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Manny Malhotra: Monday the ‘most game-like that I’ve felt’ 05.30.11 at 5:31 pm ET
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VANCOUVER — Canucks center Manny Malhotra participated in both the team’s scrimmage and special teams work in Monday’s practice at Rogers Arena. Malhotra, who has been out since March with an eye injury but was recently cleared for contact, said that Monday was “the most game-like” he was felt since his injury. His coach saw the same.

“I thought today was a good day. We scrimmaged, and we did a little bit of power play and penalty killing. I thought he looked alright,” Alain Vigneault said. “He’s still day-to-day, and we’ll see how he practices tomorrow.”

Malhotra, who had 11 goals and 19 assist for 30 points in 72 regular-season games, doesn’t know whether he’s good to go for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals vs. the Bruins, but is happy just to be on the ice.

“A lot of my status is going to be based on how I feel post these two scrimmages. It was good to get back in, mix it up a little bit,feel the pressure in the corners, get into some intense face-offs and get some PK work in. We’ll see on a daily basis how the progression goes.”

Once Malhotra makes his return to the lineup, it’s hard to tell whether he will return to centering the third line with regular minutes or whether he might be brought along slowly.

“It’s kind out of my hands at that point,” he said. “Everybody in this room has it the same way. If you’re ready to play and you’re in there, you’re either ready to play two minutes or 20 minutes. It doesn’t matter. You’re going to be used however coach sees fit.”

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Dennis Seidenberg is looking forward to defending the Sedins at 5:26 pm ET
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Dennis Seidenberg knows what the main assignment for him and Zdeno Chara is going to be in the Stanley Cup finals — contain Daniel and Henrik Sedin. It certainly isn’t going to be easy, but Seidenberg said he’s looking forward to the test.

“I love shutting down those guys, trying to at least,” Seidenberg said. “There’s nothing better than having a big challenge ahead of you.”

The Sedins can make their opponent look like a JV team with their ability to possess the puck for entire shifts at a time. They always know where the other is, and the two of them make no-look and indirect passes seem easy. Eventually, they wear their opponent down to the point where someone ends up open in a quality scoring area.

Seidenberg said the key in defending the Sedins is to not get caught chasing them around.

“You want to try to not be over-aggressive, because once you do that, they spin off of you,” Seidenberg said. “They’re really good at finding each other with the give-and-gos and the blind pass behind the back. So that’s a real challenge for us, to be aggressive without being stupid about it. We have to be smart in our defensive play.”

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Bruins notes Monday: Claude Julien pumps up the volume and Rich Peverley gets the gold at 4:55 pm ET
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The Bruins held their final practice before departing for Vancouver in preparation for Wednesday’s opening game of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals at Rogers Arena.

Every player was on the ice – with the exception of defenseman Shane Hnidy – for the 45-minute skate that began at 11:35 and ended with several laps of hard skating around the rink, which was covered in a thin haze of fog by the end of the session. It was the first day back on the ice for several players since winning Game 7 Friday night against Tampa Bay.

“Conditioning doesn’t go bad,” coach Claude Julien said. “We came back on the ice, and then as a whole team, it was obviously a little warm out there today. So, the ice was probably not at its best and it was a tough grind to push through this practice today, which I think is not a bad thing because we might as well get used to it.

“That’s what the buildings are like on game nights. I thought we pushed ourselves pretty good today and did a little bit of sprints at the end to make sure we raise the volume, if you want, and [Tuesday] hopefully, we’ll be really good and flying out there in Vancouver and getting ready for Wednesday.”

Shawn Thornton took shifts on the fourth line with Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell, otherwise known as the “Merlot” line.

“They don’t get the same amount of ice time those others do,” Julien said. “And with Thorty not having played, I think it was important for them to get a regular turn at practice. And those other guys play a lot. Whether it’s Mark who we like to give a rest at times, or Bergy, who plays a lot, we kind of rotate through that. I wouldn’t read more into it than it was.”

Wearing a gold sweater, Rich Peverley skated with the regular second-line unit of Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand.

Julien moved Peverley up to the second shift during Friday’s Game 7 against Tampa Bay, replacing Recchi at times to give the line added speed with Bergeron.

Peverley told WEEI.com’s Scott McLaughlin he’s totally fine with moving from line to line, especially at this time of year.

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Rich Peverley is being shuffled all around the line chart, and he’s perfectly OK with it at 4:52 pm ET
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For the entire first two rounds of the playoffs, Rich Peverley played on a line with Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder. It was the same line — with some guest appearances by Tyler Seguin — that he had played on since coming to Boston in mid-February.

In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, however, Peverley was dropped down to the fourth line. Patrice Bergeron‘s absence in the first two games had opened the door for Seguin to assert himself as a top-nine forward, and once Bergeron returned, Peverley found himself as the odd man out of the top three lines.

The problem for Claude Julien — one any coach would love to have — was that Peverley was simply too good to keep on the fourth line. He is solid defensively and he kills penalties. He has the speed and vision to create chances on offense. And he has been the Bruins’ second-best faceoff man behind Bergeron, having ranked 13th in the NHL in the regular season with a 55.9-percent success rate.

So in Game 7 against the Lightning, Julien got Peverley on the ice any way he could. He slid him onto other lines throughout the game, both giving Peverley more ice time and giving some other guys more rest in the process. In fact, Peverley had played on all four lines by the end of the first period.

“I’m all over the place,” Peverley said Monday. “But I enjoy getting minutes. I just try to play my game and use my speed. I’m lucky I’m used in all situations. … Whichever way the minutes come, it really doesn’t matter to me as long as I continue to play my game.”

The only concern with moving Peverley around so much would be that there wouldn’t be much chemistry. Peverley said that isn’t an issue, though, because everyone knows how everyone else plays by this point in the season.

“You don’t want to change too much,” he said. “You want to try and play your game, and hopefully guys will adapt to you, also. … I think everybody I’ve played with so far, I had a chance to play with them even before last game. So you already know what guys are doing, and that helps.”

Whether or not Julien continues to bounce Peverley up and down the line chart against the Canucks remains to be seen, but Peverley said he’s ready to play with anyone.

“Yeah, I think so, just being out there in different situations,” Peverley said when asked if he expects to be used in a similar role. “Claude relies on me a little bit for faceoffs, so sometimes I stay out there, sometimes I change. Just being able to play with everybody, I think that’s good for me, too, because it gets me a little more ice time.”

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Alain Vigneault not concerned about Tim Thomas’ dominance vs. Canucks at 4:49 pm ET
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VANCOUVER — If some in Vancouver are concerned about the stats regarding the series’ top players favoring the Bruins, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault is not among them. The coach noted after Monday’s practice that the teams meet far too rarely to read into any head-to-head history.

In three career games vs. Vancouver, Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has allowed just one goal while picking up a pair of shutouts. The Sedin twins haven’t fared too well against Boston in their playing days, as Daniel Sedin has five points in 10 career games vs. the B’s, while his brother, Henrik Sedin, has totaled four points vs. the B’s in 11 games.

“This is a team that we only play once a year, that we don’t see very often, so that one game in the season is probably not reflective of how both teams play on a regular basis,” Vigneault said. “It can be, but since we don’t see one another very often, I don’t think you can put too much emphasis on the stats from that game when you play once a year against a team.”

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Canucks scrimmage, work on special teams in lengthy practice at 4:40 pm ET
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VANCOUVER — The Canucks haven’t seem game action since eliminating the Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. In an attempt to stay sharp during their eight-day layoff before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Bruins, the team scrimmaged before working on special teams in a practice that featured two sessions and lasted an hour and 15 minutes.

Coach Alain Vigneault noted that it was the second time since the conference finals concluded that he has had his team scrimmage.

“We scrimmaged today just to make sure that our guys are physically and mentally sharp on the ice,” Vigneault, who won the Jack Adams award with the Canadiens in 2007, said after the practice. “Instead of doing drills, we figured that this was the proper way to get them ready.”

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Claude Julien won’t touch that Stanley Cup till ‘he’s earned it’ at 2:44 pm ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien admitted Monday to one of the long-standing traditions of NHL coaches and players who compete in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Julien said he has avoided coming in direct contact with the oldest trophy in North American professional sports and will keep from having his picture taken with it until he’s earned that privilege by winning it.

“I have [avoided the Stanley Cup],” Julien said following the Bruins final skate before departing for Vancouver and Game 1 of the finals on Wednesday. “I’ve seen it in the Hall of Fame in Toronto. I have stayed away from it. And all I said is the day that I even get a picture or touch it will be the day that I’ve earned it. And that’s been my philosophy throughout my career as a coach.”

Julien is coaching in his first Stanley Cup finals in eight seasons as a coach, and fourth in Boston.

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