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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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Andrew Ference thinks the NHLPA has come a long way 01.07.13 at 2:06 pm ET
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Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, who was present for the negotiations that led to the NHL and NHLPA’s new collective bargaining agreement, had a few interesting things to say over the course of the day Monday regarding how far the NHLPA has come as a union.

Making an appearance with Dennis & Callahan, Ference called hiring Donald Fehr to replace Paul Kelly “the smartest thing we’ve ever done,” but added, “Obviously I’m biased because I helped get rid of [Kelly].” Kelly was fired in 2009 amidst chatter that his play-at-all-costs line of thinking would hurt the players in CBA negotiations.

Then, following Monday’s informal skate at Agganis Arena, Ference was asked whether he felt Kelly would have gotten the players the same deal that Fehr did this weekend.

“No,” Ference said, straight-faced. “We’d be playing, I’m sure. I’m sure we wouldn’t have missed as much hockey and the league would have been salivating. That’s the blunt answer.”

Ference called Fehr “essential” and the “foundation of our entire union.” He said that Fehr’s presence as executive director strengthened the union where he felt it was weaker in the past, including the 2004-05 lockout (which had Bob Goodenow as the NHLPA executive director).

“Across the whole league, one of the most impressive things when you talked to guys was that it wasn’t just about keeping guys quiet — people actually believed in what we were doing,” Ference said. “That’s probably the biggest change from the last lockout, or even years past in the union. You could publicly have guys on the same page, but behind closed doors you might have different opinions. This time around, it was an extremely unified group that believed in what we were doing, and that starts from the top down.”

Bruins gear up for training camp 01.07.13 at 1:18 pm ET
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With training camp a matter of days away, a group of Bruins players had some pep in their collective step at an informal practice Monday at Agganis Arena.

Present for the skate was Andrew Ference, Tyler Seguin, Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid and Gregory Campbell in addition to a group of local NHLers. McQuaid is still getting his strength back as he recovers from blood clot surgery, but he was taking wrist shots and slapshots Monday.

Seguin said after the skate that “words can’t describe” how much he’s missed the NHL.

“Just from hanging out with the guys, seeing everyone and obviously the game,” he added. “It’s been a long couple months.”

The third-year NHLer said that while he spent plenty of time during the lockout when it was going to be resolved, he also kept the fans in mind.

“I felt sorry [for them],” Seguin said. “I mean, I want to apologize for everything that happened, but hopefully we can move forward from here. Obviously we’re going to play our hearts out the next 48 games and play for the fans out there.”

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