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Ryan Kesler gets maintenance day 06.12.11 at 2:35 pm ET
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There has been plenty of suspicion this series that Canucks forward Ryan Kesler is playing with some sort of injury. The Conn Smythe candidate has been hit hard a number of times and hasn’t looked 100 percent the last few games. The injury theory gained a little more traction Sunday when Kesler, who ranks second on Vancouver with 19 postseason points, wasn’t on the ice for practice.

As expected, though, coach Alain Vigneault wasn’t going to divulge any information about a possible injury. Maintenance days are very common, so the coach assured Kesler’s absence was just that.

“He’s fine,” Vigneault said when asked about Kesler’s absence. “Just giving him a day off, that’s all.”

Defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who has missed the last four games after injuring himself on a hip check in Game 1, was also absent from practice. It appears unlikely that he’ll be back for Game 6.

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Tim Thomas has isolated himself from the outside world 06.09.11 at 2:42 am ET
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All series long, Tim Thomas has ignored everything the Canucks have said about his style of play. After Game 2, he ignored critics who questioned how often he leaves his net. Interestingly enough, Thomas has also ignored fans and media who have lauded him throughout the playoffs.

When asked about his relationship with Boston and the love fans have for him, Thomas gave an interesting answer.

“I’ve been so focused on playing in the playoffs that I’m a little bit removed from what’s happening inside the city right now,” Thomas said.

That isn’t to say Thomas doesn’t care about Bruins fans or anything like that. He just doesn’t want anything interrupting his focus on the games.

“I felt that it was the best way to approach these playoffs and the Final,” Thomas said. “The best way to keep my feet on the ground is to kind of isolate myself. That’s what I’ve kind of done. I’ve stayed away from reading the media and watching the media and stuff like that.”

When asked if isolating himself like that has helped him get into a zone this series, Thomas said it certainly hasn’t hurt.

“I felt like that for a lot of this year, to be honest with you,” Thomas said. “I have felt good in the Final so far. I’m just going to keep doing the same thing that I’ve been doing to try to have the same success that I’ve had.”

Instead of soaking in the accolades and acclaim during what little free time he has, Thomas is soaking in the sun.

“Spend some time with my kids. Spend some time by the pool with this nice weather that we’ve had,” Thomas said. “That’s really about all we’ve had time for. It isn’t like we’ve had a ton of time at home.

“My little boy is trying to get me to play hockey. I’m like, ‘I’m a little bit too tired. Wait till this summer.’ ”

It’s safe to say Thomas’ son would be OK with the wait if dad can get two more wins.

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Henrik Sedin offers up more complaints about Tim Thomas’ play 06.09.11 at 12:48 am ET
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What the Canucks lack in goals against Tim Thomas, they make up for with talk about him. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault and his players have had plenty to say about the Boston netminder all series. It started out in Vancouver when Vigneault questioned whether or not Thomas was entitled to ice outside his crease, and whether or not he should be allowed to have a clear path back to the crease. Vigneault said the refs were being too lenient by letting Thomas set up outside his crease, despite the fact that the NHL rulebook says a goalie is allowed to do that.

Then after Game 3, several Canucks players questioned whether or not Thomas’ check on Henrik Sedin was legal. The complaints about Thomas wandering from his crease continued as well.

So it should come as no surprise that the Canucks once again chimed in on what Thomas can and can’t do after Wednesday’s Game 4. This time the grievances were the result of a scrum late in the third. Alexandre Burrows slashed Thomas’ stick and leg while the Canucks were on the power play, so Thomas slashed him back. Burrows responded with a cross-check on Thomas and a scrum ensued.

Henrik Sedin, however, either didn’t see Burrows’ initial slash or he simply chose to ignore it, because he said after the game that he fully expects the refs to pay more attention to Thomas’ antics next game.

“I’m sure the referees are going to take a look at that and look for it next game,” Sedin said. “It’s not the first time it happened and it’s not going to be the last time. I think the referees are looking at the same tape that we are.

“They’re going to do that for sure. They’re going to look at those tapes and they’re going to see what goes on with [Zdeno] Chara and Thomas in front, and they’re going to have to call those. It’s not going to continue.”

When asked to respond to everything the Canucks are saying about him, Thomas said he’s not worried about what they’re saying.

“I don’t think it was ever an issue to begin with,” Thomas said. “I think it was made an issue by the people that were talking about it. But in reality, it was never an issue.”

As for his slash of Burrows Wednesday night, Thomas offered a drastically different account than that of Sedin. Thomas said it was the Canucks who were doing the agitating all night and not getting called for it.

“They’d been getting the butt end of my stick, actually,” Thomas said. “They did it a couple times on the power play in the first period, also. … That was like the third time that [Burrows] hit my butt end on that power play. The game was getting down toward the end, so I thought I’d give him a little love tap and let him know, ‘I know what you’re doing, but I’m not going to let you do it forever.’ “

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Ice conditions could be a factor in Game 4 06.08.11 at 2:09 pm ET
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Combine temperatures in the 90s with Tuesday night’s Glee concert and there will naturally be questions about the ice conditions heading into Wednesday night’s Game 4. Players on both sides said the playing surface was a little soft during morning skate, leading to pucks ending up on their edge or taking bad bounces.

Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows didn’t hold back at all when asked about the ice.

“It was terrible this morning,” Burrows said. “And it was sloppy last game. I’m not sure if the concert had anything to do with it.”

Bruins players said it wasn’t quite that bad and that they didn’t expect it to be a huge factor in the game. Rich Peverley said everyone just needs make sure their passes are hard enough to reach their destination, while Johnny Boychuk noted that players will definitely need to take extra care of the puck.

“It’s not too bad,” Boychuk said. “We did it in Tampa Bay, where it’s hot. It’s about the same conditions as that. You just have to play it safe, I think. You can’t really take too many chances, because when you do, it’s probably going to end up in the back of the net.”

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault also downplayed the impact the ice could have on the game, pointing out that both teams will have to deal with it.

“The ice is the same for both teams,” Vigneault said. “Throughout the season, teams play sometimes on real good ice and sometimes on ice that is not as good. I think it will get better, though, as the day goes on.”

Claude Julien said he didn’t think there were any issues with the ice, and even cracked a joke when asked about it.

“I know I was flying. I don’t know if you guys noticed,” Julien said. “It was very good. They made some adjustments to this building. I think it’s been some great adjustments. To me, the ice looked really good. I think the guys were pretty pleased with it last game as well.”

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Bruins know they can’t get carried away with going for shorthanded goals 06.08.11 at 1:17 pm ET
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The Bruins have done a great job shutting down Vancouver’s power play this series, as they’ve held the league’s best man advantage to a 1-for-16 showing. Not only did they keep the Canucks scoreless on their eight power plays in Game 3, but the Bruins netted a pair of shorthanded goals — one from Brad Marchand and one from Daniel Paille.

On Wednesday, Paille said it’s important for the Bruins penalty killers to not get caught up in trying to score while shorthanded. He said they can’t force plays that could result in them being caught out of position.

“I don’t think that was the plan,” Paille said of being aggressive and getting shorthanded goals. “I think it obviously turned out that way, and we just kind of went with it. Fortunately it helped us in the end. It has cost us in the past, so we don’t want to do that too much.”

Marchand, who tied for third in the NHL with five shorthanded goals during the regular season, agreed with Paille and said the key for him is to just take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

“I just think a lot of it’s luck, a lot of lucky bounces,” Marchand said. “You get opportunities if the pucks hops over sticks and you get breakaways and stuff like that. If you saw a lot of the goals I scored shorthanded, they’re very fluky, pucks popping up behind the net in open cages. So a lot of it’s just lucky bounces.”

As far as Paille goes, Claude Julien said he’d be happy if him and linemate Gregory Campbell just keep doing what they’ve been doing. The duo has made a formidable penalty-kill unit all season for the Bruins.

“We’ve liked them there since the start of they year. They’ve been great penalty killers,” Julien said. “When Dan is skating, he does a really good job pressuring the D and makes it hard for them to break out cleanly. Certainly his speed is great. Turnovers and scoring opportunities as well.

“Gregory has been a great penalty killer because he’s willing to block shots. You get a second and third effort from him all the time. Those guys have been really good for us. Whenever they didn’t get an opportunity to play much as a fourth line, you could certainly rely on them heavily to help you out through the penalty kill.”

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Bruins, Canucks disagree over legality of Aaron Rome’s hit on Nathan Horton 06.07.11 at 2:20 am ET
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Almost as big a story as the game itself is Aaron Rome‘s first-period hit on Nathan Horton. After Horton dished a pass off to Milan Lucic, Rome stepped up and landed a late hit to the head that left Horton lying motionless on the ice for several minutes before being carried off on a stretcher.

After the game, players and coaches on both sides agreed that the primary concern was for Horton’s well-being. What they didn’t agree on, however, was how dirty or clean the hit actually was.

“I think what I would  call it is it was a blindside hit that we’ve talked about taking out of the game,” Claude Julien said. “[Horton] made the pass. It was late. [Rome] came from the blindside. Whether it’s through the motion of the hit, it appeared he left his feet a little bit.”

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault disagreed with the assessment that it was the kind of hit the NHL is trying to get rid of.

“That hit was a head-on hit,” Vigneault said. “[Horton] was looking at his pass. It was a little bit late, but I don’t think that’s the type of hit that the league’s trying to take out.”

On replay, it appears that Horton was following the play more than anything — something any player would do while entering the zone on an offensive rush. Vigneault also conveniently ignored the fact that it was a hit to the head, regardless of what Horton was looking at. He wasn’t the only one in the Vancouver dressing room to defend the hit, though.

“I thought it was a very clean hit,” center Manny Malhotra said. “The timing was maybe a fraction off, but all in all, you see those hits on a daily basis.”

Malhotra’s assessment seems even more misguided than his coach’s. If it was “very clean,” Rome wouldn’t have been ejected from the game and he wouldn’t have a disciplinary hearing with the NHL Tuesday morning. And Malhotra must be playing in a different league than everyone else if he sees hits like that every day.

No one on the Bruins called Rome a dirty player, but they did say it was a bad hit.

“I played with him and from what I know of him, he is an honest player,” Shawn Thornton said. “But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it was a lateral hit to the head, and that’s what that rule was set into place for as far as I’m concerned.

“Aaron Rome is a good person. I played with him. We played together in Portland [Maine] and Anaheim. I’m not saying he’s a bad person. I’m just saying those are the hits – as players – we have to take out of the game.”

Whether or not NHL disciplinarian Mike Murphy decides to take Rome out of Game 4 and perhaps beyond remains to be seen. The Bruins didn’t directly say they think Rome should be suspended, but they certainly hinted at it by saying it’s the type of hit the league is trying to eliminate.

“I’ll say what I always say: let the league take care of it,” Julien said. “We’re trying to clean that out. Let’s see where they go with that.”

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Just like in Montreal series, Bruins aren’t panicking down 0-2 06.06.11 at 1:48 pm ET
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If Bruins fans are looking for a reason to remain optimistic, they don’t have to look any further than the first round, when the Bruins overcame an 0-2 series deficit to knock off the Canadiens. Sure, it was against a six-seed rather than the Presidents’ Trophy winner, but the Bruins say they can still draw from the experience.

“Obviously you want to look back at lessons that you’ve learned throughout the season, throughout the playoffs, and look back on experiences that you’ve had,” Chris Kelly said. “I think it’s good that we have experienced this situation before. We’re used to it. It’s nothing new. Obviously it’s not a situation we want to be in, but we are. We know we have to come out and play well.”

That said, Kelly warned against relying on that first-round comeback too much. He said the team recognizes how tough the road ahead is.

“We can’t rely on, ‘Well, we’ve been here before and we managed to pull it off,’ ” he said. “This is a new team, new challenge, and we need to come out with our best effort.”

Claude Julien‘s message to his team now is the same as it’s been all season — stay even-keeled. Julien and the Bruins were praised during the first round for remaining calm and poised after dropping the first two games, and Julien said that needs to happen again.

“You ask your team not to get too high when things are going extremely well and not too low when there’s challenges,” Julien said. “That’s something we’ve been doing throughout the playoffs. It’s helped us through some tough times.”

Julien said that from everything he’s seen, his team is doing just that.

“If you had a chance to go in the dressing room, you noticed that those guys are in pretty good spirits,” Julien said. “We’ve been through it. You always have to find the bright side of things. The bright side of things is we’re down to two teams and we’re one of the two. We’re fortunate and happy to be here. For us to look at it any differently and then come today hanging our heads is ridiculous.

“There’s a lot of time to get back in this series,” he added. “We believe in it. The only thing left is to go out there and show it. That’s what we’re getting ready for, is a big tilt tonight that we think is an important game for us and will hopefully turn this series around.”

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