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Krejci ‘looking good’ for Thursday’s opener 09.30.09 at 12:40 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Bruins center David Krejci has been ahead of schedule throughout the preseason, and it appears he’ll be ready at the earliest portion of the recovery timetable by playing Opening Night against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 1. The 23-year-old playmaker has been practicing with the team for nearly the entire training camp schedule, and took part in another full practice on Thursday including time on the 5-on-4 and 5-on-3 power play units.

Krejci was also at his old spot centering a line between Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder during the practice, and B’s coach Claude Julien did everything but formally announce his return following Wednesday’s practice.

“The official [decision] will be made tomorrow, but right now he’s looking good,” said Julien. “He’s feeling better and he’s feeling more confident. The official decision, I guess, will come tomorrow, but right now it’s looking good.

“He’s ahead of schedule and a lot of the credit goes to a different group. Obviously [Krejci] because of the way he’s worked at it, but the other thing is also the trainers for the therapy he’s had and how he’s worked with them. Between Donnie [DelNegro] and Scottie Waugh, they’ve done a tremendous job of rehabilitating him and getting him ready to play.”

Julien also indicated there won’t be much in the way of maintenance days or special care for the young pivot’s surgically repaired right hip once he gets into the lineup, and there won’t be any restrictions moving forward.

“That’s the reason behind the surgery, so he could come back at 100 percent,” said Julien. “As we speak right now,  I don’t see any reason why he would need extra days off. Last year he [needed days off] because of those issues, and they’ve been resolved hopefully.”

Bruins brushing up on the power play 09.30.09 at 11:41 am ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins are putting the finishing touches on the team here at practice Wednesday morning at Ristuccia Arena as they ready for Thursday’s season-opener against Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the high-powered Washington Capitals.

A lot of power play work this morning, and a look into what’s going to be one of the more competitive aspects of the Black and Gold team this season. The Bruins legitimately have five or six players that could run the point on the power play, and B’s coach Claude Julien has been nearly giddy in the different options at his disposal in the early going. Both Zdeno Chara and Derek Morris lined up as the top points on the first power play until along with Marc Savard, Milan Lucic and Michael Ryder filling out the forward spots on the top unit. Marco Sturm was also hopping into the top unit and alternating with Lucic.

Andrew Ference and Dennis Wideman manned the spots on the second unit with David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi alternating with Chuck Kobasew as the manpower down low. The 5-on-3 work was even more impressive as Chara and Morris manned the points with Recchi working directly in front of the goalie with puck magicians Savard and Krejci working in the two corners. That’s the kind of PP combo that could make a lot of teams pay for spending time in the penalty box this season. One big change from last year: Bergeron has taken off the point and is working more off the half-wall where he can be a triple-threat ready to pass, shoot, or take it straight toward the net.

Despite the current configurations, Julien has been quick to advise not falling in love with the PP configurations as there could be a heavy “play the hot hand” philosophy on the man advantage with so many qualified players to choose from. The B’s bench boss is also reserving the right to plop the oversized body of 6-foot-9 Chara in tight by the cage if the situations calls for a an extra-big, extra-wide body during PP time.

Matt Hunwick is another player likely to find his way onto the PP units as a point man this season, but the young blueliner has been attempting to find his game through training camp. Julien hinted on Tuesday that some of Hunwick’s struggles may be the player’s attempts to justify the two-year contract he received over the summer, and may be a case of a player attempting to do too much. Either way, Hunwick wasn’t on the PP units Wednesday and will have to work his way back into the rotation.

“You’re likely to see a little bit of both. [Bergeron] may end up playing [the point] and he may end up playing up front too,” said Julien. “There are some players that are still trying to find their games a little bit, and we have to take that into account as well. Right now we’re trying to come up with the best combination to start.

“It allows us some versatility. I don’t when or if it’s really going to happen — but I suspect it will at some point — you can put a guy like Zdeno in front of the net. He’s a big net-front presence if you’ve got the right people on the back end. But a lot of things and decisions are based on the way players are going right at the time. If you have players on a roll or a hot streak, then you want to keep them on that streak by utilizing them in different place. Or maybe sometimes guys are trying to find their games , and it’s not good to put them in different kinds of positions when you’re trying to get them to simplify their games. There’s a lot of thinking that goes behind who should be where [on the power play] and who should be on it.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara,
Ference unconcerned about union issues in dressing room 09.29.09 at 10:26 am ET
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It hasn’€™t been the most tranquil of summers for Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference after a full slate of off-ice responsibilities as the team’€™s NHL Player Association player representative.

Ference was one of the key point people in the controversial ouster of NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly after a long, late-night advisory board meeting in Chicago last month, and he’€™s been facing a consistent firing line of tough questions in that aftermath since arriving in Boston for B’€™s training camp several weeks ago.

The Bruins defenseman joined Matt Stajan, Mike Komisarek and Brad Boyes in forming an investigative subcommittee that interviewed NHLPA office employees and looked into allegations that Kelly had broken the spirit of the NHLPA constitution ‘€“ and therefore was unfit to lead the body of NHL players. There’s been plenty of details involving the unauthorized acquisition of union meeting minutes and cloak-and-dagger subterfuge to stab Kelly in the back behind the scenes, but — like just about everything in life — there’s seems to be three sides to the situation.

There’€™s a he said/she said element to the dismissal, of course, but there’€™s also no denying things were running smoothly under Kelly’€™s leadership and the NHL was gaining back the popularity it frittered away during the lockout in 2004-05.

The investigation of a Ference-led subcommittee evolved into Kelly’€™s firing after his largely successful two-year run, and it spurred on the placement of general counsel Ian Penney into an interim leadership position within the players’€™ union. As with any change of leadership in a position of such high visibility, there’€™s been plenty of tumult in the aftermath of Kelly’€™s sacking and the murmurs simply aren’€™t going away with time. There was an NHLPA-sponsored conference call among players on Monday night to discuss process and actions going forward, and perhaps even a bit of a circle-the-wagons type message.

The pro-Kelly camp claims that the hard-working, no-nonsense, Boston-bred Kelly was railroaded by a group of power-hungry individuals within the union, and that the player reps were hoodwinked into making the ultimate choice of removal.

There were certainly plenty of veteran Bruins players looking for answers to the NHLPA situation when training camp began two weeks ago. The bold move to displace Kelly was another in a long line of borderline embarrassing episodes (Ted Saskin, Alan Eagleson etc.) for the hockey players’€™ union leadership, and some of Ference’€™s teammates are clearly upset that such a change in the union’€™s corner office came without any warning or consultation prior to a bleary-eyed 3 a.m. vote on Aug. 31.

Ference had a closed-door meeting with the rest of his teammates about the Kelly fiasco last week that some sources described as ‘€œheated’€ at points, but the 30-year-old blueliner maintained at Monday’€™s media day session that the NHLPA issues wouldn’€™t be affecting the team’€™s unique chemistry off the ice.

The issues were discussed and differences of opinion were listened to and hashed out, said Ference, but there was clearly a difference of opinion in the way things eventually transpired. There remains a disconnect between the 22 player reps voting to sack Kelly/NHLPA execs still remaining with the union infrastructure, and the rank-and-file players left with the unpleasant feeling that a rug had been pulled out from underneath them without their consent or endorsement.

Ference is doggedly sticking to his guns that the union was justified in dismissing Kelly from its top spot, and that hasn’€™t been a major talking point among the union’€™s membership in the B’€™s locker room.

‘€œThere were questions about the timing of it and whether or not we should have waited until [training] camp and we can have a difference of opinion about that,’€ said Ference. ‘€œIt doesn’€™t mean there’€™s tension or fighting. But the No. 1 thing that’€™s misrepresented is about whether or not [Kelly] should have been fired.

‘€œThe guys that have the facts say it’€™s not about that, we agree that [Kelly] had to go. It’€™s more about the timing and the decision to do it in Chicago instead of training camp. We have very good reasons for that and why we couldn’€™t wait and why it had to happen based on that meeting. But those are topics that we bring up and it’€™s a healthy thing to do. But these tensions within the team are a fictional report by a sports reporter. It’€™s frustrating to read. We talk about it in the locker room and it’€™s like ‘€˜Gee, where is this coming from?’€™ It is what it is and it’€™s ridiculous. But I guess some guys are just going to write what they want to write.’€

There are heavy indications that fellow veteran players ‘€“ with Mark Recchi chief among them ‘€“ will toss their names into the running for the B’€™s player rep position when it comes up for reelection in the next few weeks. There’€™s clearly ‘€“ at the very least ‘€“ a level of unhappiness with the way the process played out leading to the bloodless coup in the NHLPA offices.

It seems that some of the more influential veterans within the league are beginning to stand up and take notice, and there may be big alterations in the offing when election time hits for the player rep population.

Unsolicited, Ference admitted that there was a difference of opinion with 41-year-old veteran forward Mark Recchi when it came down to process and the unfortunate timing of the decision. But the defenseman said there was accordance on the one bottom line subject: that the move on Kelly had to be made by the NHLPA’€™s voting body.

Other than that, the Bruins defenseman said any union disagreements had zilch to do with chemistry on the ice or good vibes within the Bruins’€™ dressing room. That, Ference said, was much more fiction than fact as his team sits on the cusp of an NHL regular season with the highest of expectations.

‘€œWe have a reporter out there that’€™s writing down this stuff and it’€™s a tad ridiculous,’€ said Ference. ‘€œWe have a locker room that’€™s open and we talk about things, and we can have differences of opinion. But it’€™s out there and we’€™re open, and that’€™s what makes our locker room so open and good.

‘€œBut this stuff about [Recchi] confronting [me], and all this other stuff? Rex and I talked about the issues, and the bottom line is that we both agree that Paul Kelly had to go. That’€™s the stuff that doesn’€™t get reported. I don’€™t know if there’€™s a slanted perspective or some ulterior thing going when the stuff is being written, but the fact is that we do talk about it. It’€™s healthy to talk about it and we’€™re men about it. If there’€™s an issue then we talk about it, put it out in the open and we have good communication about it. Me and Rex talk about this stuff all the time.’€

B’€™s coach Claude Julien was aware of the differing opinions on union matters within the locker room, but didn’€™t feel like things were going to affect the on-ice chemistry between players arguing over unfair dismissals or advisory boards.

‘€œYou can ask those guys those kinds of questions, but for you’€™ve got to be able to separate things,’€ said Julien. ‘€œYou have troubles at home then you don’€™t bring them to the rink with you.’€

It remains to be seen if any cracks suddenly appear within Boston’€™s team foundation, but the B’€™s players would do well to keep the off-ice union issues exactly where they currently reside: away from the ice.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Mark Recchi,
Cusick ceremony at Oct. 3 Bruins game 09.28.09 at 5:40 pm ET
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Boston Bruins Principal Charlie Jacobs announced during Monday’s Bruins Media Day festivities that the club will honor Bruins legendary play-by-play commentator Fred Cusick during the second period of the team’€™s game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, October 3.

During the first media timeout of the second period, the club will dedicate the Bruins home TV broadcast booth to Cusick by renaming it the ‘€œFred Cusick Broadcast Booth.’€ The club will also install a silver microphone centered in a black and gold frame on the TD Garden’€™s level 9 façade beneath the home TV broadcast booth.

‘€œHis memory will always live in on in the hearts and minds of Bruins fans, and we feel that these permanent dedications to Fred will memorialize and honor his contributions to the Bruins, for fans and media to see,” said Jacobs.

Cusick passed away on September 15, 2009 after serving as the play-by-play commentator for the Bruins for 45 years before retiring in 1997.

Read More: Charlie Jacobs Boston Bruins, Fred Cusick,
Krejci likely to play in B’s opener 09.28.09 at 2:32 pm ET
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With Zach Hamill and Brad Marchand both dropped down to Providence, it’s expected that David Krejci will be able to skate in Thursday night’s season-opener against the Washington Capitals. Krejci was at his customary position centering a line of Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, and B’s coach Claude Julien took as a great sign when his young pivot took part in all drills at practice.

Both Marco Sturm (groin) and Steve Begin (groin) also skated a full practice on Monday morning at the TD Garden, and neither player felt any health restrictions during the session.

“It’s a positive because nobody told me they had to get off [the ice] and they’re doing fine,” said Julien, referencing all three players battling assorted bumps and bruises. “They’re doing fine. Krejci is fine and he’s been practicing with us for close to a week now. The other two guys had small groin issues, and with a day off yesterday ‘€” and giving them a few days to heal before that ‘€” it’s going to help us Thursday.

“[Krejci] is day-to-day, and I’ll still put him at 50-50 for Thursday. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. Today was a little more gritty for him at times with 3-on-3 down low. We made sure that guys finished their checks on him and made sure he’ll feel comfortable. I think a lot of it is feeling comfortable [mentally].”

‘€¢ Vladimir Sobotka couldn’t keep the smile from his face after learning that he had made the final roster after a training camp effort that improved with each passing day. The young Czech Republic forward pointed to a conversation he had with Julien that helped him relax and begin playing his game ‘€” a mix of puck skills and controlled aggression.

“I’m glad I could stay here and get this opportunity. I just have to keep it simple,” Sobotka said. “The last three games I felt less pressure on me and I didn’t put it on myself. I didn’t try to do too much on the ice and it helped me. I wanted to try to score two goals every game, you know, and it wasn’t working.

“[Julien] told me to play like I did two years ago and I’d be good. I try to play without minuses, the coaches don’t like that. Try to score some goals, keep it simple and play my game.”

‘€¢ Chris Bourque has made the Washington Capitals’ final roster after a competitive training camp, and he’ll be taking shifts at his hometown rink on Thursday night for the first time as an NHL player.

Read More: Chris Bourque, David Krejci, Vladimir Sobotka,
Hamill, Marchand are final B’s camp cuts 09.28.09 at 10:07 am ET
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Bruins rookies Zach Hamill and Brad Marchand were both assigned to the AHL’s Providence Bruins on Monday morning in the final cuts of training camp. Both youngsters showed promise and impressed B’s officials throughout the two-week camp: Marchand had a pair of goals in five games and Hamill potted two goals in six preseason games. Both youngsters should be among the first players recalled should injuries hit the B’s in the first few months of the season.

The two moves are pretty clear indicators that both Vladimir Sobotka has made the team and David Krejci’s surgically repaired hip is pretty close to ready for game action. The moves leave the Bruins with a total of 22 players for the club’s final NHL roster when the regular season opens against the Capitals on Oct. 1.

‘Tuukka Time’ is finally coming to Boston 09.26.09 at 10:51 pm ET
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With a 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets still fresh in his mind, rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask still couldn’t hide his excitement at winning a spot on the Bruins regular season roster Saturday afternoon. The B’s announced that Dany Sabourin was being sent down to Providence prior to the game, and that meant a goalie competition — one that was fairly one-sided — was officially over.

One short season ago Rask had the best camp of any Bruins goaltender, but was busted down to the AHL for seasoning with veterans Thomas and Manny Fernandez on the roster. It was difficult for the 22-year-old to hide his frustration on his way down, but things couldn’t be more opposite this time around as Thomas’ understudy.

“[I'm] really excited,” said Rask. “This is something that I’ve been working toward. I feel for [Sabourin] because I was in the same spot last year. Obviously it’s fun to be here, and I’ve been hoping for it to happen. It’s good that it happened.

“It’s a little different feeling [this year]. You can imagine what it feels like when you have a good camp and then you’re sent down. But if that’s the way things are you’ve got to get over it.”

The young goalie clearly was battling with a fatigued team in front of him playing its sixth game in eight nights, but there were flashes of exactly what he’ll bring to the table this season on Saturday night. He’s bigger and plays a much more silent game between the pipes than his Vezina Trophy-winning partner, and he managed 31 saves against a Blue Jackets team piling on Grade A chances over the final 30 minutes of play.

“When you looked at the way [Tuukka] played in those first few exhibition games, it was clear he had improved a lot from what I saw last year,” said Claude Julien. “Personally from what I saw in the playoffs in Providence the year before, he had collapse a little bit. Especially in that last game.

“Mentally he’s become stronger and physically he’s become stronger and he’s in a lot more control. He’s got a lot more experience and he’s the right fit for us. Tonight, I think he played well. Didn’t have much help in front of him. We’re confident in him, and he’s going to play. We all know Timmy is not a goaltender that will play 70, or 75 games. Tuukka will need to come in and do the job, and we’ll confident in him.”

Rask was never more impressive than when he completely stone-walled Russian sniper Nikita Filatov skating in all alone for golden opportunity in the third period. There was no panic or quick movements, and Rask didn’t allow any holes for Filatov to pick at as he came speeding toward the cage. Rask won’t be required to play any more than 30-35 games in his first season backing up Thomas, but the 6-foot-2, 171-pounder is ready to fill whatever role comes his way.

“I’m really excited for Thursday and to get things going,” said Rask. “We’ve just got to get this train going on the right track. Just get a good start and never look back.

“The job I’m given, I’m going to try the best I can and help this team. You want to do your best and simply help the team. That’s all I can do. I feel like I’ve been this team for two weeks now, and it feels good.”

Read More: Dany Sabourin, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask,
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