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NHL Power Rankings 2/3 02.03.10 at 12:12 pm ET
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We have a new leader in Washington. Sorry, Mr. President and Scott Brown, it’s your Capitals.

1. (3) 38-12-6 There’s plenty going right for the Capitals, who set a franchise record with their 11th straight win by beating the Bruins Tuesday night. Getting a 41-save effort from Jose Theodore also could be a very good sign.

2. (1) 36-11-9 After dropping two of their last three at home, including a 4-2 contest to Detroit on Tuesday, the Sharks head east for for six games.

3. (2) 37-14-4 The Blackhawks followed an impressive win over San Jose with a loss in Carolina. Think there might have been an emotional letdown?

4. (4) 35-18-2 A little payback is a good thing. The Devils gave all-time shutout leader Martin Brodeur the night off and g0t blanked 3-0 by Toronto Tuesday.

5. (5) 32-15-7  After having his 16-game point streak stopped last Wednesday, Tim Connolly got right back to it. He picked up an assist in the Sabres’ next two Sabres games over the weekend, giving him points in 18 of 19 games. Nice.

6. (10 ) 34-19-3 The Kings followed Saturday’s shootout win over the Bruins with a 3-2 comeback win in New Jersey to complete a 5-0 road trip.

7. (7) 34-19-2 The Canucks are 1-1 after two games of a NHL-record 14-game road trip to accommodate Olympic play in Vancouver. The road show rolls into Boston Saturday.

8. (9) 34-18-5 Ilya Bryzgalov continues to shine. He made 25 saves in leading the Coyotes to a 1-0 shootout win in Nashville Tuesday.

9 . (9) 35-21-1 The defending champs have won four of their last five games.
10. (6) 31-18-6 The Avalanche ended a three-game losing streak with a 5-1 win over Columbus Tuesday.

11. (13) 31-21-4 The Senators’ remarkable nine-game wining streak will be tested in Buffalo Wednesday. If they win, taking the division lead could be right around the corner.

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Capitals a tough challenge for Bruins 02.02.10 at 8:48 am ET
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WILMINGTON ‘€“ The Bruins went through a series of game situation drills at practice Monday, but they were hard-pressed to replicate the reality of what they’€™ll face in game action at TD Garden Tuesday night.

In order for the Bruins to end their seven-game losing streak, they will have to defeat the highest-scoring team in the league while it’€™s playing its best hockey of the season.

The Washington Capitals arrive in Boston having won 10 straight games. Led by Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals have scored a league-best 214 goals, some 23 more goals than San Jose, the second-highest-scoring team in the league.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Bruins have the league’s least effective offense (130 goals) and have not won at home in over a month.

One high-scoring team on a roll, another team stuck in reverse. It could be a tough night ‘€” or perhaps the Bruins’ finest hour in several weeks.

‘€œIt’€™s definitely a challenge,’€ Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said. ‘€œTo be honest, there’€™s not any goalie in the league right now who is excited to go up against them. But you can look at it positively, you know if you shut them down you have done a really good job.’€

Although the Caps will present a major challenge, the Bruins have played competitive hockey in their two most recent games, a 2-1 setback at Buffalo Friday and a 3-2 shootout loss to Los Angeles at home Saturday.

‘€œWe have to be ready, it’€™s a great challenge for us,’€ center Patrice Bergeron said. ‘€œPlay hard and follow up from last game, but get the result.’€

With Marco Sturm and Steve Begin returning to the lineup Saturday, the B’s forward lines remain intact for the first time in weeks. But as the Bruins look to jump start their offense, they’€™ll need to avoid falling into an uptempo game that would favor the Caps’ style.

‘€œWe shouldn’€™t play a run-and-gun game against them, we should stick with the system,’€ Bergeron said. ‘€œObviously, the offense right now has to come from somewhere, but we can’€™t force too many things. If we do that against a team like Washington, that’€™s what they want ‘€” to counter.’€

The Bruins will have one break in their favor as Washington star defenseman Mike Green will not play Tuesday as the result of a three-game suspension handed out by the league Saturday.

Fight costs Bruins Stuart for 3-4 weeks 02.01.10 at 1:20 pm ET
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WILMINGTON ‘€” Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart paid an unfortunate price for helping his team gain some much-needed momentum.

Stuart broke his finger while fighting with Wayne Simmonds in the second period of Saturday’€™s 3-2 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings He will be lost to the team through the break for the Winter Olympics.

The altercation with Simmonds occurred seconds after Stuart leveled Kings center Anze Kopitar with a devastating shoulder check. Simmonds immediately went after Stuart and the two quickly traded punches.

After the fight was broken up, Stuart went to the Bruins bench and not directly to the penalty box, indicating he may have been injured.

‘€œHe’€™s getting operated on this afternoon, he’€™ll be out until after the Olympic break,’€ Bruins coach Claude Julien said. ‘€œThat’€™s from the fight.’€

Stuart had just returned to the B’€™s lineup on Jan. 16 after missing 14 games with a broken sternum.

‘€œThe last couple of games I thought he was playing his best hockey,’€ Julien said. ‘€œWe liked his game and unfortunately we lose him for 3-4 weeks.’€

The injury is all the more frustrating because it occurred during a fight instigated by Simmonds, who felt the need to stand up for a teammate even though Stuart’€™s hit on Kopitar was legal.

‘€œThat’€™s as clean a check as you’€™ll see, there’€™s no doubt,’€ Julien said. ‘€œUnfortunately, this game seems to be heading in that direction ‘€” when a good clean hit is given, everybody responds. We’€™re not excluding ourselves. We defend our teammates and obviously [Kopitar] is one of their best players that took that hit. If you look around the league, it was kind of the normal reaction.’€

With Stuart out of the lineup, the Bruins recalled Adam McQuaid from Providence on an emergency basis. McQuaid has played eight games for Boston this season, providing physical play and a willingness to drop the gloves.

The Bruins also were encouraged to see defenseman Andrew Ference practicing with the team Monday for the first time since suffering a groin injury Jan. 5 in Ottawa.

‘€œIt’€™s nice to be on the ice, being with the guys a little sooner than expected,’€ Ference said. ‘€œThere’€™s a couple of steps, [Monday I wasn’€™t doing] stops and starts or any contact. But at least it’€™s getting back to practice.’€

It is not likely that Ference will be available until after the Bruins complete a four-game homestand Saturday.

NHL Power Rankings, 1/27 01.26.10 at 10:30 pm ET
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No changes among the six-pack atop or the five at the bottom of our rankings, but plenty of shuffling in the middle of the pack as the fight for playoff spots begins in earnest.

1. (1) 35-10-8 The Sharks bring a five-game winning streak into a super elite contest against the Blackhawks Thursday. They also have outscored the opposition 26-7 during the five wins. Get ready, Hawks.

2. (2) 35-13-4 The Blackhawks head into San Jose for that Thursday battle with the Sharks with wins in four of their last six prior to a contest in Edmonton Tuesday night.

3. (3) 34-12-6 Thoughts of being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender are growing in D.C., as the Caps have won seven straight. Alex Ovechkin had a nine-game points streak ‘€” with seven goals and 13 assists ‘€” end in a 7-2 win on Long Island Tuesday.

4. (4) 34-16-1 The Devils managed to end an 0-for-23 stretch on the power play during a 4-2 win over the Islanders Saturday. Zach Parise ended a five-game goal-scoring drought and now has three goals in his last two games.

5. (5) 30-14-7 Say what you want about the Bruins struggles, but the Sabres went 1-3-1 during a West Coast trip last week, a poorer showing than the B’s 1-1-1 trek through California. Hey ‘€” it’s something.

6. (6) 30-15-6 Six wins a row for the Avalanche. A great story that’s getting even better.

7. (8) 32-18-2 OK, we were slow to catch on. But it’s a bit surprising to see Henrik Sedin now leading the league in scoring. The Canucks have won five straight, and Sedin has contributed four goals and eight assists during the winning streak. Yeah, that’s good.

8 . (9) 33-20-1 The Penguins showed that when push comes to shove, they can still grind out some tough wins, such as a 2-1 victory in Philadelphia Saturday. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury returned after missing four games with a finger injury to make 28 saves in a 4-2 victory over the Rangers Monday.

9. (10) 30-18-5 The Coyotes rallied from a two-goal deficit for a big win in Detroit Tuesday.

10. (11 ) 30-19-3 The young Kings passed a big test with a win in Detroit Saturday. They’ll arrive at the TD Garden for game four of key five-game road trip Saturday.

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Bruins begin weeklong effort to improve 01.25.10 at 2:25 pm ET
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WILMINGTON ‘€” The Bruins knew they needed to get to work early on Monday.

After a week in which they lost four games and dropped out of the eight playoff positions in the Eastern Conference, the Bruins hit the ice at Ristuccia Arena looking to get the most out of four practice days before Friday’€™s contest in Buffalo.

‘€œWe came in here knowing we needed to skate, everyone came in with a positive attitude looking forward to Friday,’€ forward Daniel Paille said. ‘€œWe have four days to practice and to improve.’€

There is little doubt the Bruins could use plenty of improvement. The team has lost five in a row and has just two wins in its last 10 games (2-7-1).

‘€œWe’€™re obviously making a lot of individual mistakes right now from pressing, at the same time we’€™ve got to find ways to score goals if we plan on winning hockey games,’€ coach Claude Julien said after practice. ‘€œAll that stuff we have an opportunity to work on this week and to stabilize our team a little bit. Hopefully, we’€™ll get the results.’€

It looked like the Bruins couldn’€™t wait to put Sunday’€™s 5-1 debacle in Carolina behind them. Before the Zamboni had finished resurfacing the ice Monday morning, the team was already waiting by the rink door to get on the ice.

‘€œI think it’€™s really good to get out there and work,’€ forward Mark Recchi said. ‘€œHaving the opportunity to have some practices, get some good work days in, get some good habits is a great thing.’€

Julien agreed that getting in a positive practice was probably better for the team than a head-clearing day away from the rink for players.

‘€œIt’€™s not necessarily punishment, its more about we need to work our way out of this. Today was an important day to start that,’€ Julien said.

‘€œOur fans are disappointed in us and rightfully so, we haven’€™t delivered. That’€™s part of accepting what’€™s going on here. And if you accept that, then hopefully you want to do something about it. Our fans and everybody deserves better than what we have been getting. Somehow we have to find that game of ours that will give everybody what they want to see. We have to work our way out of it and that’€™s hopefully what we started to do today.’€

NHL Power Rankings, 1/20 01.20.10 at 7:03 am ET
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Hey, all you Joe Thornton bashers, look at it this way: The longer the Sharks stay at the top of our Power Rankings, the bigger their chance for another playoff letdown. But for now, they are at top of their game and once again the top of the rankings.

1. (1) 33-10-8 Even with a 2-1 shootout setback to the Bruins, in which they outshot Boston by a 41-31 margin, the Sharks went 3-0-1 on the week and continue to circle atop the NHL waters.

2. (3) 34-12-4 Tuesday’s uninspired 4-1 loss to the Senators, who were playing the second of back-to-back games, eliminated the Blackhawks from consideration for the top spot.

3. (5) 31-12-6 The Capitals rallied to beat Detroit Tuesday and have won four straight.

4. (2) 32-14-1 There’s some trouble brewing in the swaps of Jersey, as the Devils have lost three in a row.

5. (4) 30-12-6 After an impressive 7-2 win vs. Phoenix Monday, the Sabres gave up four goals in the first period of a 5-4 loss in Anaheim Tuesday. That’s a strange bit of inconsistency for highly consistent and efficient team.

6. (7) 28-15-6 The remarkable success of the Avalanche this season could best tested while they attempt to overcome the loss of Milan Hejduk (knee surgery) over the next 3-4 weeks.

7. (8) 29-17-3 A minor concern in the Music City: The Nashville power play has not scored in three straight games (0-6). Still, the Preds have won 3-of-4.

8. (11) 28-18-2 A lopsided 6-2 win over the Penguins Saturday could get the Canucks back on track. The victory ended a three-game losing steak.

9 . (10) 31-19-1 Hmm, rest of the league please take note: Sidney Crosby had SIX points (2 goals, 4 assists) and Evgeni Malkin had a hat trick in the Penguins’ 6-4 win Tuesday over the previously very hot Islanders. A frozen giant may be waking up.

10. (9) 28-17-5 Ouch, the Coyotes suffered a 7-2 home loss to Buffalo Monday. That’s the most goals the Yotes have allowed this season, but they’re still holding on to second place in the Pacific.

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Sturm won’t play against Kings 01.16.10 at 3:53 pm ET
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LOS ANGELES ‘€“ Bruins leading goal scorer Marco Sturm will not play in this afternoon’€™s contest against the Kings. ‘€œHe’€™s got a leg injury so he won’€™t be able to play,’€ Bruins coach Claude Julien said. ‘€œIt’€™s a little bit of creeping up to the point that he’€™s not able to go today.’€ The leg injury is considered day-to-day.

The B’€™s are looking to have defenseman Mark Stuart and center David Krejci back for the contest. ‘€œ[Stuart] is going to do the warm up, if everything goes well he should be in the lineup,’€ Julien said. ‘€œKrejci will also be in the warm up and if everything goes well there, he should be able to play.’€

Tim Thomas will start in goal as Boston looks to close out a three-game road trip, building on a 2-1 victory in San Jose Thursday.

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