|Some more prepared than others as Zdeno Chara, Chris Kelly and Patrice Bergeron return||01.09.13 at 2:00 pm ET|
Three of the Bruins’ leaders were back skating with their teammates Wednesday, as captain Zdeno Chara and alternate captains Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly joined eight other B’s on the ice at Agganis Arena after spending the lockout playing in Europe.
All three players spoke highly of their time in Europe, as Chara played for Prague Lev of the KHL and Bergeron and Kelly played in different leagues in Switzerland. Bergeron actually played right wing for HC Lugano of the Swiss-A league, but it wasn’t the strangest experience had by a Bruin in Switzerland. That distinction might go to Kelly, whose first game for HC Red Ice was a little more taxing than he expected.
“I think they thought I had just played in the playoffs and was swinging over there, but I hadn’t played a game in seven months,” Kelly said. “I think I played about 40 minutes that night, so the legs were a little tired. It went into overtime, so it wasn’t like you could kind of pick your shifts to catch your breath.”
Despite the first game catching him a bit off guard, Kelly called his month in Switzerland “a great experience.” Though he returned to North America (he spent the last month or so in Ottawa) in game shape, he was at least a little rusty when it came to packing his hockey bag for Wednesday. He took the ice in Tyler Seguin‘s HC Biel jersey, as he had forgotten socks and a jersey.
“It’s funny when you get used to having a jersey and socks in your stall and then you’ve got to scramble to find a jersey and socks, and asking guys if they brought an extra towel to shower with after,” Kelly said. “It will be nice having a towel at the rink.”
The Bruins had 11 players in Europe at one point or another during the lockout, something that Kelly feels should be an advantage from a preparational standpoint as teams get ready for the 48-game regular season.
“It was never about the money or anything like that or going over there of a vacation,” he said. “I know guys in this locker room extremely well, and if they went over to play, it was to play hard and help that team and play hockey.”
|Maple Leafs replace Brian Burke as president/GM||01.09.13 at 12:45 pm ET|
According to Bob McKenzie of TSN, the Maple Leafs have fired president and general manager Brian Burke and named Dave Nonis general manager. The Providence native was the general manager of the Ducks when they won the Stanley Cup in 2006-07 and was president/GM of the Leafs since 2008. He will reportedly remain with the organization as an advisor.
Burke’s approach to shaping the the Leafs focused heavily on turning assets such as draft picks into NHL-ready players, such as when he sent two first-round draft picks and a second-rounder to the Bruins in exchange for Phil Kessel prior to the 2009-10 season. Though Kessel has been a 30-goal-scorer in each of his three seasons with the Leafs thus far, the trade has been widely viewed as lopsided in the Bruins’ favor, as both first-rounders became top-10 picks that netted Boston highly touted prospects in Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton.
The Maple Leafs have finished no better than fourth in the Northeast Division in each of Burke’s four seasons with the team.
|KHL did not try to keep Zdeno Chara||01.09.13 at 11:48 am ET|
Speaking publicly for the first time since returning from the KHL on Tuesday and amidst speculation that KHL teams were making big financial pushes to keep NHL players from returning to their teams, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said Wednesday that he was not approached about staying in Europe.
“No,” Chara said after skating with teammates at Agganis Arena. “It was pretty clear in my contract that once the NHL is beginning or the deal [for a new CBA] is done, that I’m leaving. It depends on how the guys feel or how they want to decide what to do.”
Ilya Kovalchuk has been the most popular player whose future remains uncertain as the start of the NHL season draws near. Though he’s entering the third year of a 15-year, $100-million contract with the Devils, multiple reports have surfaced citing Devils sources who believe Kovalchuk will stay in the KHL. Islanders defensman Lubomir Visnovsky recently announced his intention to remain with HC Slovan Bratislava for the rest of the season rather than going back to the NHL.
“There’s a lot of speculation, there’s a lot of uncertainty, but we’ll see,” Chara said of NHL players staying in the KHL. “I mean, what can I say? I can’t really make comments for them.”
Since forming in 2008, the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) has become the NHL’s primary competition as hockey leagues go.
“There are some really, really skilled guys there,” Chara said. “Players are very highly skilled as far as skating and handling he puck and making plays. I think it’s less physical, but skating-wise and skill-wise it’s a little bit different.”
|Nathan Horton has been skating, hopes to join Bruins teammates on ice in coming days||01.08.13 at 5:46 pm ET|
According to agent Paul Krepelka, Bruins forward Nathan Horton will return to Boston “in the next few days” with the hope of potentially skating with his teammates prior to training camp.
Horton, who has seen each of his last two seasons end early due to concussions and was limited to 46 games in the season, was cleared for contact over the summer and has been skating in Florida. He decided in September that he would not play competitively during the lockout.
“He is healthy and ready to start the season,” Krepelka reiterated in an email to WEEI.com.
Bruins players have been holding private practices with other local NHLers, with Shawn Thornton, Andrew Ference, Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid, Gregory Campbell, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Tuukka Rask the regulars of late. Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk, both of whom returned from Europe recently, joined their teammates on Tuesday.
|Report: Schedule to include 18 divisional games||01.08.13 at 4:47 pm ET|
According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the NHL’s 48-game schedule will see teams play two divisional opponents four times (eight games total), two other divisional opponents five times (10) and three games against each of the remaining teams in their conference (30). All games will be played within the respective team’s conference.
In 82-game seasons, each team plays six games against each of their divisional opponents (24), the remaining 10 other teams in the conference four times each (40) and 18 games against teams in the other conference.
|Report: NHL camps to open Sunday||01.08.13 at 3:03 pm ET|
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Chris Johnson of the The Canadian Press Tuesday that training camps are expected to open on Sunday.
The Sunday start to camps would mark one week since the NHL and NHL Players’ Association agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement. The CBA still needs to be ratified by the board of governors, a process that is expected to last from Wednesday until Saturday.
|Johnny Boychuk ‘ready to go right now’||01.08.13 at 2:49 pm ET|
If you see Johnny Boychuk around town and want to call a toast to hockey being back, order anything but Red Bull.
The Bruins’ defenseman, who is back in town after spending the lockout overseas, couldn’t escape the stuff while playing for EC Red Bull Salzburg of the Austrian Hockey League. Rather than a refrigerator of bottled water, gatorade and other sports drinks, the dressing room over there offered one drink. Guess what it was?
Fortunately, the tap water was good to drink and it didn’t prove to be anything more than a minor inconvenience for the Bruins’ defenseman. After his first practice back with teammates on Tuesday, Boychuk spoke highly of his European experience.
“It was kind of like I wanted to go and play somewhere and get into actual game shape, and work hard while I was there,” Boychuk said. “I heard you have to work really hard, so it was good. We rode the bike a lot and you got in shape really quick there. That was a key part of going there, was getting into competitive hockey, too.”
As was the case with fellow Bruins blueliner Dennis Seidenberg in Germany, Boychuk played on a team that rotated its defensemen more heavily, meaning the games didn’t end up being as taxing as they figure to be in the upcoming NHL season.
“We rotated a lot,” he said. “Everybody played around the same minutes, but at least you got to play quite a bit.”
Even with less minutes, the offensive numbers were good for Boychuk — two goals and six assists in 15 games — so is he becoming the puck-moving defenseman for which the Bruins have been searching for years?
Not exactly. Boychuk called the numbers “decent” but attributed them to his team’s style of play.
“It was a little bit different,” he said. “The coach wanted us to jump up in the play more and it helped up a lot.”
For what it’s worth, Boychuk appeared to pinch more often early last season than he had in the past, so maybe his lockout performance was a combination of weaker competition, being more offensively involved and simply improving. After all, this will Boychuk’s fourth full NHL season (using “full,” liberally, as he played in only 51 games in 2009-10), so he still feels he has improvements to make.
“Now I just want to step my game up a little bit more every year and play well defensively and when there’s a chance to jump up there offensively I will,” he said.
With camps opening soon, Boychuk thinks he got everything out of playing in Austria that he wanted. He’s sharp, and he’s in shape.
“I’m ready,” he said. “I’m ready to go right now, so it’s a perfect situation for me because you had to go there and work hard. Now that the season’s starting I’m glad I went there because it was a good experience and you really had to work hard to stay in shape there.”