|Julien: Ference ‘hopefully back soon’||02.06.10 at 1:22 pm ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien knows a little experience could go a long way to restoring some order his blue line.
On Saturday, Andrew Ference, who’s been out since Jan. 5 with a groin injury, skated with the team in warmups prior to the tilt with Vancouver. He was scratched and missed his 14th straight game.
“He’s coming along and I think he’s getting better and hopefully we’ll see him back soon,” Julien said “There’s no doubt, I think there’s some experience missing back there and when you don’t have that, to me, a defenseman is like a quarterback on a football team. If you get guys moving the puck well, your offense benefits from it as well.”
The Bruins have lost Ference and fellow veteran defenseman Mark Stuart with a broken pinkie finger. That doesn’t include Zdeno Chara, who is playing with a bad pinkie himself that will likely require surgery after the season.
“We’ve got Hunwick, who’s in his second year, and then we’ve got two guys who are in their first year, so we’re lacking a little bit of experience back there, there’s no doubt,” Julien added. “But that’s not to take away anything from the guys who are in their first year. They’ve done a great job for us.”
So what the Bruins didn’t need was another injury to a defenseman – and a scary one at that. A bloodied Boychuk took a shot to the left side of his face from Mikael Samuelsson midway through the first and had to be helped off the ice by Blake Wheeler and Chara.
|Bruins try to keep focus||02.05.10 at 1:43 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — After Thursday’s disappointing loss to the Canadiens, the Bruins talked a lot of about getting good traffic, screens and rebounds in front of the net. It is the equivalent of “small ball,” but a quintessential way to score in the NHL — get the dirty goals when the goaltender is obstructed or out of position. Mark Recchi has made a good living doing it for years. This is how most of the league scores and how the Bruins are forced to play without a top-notch goal scorer who creates his own offense like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby or Ilya Kovalchuk.
Concerning Kovalchuk, if the Bruins players are crestfallen that he is now a member of the New Jersey Devils after Thursday’s trade, they are hiding it well.
“He is a great player and it would have been a nice addition but you are not going to lose sleep over it,” center Marc Savard said. “It would have been nice to get him but that is over with so you move on.”
Forward Milan Lucic did not want any part of the conversation.
“Obviously he could not get a deal done in Atlanta, he’s been a part of them for a long time. Good on New Jersey, looks like they got another lead scorer on their team and we will see what happens,” Lucic said. When asked if the players are looking for the front office to make a move, Lucic was noncommittal. “That is the least of my worries, it is nothing that I can control. Management does what they do and whatever they do, as a player, we have to be happy with their decision.”
Away from what has been happening in the rest of the NHL, the Bruins are focused entirely on themselves. Most of the work at Ristuccia Arena was focused on creating opportunities. The Bruins brought out shooting pads to elevate the puck off the ice and contain rebounds in screen drills. There was not a lot of contact but rather there will be some bruises where players took pucks off the body while standing in front of the goaltender as defensemen whipped shots from the blue line. Overall it was a day that the Bruins wanted to maintain a good work ethic and demeanor heading into Saturday’s matinee against Vancouver.
“It is kind of the way it has been going,” Savard said. ” We worked on the power play this morning, get some chop work and gets some shots.”
In terms of the goal drought in Boston, Savard said that he has never been a part of anything like it.
“For the amount of shots we put up and the scoring opportunities, I am not sure how many but I am sure it has been a lot over the past few games,” Savard said.
He was informed by a reporter that the Bruins have had 45 scoring opportunities in the last two games, good for one goal every 15 chances. “So, I don’t know what to say.”
Defenseman Andrew Ference skated with the team again and said that he “is making steps” towards a return from groin injury. He sounded doubtful that he would return next week but said that he was definite for after the Olympic break.
“Just keep taking steps. Stops and starts. Just another baby step,” Ference said. “I don’t know if it is going to get well enough before the break. Everyday I try to push it and see how it feels the next morning. You can only push it so fast so, honestly, I do not know. It has been going well so far so hopefully something before the break but I won’t know until I get to that day where I am taking full contact and full speed starts and stops.”
Forward Marco Sturm did not skate with the team. Coach Claude Julien said that he was taking a “maintenance day.”
Here is the practice participation by sweater color:
White — Miroslav Satan, Marc Savard, Milan Lucic.
Grey — Michael Ryder, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler.
Yellow — Daniel Paille, Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi.
Red — Shawn Thornton, Steve Begin, Vladimir Sobotka, Byron Bitz.
Defense — Zdeno Chara, Derek Morris, Dennis Wideman, Andrew Ference, Matt Hunwick, Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid.
Goaltenders — Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask.
|Canadiens set to invade TD Garden||02.04.10 at 1:27 pm ET|
If there was ever a game for the Bruins to get back to their winning ways, Thursday night against archrival Montreal Canadiens would be it. Boston has fallen from fifth to 12th in the Eastern Conference standings during its eight game losing streak and has watched division opponents like the Habs leapfrog them in the standings.
Over the past three games the Bruins have played with good energy and decent emotion but have not seen the results on the scoreboard. The team has not had a positive seminal moment during the season, a game that defines the squad and sets the pace for winning hockey. With the Canadiens in town and all the fanfare that comes along with them, Thursday could be a good time to turn things around.
“There is a lot of history in it, the crowd always gets into it. It is kind of cool when they have all those Montreal Canadiens fans in the crowd. It always gets us excited every time we play these guys,” Milan Lucic said.
Yes, there is history between these two Original Six hockey clubs, but recent history between the players on each roster is not worth much going into Thurday’s contest. Last year Boston and Montreal hooked up for a memorable, fight filled battle in the Bruins last home game of the regular season and tensions and between the two were high during the Boston’s three game, first round sweep in the playoffs. Yet, significant agitators on last year’s Habs roster such as Mike Komisarek (Toronto), Saku Koivu (Anaheim), Georges Laraque (released late January) and Andrei Kostitsyn (knee injury, out till after Olympics) are not around as are several players from last year’s Bruins roster. Hence, there are not many hard feelings carried over between the players going into Thursday’s contest.
“I wish [there was carry over] but they have kind of revamped their lineup so a lot of those guys who we had the big rivalries with in the last three years are gone. I would not mind creating new ones, I suppose,” Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton said. “We don’t like each other, we haven’t for years. I think it will be a fun game to play in, I think everybody will be up for it. So, I hope we will turn it around, yeah.”
The Bruins roster turmoil has had some effect on their goal output recently as they strive for chemistry on newly formed lines with the roster turnover or players returning from injury. As players such as Marco Sturm and Marc Savard get their health and timing back, the hope is that Boston can start generating more goals and find a way to win some games.
“We have not helped ourselves either with all the different line combinations but we are not the only team going through that and we are not going to make excuses but we have not had the same lines,” coach Claude Julien said. “The chemistry with injuries and the lines, it is a challenge and kind of have to fight through that and hopefully as we are getting a little healthier hopefully that comes back.”
At the same time, the Bruins goaltenders would do the rest of the team a big favor if they could completely shutdown an opposing team. Tuukka Rask was the first goalie off the ice after Thursday’s morning skate and will likely get the start against the Canadiens. He said that both him and Tim Thomas are always approach games with the notion that the goaltender might be able to steal a win for the team.
“We got to have that state of mind before every game. The past few games have been like that, we can’t let in any weak goals. We approach games that way that we are going to steal them and hopefully it is going to happen soon,” Rask said. “We really feel that we have been playing better and better here just without the results but I am trying to get the win here today.”
10 Bruins forwards participated in the morning skate with Mark Recchi, Savard, Sturm and Michael Ryder the missing men. On the blue line Boston had six skaters with Andrew Ference taking the ice and Dennis Wideman absent. Ference has missed the last 12 games with a groin injury. Mark Stuart will still be sidelined with a broken finger he sustained against the Kings last Saturday and is expected to be out until after the Olympics at the very least. It remains doubtful that Ference will play against the Canadiens which probably means that Adam McQuaid and Wideman will be on the rink when the puck drops barring a last minute change of plans.
|Andrew Ference skates at Ristuccia||01.28.10 at 11:06 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, who has been out of the lineup since injuring his groin on January 5 against Ottawa, skated Thursday morning before the full team workout at Ristuccia Arena.
Ference did some light warm-up skating before being run through some shooting drills by the Bruins strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides. The defenseman has played in 42 games for the Bruins this season and has no goals and five assists with 16 penalty minutes and a plus/minus rating of -3. Ference battled injuries in the second half of the 2008-09 season and only played in 47 games for Boston though he did put up career-high offensive numbers with a goal and 15 assists for 16 total points.
The Big Bad Blog will have more news from Thursday’s practice as it comes.
UPDATE — Marco Sturm has come out with the full team and wore a yellow practice sweater and skated on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Byron Bitz. Sturm has not played (though he skated earlier this week) in a game since sustaining an injury on January 14 against San Jose. Veteran forward Mark Recchi is missing, presumably still on his way back from carrying the Olympic torch Wednesday night in his hometown of Kamloops, British Columbia.
|Milbury: NHLPA fiasco may be impacting Bruins||10.18.09 at 4:31 pm ET|
In the wake of the dismissal and questions behind the process involved, there’s been a bit of upheaval within the NHL player representation that included the Bruins. Andrew Ference was the player rep for the last two seasons and perhaps the biggest name behind Kelly’s firing, and he’s been replaced at the position by defenseman Mark Stuart – with Dennis Wideman stepping up as the assistant player rep.
There had been whispers of discontent among some Bruins players about the dismissal and the actual process used by the NHLPA following the 3 a.m. setting of Kelly’s firing and in-house positioning for the position that’s taken place since the Kelly move. Several Bruins players are expected to be part of an NHLPA-sponsored conference call on Sunday afternoon where all of the issues will be broached, and the players will discuss their next step as an organization badly in need of a new leader and a revamped constitution — along with a complete reputation makeover.
Mark Recchi was one B’s player unhappy about the process behind Kelly’s sacking, and wasn’t all that shy about his disapproval. There had also been some philosophic discussions between the two players during the first few weeks of the season that some characterized as heated debate within the dressing room.
Both Recchi and Ference publicly stated that there’s no lingering animosity or negative feelings permeating through the Bruins dressing room since Ference decided to step down as player rep, but NESN analyst and former Bruins Mike Milbury seemed to hint that things may still be festering among the B’s concerning the NHLPA mess during his weekly visit with NHL Live! on XM Radio Thursday afternoon.
Milbury opined about the reported demise of the Lighthouse Project and Wayne Gretzky among other things, but his Bruins analysis proved the most interesting.
Here’s what Milbury had to say when Rob Simpson and Bill Jaffe asked the NBC and Hockey Night in Canada commentator what had to be done to improve a struggling B’s team:
MM:Everything. Huge expectations for the Boston Bruins. They’ve got a Vezina Trophy winner, a Norris Trophy winner and the coach of the year and they come out the gate with everybody dreaming of a Stanly Cup. Tim Thomas has been average and everybody has been running around like crazy. I can’t believe the kind of mental errors the Bruins have made. What made the Bruins so good under Claude Julien was how they were so disciplined and so structured that they could always find a way to win even if their offense might sputter.
Speaking of offense, it’s pretty clear that the Phil Kessel deal has had a negative impact on this team. They miss his speed and creative ability as well as his ability to score goals. Having said that with Peter Chiarelli, and I’m sure it doesn’t matter to the fans of Boston, but the front office is beginning to salivate when they look up to the Great White North and see what’s going on in Toronto. They see their record and begin to salivate a little.
Has Marc Savard played in both ends? MM:Actually, he’s been fine. He’s one of those guys that’s been okay. I can’t knock him. Lucic has been a guy that’s been a little off his game. They really need him as a sparkplug in my estimation. Marco Sturm has come back and played pretty well.
There’s no question the Bruins haven’t come out of the gate with the sense of structure and purpose that they’ve come out with in the past two years, and I will say that this NHLPA thing may have had an impact on their locker room. I don’t think it’s going to last forever, but Andrew Ference was in the middle of this thing and getting rid of Paul Kelly. There’s been a lot of heated debate in the Bruins locker room and some chatter about them even trying to move Ference at this point.
He’s been replaced as team rep, right? MM: Yeah, he’s been replaced as team rep, but he was replaced after Paul Kelly was deposed as the PA director. There was a lot of hot topics and discussion going around the Bruins locker room for a while, but who knows how much of an effect it had. The end result of all this that the Bruins have not come out with the kind of drive needed to get to where they want to be [as a team]. They’re not that talented that they can’t bring their work ethic and win hockey games.
|Sluggish start dooms B’s on Columbus Day matinee||10.12.09 at 3:27 pm ET|
Once again the Boston Bruins underwhelmed on home ice. It was a lackadaisical start for the home team Bruins during their Columbus Day Monday matinee, and it took almost 30 minutes of hockey for the B’s to finally wake up. It was a case of “too little, too late” in Boston’s 4-3 loss to the Avalanche on the TD Garden ice. Perhaps it’ll be good for the B’s to get on the road for a while as they’ll do after competing a five-game homestand on Monday afternoon.
After spotting Colorado a 2-0 lead following a sleepy first period, the B’s stopped and started their way back into the game in the second period. Mark Recchi scored his first goal of the 2009-10 season and Blake Wheeler added an athletic score to get Boston back in the game, but the B’s let down again following their game-tying efforts.
Defensive breakdowns and soft play in their own zone helped the Avalanche pile on two more goals in the second, including a David Jones breakaway score after Andrew Ference made the elementary mistake of playing the body instead of the puck. Perhaps okay to do in certain situations, but not when that player — Ference in this case – represents Boston’s last line of defense during a sequence of 4-on-4 play.
Michael Ryder scored midway through the third period to give Boston a shot at tying the game, but the B’s sluggish started ended up proving too big a hill to scale this time. The defeat saddled them with a 1-3-1 homestand to start the season. Not exactly what anybody had in mind for a hockey built on so much promise headed into the NHL regular season.
“I think it’s one of those things were everyone realizes that things that worked for us in the past, things that we were comfortable doing and being successful at aren’t necessarily working for us right now,” said Wheeler, who scored one of Boston’s goals in the middling loss. “It’s one thing getting beat 2-1 or 1-0. We pride ourselves on defense and we are giving up quite a few goals here. It’s not the goalie’s fault at all.”
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND, AND NOTHING’S GONNA EVER KEEP YOU DOWN: Johnny Boychuk. The AHL refugee has been waiting patiently for his shot with the Bruins, and he finally got it when Dennis Wideman went down with a left shoulder injury. Boychuck played with a Bruins-sized chip on his shoulder and didn’t allow himself to get bogged down in Boston’s end. He led Boston with three official hits and was a plus-2 on a night the B’s allowed four goals. David Krejci also played a pretty strong game for the Bruins and put his first two marks on the season tally with a pair of assists.
GOAT HORNS: Andrew Ference. The B’s defenseman hasn’t gotten off to a very good start this season and that continued Monday afternoon against the Avs. He did register one shot on net and a pair of hits, but his gaffe ended up leading to Colorado’s game-winning score. Ference also finished at a minus-1 for the evening. He was ineffective as a quarterback to the second power play unit and his breakout passes weren’t of the crisp tape-to-tape variety as well. Ference needs to turn things around and give Boston something better on the ir second defenseman pairing.
The veteran defenseman said following the game that he mistook Matt Hunwick for David Krejci on the ice, and the mistake prompted him to leave his position guarding Boston’s end. Not pretty.
Boston’s power play unit could very well get tossed in here as well as they are — in the words of Joe Namath — “struggaling.” The B’s man advantage is fruitless in their last 17 attempts, and is just 4-for-29 on the season good for a 13.8 percent success rate. Marco Sturm and Marc Savard were also both minus-2 for the Bruins in a loss that could best be termed as mediocre.
|Stuart confirms new position as B’s player rep||10.08.09 at 12:16 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Mark Stuart said it wasn’t official as of Wednesday morning, but confirmed he’ll be stepping into the NHLPA player representative role for the Boston Bruins in the next few weeks. The 25-year-old blueliner is actually one of the longest-tenured B’s going back to his first few rookies game with Boston in 2005-05, and he’ll be replacing veteran defenseman Andrew Ference as acting player rep.
“It’s not official yet, but I think so,” said Stuart, when asked if he was the team’s new player rep. “I’ve been the assistant for a while behind Andy, and he decided to step down. He put in his time and decided he didn’t want to do it anymore. I was the next guy in line.”
Stuart served as the assistant player rep along with Ference last season, and the young defenseman was the logicial first choice when Ference reportedly stepped down from the position this week. Stuart indicated Ference was giving up the post to spend more time with his wife and two children, but the B’s blueliner has also been under a burgeoning level of criticism for his key role in the dismissal of former NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly.
Ference was a part of the NHLPA ad hoc committee that investigated complaints about Kelly last summer, and ultimately made the presentation to the rest of the players before overwhelmingly voting to remove the executive director from his post. There appears to have been several reasons for Kelly’s dismissal — including reading unauthorized minutes from a players-only meeting — but there’s also been a continual stream of unsavory aspects to the swift union action.
According to a report in the Toronto Globe and Mail, Mark Recchi was poised to run for player rep against Ference after being highly critical of the process leading to Kelly’s firing. When Ference agreed to voluntarily step down from his post, Recchi backed off and Stuart was able to assume the position of player rep.
With all that in mind, the NHLPA is clearly at a crossroads. Mistrust and sabotage seem to be high on the list of adjectives used to describe the NHLPA after the sacking of Kelly, and that’s not exactly a sea change from the union’s past practice. Stuart recognizes that it’s an important time for the hockey player’s union to change both their perception and their process, and readily concedes there’s quite a bit of work ahead.
“Yeah, obviously there’s a lot going on. So it’s important to be informed and to know what’s going on,” said Stuart. “I think for everybody to get involved at some point [would be good] because it’s been kind of a mess as of late.
“It’s interesting to me. I wouldn’t have [taken] the assistant [job] if it didn’t. Stepping into this role means there’s some pretty big shoes to fill, and I need to just inform myself as much as I can. Be a lot more involved.”
There’s the matter of choosing another director to replace Kelly, and serious alterations to the union’s constitution following the ridiculous 3 a.m. setting that served as Kelly’s backdrop for his unceremonious dumping. Further down the hockey road, there’s a Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire after the 2010-11 season and mandate to avoid another work stoppage at all costs.
One other thing Stuart wanted to confirm: there’s no divide in the Bruins locker room despite some differences of opinion on union matters. The turn of events leading to Ference’s departure and Stuart’s ascension have effectively put to bed any conflict over the issues — and it was reportedly a pretty level-headed conversation between all parties that ultimately led to the NHLPA position changes.
“Andy did some great work for us over the last two years. It’s a big time committment,” said Stuart. “He put in a lot of time over the last two years, and it was mostly about the time. As far as the locker room goes, there’s nothing going on. He stepped down and I’m taking over for him. That’s about it.
“Guys are getting more involved and want to know what’s going on, and I think that’s good. We need to work as a group. My role is like any leader — to be that voice between the guys in the group and the rest of the [NHLPA]. It’s not me just voicing my opinions on issues. It’s me coming to the group, getting their thoughts, forming an opinion as a group and then going from there.”