|Stuart ready to show his strengths on the ice||09.15.09 at 10:10 am ET|
There’s a word to describe just how mighty Mark Stuart is on the ice when he gets his physicality and aggression working for him, and starts intimidating opponents with his seismic body checks and ever-improving Aaron Ward-style forearm shiver.
Stuart, the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer and Captain Caveman all have something in common: they are all “caveman strong.”
So physically strong that sometimes the 25-year-old defenseman momentarily forgets just how much of a physical factor he can be in his own end with each and every shift. Stuart is still considered one of the kids on a young-ish Boston Bruins team, but he’s treated like something of a young veteran because he’s been logging D-man shifts with the B’s since he was a 21-year-old fresh out of Colorado College back in 2005-06.
“You always know what you’re going to get with (Stuart),” said B’s defenseman Dennis Wideman, who has been Stuart’s sometimes ‘D’ partner over the last two seasons. “He’s going to be working hard, shutting down cycles and punishing people. Then he hopefully gets the puck and you get it going.
“When Stuey gets angry you’d probably want to stay away from him because he’s a strong, strong man. Sometimes I think he doesn’t even know how strong he really is.”
It’s easy to forget some of the names that dotted the lineup for Stuart’s first NHL game on March 11, 2006: Marius Czerkawski, Tom Fitzgerald, Travis Green, Dan LaCouture, Brian Leetch, Marty Reasoner, David Tanabe, and the immortal Pat Leahy. Stuart experienced the post-Thornton trade dark times the Black and Gold went through before Peter Chiarelli and Co. cleaned up the franchise, and that gives him a little bit of perspective in a locker room seeking more leadership with influential players like Aaron Ward, Stephane, Yelle, P.J. Axelsson and Shane Hnidy having moved on to other hockey destinations.
Stuart is eagerly looking forward to taking on that challenge as his role on the ice is likely to expand this season.
“I think I do need to (step into a leadership role). There’s a few guys that need to do that because we lost a few pieces of our leadership, but we still have a pretty good group that’s obviously led by ‘Z’ and Mark Recchi, who has got a lot of experience in this league,” said Stuart. “But some of us that have been here three or four years really need to step up now because we never had to before.
“You’ve got to find a happy medium between being vocal and setting an example. Just be a hard worker. I obviously don’t think I’ll be making too many flashy plays, so I’ll just get it done with hard work. Then I’ll throw a few (verbal) things in there every once in a while.”
Though Stuart has been logging minutes in NHL games for the last four seasons, last year was something of a breakout campaign for the defenseman that played in all 82 games for the second straight season and posted career-highs in nearly every single statistical category. That in and of itself is an accomplishment for Stuart, who isn’t a defenseman that’s ever going to be judged on gaudy conventional statistics. Grime-covered stats like hits and blocked shots will tell some of the tale with Stuart, but many of the skills he brings to the table were honed and perfected while watching the rough-and-tumble Aaron Ward play a very similar style of ‘D’ over the last two seasons.
With Ward now taking defenseman shifts in his adopted home state of North Carolina after a trade to the Carolina Hurricanes, Stuart remains behind as the only pure stay-at-home, physical blueliner capable of riding even the strongest of forwards into the corners and moving bodies around in front of the net. All of these things are clearly a part of Zdeno Chara’s game as well, but he’s clearly more of a hybrid defenseman given his offensive skills and power play responsibilities. That being said, there may be more offensive upside with Stuart after putting together a career-best 17 points last season with 5 goals and 12 assists.
Stuart has always threatened with a booming slap shot from just inside the blue line, but he’ll have to pile up all his points during even strength situations. He said he concentrated on working with his hands over the summer to improve himself a bit offensively, but Stuart isn’t likely to electrify with one-man defenseman rushes up the ice.
With Patrice Bergeron, Derek Morris, Andrew Ference, Dennis Wideman, Zdeno Chara and Matt Hunwick all capable power play point men embroiled in an interesting competition for four point spots on the two power play units during camp, Stuart won’t be seeing much in the way of PP time this season.
“I think this year we’ve got an abundance of guys to choose from to stay on (the power play),” said Wideman. “This year if everybody stays healthy there’ll be a lot of pressure to stay on there, and if you’re not producing then there will be one, two or three guys ready to take your spot. There’ll be some healthy competition for the PP.”
Instead the 6-foot-2, 213-pounder will focus on what’s expected in the D zone, chipping in during the odd offensive moment that presents itself and continue cultivating himself as part of the young leadership group on the hockey club. Stuart should get a lot more playing time than last seasons 15:25 of ice time per game to flash all of those skills among a defensemen corps, where he’s much more one of a kind with his impressive feats of on-ice strength.
|Backup goaltender spot not a given for Rask||09.14.09 at 3:38 pm ET|
There’s a been a great deal of assuming that the Boston Bruins backup goaltender spot has already been pre-ordained to Finnish phenom Tuukka Rask, but that seems to be a classic case of overstating the case. Rask is highly touted, and deserving of the plaudits after a pair of seasons fine-tuning his game with the Providence Bruins, but B’s coach Claude Julien said that Thomas’ backup is a wide open job search.
The B’s coach indicated there’s a wide-ranging competition among the five goaltenders without a Vezina Trophy for the role as backup to Tim Thomas, but the competition is solely a two-man race between journeyman Sabourin and vaunted prospect Rask. The 29-year-old Sabourin has played in 57 NHL games with a career 2.88 goals against average and an .898 save percentage, and appeared in 19 games with the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins last season as a backup to Marc-Andre Fluery.
Sabourin certainly isn’t the answer for the B’s goaltending future, but he’s proven an ability handle the backup role without a major drop-off in performance. Not the easiest of tricks for a young goaltender.
Rask, meanwhile, is a 22-year-old prototype right out of the Finland goalie factory with a long, lean frame and a wide butterfly stance that envelops the bottom half of the net. Rask and Montreal’s Carey Price were, in fact, considered the two best young goaltending prospects in the world under the age of 21 just a few short years ago, and Rask has markedly improved his strength and skill during a two-year apprenticeship with the P-Bruins.
All that being said, the young prospect is going to need to impress the B’s coaching staff with his dilligence, attitude and effort much like he did last season while playing like best goaltender in Boston’s camp. The youngster was sent down to Providence — and was spitting nails nearly all the way back — but put his head down and pulled together a solid season at the AHL level complete with a nice postseason run to boot.
Rask has proven himself in the minors, but now the 6-foot-2, 171-pounder needs to show the necessary skills to back up Thomas. The Tank’s netminding understudy will easily play between 30-40 games this season — a workload that would serve as the perfect way to introduce Rask to the NHL in easily-digestible bite-sized pieces.
While it’s the perfect scenario to break in the young phenom, Julien needs to see Rask take hold of an NHL netminding job opportunity with both hands.
“I think Tuukka has to understanding that he’s got a great opportunity here. He’s got to seize it,” said Julien. “He’s got some competition. There’s a guy by the name of Sabourin that’s got some experience in this league. There are several goalies here pushing, but we all know realistically that it’s Sabourin and Rask in competition to see who’s working with Timmy this year.”
Is it a given that Rask wins the job, and Sabourin starts the year with the Baby B’s in Providence?
“Absolutely not,” said Julien without missing a beat. “That much I can tell you, truthfully.”
|Krejci says ’10 percent’ chance he’ll be ready for season opener||09.14.09 at 12:45 pm ET|
David Krejci termed himself doubtful for the Bruins season opening game against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 1 while discussing his recovery from right hip surgery on Monday morning. Krejci skated with the rest of his teammates for the first time during training camp, and spent nearly an hour on the TD Garden ice Monday morning.
The pivot said that the only time he still feels pain is when he crosses over on the right side. While the playmaking center still harbors a great deal of desire to be ready for the beginning of the season, he labeled it a “10 percent chance” that he’ll be ready to go when the puck drops on the NHL season.
“If I didn’t feel any pain then I’d be 100 percent and ready to play,” said Krejci. “I feel pretty good when I skate straight or when I cross over on the left side. When I cross over on the right side that hurts. It feels like it hasn’t healed yet.
“What do we have 17 days? Two-and-a-half weeks? I don’t know. I’ll say there might a little chance. Not a big one, but maybe a little one. I’d say…I don’t know, 10 percent. I can’t say there’s zero percent because I feel pretty good in the ice, and I don’t know how I’m going to feel one week from now.”
|First day of B’s training camp is in the books||09.13.09 at 6:55 pm ET|
As is the custom during Bruins training camp, the 54 camp invitees are broken into two different groups scheduled to skate in separate sessions during the camp days. Group A opened Sunday morning with a 90-minute skate and Group B following with a session that began at noontime. Here are the breakdowns of the players from Group A and Group B. Line pairing aren’t all that important at this point as Claude Julien and staff will be mixing and matching a lot of different player combinations over the next two weeks.
As previously mentioned, David Krejci, Lane MacDermid, Jordan Knackstedt, Kevin Regan, Jordan Caron and Zach MacKelvie were among a group of players that skated early non-contact drills. Krejci is expected to join with Group B when he returns to the regular practices in the next few days after making an impressive recovery from right hip surgery.
“Somebody asked me about the condition of the team yesterday, and the guys are in really good shape,” said Claude Julien after the first day of training camp had concluded. “That bodes well. I think the second group today had better ice so they probably looked a little bit better. The first group the puck was jumping around a lot and they didn’t get the real flow in their drills, but we got the things done that we wanted accomplished.
The B’s will be on the Garden ice again bright and early on Monday morning at 10 a.m., and Group B will lead things off this time.
Here’s a breakdown of Group A and Group B:
Group B Forwards
|Wheeler speaks about unresolved Kessel situation||09.13.09 at 2:14 pm ET|
First official on-ice day of training camp for the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on Sunday afternoon, and the first wave of interviews are finished and in the books. Among the first group of players participating in the skate were Blake Wheeler, Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi, Derek Morris, Johnny Boychuk and Mark Stuart along with Baby B’s like Brad Marchand and Zach Hamill.
There will be plenty of info from Sunday’s session still to come, including Stuart’s thoughts on taking more of a leadership role in the room and Wheeler’s physical adjustments headed into a pivotal second pro season with the B’s — but here’s a quick bite from Wheeler on his philosophy toward unsigned restricted free agent Phil Kessel. Wheeler and Kessel were good friends while both played for the University of Minnesota and remained close off the ice last season. But Wheeler and the rest of the Bruins are simply moving on with the players at training camp, and letting the Kessel situation resolve on its own timetable.
Kessel and the Bruins are in something of a limbo to start training camp off with suitors like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Nashville Predators and New York Rangers publicly lining up for the 21-year-old and other teams believed to be burning up the phone lines to B’s GM Peter Chiarelli behind the scenes. It’s been obvious for more than a week that Kessel’s days in a Spoked B are severely numbered, and the 23-year-old Wheeler is taking the business approach to things. The players understand that it’s a salary cap development more than anything else with the B’s holding roughly $1.7 million in cap space with a bright young star able to still attract offer sheets.
“it is what it is,” said Wheeler, perhaps unintentionally invoking the mantra of Bill Belichick. “It has nothing to do with me. Phil is one of my best friends and he’s my buddy, so from that standpoint you miss having him around. But that’s business. It’s got nothing to do with me, and I just leave it at that.”
–Best line of the day also came from Morris, who compared the massive Bruins fan turnout to the first day of training camp at the Garden to the bleak, dark days otherwise known as his entire career as a Phoenix Coyote.
“That was special,” said Morris of the fan turnout. “They’re good fans and they cheered when guys scored. It’s fun to practice when there’s fans there. We probably didn’t have that many there for games (in Phoenix).”
|Report: Nashville Predators covet Kessel in potential deal||09.12.09 at 7:40 pm ET|
The Nashville Predators are one of several teams in the running for a potential Phil Kessel trade with the Boston Bruins, according to the Tennessean, and Nashville GM David Poile confirmed interest to the newspaper in a report published Saturday. Poile admitted that he’s spoken with both Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott, in recent days, and had nothing but flattering things to say about the 21-year-old sniper.
“He’s a young player that scores goals,” said Poile, who also admitted that the Preds wouldn’t be interested in signing Kessel to an offer sheet “and that’s very much of interest to us. We’ve talked concepts. I’d be very interested to see if there might be something he would like from the Predators.”
The Preds have a long list of younger players that could be intriguing to Chiarelli including Russian KHL refugee Alexander Radulov, first round draft pick and former Boston University skater Colin Wilson, Jonathan Blum, Ryan Ellis, Cody Franson and Ryan Suter. Including within those talented puck youngsters are a plethora of talented young defensemen that could supply a serious talent transfusion to a B’s blueline stock that doesn’t boast the greatest amount of depth organizationally.
|‘State of the Bruins’ Meeting set for September 17||09.11.09 at 12:22 pm ET|
The Boston Bruins will hold their annual ‘State of the Bruins’ Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, September 17 at 6:30 p.m. ET at the TD Garden. Attending this year’s State of the Bruins from the Bruins organization will be Owner Jeremy Jacobs, Principal Charlie Jacobs, General Manager Peter Chiarelli, Vice President Cam Neely, Head Coach Claude Julien, forward Milan Lucic and defenseman Derek Morris.
The Town Hall Meeting gives Bruins season ticket holders and premium ticket holders a forum to speak directly with Bruins personnel and to ask questions and provide comments about the organization and team. In addition, everyone present at the ‘State of the Bruins’ will get an exclusive first look and the opportunity to pre-order the Winter Classic jersey, which will be unveiled at the event. Bruins alumni and NESN color commentator, Andy Brickley will serve as the evening’s moderator.
The Bruins executives will discuss the current ‘State of the Bruins’ before the question and answer session begins.
The “State of the Bruins” meeting will follow the first official on-ice day of Bruins training camp held at TD Garden on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 13 beginning at 10 a.m. The Bruins will celebrate the opening of the club’s 2009-2010 campaign by holding a used equipment sale and offer fans free breakfast, courtesy of TD Bank, as part of the first full day of 2009 Bruins Training Camp on September 13.
On Sunday, the first day of official on-ice work for the team, fans will have access to two practice sessions beginning at 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., free of charge. Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. and breakfast, including breakfast sandwiches, fruit, yogurt, coffee and juice, will be served on a first-come, first-served basis.
In conjunction with the open training camp sessions, Bruins fans will have the opportunity to purchase equipment used by Bruins players from past and present. Items that will be available include skates, socks, pads and helmets, among others. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Boston Bruins Foundation. The used equipment sale will begin at 8:30 a.m. for Bruins season ticket holders and 9:30 a.m. for the general public.
The 54-player Bruins training camp roster is listed below.
2009 BRUINS TRAINING CAMP ROSTER (SUBJECT TO CHANGE):
Jamie Arniel, Steve Begin, Patrice Bergeron, Byron Bitz, Jordan Caron,
Zach Hamill, Jordan Knackstedt, Chuck Kobasew, David Krejci, Drew
Larman, Guillaume Lefebvre, Mikko Lehtonen, Jeff LoVecchio, Milan Lucic,
Brad Marchand, Matt Marquardt, Lane MacDermid, Kirk MacDonald, Levi
Nelson, Tyler Randell, Mark Recchi, Yannick Riendeau, Michael Ryder,
Marc Savard, Max Sauve, Vladimir Sobotka, Marco Sturm, Shawn Thornton,
Blake Wheeler, Trent Whitfield, Jason Wilson
Andrew Bodnarchuk, Johnny Boychuk, Ryan Button, Zdeno Chara, Drew Fata,
Andrew Ference, Alain Goulet, Matt Hunwick, Rob Kwiet, Adam McQuaid,
Derek Morris, Zach McKelvie, Jeff Penner, Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman,
Unsigned Restricted Free Agents as of September 10 (1)
Bruins season ticket holders and premium ticket holders wishing to attend should log on to their ticket holder account and print their State of the Bruins tickets by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, September 14. This will be a ticketed event, as State of the Bruins tickets will be scanned at the TD Garden turnstiles. Any questions can be directed to the Bruins Fan Relations Department at 617.624.BEAR (2327).