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NHL Power Rankings, 12/23 12.23.09 at 7:24 am ET
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As the countdown to Christmas continues,  step aside from the shopping cart. Put down the wrapping paper. Gather family and friends near and enjoy the gift that is the WEEI NHL Power Rankings.

New Jersey Devils 1. (1) 26-8-1  The Devils were challenged by the Penguins for our top spot, but Martin Brodeur went into Pittsburgh and grabbed a milestone shutout. The Devils remain on top.

Chicago Blackhawks2. (3) 23-9-3  The Blackhawks have the best team goals-against average (1.96) in the league and high-end offensive talent. Santa has been very good to them this year.

Pittsburgh Penguins3. (2) 25-11-1  Before running into shutout king Brodeur Monday, the Penguins had won five in a row. They could do the Bruins a favor by returning to their winning ways in their next three contests, all against Northeast Division teams.

Washington Capitals4. (4) 22-8-6  After a few rough seasons for Brendan Morrison, it’s nice to see he has fit in well with the Capitals, with 24 points in 36 games and a plus-14 rating.

San Jose Sharks5. (7) 22-8-7  Tuesday’s 3-2 win in a showdown with the Blackhawks showed the Sharks could still be the team to beat in the West.

Minnesota Wild6. (6) 22-10-3  Here’s a holiday treat. The Sabres and league-best goalie Ryan Miller take on Alex Ovechkin and the Caps in Washington tonight. Eggnog for all.

Nashville Predators7.  (11) 22-12-3  Despite a loss in Vancouver Tuesday, the Predators remain a scorching 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Don’t expect them to be cooling off for too long.

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Legends on Fenway ice 12.18.09 at 4:31 pm ET
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You could have followed the Red Sox or the Bruins your whole life.

You could have played for the Red Sox or Bruins your whole life.

But you wouldn’t have seen anything like this before.

Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Cam Neely and Big Bad Bruins skating atop the infield at Fenway Park.

The rink was three days old, the ice still a work in progress, but there it was, a hockey rink at Fenway, with the stars of decades of Bruins hockey back for a brisk skate.

“It’s great to be out here and see my former teammates,” said Orr as he, Bourque and Neely hit the ice with Cleon Daskalakis, Gary Doak, Ken Hodge, Ken Linseman, Pie McKenzie, Rick Middleton, Jay Miller, Terry O’Reilly, Brad Park, Derek Sanderson, Bob Sweeney and Don Sweeney for a rare but significant reunion. Milt Schmidt and Ed Sandford joined in with encouragement from the bench.

The Bridgestone Winter Classic frozen New Year’s Day faceoff between the Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers was still two weeks away, but with rink in place hockey chatter filled the chilled air Friday morning.

“I think it’s going to be an outstanding event, the [Green] Monster seats looking right down onto the ice, two good teams, it’s going to be an outstanding game,” said Orr.

While Orr doesn’t skate often these days, he was not going to miss Friday’s skate. And he still managed to show some of his leadership skills.

After Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek laced up his skates, the man who is normally right at home behind the plate at Fenway, hesitated before hitting the ice. As he mulled over his decision about showcasing his skating skills, Orr suddenly whisked by and asked Varitek to take a shift around the ice with him.

Varitek didn’t hesitate. He hit the ice with a focus that even Don Cherry would be proud of. You don’t miss that chance to skate alongside a legend.

“I don’t think I could ever duplicate that in my life,” said Varitek, who played youth hockey in Michigan while growing up. “It was pretty awesome.”

Orr thought so too.

“He’s a pretty good skater – he’s a Michigan guy,” laughed Orr.

It didn’t matter where they learned to skate Friday, or whether you were a veteran who made the Hall of Fame or just starting in a youth hockey league. Skating at Fenway was a whole new ballgame.

Bourque and Varitek at Fenway 12.18.09 at 10:16 am ET
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Here’s Ray Bourque with Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek at the Fenway ice rink.

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B’s legends skate at Fenway 12.18.09 at 9:59 am ET
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Some Bruins greats took to the rink at Fenway Park Friday morning to test out the ice. Here are some photos.

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NHL Power Rankings — 12/16 12.16.09 at 10:31 am ET
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As the ice rink gets built at Fenway, take a look at how we have constructed this week’s WEEI power rankings:

New Jersey Devils 1. (1) 22-8-1  Going a league best 8-2 in their last 10 will do little to drop the Devils from our top ranking.

Pittsburgh Penguins2. (5) 23-10-1  Back-to-back games with the Flyers followed by contests against Buffalo and New Jersey this week will be a nice test for the defending champs.

Chicago Blackhawks3. (3) 20-8-3  A four-game homestand, which includes a contest with the B’s Friday, could vault the Blackhawks to No. 1 just in time for Christmas.

Washington Capitals4. (2) 21-7-6  Get dropped by the Leafs 6-3 and you’re going to drop in the rankings. Them’s the rules, Caps fans.

Los Angeles Kings 5. (6 ) 22-11-3  Much hoopla in LA this week about the now-ready-for-prime-time Kings holding the top spot in the Western Conference and playing for the  “best record” in the league Monday. Hey, things are good, but let’s check the games played column before we get too carried away, Hollywood.

Minnesota Wild6. (10) 20-9-2 Four wins in a row for the Sabres. Derek Roy has four points (1 goal, 3 assists) to pace effort and lead team in scoring.

San Jose Sharks7. (4) 19-8-7  Please raise your hand if your team has not defeated the Sharks (0-2-3) recently.  Anyone?

Calgary Flames8. (7) 19-10-4  A dip for the Flames, who are just 2-4-1 in last seven. Jarome Iginla has no goals and just three assists over that stretch.

Colorado Avalanche9. (13) 19-11-6  Time to give the Avalanche a little more respect. Wins in four of their last six games will do that.

Phoenix Coyotes10. (8) 19-12-2   The Coyotes opened a four-game road trip with a loss in Detroit Monday. Big question is will Ilya Bryzgalov (13 straight starts) finally get a night off with back-to-back games Wednesday and Thursday.

Nashville Predators11. (11) 20-11-3   The loss of combative and competitive forward Jordin Toottoo for 3-4 weeks will present a test for the Predators.

Boston Bruins 12. (9) 16-10-6  After dropping back-to-back games to teams near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Bruins face a formidable challenge skating against one of the best in the West in Chicago Friday. Gut check time.

Detriot Red Wings13. (16) 17-11-5   The Red Wings have won 3-of-4 and are getting in gear. But the loss of defenseman Jonathan Ericsson in Monday’s win over the Coyotes could limit their climb.

Dallas Stars 14. (14) 14-8-10   James Neal has three goals and two assists in the last five games for the Stars. He has 14 on the season and should surpass the 24 goals he notched as a rookie last season.

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Julien: ‘We collapsed’ in third period meltdown 12.15.09 at 1:39 am ET
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Claude Julien expected more from his team on Monday night.

He thought after his Bruins killed a 5-on-3 Philadelphia power play in the first period, they would come out for the jugular.

He thought after they worked and worked and finally got a late second-period goal from Vladimir Sobokta on a lucky re-direct of a centering pass from Shawn Thornton, they would find a way to put away the Flyers in the third period. They were 9-0-0 before Monday night in similar situations this season.

And he thought, despite a Sobokta goal being disallowed earlier in the game, the Bruins would outwork the dispirited Flyers and come away with two points.

If Monday’s game were a multiple choice game, none of the above would be the correct answer as the Flyers scored three unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes and came away with a much-needed, much deserved 3-1 win at TD Garden.

Claude Julien said his team simply collapsed in a third-period meltdown.

Julien said he expected more from his team after killing a Flyers 5-on-3 power play.

Julien said he was disappointed his team wasn’t ready for the third.

Zdeno Chara said two good periods wasn’t good enough on Monday.

Chara said the Flyers played like the hungrier team.

Mark Recchi said the Bruins had no killer instinct.

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Winter Classic Preparation 12.15.09 at 1:14 am ET
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Get a sneak peak as Fenway transforms into an ice rink for the Winter Classic. NHL Facilities Operation Manager Dan Craig and Bruins legend Ray Bourque address the media. Marc Savard and Flyers James Van Riemsdyk talk about the big day.

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