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5 things we learned as Bruins get Zdeno Chara back, fall to Blackhawks 12.11.14 at 9:41 pm ET
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The Bruins got their captain back Thursday and, for a couple of periods, began to look like their old selves.

Sure, they lost to the Blackhawks (box), but their old selves used to do that, too. The B’€™s push in the second and third periods brought them back from a 3-0 hole. If there is to be a turnaround for the Bruins this season, Chris Kelly fighting Andrew Shaw after Torey Krug’€™s goal in the third period might be a moment looked back on down the road. Boston held Chicago to two shots on goal in the third period.

It wasn’t the prettiest night for Chara, who was playing in his first game since Oct. 28. It could have been uglier, as a defensive-zone giveaway to Marian Hossa in the first period was negated by a Tuukka Rask kick save.

Chara took a pair of penalties, first hooking Brandon Saad in the first period and then sending the puck over the glass in the defensive zone during a second period Blackhawks power play to give Chicago a five-on-three.

David Krejci did not play. He has been limited to just 11 games this season.

Here are four more things we learned Thursday:

B’€™S DEPTH NO MATCH FOR CHICAGO

Though Thursday marked the return of Boston’€™s best player, it was the bottom of the B’s roster that failed them in the first period.

Playing against Chicago’€™s fourth line, Boston’€™s bottom-six forwards and third defensive pairing allowed a pair of goals.

Boston College product Ben Smith turned in a monster of a play on the first goal in outbattling Gregory Campbell for a puck behind the net. Campbell knocked Smith down, but Smith got up with Campbell still in coverage, kicked the puck to himself and skated free before sending a shot to the top of the left circle that Klas Dahlbeck buried past Tuukka Rask.

On Chicago’€™s second goal, a Blackhawks pass from the corner went off Seth Griffith’€™s stick and on net, with Smith jumping on the rebound and scoring.

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Read More: Zdeno Chara,
Bruins should still make room for Joe Morrow 12.11.14 at 1:26 pm ET
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Joseph Morrow

Joe Morrow

Joe Morrow should be playing in the NHL. He might even be a guy worth making room for if you’€™re the Bruins.

Yet with the B’€™s finally getting their biggest piece back on defense and that room not being made, this could be the beginning of a prolonged stay in the press box or even a return to Providence for the twice-traded-yet-somehow-not-neurotic blueliner.

Even before Zdeno Chara was ready to return, the Bruins began scratching Morrow last week when they, for whatever reason, sat him in the middle two games of their four-game West Coast trip. It doesn’t seem Morrow has done anything to get himself benched, however. Since being recalled in late October, the 22-year-old defenseman was everything but rocky, which was the biggest concern about him heading in given his offensive tendencies. Getting decent minutes (he averaged 16:41) against other teams’€™ bottom-sixers, Morrow provided stability that Matt Bartkowski couldn’€™t earlier in the season. His decision-making was sound and he didn’t have major issues in coverage.

Now, Morrow understands those minutes may be harder to come by.

“Every day, even up here there’€™s still healthy guys most of the time, so it was an ongoing process of possibly being in and out, so there’€™s really not much to it,”€ he said. “You’€™ve just got to go out and practice and see where you fit in and wait for another opportunity, whether it be here or whatever they decide to do. You never know.

“€œThey keep you in the dark; they keep you out of everything and if you don’€™t let that get to you, you should be fine. Just stay positive and live every day.”

The level-headed Morrow is keeping surprisingly calm throughout the process. When the B’€™s took him out of the lineup, he didn’€™t become overly critical of himself or wondered what earned the benching, which is something young players experience frequently early in their careers.

“I guess at one point there’€™s a part where you’€™ve got to look at yourself and say, ‘€˜Oh, well did I do something wrong or is it just kind of [they’€™ve] got to get some other guys in the lineup, switch things up a bit?™'”€ Morrow said. “Personally, I didn’€™t take it to heart.”€

The Bruins can still make room for Morrow. Zach Trotman remains in the lineup, with Claude Julien saying this week that he’€™s felt Trotman has been the team’€™s best defenseman on certain nights. He also likes that Trotman is a right shot, though the Bruins have lefties in Dennis Seidenberg and Torey Krug who can move over to allow another lefty, such as Morrow, to enter the lineup. The B’s also shouldn’t be above sitting Kevan Miller at points if need be.

“€œWe’€™re going to have a healthier back end, which will allow us to out the best players in the lineup,”€ Julien said. “€œYou hear us say it all the time –€” it’€™s almost a cliche now –€” but healthy competition, right? That’€™s what it ends up being.”

Though coaches feel he has been a better NHL player than an AHL player, the possibility exists that Morrow could eventually fall victim to the waiver process and be sent to Providence. The B’€™s can send guys like Morrow or Trotman up and down without exposing them to waivers, which is not the case for other defensemen such as Bartkowski. Morrow knows he could be sent back down, but he would be understanding of the numbers game if it happened.

“€œIt’€™s in the back of your mind, you know it is [a possibility],”€ Morrow said. “€œIt is a chess match. You know they’€™ve got to strategically do things to help this organization and to keep it intact. Whatever that may be, I know I’€™m a part of it and I’€™m here to help out, too, so if that’€™s the case that it does work out better that way, you can’€™t be mad or you can’€™t be disappointed about it. It’€™s just the way things are.”

Read More: Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman,
Zdeno Chara expected to return vs. Blackhawks, Bruins not counting on David Krejci 12.11.14 at 11:36 am ET
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Zdeno Chara is expected to return to the lineup for the Bruins Thursday against the Blackhawks, while it appears David Krejci will not.

Chara, who has not played since tearing his PCL on Oct. 23, left Thursday’€™s morning skate with the rest of the regulars, while Krejci stayed out extra with anticipated healthy scratches Joe Morrow and Matt Bartkowski.

Chara was taken off injured reserve Thursday, while Krejci remained on it as of early Thursday afternoon.

“Not officially, but I’€™m counting on [Chara],” Claude Julien said. “Krejci, nobody’€™s told me anything yet, so unless somebody tells me something after this morning skate, I’€™m not going to count on him. If they tell me he’€™s ready to go, then he’€™ll be in.”

Craig Cunningham was on the ice for Thursday’€™s skate after being recalled Wednesday. Assuming Krejci does not play, the Bruins will not have any extra forwards, meaning Cunningham would be in the lineup.

Tuukka Rask was the first goaltender off the ice in morning skate, indicating he will start in goal against Chicago.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: David Krejci, Zdeno Chara,
Cam Neely knows money will still be tight with salary cap increase 12.10.14 at 5:24 pm ET
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Cam Neely discussed the NHL's salary cap increase on Wednesday. (Getty Images)

Cam Neely discussed the NHL‘s salary cap increase on Wednesday. (Getty Images)

When the Board of Governors projected a $73 million salary cap for next season, it looked to be good and bad news for the Bruins: good because it’€™s higher than the current $69 million mark and bad because it isn’€™t even higher.

Those seemed to be Cam Neely‘€™s thoughts Wednesday, as the Bruins president answered a question about the anticipated bump by smiling and quipping, “€œit’€™s better than 69 [million].”

The projected cap, which is contingent on the Canadian dollar staying the same, will make it easier for the Bruins to keep their team together, but not much. The idea of adding key players in free agency will be out of the question, but then again it generally has been for a few years now, with the exception of the incentive-laden deal given two summers ago to Jarome Iginla.

Not counting Marc Savard, the Bruins have $49,897,857 committed against the cap to 10 players for next season. Dougie Hamilton and Carl Soderberg lead the list of players due for raises from their current cap hits, though Torey Krug and Reilly Smith can also expect pay bumps after playing this season for $1.4 million apiece.

“When you’€™re a team that spends up to the cap and you are spending to the cap and you are into LTI, there’€™s a lot of discussions and conversations and pencils and erasers that have to be in play,” Neely said. “Fortunately, Charlie and Mr. Jacobs give us the opportunity to spend to the cap. Until they say we’€™re not, we’€™re going to continue to try and put the best team on the ice. Having said that, it’€™s easy to spend money; you’€™ve just got to spend it properly.”

Agent J.P. Barry told WEEI.com last month he had yet to begin serious negations with the B’€™s regarding new deals for Hamilton and Soderberg, both of whom he represents. The holdup was due to the league not knowing where the cap would be next year, so perhaps the ball could get rolling soon with the clarity recently presented.

All that said, the $73 million figure is not set in stone.

“œBased on what we’€™re hearing, it’€™s all based upon the Canadian dollar,”€ Neely said. “œThey have a pretty good idea of the revenues that are coming in. It’€™s just a matter of Canadian revenues and what happens with the Canadian dollar. It gives us a pretty good idea of where we’€™re going to end up, but if we’€™re going to err, we should err on the lower side.”

Read More: Cam Neely, Carl Soderberg, Dougie Hamilton,
Bruins break ground on Warrior Ice Arena as construction of practice facility begins 12.10.14 at 4:53 pm ET
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Rendering of Warrior Ice Arena from the Mass Pike. (Courtesy of Bruins)

Rendering of Warrior Ice Arena from the Mass Pike. (Courtesy of Bruins)

The Bruins broke ground on their new practice facility, which will be called Warrior Ice Arena, on Wednesday. Cam Neely, Charlie Jacobs, Peter Chiarelli, Mayor Marty Walsh and New Balance chairman Jim Davis were among those on hand for the event.

Warrior Ice Arena, which will be located in Brighton as part of New Balance’€™s Boston Landing project, is expected to open in September of 2016. The Bruins will continue to practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington until then.

That’€™s great news for the Bruins, eventually. Though both Neely and Jacobs thanked Ristuccia at every opportunity Wednesday, Ristuccia is not an NHL-caliber practice facility. Furthermore, its location is inconvenient to Boston.

The Bruins don’€™t have many things on which they can’€™t sell players. They’€™re a winning organization, they have a good coach, they spend to the cap annually and they have people in the front office who players throughout the league respect. Their practice facility, on paper, is really their only clear shortcoming when it comes to places to play for prospective free agents.

“I really think it means a lot to players. It means a lot to the organization and to the players,” Jacobs said. “What I mean by the players is if I’€™m one of them — Big Zee, Looch or Seth Griffith or whoever it is –€” you’€™re doing that grind of back and forth to the rink. Likewise, on an off day when the Celtics may be playing or there’€™s an event in the building, you’€™re out here. It means a lot to have a shorter commute.

“It makes life a lot easier, as we probably all are aware, but then you think about courting potential free agents. To be able to take them to not only the Garden and show them the work we’€™ve done there, but say, ‘€˜Hey, listen. Come check out our practice facility,’€™ that’€™s a big selling point for a lot of clubs. It should be one for Boston’€™s and it will be very soon.”

Both Neely and Jacobs said that the team’€™s priority was to build a new facility within Route 128, with Jacobs saying he was “œover the moon” with how things fell together with New Balance. Jacobs added that he feels the Bruins will “œset [an] industry standard in terms of amenities, technology and quality when it comes to this training facility.”

Read More: Cam Neely, Charlie Jacobs, Marty Walsh,
Simon Gagne leaves Bruins to be with family following father’s cancer diagnosis 12.10.14 at 4:00 pm ET
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Simon Gagne has taken a leave of absence to be with his family. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Simon Gagne has taken a leave of absence to be with his family. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Simon Gagne has left the Bruins for the time being to be with his family in wake of his father’€™s cancer diagnosis. Gagne has not been with the team the last two days, with Claude Julien saying earlier Wednesday that the 36-year-old had taken an “€œindefinite”€ leave of absence.

Gagne is still a member of the Bruins but has been put on the team’€™s non-roster list. The Bruins recalled forward Craig Cunningham from Providence Wednesday.

News of Gagne’€™s family situation was reported Wednesday by TVA’€™s Renaud Lavoie via Twitter. Gagne issued a statement through the Bruins later in the afternoon.

“I have taken a personal leave of absence from the Boston Bruins in order to return home to Quebec to be with my father, who was recently diagnosed with liver cancer,” Gagne said in the statement. “The doctors — who have been great throughout this whole process — unfortunately informed us that his cancer is not curable. I greatly appreciate the support and understanding that the Bruins organization and my teammates have given to me and my family since I let them know the news and I look forward to rejoining them when the time is appropriate. Until then, I would kindly ask everyone to respect my family and I’s privacy during this difficult time.”

The Bruins do not know how long Gagne will be away from the team, but Cam Neely said he and the organization felt it was important to grant him his leave.

€”œI can speak first-hand; it’€™s difficult when you’€™re thousands of miles away and your family — especially your parents –€” are going through something difficult,” Neely said. “It’€™s hard to keep focused on what you have to do, so it’€™s very important for the organization to not only understand it, but respect it and give a player the opportunity to do what they need to do.”

Gagne, who did not play last season, is on a one-year deal that he signed early in the season after spending training camp with the B’€™s on a tryout. In 23 games this season, Gagne has three goals and one assist for four points and an even rating.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Simon Gagne,
David Krejci wants to play Thursday, Simon Gagne’s leave of absence ‘indefinite’ 12.10.14 at 12:29 pm ET
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Both Daniel Paille and Carl Soderberg were back practicing with the Bruins Wednesday at TD Garden after missing Monday’s skate with a virus.

David Krejci and Zdeno Chara practiced for the second straight day. Chara is optimistic about playing Thursday against the Blackhawks, while Krejci remains an unknown. Krejci was noncommittal about his chances of playing Thursday, though he said he feels “much better” and would like to play. He has been limited to just 11 games this season due to multiple lower-body injuries.

Simon Gagne remains away from the team on personal leave, with Claude Julien saying that his absence is “indefinite.” Gagne is not currently listed on the Bruins’ roster, though his stall and belongings are in the team’s dressing room.

The lines in practice were as follows:

Lucic – Krejci – Eriksson
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Kelly – Soderberg – Fraser
Paille – Campbell – Griffith

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: David Krejci, Simon Gagne,
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