|Bruins are looking to avoid past “skinny times”||04.07.09 at 12:09 am ET|
WILMINGTON — With nothing left to clinch during the regular season aside from the prestigious President’s Trophy, the Bruins are now strictly in pre-playoff mode designed to get the hockey club as healthy and sharp — both physically and mentally – as possible when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin roughly a week-and-a-half from now.
Achieving optimal levels heading into the playoffs involve continuing to play hard, focused Bruins hockey over the season’s final four games — with one against a playoff caliber team in the Montreal Canadiens and three versus teams in Ottawa, Buffalo and the New York Islanders that are simply playing out the string at this point. The Black and Gold are rolling with a six-game winning streak that’s returned balanced offense, responsible gritty defense and a little of the nasty snarl that was a hallmark of the B’s when they were at their level-best.
The team-wide message was that there’s no need to mess with that kind of mojo by lifting their collective feet off the gas pedal. All four lines — and three D pairings – have stacked up physically dominant and point-productive shifts, and the worse possible move could be a step or two away from the flow and intensity that’s revived their game.
“You run into something where if you start to play apprehensive, then that’s when you get into trouble,” said Aaron Ward. “You run into problems if you start trying to back off while you’re playing. You can’t really play a game when you’re trying to keep it safe. You’ve got to play with the same kind of intentions that you’ve had through most of the regular season.
“Look at the momentum that you get from the Recchi, Bergeron and Kobasew line when they just totally crash into the zone,” added Ward. “It’d be foolish for them to step off the gas pedal now. They’re so effective out there and they’re going to maintain that level of play. Same for everybody else. If anything was shown to us during our ‘skinny times’ it was that you can’t just turn it on.”
Clinching the one seed also gives the Bruins a unique opportunity to shuttle players in and out of the lineup over the final four games, and mete out enough rest to have every player as close to 100 percent as possible when that playoff bell starts ringing.
Aaron Ward was given a day off Saturday against the New York Rangers with an injury suffered against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he’s expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday. Phil Kessel and Shawn Thornton were both likewise given ample time last week to rest injury issues leading up to the playoffs — and both are expected in the lineup Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators. Likewise, both P.J. Axelsson and Dennis Wideman are getting their turn this week and will have maintenance-type days off against Ottawa on Tuesday night.
“As we go through the week we’ll go through all the stuff that (the media) is talking about whether you rest players or you bring up players (from Providence),” said B’s bench boss Claude Julien. “Those are things that are without a doubt on our agenda.
“Right now we’re in control. Last year until the second-to-last game we were in control of our own destiny, but we didn’t have a spot locked up,” added Julien. “Right now we’re watching all our (potential playoff opponents) and doing our best to prepare. We’re doing our homework.”
The one injury problem of note is Andrew Ference, who left Saturday’s game in the second period and was still being evaluated by Bruins medical people Monday afternoon prior to the team’s departure for the friendly Canadian capital of Ottawa. Losing Ference for any extended period of time would be a blow to the Bruins defensemen depth, but the trade for Steve Montador — along with the ascendant rise of the speed-skating Matt Hunwick — give Julien some options when rounding out any potential Ference-less lineups.
|Ference, Chara make personal donations for Right to Play||02.23.09 at 11:23 am ET|
The Right to Play is a charity organization that includes a heavy dose of Boston Bruins involvement, as both Andrew Ference and Zdeno Chara have traveled over to Africa in the name of the Canadian organization. Twenty-two different NHL players are donating something of their own to raise in the next week, and that includes Ference putting his own Harley Davidson on auction to raise funds. The coolest part: the player get to do in the name of someone they care about or admire.
No word on whether Big Z is going to donate the Right to Play yellow toque he was sporting when he reared back and fired the NHL hardest slap shot during All-Star weekend in Montreal last month. Here’s the release from Right to Play:
Players from 22 National Hockey League teams are showing their support for the international humanitarian organization Right To Play by making personal donations over the Feb. 27 – March 1 weekend.
NHL superstars including Right To Play Athlete Ambassadors Alexander Ovechkin, Zdeno Chara, Joe Thornton and Daniel Alfredsson will be among at least 25 players donating to Right To Play based on minutes played in one of their team’s games Feb. 27 – March 1. While players celebrate their ability to play a game they love, they will be making donations to Right To Play in honour of coaches or role models who instilled in them the positive values of sport and helped them succeed — not just in hockey, but in life.
Funds raised will support Right To Play’s sport and play programs in 23 countries of operation across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America. By training local community leaders as Coaches to deliver these programs, Right To Play provides similar growth opportunities and positive role models for 600,000 children in Right To Play activities every week.
“When I visited Right To Play projects in Mozambique last summer, I saw what an incredible impact Right To Play Coaches are having on children’s lives,” said Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “I was inspired by their commitment and extremely impressed by the ability of just a few Coaches to create such happiness and amazing learning opportunities for literally hundreds of children. My father was a mentor for me and that is why I am honouring him with my donation. I know it is for an outstanding cause.”
The Garth Brooks Teammates For Kids Foundation is also joining in the players’ support of Right To Play by matching donation contributions from Teammates For Kids ‘Hockey Teammates’ up to $20,000.
In addition, players, teams, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association have all contributed to an online auction in benefit of Right To Play. The auction launches this evening at www.ebay.com/righttoplayand is highlighted by a 1999 Harley-Davidson motorcycle donated by Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference and a leather jacket from Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada.
Andrew’s video promoting the auction can be seen on the eBay site. Other items include a custom Steve Montador signature poker table, a signed 2009 ‘West’ NHL All-Star Game sweater, game-used sticks from Daniel Alfredsson, Garnet Exelby and Manny Malhotra, an Alex Ovechkin-autographed Right To Play tracksuit, signed jerseys and other merchandise. The auction closes on March 1.
“On behalf of all the children in our programs and the volunteer Coaches who work with them, I want to thank these NHL players and the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation for their outstanding leadership and support,” said Right To Play President and CEO Johann Koss. “This initiative is a great example of what can be achieved when athletes rally together around the best values of sport and play.”
Participating players are listed below and can also be found on a Coach Tribute Wall at righttoplay.ca or righttoplayusa.org. Fans are encouraged to join these NHL players by making online donations in honour of their own coaches or role models. For donations of $25 or more, donor and coach names will be inserted on the Coach Tribute Wall alongside the NHL players, and the donor will receive a personalized ‘Coach Tribute’ via email as a special thank you.
Right To Play 2009 ‘Donation for Minutes Weekend’ Participants
NHL Team Player Honoured Coach / Role Model Donation Game
Anaheim Ducks Steve Montador/Gisele Bourgeois Feb. 28 at Dallas
Chris Pronger/Ollie Bon Jovi / Hummer Feb. 28 at Dallas
Atlanta Thrashers Garnet Exelby Jude Boulianne Feb. 28 vs. Carolina
Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara/Zdenek Chara Feb. 28 vs. Washington
Andrew Ference/Brent Peterson Feb. 28 vs. Washington
Calgary Flames Robyn Regehr/All minor hockey coaches Feb. 27 vs. Minnesota
Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews/Thom Gross Feb. 27 vs. Pittsburgh
Columbus Blue Jackets Manny Malhotra/Scott Sones/Rob Honighan March 1 at Vancouver
Edmonton Oilers Ethan Moreau/Ab Moreau Feb. 28 vs. Minnesota
Florida Panthers Jay Bouwmeester/Dan Bouwmeester Feb. 28 at New Jersey
Greg Campbell/All minor hockey coaches Feb. 28 at New Jersey
Los Angeles Kings Anze Kopitar/Matjaz Kopitar Feb. 27 at Detroit
Minnesota Wild Nick Schultz Robert Schultz Feb. 27 at Calgary
Montreal Canadiens Mike Komisarek/Aleksey Nikiforov Feb. 28 vs. San Jose
Nashville Predators David Legwand/Dave and Carole Legwand Feb. 28 vs. Detroit
New York Islanders Josh Bailey/Mickey Renaud Feb. 28 vs. Buffalo
New York Rangers Wade Redden/Pat Redden Feb. 28 vs. Colorado
Ottawa Senators Daniel Alfredsson/Hasse Alfredsson Feb. 28 vs. Toronto
Philadelphia Flyers Mike Richards/Mark Richards/Matt Richards Feb. 27 vs. Montreal
Pittsburgh Penguins Eric Godard/Bill Higgins Feb. 27 at Chicago
San Jose Sharks Joe Thornton/Brian Muscat Feb. 28 at Montreal
Tampa Bay Lightning Matt Pettinger/Allan Neale Feb. 27 at Vancouver
Toronto Maple Leafs Dominic Moore/Brad Selwood Feb. 28 at Ottawa
Vancouver Canucks Kevin Bieksa/Scott Jess Feb. 27 vs. Tampa Bay
Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin/Zinetulla Bilyaletdinov Feb. 28 at Boston
About Right To Play
Right To Play is an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play programs to improve health, develop life skills and foster peace for children and communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Working in both the humanitarian and development context, Right To Play trains local community leaders as Coaches to deliver our programs in 23 countries affected by war, poverty and disease across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America. Right To Play is supported by an international team of top athletes from more than 40 countries. As role models, these athletes inspire children, raise awareness and promote opportunities for funding for Right To Play projects.
|Sounds of the game… Flyers 4, Bruins 3, OT||02.07.09 at 9:04 pm ET|
The Bruins under Claude Julien rarely blow leads at home. They almost NEVER blow two-goal leads.
Saturday they did both to the very hungry Philadelphia Flyers.
After beating Philadelphia, 3-1, on Wednesday with an extremely sound game and a nearly perfect third period, the Bruins looked very tired once they went up by two with their fastest two goals since Barry Pederson and Norman Leveille scored eight seconds apart on Dec. 20, 1981.
But the Flyers were the better and more desperate team for the last 43 minutes of this one, and you’ll get no argument from the Black and Gold on that point.
Yes, they could’ve won when the Flyers’ Antero Niittymaki inexplicably knocked the puck up and over the boards for a delay of game penalty in the final 90 seconds.
Yes, they could’ve won it when Dennis WIdeman’s shot from the left point and rang off the right post in overtime.
And yes, they could’ve LOST it when Jeff Carter broke in on a shorthanded breakaway and when Simon Gagne fired one on net only to have Manny Fernandez come up big.
But they lost this game when Randy Jones, of all people, flipped the puck toward the net. It went off Andrew Ference and past Fernandez exactly three minutes into overtime for the game-winner.
It was Jones who hit Patrice Bergeron from behind on Oct. 27, 2007 at the Garden, causing Bergeron to miss the rest of the season with a grade three concussion.
|Chara puts Right To Play in the spotlight||01.25.09 at 2:37 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Zdeno Chara defended his title as owner of the NHL’s hardest slapshot when he fired off a 105.4 mph blast in his final attempt during Saturday night’s All-Star SuperSkills competition at the Bell Centre. The feat of hockey strength marked the third straight year that the 6-foot-9 defenseman snagged the hardest shot hardware, but there was a bit more of a humanistic spin to this season’s victory.
With a bright yellow “Right to Play” toque sitting atop his giant Slovakian cranium following the performance, Chara reared back and fired an NHL-record 105.4 mph slat shot that won the competition and banked $24,000 for his favorite Right to Play charity. Chara’s booming shot broke former B’s defenseman Al Iafrate’s record of 105.2 mph set back in the 1993 skills competition, and the money raised for charity put a well-intentioned, altruistic spin on the proceedings.
Right To Play is a Canadian charity that, according to its web site, is “creating a healthier and safer world for children through the power of sport and play.” Both B’s defenseman Andrew Ference and Chara have traveled to Africa to witness the work done by Right To Play with African children first-hand, and have continued serving as ambassadors to the program.
The gesture even quieted the Montreal crowd, who normally save their lustiest boos for the intense and physical Chara during heated Habs/Bruins games.
“I gave it all that I had, and I’m glad it worked out,” said Chara. “That’s the highest I’ve ever shot (a puck). I’ve been a few times around 103, 104, 102 (mph). You know, you always want to shoot the hardest shot, but it’s the All-Star record, so I’m very happy.”
Chara and Right To Play Deputy Director Mark Brender were locked in a joyful embrace following the Bruins defenseman’s rousing victory for both himself and charity, and shared a few thoughts about Chara’s relationship with Right To Play — and his own mad scramble to find a gold-ish Right to Play hat that Chara could wear on television while breaking land speed records with his shot.
That was a pretty dramatic win for Chara. MB:Yeah, I know he was really pumped to do it and he was really excited and happy about doing it. So, you could tell how happy he was and he is really committed. Obviously for us to have a champion like him — and like Andrew Ference who helped Z get into it — and all of the other NHL guys is huge. It’s the kind of money and exposure that will go directly to help children develop through playing sports.
What does it mean for the program to have a guy like Z climbing up Mt. Kilimanjaro and visiting Africa this summer, and all of the other things that he does for the program? MB: It gives us so much credibility. A lot of times when pro athletes lend their name to a cause, it’s really just in-and-out. But when a guy like (Chara) gets involved he is so committed that he gives us credibility when we say that we have athlete ambassadors. We have many, many Olympic athlete ambassadors and it was born under the Olympic movement.
So it’s a great thing to have pros like Z and many other NHLers as well because there’s a lot of credibility to them. (Raising money in the skills competition) shows it’s more than just lending their name. It’s believing in it, and that’s something that really shows.
How gung ho is Z about Right to Play? It seems as if he mentions it a lot in his day-to-day world of hockey. MB: Yeah. He went to Mozambique this summer with us and he got to see the impact of our work. When you go a town a couple of hours north of the capital city and then you see 16-year-olc coaches, who are leading 400 children and through that you can do all kinds of developmental things, and talk about education and HIV and things like that.
So he has seen that work, and when you see that work then you come back and see the emotions that you have. That’s why (he’s still involved).
Word trickled out that he had made the challenge. When did you find out about it? MB:The Bruins were in Toronto on Wednesday and he and Andrew went out to dinner the night before and conceived of this thing then. It was in the works for a little bit that they had been planning something. Andrew and Zdeno are very good together.
You must have been pretty happy to see the Right to Play hat out there? MB: He actually asked for the hat when we were in Toronto, so we had to go digging to find one. He said “make it Bruins colors, make it Bruins colors.” So went went digging and found a yellow one that was actually from the 2006 Olympics. I’m really happy it worked out.
|Thoughts from the pre-Habs morning skate||01.13.09 at 12:38 pm ET|
There’s always a bit more life in the catacombs of the Old Garden when the Montreal Canadiens are in town for a Northeast Division showdown, and that’s again the case this morning on Causeway Street. The Habs are looking for revenge after a pair of beat downs in their last two epic games against each other, and the B’s are beginning to really deal with some roster and depth issues as the injury/illness bug continues to creep up and crawl through the team.
–Center Patrice Bergeron again skated before practice this morning — along with Andrew Ference and Milan Lucic — and that makes three consecutive days that the 23-year-old has laced up the skates and got the heart rate up and the blood pumping without any evidence of headache or setback.
This is music to ears of the Bruins’ fan base and, more importantly, to Bergeron himself.
“It’s great to be back out on the ice. I’m very happy,” said Bergeron, who pumped his heart rate up to 155-160 on the bike before he was cleared to get back on skates. “When I talked to you guys the other day
I didn’t know it was going to be that quick. It’s just skating for now and taking some shots and we’ll see further on. It’s just good to be back and a relief that I have a chance to skate again.
“I don’t want to have any setbacks, so we’re taking it slowly and surely,” added Bergeron. “If I feel good, then I feel good.
–Bruins coach Claude Julien had Martin St. Pierre and Milan Lucic both alternating turns with Chuck Kobasew and Marc Savard on the B’s top line during the morning skate and it really appears to be a mix-and-match game for Claude Julien with Phil Kessel removed from the lineup for the near-future. Lucic is a game-time decision with his undisclosed injury after sailing through the morning skate, but — either way — there won’t be a much-anticipated bought between Looch and Big George Laraque with the Habs’ enforcer out of the lineup tonight.
Facing the loss of 21-year-old star forward Phil Kessel to mononucleosis for a minimum of 2-4 weeks while also balancing significant injuries to Marco Sturm and Patrice Bergeron, Bruins coach Claude Julien said that the Bruins will do what they’ve always done best: survive.
“He’s no different than any of the guys that we’ve lost [to injury] so far,” said B’s coach Claude Julien, whose team will face a highly motivated Montreal Canadiens squad tonight at the TD Banknorth Garden. “Every time you lose key players like that it’s a big loss. But we’ve had a lot of practice with it, especially last year. We survived it, and we’ll survive it again.
“We have to rely on the guys at our disposal to play solidly and to play well.”
–The search for Manny’s name plate ended at the Garden this morning as it stood there firmly in place along with his mask and all of the rest of his equipment in the Boston dressing room. Julien said that Fernandez is dealing with, as GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed yesterday, “general soreness” and something “very minor” that has the veteran puckstopper currently on day-to-day status.
No word on the whereabouts of his much-discussed Ristuccia Arena name plate, but there appears to be a burgeoning request by the Bruins Faithful to have it appear on EBay – and available to the tip-top bidder – after a wee little piece of laminated paper with the goalie’s name on it sparked an avalanche of message board trade rumors on the great HFBoards yesterday afternoon.
“Hopefully we’ll see him on the ice tomorrow. That really is the situation with Manny,” said Julien, attempting to close the case of the ‘tender name plate.
|Bergeron back on the ice this morning||01.12.09 at 10:42 am ET|
Just days after Patrice Bergeron vowed to return to the Bruins this season, the 23-year-old center skated on the ice at Ristuccia Arena for roughly a half-hour this morning. There’s still no timetable on Bergeron’s return, but getting back on the ice is a significant step in Bergeron’s progress. The B’s center also skated briefly yesterday as well. Bergeron was joined by Shane Hnidy — with a visor attached to his helmet protecting the still-massive shiner on his left eye — as well as Milan Lucic, Aaron Ward and Andew Ference for some turns on the practice ice before the rest of the team conducted regular practice.
–Julien also indicated that Manny Fernandez wasn’t on the ice today, and is dealing with a minor injury “issue”. Julien indicated that Fernandez won’t be a scratch for tomorrow, and that likely means Kevin Regan’s one-day dress rehearsal with the Bruins will have him back down in Providence tomorrow. The sheer mathematics of a Boy Goaltender from Southie coming up with enough game tickets to satiate family and friends is mind-blowing. Then add in the fact that it’s against the hated Habs. I simply can’t wrap my simpleton journalistic head around it.
For what it’s worth, Fernandez’s nameplate was also missing from its usual location within the Ristuccia Arena dressing room this morning – which should send Bruins conspiracy theorists into orbit. Kevin Regan was moved into the vacant locker in between Tim Thomas and Fernandez, and it looked as if Fernandez’s nameplate had been yanked from its spot. Could mean nothing, or it could mean that the wheels are in full spin toward dealing Manny Fernandez for a top flight defenseman or for some help/healthy bodies at forward. Stay tuned.
|B’s finally getting some good health news||01.05.09 at 5:15 pm ET|
In a much-needed reprieve from the war of attrition that’s been going on with the Bruins’ squad over the last month, B’s coach Claude Julien and his team needed some good news in the health department — and got it at this morning’s practice in Wilmington.
Andrew Ference took part in the hour plus practice at Ristuccia Arena – though he skated off early for “precautionary reasons” — and was among the healthy-enough-to-skate B’s players that heard Julien’s booming voice screaming during the intense morning of drills. Ward didn’t skate at practice with the team, but Julien deemed that his charley horse situation is improving dramatically.
The ”mild” charley horse knocked the 35-year-old out of Saturday’s loss in the second period, and Ward will be a game time decision for tomorrow night’s tilt against the trap-happy Minnesota Wild. Granted Marco Sturm is likely gone for the season with left knee surgery and there’s no timetable for Patrice Bergeron’s road back from his concussion, but things are starting to look up for the band-aid B’s.
”He’s doing a lot better,” said Julien of Ward. ”His motion and range today was pretty good. He’s going to skate with us tomorrow and we’ll see how he does.”
Ference, out since mid-November following surgery to repair a fractured tibia incurred after blocking a shot during a penalty kill situation, continues to work ahead of schedule and should be back playing in real games over the next week. Tomorrow is a longshot, but nontheless healthy bodies are beginning to fill up the dressing room. Julien was asked if he could presumably go from having six healthy defenseman to a choice of eight living, breathing, healthy bodies for tomorrow night’s game, and the B’s bench boss didn’t rule out the possibility.
“Ference is still day-to-day and he’s been put through some battle drills today [in practice] so we’ll see how he fares tomorrow,” said Julien, of a Tuesday morning skate that will portend whether Ward or Ference return to the lineup against the Wild. “There’s a possibility that we’ll look at Ward tomorrow and Ference is practicing with us and day-to-day. We’re kind of on the bubble with that.
There’s still some question marks that will be answered tomorrow morning, but we could be [anywhere] from 8 to 6 tomorrow very easily,” added Julien.
All-Star Snub Reaction
Bruins players selected for the Eastern Conference All-Star team will find out Thursday around noontime when the NHL announces the reserve players for the Jan. 25 NHL showpiece event. The B’s didn’t have a single player voted into the Eastern Conference starting lineup — a group filled solely with Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens players – announced over the weekend, and goaltender Tim Thomas felt like it might be a case of too many good Bruins to choose from. Or perhaps not enough tech-savvy, prospering cheaters among the B’s fan base.
Just taking Thomas’ case, it’s a tough decision to choose between Thomas and fellow veteran goaltender Manny Fernandez. Both goaltenders have worked together in seamless fashion to become the best goaltending duo in the NHL this season. Thomas and Fernandez, Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara and Phil Kessel are all certainly deserving of All-Star recognition, and it’s a safe bet that at least two of them will be invited to participate in Montreal’s All-Star weekend three weeks from now.
“I hadn’t thought about it,” said a clearly amused Thomas. “Obviously it was fan voting, so it was unrealistic. The other angle to look at is that this team is so good that it makes it really hard to choose [individual players]. Obviously [the fan voting] was Pittsburgh computer programmers versus Montreal computer programmers. It’s tough to make choices when you could pick so many good players, or you could be like Pittsburgh and Montreal and pick your whole team.”
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