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Tuukka Rask gets first start since Dec. 15 as Bruins take on Sabres 01.01.11 at 3:01 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask will get his first start since Dec. 15th when the Bruins (20-11-5) take on the Sabres (15-18-4) in a New Years Day matchup at HSBC Arena.

Rask, who is 2-7-1 this season, hasn’t been able to rack up the starts given Tim Thomas‘ success (1.74 goals against average, .947 save percentage), though that Dec. 15 start did come against the Sabres, a 3-2 loss.

WHERE IT’S AT

It's been over two weeks since Tuukka Rask has played. (AP)

- The Sabres are 8-10-1 at home and have had just two games at HSBC since hosting the Bruins last month. In those games they defeated the Ducks and fell to the Panthers.

- The B’s are 11-5-2 in away games, most recently falling to the Thrashers Thursday in a shootout. They have been very successful so far on their current road trip, grabbing five of a possible six points. Buffalo is the second-to-last stop on the five-game road trip, as they will wrap it up Monday in Tortonto.

NOTABLE NUMBERS

- Just one point — an assist Tuesday — for Nathan Horton over his last eight games. The top line of Lucic-Savard-Horton isn’t showing up the stat sheet much, but they had a very encouraging showing against the Thrashers.

- David Krejci has four points — one goal and three assists — against the Sabres this season. Michael Ryder has a pair of goals and an assist vs. Buffalo. The two, along with Blake Wheeler, have made up the Bruins’ best line of late. Given their individual success against the Sabres thus far, it will be interesting how they perform together, something they’ve done very well.

- Though Ryan Miller made 29 saves on 31 shots in Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Oilers, he hasn’t been tearing it up of late. In his two previous starts, he allowed four and five goals to the Panthers and Flames, respectively. Miller is 13-12-3 on the season with a 2.62 goals against average and .911 save percentage.

STORYLINES GOING IN

- The new year has come and Rask is unbelievably making just his 10th start of the season (he played one his previous nine in relief of Thomas and took the loss vs. Washington, thus explaining his 10 decisions). Thomas had seven straight starts following the team’s 3-2 loss to the Sabres with Rask in net, the longest streak for any Bruins goaltender this season.

Rask has not gotten back-to-back starts all season. With Thomas clearly this team’s No. 1 goaltender, it will be interesting to see if a sound performance on Saturday gets the Finnish netminder another go on Monday vs. the Maple Leafs, who have lost five of their last six.

- The Sabres lost center Derek Roy during their 4-3 loss to the Panthers last Thursday. Roy took a hit from Panthers blueliner Dmitry Kulikov early in the game and is now done for the season with a torn quad tendon. In the Sabres’ two games since losing Roy, who was leading the team in both goals (13) and assists (25), Buffalo has lost to Calgary and defeated Edmonton.

Read More: David Krejci, Michael Ryder, Nathan Horton, Tuukka Rask Print  |  Email   | Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Bruins fall to Thrashers in shootout 12.30.10 at 9:46 pm ET
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On Nov. 28, the Thrashers embarrassed the Bruins. On Dec. 23, the Bruins embarrassed the Thrashers. Thursday night, they simply played a good game that ended in a 3-2 shootout victory for the Thrashers.

Tim Stapleton beat Tim Thomas with a snapshot to open the shootout, and Bryan Little scored five-hole to seal it for Atlanta. Tyler Seguin and Blake Wheeler failed to convert on their opportunities.

Thrashers defenseman Tobias Enstrom scored on the power play in each of the first two periods, while Patrice Bergeron and Blake Wheeler scored for the Bruins in the first and second periods, respectively.

The Bruins have now picked up points in four straight games dating back to last week’s 4-1 victory over the Thrashers. They are now 2-0-1 on their current five-game road trip. They will face the Sabres in Buffalo

Tim Thomas is now 18-4-4 on the season.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

- From a statistical standpoint, there still isn’t much from Nathan Horton. He — along with his linemates — played a much-improved game Thursday, but it marked the 13th game this season that Horton has had one shot or zero shots on goal. His lone shot came on a fairly strong shift he had with the Bruins on the power play in the third period.

Milan Lucic’s streak of games without a point is now at six games.

- The Thrashers had scored on just three of their last 37 power plays entering Thursday night’s game, but were able to capitalize twice with the man advantage on a pair of goals from Enstrom.

- Dustin Byfuglien showing up on the scoring sheet in a game against the Bruins should come as a surprise at this point. His first-period assist on Enstom’s first tally was his sixth point against the B’s this season. He’s done more damage vs. the B’s this season than he has against any other club.

Daniel Paille did a nice job of limiting what the Thrashers’ blueliner could do against the B’s when he brought started a scuffle that landed both players in the box for roughing in the second period. The Bruins win out in that exchange every time.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

- Even before he scored in the second period, it was quite apparent that Wheeler was one of the better players on the ice. He led the Bruins in shots on goal in the first period with three and went on to tie his season high of five.

Though linemate Michael Ryder’s three-game point streak came to an end, he gave yet another standout effort. The Wheeler – Krejci – Ryder line was once again sound in creating opportunities for the Bruins offensively.

- The Bruins were on a mission in the third period. They drew a pair of penalties (both of which were tripping calls on Thrashers center Jim Slater) while committing none and outshot the Thrashers, 18-7.

- Johnny Boychuk was the lone Bruins player to post a plus-2 in regulation. A nice way to follow up his minus-1 Tuesday.

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Bruins, Thrashers tied entering third period 12.30.10 at 8:40 pm ET
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Blake Wheeler and Tobias Enstrom scored in the second period, and the Bruins and Thrashers enter the third period tied at two goals apiece.

Wheeler took a nice pass from David Krejci and beat Pavalec for his ninth goal of the season just 55 seconds into the period. Another game, another big case of production from that line. Wheeler has tied his season high with five shots on net through two periods.

Enstrom beat Tim Thomas five-hole for a power play goal — sound familiar? It was the second such occurrence for the Thrashers’ blueliner, as he did the same to open the scoring in the firs period.

Daniel Paille, meanwhile, did something Bruins fans likely appreciated when he went after Dustin Byfuglien in front of the Thrashers’ net. Byfuglien caught Paille with an elbow at the end of a play and the fourth-line fill-i exchanged words and shoves with the Thrashers D man and Bruins killer. Both went off for roughing with 8:28 remaining in the period.

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Gregory Campbell out vs. Thrashers 12.30.10 at 6:40 pm ET
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Bruins center Gregory Campbell was not on the ice during warmups prior to Thursday nights’ tilt against the Thrashers, as he is reportedly under the whether. With Campbell out, Tyler Seguin will center the fourth line, with Brad Marchand jumping to Seguin’s spot on the second line and Daniel Paille taking Marchand’s place on the fourth line. Here is how the lines will look after the changes:

Lucic – Savard – Horton

Marchand – Bergeron – Recchi

Wheeler – Krejci- Ryder

Paille – Seguin- Thornton

Read More: Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Tyler Seguin, Print  |  Email   | Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Claude Julien not ready to ‘blow up’ Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, Nathan Horton line 12.30.10 at 3:51 pm ET
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As the Bruins prepare to take on the Thrashers at Philips Arena, they do so with two lines producing: the Blake WheelerDavid Krejci - Michael Ryder line and the energy line of Brad Marchand, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton. With Campbell reportedly under the weather and considered a game-time decision, they may not even have that. All the more reason for the team’s top line to get going.

Since the post-Rancournament line shakeup (PRLS), the line of Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, and Nathan Horton has produced zilch. Savard and Horton picked up assists on Steven Kampfer‘s goal Tuesday night, but they did so when they were out there for the power play (the penalty expired seconds before the goal was scored). In the third period, Savard and Horton were shown the bench for a stretch of over seven minutes, and Horton finished the contest with a season-low 11:36.

Claude Julien told reporters that in trying to motivate a guy like Horton, you’ve got to know the player’s personality and find a means of motivation that works with that. He’s shown the players on the top line video and used other tactics. With many waiting on the trio to take the form many were excited about following the Horton trade, Julien also implied that patience could pay off.

“They’ve been together for three games. You have the choice of either working with them and trying to get that line going, because you know what the potential is, or you blow it up,” Julien said. “I don’t think we’re ready to blow it up right this second. Were going to try to work with these guys and hopefully get them going, because if they do, they’re going to be a dangerous trio.”

——

Tim Thomas was reportedly first off the ice in the morning skate, so in the most unsurprising news of the day, he’ll be in net. Quick: when was the last time Tuukka Rask started a game? If you said the Buffalo game 15 days ago, you have a good memory.

Read More: Marc Savard, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Print  |  Email   | Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Bruins looking for fourth straight win as they take on Thrashers 12.30.10 at 7:00 am ET
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Last Thursday, the Bruins grabbed their most monumental victory of the season when they beat (and beat up) the Thrashers, 4-1, at TD Garden. While the B’s (20-11-4) have won their two games since then, the Thrashers (19-14-6) stumbled, dropping both of their post-Christmas contests.

The tables have turned a bit, and now it’s the Thrashers looking to re-establish momentum as they host the B’s Thursday night at Philips Arena.

WHERE IT’S AT

Dustin Byfuglien has more points against the Bruins than against any other team this season. (AP)

- The Thrashers are 10-7-3 in Atlanta this season, but are 1-2-2 in their last five home games. In their most recent home contest, they fell to the Lightning, 3-2, in a shootout.

- The Bruins have been a very good road team all season, as their 11-5-1 record away from the Garden (excluding the first Prague “home” game) would suggest. Thursday night marks the third game of their current five-game road trip. They are looking to make it three in a row on the road (four in a row overall).

NOTABLE NUMBERS

- The Bruins have to Dustin Byfuglien‘s opponent of choice. In two games vs. the B’s this season, the former Blackhawk has two goals and three assists, both of which are the most he has against any club. He’s also had five points in his last five games. To say the Bruins need to keep an eye on him is an understatement.

- Michael Ryder is riding a three-game point streak that has featured a pair of goals and a pair of assists. His line with David Krejci and Blake Wheeler has unquestionably been the Bruins’ best PRLS (post-Rancournament line shuffle — think it won’t catch on?) and he’s picked up an assist in both games vs. the Thrashers this season.

- One. That’s how many goals the Bruins have won each of their two games this week. They’ve been cutting it close, but you get two points no matter how you win. Perhaps they’ll be a bit more offensively potent when the top two lines hit their stride.

STORYLINES GOING IN

- The Bruins’ loss to the Thrashers last month was an ugly one, but it was also a rare occurrence. The B’s have won 11 of their last 12 against Atlanta.

- Last week it was about the Bruins making a statement as a team. This time the city is awaiting a statement from an individual in the form of one Nathan Horton. The 25-year-old is freezing cold, as he hasn’t scored in seven games and was one of three Bruins forwards benched for a large chunk of the third period Tuesday night in Tampa. Horton didn’t register a shot on goal, marking the 12th game he’s had either one or zero shots on net this season.

The problem with Horton is that he let the cat out of the bag from the get-go in the preseason: He can be physical, and he can be the best player on the ice. That’s why nobody’s ridiculing Peter Chiarelli for trading for him. Everybody knows how good he is, but he needs to give reminders far more frequently.

- It will be Tim Thomas between the pipes for a seventh straight game. He allowed one goal on 27 shots last Thursday vs. Atlanta, while the Thrashers put four past Tuukka Rask last month on 26 shots. Thomas has won his last five vs. Atlanta.

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Shots, as far as the eye can see 12.29.10 at 5:34 pm ET
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Nathan Horton‘s been a popular guy lately for all the wrong reasons, as Tuesday’s no-show was the latest example of a contest that, if made into a movie, would not have a part for the winger.

Matt Kalman had an interesting post at the Bruins Blog today pointing out that Horton has had one shot or less in 12 games this season. I was astonished last night when seeing that he’s actually third on the team in shots despite how frequent these duds seem to come. With that in mind, here’s a quick breakdown of each line and its players shots on goal. Of course, the lines are listed just for organization’s sake, as the current lines have only existed for three games this season.

Milan Lucic (77) – Marc Savard (21) – Nathan Horton (81)

Mark Recchi (59) – Patrice Bergeron (81) – Tyler Seguin* (59)

Blake Wheeler (62) – David Krejci^ (68) – Michael Ryder (75)

Brad Marchand^ (55) – Gregory Campbell (40) – Shawn Thornton (77)

* Savard has played in 12 games,
** Seguin has played in 33 games.
^ Krejci has played in 28 games.
^^ Marchand has played in 32 games.

Zdeno Chara leads the Bruins with 110 shots on goal, while Dennis Seidenberg is second among B’s defensemen with 70. The Bruins as a team are fifth in the NHL with 32.9 shots per game.

Moral of the story? As good as Thornton is at getting pucks to the net and creating rebounds, he shouldn’t be nipping at Horton’s heals — and that’s not a plea for Thornton to shoot less.

Read More: Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara Print  |  Email   | Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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