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Sobotka sent to Providence 11.04.08 at 1:26 pm ET
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Matt Hunwick and Vladimir Sobotka have both been piling up the DNP-CD’s for Bruins coach Claude Julien as this year’s version of the Black and Gold begins to take shape, and the B’s made a move this afternoon in clear recognition of that.

Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has assigned forward Vladimir Sobotka to the Providence Bruins (AHL). Since being recalled to Boston on October 14, Sobotka has appeared in five games with the Bruins during the 2008-2009 season and has been a healthy scratch in the last four.

The move seems a likely precursor to a return by skilled, scrappy winger Chuck Kobasew to the Bruins lineup on Thursday after missing nearly a month with a fractured right ankle. Kobasew went down during the Oct. 9 season opener when he took a slapshot off the right ankle, but has been skating with the team over a week in anticipation of a return.

Prior to being recalled, Sobotka posted 2-2=4 totals to go along with seven penalty minutes in two games with Providence. He also posted a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” in an Oct. 12 game against Springfield, notching an overtime goal, an assist, and a fight. Sobotka split the 2007-2008 season between Boston and Providence. 

With Boston, he saw action in 48 regular season games and contributed one goal and six assists and added two goals in six postseason games.  With Providence last year, he had 10-10-20 totals in 18 regular season games and added four assists over six postseason games.

Sobotka was originally drafted by the Bruins in the 4th round, 106th overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The Boston Bruins return to action on Thursday, November 6 when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:00 p.m. ET.  The P-Bruins play three games in three nights beginning Friday, November 7 when they host the Chicago Wolves, travel to Albany to face the River Rats on Saturday, November 8 and return home to play the Philadelphia Phantoms on Sunday, November 9.

“He’s going to go down to play a few games, and I think we need to give those guys an opportunity to keep developing,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “Playing three games in three nights [in Providence] is going to help [Sobotka].”

The move to drop Sobotka’s $750,000 salary cap hit leaves the Bruins roughly $1.5 million under the salary cap.

Read More: AHL, Boston Bruins, Chuck Kobasew, Claude Julien
Notes from a frozen sheet 11.03.08 at 12:04 pm ET
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A light practice for the B’s this morning with only a handful of guys twirling around on the ice (Blake Wheeler, Chuck Kobasew, David Krejci, Michael Ryder, Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez) and everybody else getting in a quick work out and then bolting into a crisp November afternoon in New England.

A bit more of a media presence at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington this morning with several local news stations getting some reaction after Saturday night’s compelling, in-your-face win over the Dallas Stars. Every player to a man agreed that playing Bruins’ hockey isn’t necessarily about being the aggressor, and is perhaps more about standing up for teammates when they’re the victims of the cheap shots that have become much too par for the NHL course.

For a while B’s management and coach Claude Julien have preached the importance being a passionate, hard-hitting team that is difficult to play against, and Saturday evening was compelling evidence that they’ve at least partially reached their objective — and added more skill and scoring potential to the mix for good measure this season.

“We showed a lot of emotion. We’re not a team that can really float through games and not show a lot of emotion,” said B’s defenseman Andrew Ference, who changed the momentum of the third period with a jaw-dropping open ice hit against Steve Ott in the third period of Saturday night’s win and then followed by immediately duking it out with Vogue intern Sean Avery. “There are teams that can get away with winning those dull kind of games. But I think we have a lot of guys who play really well with emotion and play really well when they’re physically involved.”

Bruins coach Claude Julien wasn’t ready to jump into the Delorean and crown his team as the successor to the Big, Bad Bruins of yore from twenty and thirty years ago, but his comments continue to suggest that the Black and Gold won’t shy away from physical entanglements when they’re warranted — or smashing timid teams off the puck with their teeth-chattering style.

“I think we want to be a hard team to play against. First and foremost it’s being a physical team and finishing our checks, and I think we’ve got guys that are capable of doing that,” said Julien. “We’re not going to back down from that. I don’t think we’re trying to live back in the 1960’s and 1970’s because the rules have changed and we’re not allowed to do a lot of that kind of stuff.

“But we can still play a tough game within the parameters of what is allowed,” added Julien.

The B’s don’t lace on the skates for real again until Thursday night at the Garden, but it should be another intense effort following a listless 4-2 loss to the Leafs the last time the B’s played them — a hockey contest that will likely forever be known as the “Lucic Glass Shattering” game.

“We’ve been gone on the road a lot and all over the map since training camp, so it’s nice to have a few days at home to practice,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s important [to carry over the intensity] when you have a few days off like this without a game. You don’t want to be too relaxed. Last time we played against Toronto we didn’t have our best effort and we lost to them. We want to make it an even series with them.” 

–While the B’s are off to a solid start, it’s been a bit of slow going for towering Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara as the Captain recovers from off-season shoulder labrum surgery. Big Z — a noted conditioning freak and cycling enthusiast during the summer — missed nearly all of the preseason while rehabbing the repaired shoulder and has collected only three assists along with a -1 in Boston’s first 12 games. Chara has battled with consistency and turned the puck over at inopportune times while looking a step behind the hockey action through the first dozen games — the kinds of things that a player typically exhibits when he’s shaking rust off and testing out a surgically repaired part of his body.

The 31-year-old Chara also still hasn’t really brandished his boomer of a slap-shot from the point that annually registers as one of the hardest in all of the NHL, and — according to coach Claude Julien — is probably just recently starting to feel like his 6-foot-9 brain-beating behemoth self again.

“I think he’s one of those guys that’s coming along and getting better,” said Julien. “I think he’d be the first one to say that he’s not at the top of his game yet. He’s come off an injury and surgery over the summer, and in his book he’s a little behind where he normally is because of the way he trains.

“For the last little while you’re starting to see the Zdeno that we’ve all seen in the past because of his physical presence, his good stick and he’s breaking up a lot of plays,” added Julien. “His game is really starting to come along.  The one thing that’s encouraging is that he’s going to keep getting better, and what that means for us is that he’s going to create more scoring chances. He’s got a good shot and it’s going to get better. It’s one of this situations that’s made him a bit of late departure.” 

–Chuck Kobasew skated again with the team and is getting very close to a return to the Bruins lineup — an addition that will add more scoring skill and grit to the lineup but might also necessitate a roster move to clear up space. The B’s are one spot under the maximum of 23 players on their roster, but a young player like Vladimir Sobotka — or perhaps even Blake Wheeler — could be tapped for a return to Providence upon Kobasew’s return. B’s coach Claude Julien is understandably hesitant, however, to bust up a team that’s playing pretty good hockey as of late.

“We’ll wait and see how these next two days go. We’ve got a team that’s playing pretty well right now. We have to see whether he’s 100 percent,” said Julien. “If we’re going to put him in then he’s got to be 100 percent. We’ve got a couple of days to evaluate him and make a decision on what we see.”

Sturm and scrums highlight rousing victory 11.01.08 at 5:37 pm ET
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Prior to last night’s 5-1 thrashing of the Stars, Bruins coach Claude Julien asked Marco Sturm to “be involved more” following Saturday morning’s pre-game skate.

Sturm and the rest of his teammates were all heavily involved in a thrilling fight-fest that moved me to ask if this was the return of the Big, Bad Bruins — or at least as close as they’ll ever get in the kinder, gentler version of the NHL.

The B’s winger didn’t waste any time obliging — and he did so without any need for Draconian punishments like a punitive benching or a red-faced tirades from his hockey coach.

Sturm ended a seven-game scoreless streak with a slapper from the left face-off circle just 2:41 into the first period off a nice behind-the-net dish from rookie Blake Wheeler. The score was Sturm’s second strike of the season and the amazing ninth time this season in 12 games that the Black and Gold have scratched first blood.

The assist on Sturm’s first goal was also the first helper of Wheeler’s NHL career to go along with the three goals he’s scored over the first dozen games. Sturm added a third period tally to give him the two-goal evening, and the move to pair Sturm with David Krejci appears to be paying immediate dividends all around.

“It was nice. He needed to react, and not just react but find his game,” said a satisfied Julien after the game. “I thought [Sturm] played better tonight and he was in the right spot, even on that last goal he was in the right place and he buried [his opportunities]. I thought he was a better player tonight.”

The B’s ended up taking the 5-1 decision over the Stars in a very chippy, conentious, entertaining Old Time Hockey-style game that featured Stars agitator Steve Ott twice refusing to drop both his stick and the gloves when Shawn Thornton and Shane Hnidy circled round looking for a fights — one after a hit aiming for Stephane Yelle’s leg that Lucic later termed “gutless”. Hnidy actually dropped his stick and his gloves to go with Ott, but the 6-foot, 193-pounder thought better of it each time and held his stick vertically to shield himself from his Black and Gold challenger. 

Eventually Andrew Ference and Sean Avery dropped the gloves after the Bruins defenseman — who earned the Third Star in the win and continues his impressive early season play — leveled Ott with a clean open ice hit in the third period. That hit also turned out to be a big turning point in a game that was still squarely in the close category in the third period. 

In the end, the combative game had 177 penalty minutes and seven misconducts and made many spectators wish these two teams played each other again during the regular season.

–The Bruins much-maligned penalty kill unit also looked better after six successful kills of Dallas PP’s throughout Saturday night’s game — a testament to the work they’ve put in to exert more pressure on the points while also just getting tougher aroun their own net.

Julien said before the game that the solution to the PK’s problems were pretty simple: “It’s just being proactive. The puck has to go all the way down [to the other end of the rink] and we’re soft on the puck when it comes time for scoring chances. These are the areas that I think will improve our penalty kill and will improve our goal production.”

For two periods Ott and Sean Avery attempted to draw penalties from annoyed Bruins skaters and their aggravating tactics actually allowed the Stars to gain some man advantage opportunities in the second period. But their agitating, sandpaper ways finally backfired on them and the rest of their Stars teammates in the third period. Avery leveled Milan Lucic from behind midway through the third in the final coup de grace of what been a pretty dirty production of hockey put on by both Avery and Ott all night — and all heck broke loose at that point.

Marc Savard came to the aid of the fallen Lucic and started pounding on Avery, and then both players worked over the Vogue intern while separate bouts involving Shane Hnidy and Mark Stuart took place. Savard, Lucic, Hnidy Mark Stuart, Ott, Avery, Matt Niskanen [how did a peace-loving Fin with zero penalty minutes headed into tonight get involved in all this?] were all done for the night when they each got 10-minute misconducts with less than nine minutes to play.

Apparently even some of Ott and Avery’s teammates had a serious problem with some of the underhanded things they were pulling out on the ice in the third period.

“Tonight it seemed to be idiotic,” said Stars elder statesman Mike Modano. “It’s stupid. It’s one of the more embarrassing things I have seen, on the ice and involved with the fans. In 20 years, I haven’t seen anything like it. If that’s what we’re going for, maybe I need to find myself an office job.”

The Stars were shaking their heads and dropping F-bombs in their locker room while the Bruins seemed a tighter, more resolute bunch after standing together and sticking up for each other.

“It was good to see everybody pile in their and come to my aid, but most importantly we got the win,” said Lucic. “In the end we all stuck up for each other and it’s only going to make us stronger going down the road. It was a good character game and a good character win for us. Savvy came in here after the game saying that he was a killer, but obviously it was nice what he went out there and did.

“Hnidy said to me as we were coming off the ice that it felt like a junior hockey scrum out there, so yeah it felt like Old Time Hockey,” added Lucic. “What we need to do is bottle this up and make sure we have some of it for Thursday [against the Leafs.]” 

–Somewhat overlooked in a penalty-filled Saturday night flashback to the glorious days of the Big Bad Bruins was the work of goaltender Tim Thomas, who made 35 saves in the 5-1 victory and was again rock-solid between the pipes. The win was his fourth consecutive start for the Bruins and it would seem he has clearly wrapped up the starter’s role with the B’s. The All-Star goaltender mused that the sketchy Stars must have received the wrong scouting report on the Bruins when they attempted to pull the McFilthy and McNasty routine with penalty box buddies Ott and Avery.

“We’re a clean team, but we’re not going to let anybody push us around or play dirty with us,” said Thomas. “I think we did a good job of sticking up for ourselves and showing what kind of character we have. I don’t know what kind of scouting report they had on us, but I think they picked the wrong team to try to do that to.”

The B’s netminder actually thought he might get involved in the third period donnybrook when beleaguered Stars goalie Marty Turco skated out toward center ice following the Avery hit from behind on Lucic. Turco has had a terrible season thus far, and it could have been he was looking for the rare-but-always-entertaining goalie scrap. The Dallas goaltender stopped, however, once he saw Thomas make a move near the pile of skating pugilists.

“It’s actually some of the hardest games to play because you get your adrenaline going a little bit even though you try to stay as calm and even-keeled as you can be,” said Thomas. “When Fer [Andrew Ference] got hit and then stood up for himself I got a little excited, and it’s hard to finish out a game that way.

“I wasn’t going to let [Turco] into the pile. It looked to me like he was going to try to get into the pile, so that’s why I skated over to the other side of it,” added Thomas. “I think he’s the one that made the suggestion by coming to center ice, and I just responded by getting over to the other side of the pile and saying ‘I don’t think you’re going to go any further’ and he stayed there. I can’t remember a game like that for a long time…maybe the AHL. I haven’t experienced  anything quite like that before.”

–Below I’ve included the transcript of Mike Modano’s comments provided by the crack Bruins media relations staff following Saturday night’s game. It seems that the longtime Dallas Stars forward was none too pleased with his team’s careless lack of discipline in a game that was still close in the third period. 

On the team’€™s identity

Tonight it seemed to be idiotic.  It’€™s stupid.  It’€™s one of the more embarrassing things I have seen, on the ice and involved with the fans.  In twenty years that I haven’€™t seen anything like it.  If that’€™s what we’€™re going for maybe I need to find myself an office job. 

On the physicality of the game’€¦
Yeah, I mean it got out of hand, it was still a 2-1 game and then we find ourselves blowing it again, putting ourselves in trouble with dumb penalties and dumb situations.  That’€™s kind of the trend it’€™s been all season.

On the cause of the frustration’€¦
There isn’€™t any mental toughness, that’€™s kind of one of the big things.  Everything we’€™re letting get to us.  We’€™re letting the refs get involved in the game with us.  We’€™re spending more energy on them than the details of winning the game.  It’€™s another thing that’€™s been a bad part of our game.

On the goaltending performance of both Tobias Stephan and Marty Turco’€¦
They’€™re doing about as best as you can ask for them, but the quality of chances are just like doorstep goals and outnumbered rushes again.  You can put two goalies in there; those are still going to go in.  You allow those quality type of chances, I don’€™t care who you have in net.

On trying to fix the team’€¦
Well, I don’€™t know if you can put your finger on something.  Moving the puck, I don’€™t know, practice skating, getting shots on the net, things like that.  Defending is probably first and foremost.  We come off a couple of hard practices and we have one of our best defensive games of the season against Minnesota.  Back to the same old.  Less is more sometimes.  Just getting the puck out and then getting it in.  Hopefully your forecheck can create something for you and go from there.  To look to create, there aint nothing there.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Dallas Stars, Marc Savard
Sturm looking to get off schnide 11.01.08 at 10:44 am ET
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One gets the feeling that changes are impending when a hockey coach says his team is “soft on the puck”, and that’s exactly what seems to be in store for the B’s tonight. Speedy Bruins winger Marco Sturm and centerman Patrice Bergeron have been broken apart, andthe streaky Sturm was paired with cerebral center David Krejci and rookie winger Blake Wheeler on the third line.

Sturm has only one single goal and four assists in the team’s first 11 games and hasn’t been nearly enough of an offensive force for a team that’s languishing in the lowest third of the NHL in terms of scoring — the B’s are 21st overall in the NHL with 2.64 goals per game. One year ago today, Sturm had 4 goals and 6 assists in the B’s first 10 games and was much closer to the player that potted 27 goals in each of the last two seasons and has been a work of German ingenuity on the man advantage. He did later go on to have an 11 game stretch in late November/early December without notching a lamp-lighter, and likely dipped into some of the bad habits and soft play that’s currently causing his offensive game to sag.

In coach Claude Julien’s estimation, Sturm hasn’t been fully involved physically and shown his typical steely determination over the first 11 games of the season and that’s played out statistically in his last handful of hockey contests. The 30-year-old from Dingolfing, Germany did register six shots against Edmonton in 15:51 of ice time on the first night of the Western Canada road swing, but mustered a pitiful grand total of one shot on goal in the games against Calgary, Vancouver and Atlanta. Sturm averaged close to 18 minutes of ice time through the first seven games of the season, but that’s been slashed by 2-3 minutes during his last spell of puck struggle.

What can Sturm do to get out of his funk?

“Everything,” said Julien. “He needs to get involved more. When he’s determined and when he’s involved, he wins races, he wins battles and when he’s determined he can play a physical game. That’s the thing that right now has to improve, his whole involvement. Once he gets that figured out and on track, the goals will follow.

“There’s some guys right now that still can be much better, besides [Sturm], there’s a few more,” added Julien. “Those are things that, in a way, you can only imagine how good they can be if we get all our guys playing the way they can. I guess this is a challenge that coaches have every year, trying to get everybody going.”

Sturm himself seems to understand this little bit of puck wisdom and when the 6-foot, 194-pound winger has both the speed and power packed together in a tight hockey bundle, he can be a handful in the offensive zone. He was saying all the right things in the pre-game skate prior to the game, and perhaps a pairing with the playmaking Krejci can fire up the spark inside of him and bring the unique post-goal “Sturm face” back to the Black and Gold lexicon.

“I’m just trying to get more pucks to the net and go to the net more,” said the struggling Sturm. “That’s where thing usually happen. It might have to be an ugly one — that first one — so I’ve just got to keep it simple, go to the net more and just get some stuff done around the net.

“Of course it’s in your head to try to do better and score more,” added Sturm. “That’s just the way it is. You’ve got to work at it and hopefully you get one or two and things start to open up.” 

It’s pretty easy to catch a glimpse of what Sturm looks like when he’s playing with the proper mixture of grit and skill, and all it takes is a simple youtube search for Marco Sturm and Game 6 — or better yet let Pucks with Haggs do it for you.

Day off for the B’s 10.31.08 at 9:07 am ET
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Today is a day off for the B’s after the team opted to fly home from Calgary this morning rather than hop on the red-eye right immediately after last night’s game. With that in mind, here’s some other assorted NHL goodies on a day when everybody deserves sugary treats rather than a trick or two. Happy Halloween from a guy who’s being asked to dress up like Tony Romo — complete with a bandage for my right pinkie finger — to appease my Jessica Simpson-clad girlfriend. Good times.

The Bruins simply dug themselves too large of a hole after parading into the penalty box — and again exposing their PK issues at the same time — during the second period of Thursday night’s game, but I take their unwillingness to give up in the third period as a big positive for this team.

 Does the team need more offense on a consistent basis? Absolutely, but they should start scoring more on a regular basis once Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm start firing on all cylinders. Sturm is a guy that’s approached 30 goals and potted 10 power play strikes in each of the last two seasons and clearly should have more than a goal and 4 assists in the first 11 games. 

–Dallas Stars bad boy Sean Avery will be in town tomorrow, so it seems like an appropriate time to pimp his plans to turn his much-ballyooed summer internship with Vogue into Hollywood Gold. And he wants Ryan Gosling to play the lead role of the hockey bad boy wearing the black nail polish. That’s gold, Jerry, Gold.

–In honor of All Hallows’ Even and my affinity for all things Star Wars, a big salute to Ottawa Senators goaltender Martin Gerber and his “Darth Gerber” goalie mask. Gerber had taken to wearing an all black goalie mask last season and Sens fans began calling him Darth Gerber, and this season the 34-year-old goalie actually had Itech design a special Darth Vader-inspired goalie mask

that he’s worn this season.  Gerber obviously doesn’t have the force with him this season, though, as he hasn’t started since Oct. 22 and has gone 1-3-1 with a 3.39 goals against average in five games thus far this season. 

–Learning something I didn’t already know when I took a gander at Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart’s blog with the The Hockey News: Stuey was apparently an English Major at Colorado College. Who knew? Something tells me we’re going to have a kick-butt conversation about Beowulf in the near future. Stuart has undoubtadly been a solid calming presence along the blue line over the last two seasons, and while he isn’t going to rack up any gaudy point totals — the guy is another defenseman along with Zdeno Chara and Aaron Ward that plays with some snarl and a real physical edge.

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, Colorado College, Dallas Stars
Blame Canada: Bruins ready for Western Sweep 10.30.08 at 9:55 am ET
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Much was rightfully made of Milan Lucic returning to Vancouver for the first time in his NHL career, but it’s a homecoming for a number of the Bruins each and every time they make the trek to the Great White North of Western Canada. Chuck Kobasew is traveling with the team — and nearing a return from a fractured ankle — and was formerly a member of the Calgary Flames for parts of four seasons. Kobasew was a scratch for Thursday night’s game, but could be ready to play next week.

Andrew Ference was also a card-carrying Flame for parts of three seasons while the stop through Edmonton allowed the 29-year-old a brief visit to his hometown. I still remember Ference telling the story — when he was first traded here — that he grew up in the same neighborhood that Petr Klima lived in while he was playing with the Edmonton Oilers. Believe it or not, young Ference was a hockey-loving 11-year-old mowing Klima’s lawn when he potted the memorable overtime goal in Game One against the Bruins in 1989-90 Stanley Cup Finals.

So, for guys like Ference and Kobasew, the voyage out to Western Canada is just as enjoyable as it was for Milan Lucic, who was grinning ear-to-ear given the attention he was showered with by the Vancouver media prior to the B’s 1-0 win Tuesday night.

“It’ll be fun for me to go back to Calgary and see a few of the guys that I played with that are still on the team,” said Ference. “We have a lot of young guys on our roster too, and it’s going to be good for them to play in these games. In many ways the hockey out in places like Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton is the purest pro hockey that you’ll ever experience.

“It’s something I’ve really come to look forward to, so hopefully we do well while we’re out there,” added Ference.

Kessel still impressing

Well, the B’s have already stamped a Borat-style “Great Success” imprint on the three-game road trip with a pair of Tim Thomas-authored 1-0 shutout wins over the Oilers and Canucks, but can really go for the gusto with the road finale at the Pengrowth Saddledome tonight. [Quick Pucks with Haggs aside here: Pengrowth sounds like something you have surgically removed from your body rather than a traditionally imposing moniker for a hockey rink in Alberta. Can you imagine a couple of Flames fans asking each other if “they’re going to the ‘growth to watch the Flames game tonight?”]

Anyway, the B’s have been impressive in the defensive zone and obviously enjoyed some superior goaltending, but they continue to get tremendous offensive pressure/play from Phil Kessel, David Krejci and Marc Savard despite only registering a goal in each of the first two games on the long and winding road.

Many around the B’s have expressed genuine pleasure watching both the physical and emotional maturation of Kessel as a 21-year-old puck prodigy growing into adulthood. Kessel obviously leads the B’s with six goals this season, but has really grown up in a whirlwind two years that saw him recover from cancer and experience a career-changing benching in last year’s first round of the playoffs.

“I think even though [Phil] is perhaps a bit stubborn in admitting that last year’s playoffs was a learning experience — and I appreciate that same stubbornness that also makes him a good player — it’s been great to watch his maturation both on and off the ice,” said B’s General Manager Peter Chiarelli. “He really seemed to be starting to come out of his shell during training camp this fall. That was good to see.”

Kessel has truly been a different player since coach Claude Julien inserted the young speedster back into the lineup in Game Five against the Canadiens last spring, and it’s been easy to see through his performance firding off wristers on the ice. Off the ice, Kessel has also begun taking on the responsibility that comes along with a being both a professional athlete and cancer survivor — and the powerful effect he can have on youngsters stricken with cancer that view him as an inspirational role model.

The NHL has declared October Hockey Fights Cancer month and over the course of the last month members of the Boston Bruins — including Kessel — reached out to patients of all ages suffering from cancer. Hockey Fights Cancer was a league wide initiative to create cancer awareness.

Here’s some video from the NHL Networks “The Hockey Show” during a recent visit to some of the pediatric patients at Mass General Hospital by Phil the Thrill.

No Money?

Interesting report from Forbes Magazine concerning the NHL and each of the 30 teams in the league. According to Forbes (who has been covering the finances of each team over the last 10 years) the B’s are seventh in the league with a current valuation of $263 million — which includes the TD Banknorth Garden as well as the hockey team.

Interesting to note that the team reportedly lost $3 million last season — one of 11 NHL teams that reportedly lost money during the 2007-08 season. Some have expressed doubt about that figure, but it’s not surprising given that the B’s had one of the worst average attendence figures in the NHL last season while still suffering the post-lock-out aftermath from the bottom dropping out for the B’s.

This might be another chance to try and bash Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs for “cooking the books” to make it look like he’s losing money, but the truth is that it’s a dated, inaccurate criticism when the team is spending up to the NHL-mandated salary cap. Look at the numbers and the product out on the ice, and it’s hard to deny it.

A few minutes with Jarome Iginla 10.29.08 at 10:47 am ET
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The Bruins have a well-deserved day off after taking a second straight 1-0 win along their Western Canada road odyssey, so there isn’t a ton to report on the Spoked B’s other than the notion that Tim Thomas finally seems to have gained the upper hand in goaltending situation. After last night’s second straight shutout, Thomas is leading the NHL with a .943 save percentage and is second in the league after six games with a 1.77 goals against average.

Thomas became the first B’s netminder since Byron Dafoe in 1999 to register back-to-back shutouts after Tuesday night’s 1-0 win in Vancouver. It was also the first time in nine games this season that B’s coach Claude Julien has given the same goaltender the starting nod in two consecutive games.

With the Calgary Flames on the schedule for Thursday night, here’s a few minutes Flames right winger Jarome Iginla courtesy of an NHL conference call from Monday. The rugged, skilled Iginla exploded for 5 goals and 2 assists over three three games before getting shut out against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.

Iginla is also one of the few elite scoring players in the NHL that’s also willing to drop the gloves, as he’s done numerous times in his career — including this haymaker-throwing donnybrook with Vancouver’s Willie Mitchell.


Containing Iginla will be a large part of the B’s dousing the Flames and going a perfect 3-0 in the Great White Western North of Canada, so here’s a few thoughts with the 31-year-old winger with 6 goals and 4 assists this season:

Q. Fighting is up significantly in the NHL this season. Do you have any theories on why that is?
No, I don’t. I don’t have any theories. I think it’s definitely still part of the game. I guess the numbers would show it, but I think it’s still part of the game and part of the team and as far as momentum, and also making sure you don’t get intimidated or vice versa. No, I wasn’t aware that it was up or not, but definitely when you play, you know, there’s always that chance you never know if it’s going to be a fight. It’s not out of it, as people are talking.



You guys added a couple of new people in the off-season, and maybe that was part of the reason for the slow start. How hard has it been working in a couple of these new guys this year?
It’s been great. I think that we made changes in the off-season, as most teams do, and up front I think we’ve gotten a lot quicker. I think that [Todd] Bertuzzi has come in and played really, really well for us, and that’s been a big part of our power play.

[Mike] Cammalleri has fit in really nicely, and we added [Rene] Bourque and [Curtis] Glencross with their speed. I wouldn’t say that the start that we had was slow. We had a good preseason. We were playing pretty well and things were going good, and we just got off to a tough start. We had a bad first game against Vancouver, and then we lost a few one-goal games in a row where defensively our game wasn’t very sharp, and we were still right there in the one-goal games and we were having terrible second periods.

So I wouldn’t say it was like getting used to everyone. It didn’t really feel like that. It was just that we kind of just went into a little bit of a funk and got a little bit away from what we wanted to do and weren’t moving the puck very well or playing very strong defensively. We tried to change those things. It’s all the things you talk about. And fortunately this last week was a lot better for us.

Q. And looking at your team, you mentioned Todd Bertuzzi. Can you talk about how he fit in and the strong start he’s gotten off to for you guys?
Yeah, he’s been really, really good for us. He’s come in and he’s playing really hard. He’s having a lot of fun. Talking to him, he’s really enjoying himself. He’s one of the older guys on the team, so he’s been a leader in our dressing room.

He’s come in on the power play. I think our power play has been really coming on, and he’s a big part of that. He grabs a lot of attention in front of the net. He moves the puck well still. So on the power play, we wanted to win, we want to be a better team in the league and we’ve got to get our power play up there, too, and he’s been a big reason why it’s been improving.

Q. This is sort of a league issue. I was going to talk about the new injury disclosure policy in which the league has really tightened what the teams can release publicly about injuries. I wanted to just talk a little bit about the rationale. Have you ever been targeted by an opponent who may have known you were injured any time in your career? Did you ever feel that that was a threat?
I personally haven’t been. You know, I can see the one side where it sounds like you don’t want anyone to know if a guy has maybe a bad hand and you’re going to start slashing his hand. But I don’t think that’s going to happen regularly.

I know when we hear a guy with an injury, we just played [Jason] Arnott. We knew he came back in Nashville, and we knew he came back from a finger injury. We’re trying to be hard on him obviously because it’s his first game back and he plays so well against us, but no one made one comment about let’s go slash his hands or anything like that. I mean, maybe playoff time things heat up even more. But no, we’ve never really talked like that at all.

Q. And just one quick follow-up. There’s been some comparisons drawn with the NFL only because it’s a pretty physical sport, as well, and guys try to take advantage of every piece of intelligence that they have. They have the most transparent policy, in which every Wednesday and Friday there’s a report that comes out on each injured player, where he’s hurt, what he’s been able to do. There’s a big reason for that, and that’s in Las Vegas with the wagering and whatnot. But I’m just curious, if the NFL can be that transparent, why can’t the NHL?
Well, yeah, I think it’s obviously a very physical sport, too. I mean, we’re trying to not say a guy has a shoulder injury. Say we’re playing another team and one of their top guys has a shoulder injury. Well, we’re probably trying to hit him anyway, but we’re trying to hit him as much as we can.

And if it’s an ankle injury, there’s nothing a guy is really doing to another guy’s ankle. I guess it would be a hand would come to mind that you might see more, but refs are on that and see that anyway. So yeah, most of them are like yeah, I’m not that personally, obviously, I’m not that worried about it because usually I feel like they’re trying to hit me anyway, or playing against another team’s defensemen and they’re trying to run me into a corner whether my shoulder is good or not. No, I could see why it could be more transparent.

Q. I want to ask you, you’ve been captain in Calgary for five years. Did you feel any more pressure to put the team up on your shoulders? You had such a great week this week. Since you’re the captain and the leader, did you maybe send out the message to the rest of the guys about how everybody needs to pick up their play a little bit more and if they see the captain doing it they’ll try to do what they can to try to follow your lead?
Well, I mean, we had a lot of talk before this week about the fact that we definitely want to turn it around, but that’s something that happens when you’re not winning as a team. Yeah, I personally want to be better, but every guy wants to be better in the room.

I think if you went around and you asked Dion [Phaneuf] and Kipper and Bertuzzi, and you went to our young guys, [Dustin] Boydie, it’s something that it’s every single guy. There’s not many that feel good and they just want to keep going. Every guy thinks when you’re not winning that you can do just a bit more and you want to be a little bit sharper. I don’t think it’s because I’m a captain or anything. I think partly I’m a veteran and have been here, and I thankfully play a good amount of minutes and I’m out there, but I think it’s just something that’s part of a team that every guy does look at himself and see how he can contribute and collectively be better as a group.

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