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KHL did not try to keep Zdeno Chara 01.09.13 at 11:48 am ET
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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.”

Other new additions to Wednesday’s session at BU were alternate captains Chris Kelly and Patrice Bergeron.

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Nathan Horton has been skating, hopes to join Bruins teammates on ice in coming days 01.08.13 at 5:46 pm ET
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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.

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Report: Schedule to include 18 divisional games 01.08.13 at 4:47 pm ET
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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
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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
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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.”

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Dennis Seidenberg back from Germany after family-filled lockout 01.08.13 at 2:26 pm ET
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Dennis Seidenberg had a great time reuniting with his brother, Yannick, in Germany during the lockout. He’s just surprised he had to spend so much time there.

“It was nice to play with him for the last three months — longer than I expected — but it was a good time and a good experience being back with him on one team,” Seidenberg said Tuesday after joining a group of his teammates at Agganis Arena. “It was fun.”

Seidenberg, who arrived in Boston on Monday afternoon, played for the Mannheim Eagles of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. Seidenberg’s younger brother, Yannick, has played for the Eagles since 2009-10 (all but 67 games of the 28-year-old’s 12-year career has been played in the DEL), while the Bruins’ defenseman spent parts of three seasons playing for the Eagles before coming to the NHL.

In 26 games for the Eagles during the lockout, Seidenberg had two goals and 18 assists for 20 points and a plus-15 rating. He didn’t play the heavy minutes he’s been accustomed to logging for the Bruins — Seidenberg averaged 24:02 of ice time per game last season — but he thinks that will be a good thing when the B’s really need him during the season.

“It started out slow. I wasn’t even on the power play for the first few games,” he said with a laugh before adding, “I’m not saying I’m an offensive player, but they [rotated] through six, seven, sometimes eight guys. It was good. You got your shifts in, you got your ice time, but you never really tired yourself out too much.”

Seidenberg said he was “crazy” as he sat in front of his laptop throughout the lockout awaiting its end. He was in town in November and was hoping he would only have to practice in Germany a couple more times before returning for good. That obviously didn’t happen, but the biggest letdown was when talks blew up between the two sides last month after player/owner-only meetings that had brought about an optimistic vibe.

“Like everyone else, in the middle of December, when they had the stretch of talks, a lot of guys thought to get ready, but that was a false alarm again,” Seidenberg said. “‘€¦ They finally worked it out and I think everyone’s excited.”

Though Yannick was sad to see him go, Dennis is obviously glad to be back in Boston. The 31-year-old didn’t like the lockout, but he’s happy with the experience he got out of it.

“I hadn’t been home [for an extended period] for seven years,” Seidenberg said. “Just being able to enjoy hanging out with people I hadn’t hung out with for a long time and playing for the team I started with was a good time.”

Now his attention is on the upcoming season. Seidenberg is happy he’s in shape, but even happier he’s in Boston and days away from competing in what should be a hectic season.

“I just drove by [TD Garden] this morning and I got a real good feeling in me when I passed the Garden, just imagining going back out on the ice in front of the fans and being able to play here again,” Seidenberg said. “I think everybody feels the same way and is excited to get going.”

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Milan Lucic: ‘I’ve never had a problem with my conditioning’ 01.07.13 at 3:03 pm ET
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There were enough questions throughout the NHL lockout, but now that it’s been resolved, puck-heads are asking another: Are these guys in shape?

Players have had the last three months to spend however they wanted. Some played in Europe or the AHL, while many who couldn’t find work elsewhere stayed local. Milan Lucic, who got married over the summer, didn’t play anywhere during the lockout but did make appearances at practices organized by teammates, including Monday at Agganis Arena. There have been some murmurs about the power forward’s conditioning during the lockout, and Lucic does appear to have a little more to him these days.

Asked about his “aerobic health,” Lucic said that he won’t know exactly how prepared he is for games until he actually has to play in them. He noted the first day of training camp is always difficult for players, even if they’ve been skating every day.

“We’ll see,” Lucic said. “You’re never really in game shape until you’re playing games. For myself, I try to keep myself in shape, but we still have two weeks here of skating. I’ve never had a problem with my conditioning at any level, so I’ll be ready.”

Lucic said that he has stayed the same weight-wise. He was listed last season as being 228 pounds. With games less than two weeks away, he’s confident that he’ll be ready to go once the puck is dropped for the season.

“That cardio aspect of being in game-shape ‘€¦ I think I heard [Steven] Stamkos on TSN yesterday say that you’re never really in game-shape unless you’re playing in games,” Lucic said. “We all feel the same way when it comes to that.”

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