skate. “I played with him in the minors, and when he’s on, he’s on. They’re definitely not sneaking up on anybody anymore. ‘€¦ It will be a good game for us coming out of the break.”

While Thornton is right in saying the Senators have registered on Boston’s radar, he may have been a little generous with his praise of goaltender Craig Anderson. One thing that has remained constant this season has been the Senators’ porous work in their own end. Ottawa is 27th in goals against with an average of three goals allowed per game, and though Anderson has been a workhorse for them (he has started 19 consecutive games and will be between the pipes for his 20th straight on Tuesday), he is currently rocking a 2.90 goals-against average, which is 37th in the league.

Though the Senators might be coming into Boston on a high following the weekend’s festivities, they, like the Bruins, are looking to make up for a rough stretch prior to the break. While the Bruins went 3-3-1 over their last seven games, the Senators went 3-4-0, including dropping three straight games on the west coast going into the break.

Still, if the Bruins don’t wake up from their pre-break slumber, they’ll have trouble on their hands Tuesday night. Jason Spezza has 50 points on the season (20 goals, 30 assists), while 21-year-old defenseman Erik Karlsson has 47 points (tops among NHL blueliners). The Senators average 2.9 goals per game, which is eighth in the league.

“They’re a really good team,” Brad Marchand said of Ottawa. “They have a lot of skill over there, and a lot of young guys who are working really hard. Those are always tough teams to play against, and they’re playing really good hockey right now.”

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Bruins hope to shake sloppy play as they return from All-Star break 01.30.12 at 9:04 pm ET
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The Bruins are ready to jump back into their busy schedule, and they’re hoping that they’ll look more ready for their games than they did prior to the break.

The B’s were red-hot in November and December, but they limped into the All-Star break with uncharacteristically sloppy games, and a seven game stretch that saw them go 3-3-1. in their last three games prior to the break, the Bruins allowed three or more goals in three straight contests for the first time this season.

Now that the break is over, the Bruins are embracing the fresh start that comes with diving back into game action, and they’re hoping that whatever was plaguing them in past weeks is gone.

“It’s almost a blessing in disguise that we got to shut it off and reload and refocus after a couple crazy games and uncharacteristic games,” Milan Lucic said Monday. “That’s probably the best way to describe it. We’re aware of what we need to get back to doing well.

“The feeling for me coming off this break is that I wanted to get back and be around the boys and start playing again. Hopefully everyone else has got that same feeling, and that’s what’s going to help us be at our best.”

The B’s will be without both Andrew Ference (serving the last game of his three-game suspension) and Nathan Horton (concussion) Tuesday against the Senators, but that doesn’t mean they can’t come out with a better effort Tuesday. The B’s may have peaked in November, but that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of returning to the level of play that saw them go on a 21-2-1 earlier in the season.

“We enjoy winning, and we enjoy playing the way we were in November and the early part of December,” Brad Marchand said. “It’s a little frustrating when you’re not playing your best, and you know you can be better, but that’s how hockey goes. You’re not going to be your best every night. We know that.

“There’s always ups and downs during the season. The thing that you have to be bale to do is make sure you don’t get too high and don’t get too low, and hopefully we’ll be able to bounce back here.”

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Patrice Bergeron spent his break skating on ponds in Lake Placid 01.30.12 at 5:03 pm ET
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The Bruins admitted the All-Star break provided some needed time off. Brad Marchand went to Disney World and said he tried not to think about hockey. Milan Lucic took his talents to South Beach.

Then there was Patrice Bergeron, a player many would consider an All-Star snub. Bergeron, who is tied for the team lead with 43 points this season, decided to go somewhere rich in hockey history and, as of last season, Bruins history.

“I actually went to Lake Placid, and just relaxed over there,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”

The average person will tell you that Lake Placid is where 1980’s Miracle on Ice occurred, when USA Men’s hockey defied the odds and won the gold in the Olympics.

But for the Bruins, Lake Placid is where the team went between Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals vs. the Canadiens last season. The B’s bolted out of Montreal between the two games to find some peace and quiet as they tried to mount their comeback in a series they had trailed, 2-0. It was there that David Krejci played “Don’t Stop Believing” on a jukebox (by accident, he later claimed), and when the Bruins returned to Montreal after two days in Lake Placid, they evened the series thanks to heroics from Michael Ryder, and went on to win in seven games. The rest, as they say, is history.

Bergeron brought his skates along with him for his mini-vacation, but he didn’t step foot inside Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Facilities Center. The trip was about soaking up all that the city had to offer, so Bergeron took to a pond to do his skating.

The locals and children skating on the pond had no idea they were sharing the ice with a Stanley Cup champion and Gold Medal Olympic hockey player. Nobody spotted the Stanley Cup champion out on the ice, so Bergeron embraced the free skate with locals and kids from nearby. The B’s alternate captain has never been the type to beg for attention, so it proved to be the perfect vacation.

“I wouldn’t mind getting recognized, but I like just going about my business and just doing my stuff and having fun and relaxing,” he said. “It was great. People were real nice, real friendly. It was great.”

Bergeron got some pointers on what to do from trainer Don DelNegro, who lives there in the summer. Relaxation was the name of the game for Bergeron, who leads Bruins forwards in time on ice with his average of 18:35 minutes a game. While he got the biggest thing he had hoped for — rest — out of the trip, he admitted he’ll always have memories when he goes to Lake Placid.

“It is special,” Bergeron said. “Obviously, not as special as for Americans, but in some way it was special for us last year, just to come down there for two days in between the games in Montreal. It seemed like it helped us to stay focused. It was nice, but it was nice for me to enjoy what’s going on down there, just relax with the nature and all that. It was great.”

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