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Bruins pregame: Daniel Paille cleared for return, Chad Johnson starts in net 03.15.14 at 12:33 pm ET
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Bruins fans will welcome back Daniel Paille Saturday against Carolina. (AP)

Bruins fans will welcome back Daniel Paille Saturday against Carolina. (AP)

Winners of seven straight, the Bruins will welcome back one forward and another making his NHL debut. Bruins coach Claude Julien announced before Saturday’s game with Carolina that Daniel Paille, who has missed the last five games with concussion symptoms, has been cleared to return to game action.

Asked if he will be available and will play, Julien was more coy with reporters pre-game.

“Could be,” Julien said with a smile. “Probably. You’ll have to make some deductions. right? I have to keep you guys on your toes. I’m too predictable.”

Chad Johnson will make his 18th start in net for the Bruins after Tuukka Rask started both games of the back-to-back Wednesday and Thursday in Montreal and home against Phoenix.

The other big story Saturday is the NHL debut of 23-year-old forward Matt Linblad, a Friday call-up from Providence.

“It’€™s pretty special,” Julien said. “I’€™m sure he’€™s dreamed of playing in the NHL, and exhibition games are one thing, and this is the real deal right now. But at the same time, I think he’€™s earned it. He’€™s played really well. I liked his training camp, I liked his, again, his hockey knowledge and his hockey IQ.

“Hockey sense is always an important part of any player at this level, and he has that. He’€™s a smart individual, so you put that with the good skater that he he is, and it makes for a pretty decent player. So we have high hopes for him and there’€™s an opportunity for him to show he’€™s gotten better over the course of the season.”

During pre-game warmups, Linblad was skating on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille, leaving Shawn Thornton as the odd man out.

Julien also announced that, after playing in three straight games, defenseman Andrej Meszaros would get the day off, giving Torey Krug more time on the blue line as well as the power play.

“There’€™s going to be some changes here as we go along, and I think [Meszaros] has played three straight games and we’€™ve continued to work with him,” Julien said. “So, we certainly don’€™t want to let our other players that have been here be pushed aside because of trades. So it’€™s just managing that whole back end.”

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Andy Brickley on M&M: Andrej Meszaros ‘gives you options’ 03.12.14 at 2:57 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

Andy Brickley

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about Andrej Meszaros, the B’s defense and more. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

While Brickley still has doubts about the Bruins depth at wing, he sees the Meszaros trade as one that will help the Bruins figure out their best defensive combination.

“I’m not sure I’€™m convinced that if there are injuries to the four lines, as currently constituted, that they have enough in the wings waiting to step in,” Brickley said. “The organization, obviously, believes they probably do, but ”the emphasis was to definitely go get a defenseman, and now bringing in Meszaros, that gives you options.”

Added Brickley: “And it gives you — ’cause he can play left or right — and it gives you competition for ice time and actually be in uniform. You see Dougie Hamilton, the first casualty. They’re trying to figure out guys. Who’s going to play with [Zdeno] Chara in the playoffs? They want that shutdown pair and they’€™re not sure where it’€™s at right now and that was the whole reason to go get a guy like Meszaros.”

While the Bruins like what they see from Meszaros so far, the real test starts Wednesday night against Montreal, according to Brickley.

“I think the competition has started,” Brickley said. “It started the other night in Florida with Meszaros going to the lineup. They really like what he brought on that power play, being a left shot, being able to work the overload on the one side with other left shots on the half wall, whether it’s [Carl] Soderberg or [Loui] Eriksson, whoever it might be. They like that look.”

Added Brickley: “Now keep in mind that’s the Florida Panthers. That’s a pretty easy matchup for your first game as a player. Tonight you’€™ll probably get some different results and I’ll be curious to see how the defensemen in the lineup tonight handle a team like Montreal and the intensity and the speed.”

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Tim Thomas gets a new teammate in Roberto Luongo and immediately ‘pumps his tires’ 03.04.14 at 11:59 pm ET
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Tim Thomas couldn’t resist.

The opportunity to make a joke about the goaltender who was the butt of all Boston jokes in 2011 fell right in his lap when Roberto Luongo was traded from Vancouver to Florida on Tuesday, hours before the Wednesday 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.

“I did have one good line that probably somebody else has already thought of: It looked like [Panthers GM] Dale [Tallon] went kicking some tires and found one that needed pumping,” Thomas laughed.

Thomas, of course, was referring to an infamous comment Luongo made during the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.

Asked about how Thomas was carrying the Bruins on his back during the Bruins’ Cup run, Luongo famously said, “€œI’€™ve been pumping his tires ever since the series started and I haven’€™t heard one nice thing he had to say about me.”

Thomas replied, “I didn’€™t realize it was my job to pump his tires.”

Now, the two goalies are teammates thanks to a surprising deal in which the Panthers acquired Luongo in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday afternoon. That wasn’t the only storyline of the trade as Luongo returns to the organization where he played from 2000-06.

For the record, Panthers GM Dale Tallon said he intends on keeping both goalies in Florida and rebuilding the franchise around them.

“€œIt’€™ll be interesting, but you know what, I don’€™t know how things are going to work out, but assuming I’€™m staying in Florida, it’€™ll be interesting,”€ Thomas said. “I’€™m looking forward to it. It’€™ll be fun.”

Thomas insisted there are no hard feelings with Luongo.

“€œNo, not at all,” Thomas said. “I wasn’€™t an enemy with him even [in 2011]. I was so focused on playing and doing my job and that’€™s the way I was looking at it. So, yeah, we’€™re both pros, both been in the league a long time. I have a few more years on him, obviously, but we both have a lot of experience to bring to the team.

“€œSurprised, obviously, at first just like probably a lot of people who were caught off guard and didn’€™t see that one coming,” Thomas said. “€œBut then I had to get ready to play the game against obviously a difficult team.”

Thomas, on a one-year deal with the Panthers, said he can get along with Luongo.

“€œYeah, of course,”€ Thomas said. “€œHe’€™s a good goalie and from everything I’€™ve heard about him he’€™s got good character. I don’€™t know what their plans are. I don’€™t really know anything at this point. I can’€™t say too much.”

While Tallon did say he plans on keeping both, that didn’t stop speculation that Florida would eventually trade Thomas before the deadline to a contender. Thomas was asked if he would like to be traded to a contender now that Luongo is in Florida.

“€œYeah, but now I’€™ve got to see the situation and see what they’€™re thinking. I’€™d like to check in with Dale before I comment on anything,” Thomas said.

What does Claude Julien think of all of this from afar?

“€œWe’ll see if that’s still the case [Wednesday},"€ Julien said with a wide grin. "Maybe I can comment on it [Wednesday] after the deadline. Fair enough? I know it’s a lot of tire pumping.”

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Andy Brickley on M&M: Bruins should ‘add something significant along the blue line’ 02.26.14 at 1:29 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

Andy Brickley

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the possibility of the Bruins adding a defenseman prior to the deadline, Peter Chiarelli‘s scouting and Loui Eriksson. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

With the NHL trade deadline next Wednesday at 3 p.m., Brickley said how the Bruins view the blue line will determine whether they add a defenseman.

“I think it all starts with how you evaluate what’€™s going on along the blue line,” Brickley said. “€œThis is a team that prides itself on goaltending, team defense, some strong penalty-killing, and then that balanced offense is somewhere further down in terms of priority. And if you have that type of analysis, then I think you have to look real closely at the group of six or seven that they have on the blue line right now and say, ‘€˜Is this group good enough, deep enough to carry us to an Eastern Conference final and get us to a Stanley Cup final and an opportunity to win this thing.’ And I think that’€™s what has to be addressed, because in my evaluation I would like to see them add something significant along the blue line.”

Brickley was complimentary of Chiarelli’€™s ability to identify defensemen who work well with the team.

“The thing about what Peter is able to do along with his management team and the scouting crew, identify a guy like Torey Krug and go out and pay maybe a couple extra dollars to make sure he comes to Boston,” Brickley said. “You make a deal for [Matt] Bartkowski, when nobody really makes notice of it or takes notice of it. You draft a kid like Dougie Hamilton in the first round. You identify a player like Kevan Miller and allow him to play in the American Hockey League and learn how to be a good depth defenseman. And those guys are all significant pieces to what the Bruins have been able to put together and accomplish and pile up points to this point in the regular season.”

Brickley is concerned with the lack of experience the young defensemen have, however, and would rather move Johnny Boychuk out of the top two.

“But as we know the playoffs are a different animal and you’€™re talking about very little experience there in that foursome,” Brickley said. “Now you have Johnny Boychuk, because of the added absence of Adam McQuaid as well due to a lot of injuries over the last year plus, almost two years. And of course Dennis Seidenberg being out of the lineup. Now you have [Zdeno] Chara, Boychuk, that’€™s your one-two combination. And I think you’€™re a really strong defense if Boychuk is somewhere in your top four, but maybe not your top two. And that’€™s certainly not an indictment on his play, because I love his game and I love how, how game he is, as a matter of fact, to speak to his character.”

Added Brickley: “€œBut if you can go out and acquire, or certainly add to the players that you have on the blue line, as well as they’ve played, now I think you have a much better chance when you get in the postseason. You know there’€™s going to be injuries, you know there are certain matchups that you’€™re looking for, based on the opponents that you’€™re going to draw, and if you can have seven, eight NHL caliber, and maybe even a top two, three that might not be there right now, I think your chances certainly improve as far as going where you want to go and reaching the goals that you set.”

Eriksson, who has not produced big numbers in Boston, played well for Sweden in the just-completed Olympics. Brickley said that the extra playing time, along with playing on the third line, could help the 28-year-old.

“Eriksson needed to play hockey, he needed to play hockey over in Sochi, and he seemed to be — €”he seemed to be finding his game more and more a little bit before the break,” Brickley said. “€œHe seemed to have some chemistry with [Carl] Soderberg in particular, the two Swedes. Seemed to slide into that third line, instead of the pressure of being in that top six, that seems to be paying dividends. And his awareness, when you watched him play, although it was the bigger ice surface, his awareness of all the moving parts going on around him seemed a lot cleaner, a lot sharper. When you come back from injuries, that’€™s the one thing you have to be concerned about when you’€™re coming back from a concussion, is that awareness. Seemed a lot better in the Olympics, so that’€™s what I’€™m looking for. And he needs to continue to play. So maybe the break was good for him in terms of playing hockey.”

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Andy Brickley on M&M: Bruins ‘are OK with subtracting something to go get what they feel they need’ 02.12.14 at 1:41 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

Andy Brickley

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the Winter Olympics in Sochi and Bruins news. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Brickley said he likes what the NHL has done by involving its best players in the Olympics, bringing greater recognition around the world, but he said it might be time to try a different approach.

“€œI was in favor of the NHL players going to the Olympics when they were trying to globalize their game and sell their game and let everybody know what a great sport this can be, especially when you have the best players in the world representing their countries and what it means to them to play for their countries,” he said. “You get great hockey and it’€™s high competition and the love for the game and the love for the homeland is all on that giant stage, and that’€™s awesome.

“But I would rather see that in the World Cup. They’ve been to the Olympics, I think that they’ve done what they set out to do when they first went to the Olympics. I’m not excited about some of the stories I’ve heard coming from Russia and the situation that Sochi is. …

“That being said, when you do get the kind of competition that is expected in this Olympics and you have the greatest players playing, there’€™s nothing better. I love the Stanley cup finals, but this is about your country, and it’€™s once every four years.”

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Mike Petraglia, DJ Bean assess Bruins at the Olympic break 02.08.14 at 11:42 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and DJ Bean assess the Bruins at the Olympic break. The Bruins finished the pre-Olympic portion of the schedule as one of the hottest teams in the NHL, going 8-1-2 in their final 11 games before the break, including Saturday’s 7-2 rout of the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden.

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Peter Chiarelli happy with how his summer moves have worked so far: ‘That’s what is expected of me’ at 5:35 pm ET
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Eyebrows were a bit more than raised when Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli traded away young gun Tyler Seguin and reliable forward Rich Peverley to the Dallas Stars last summer in return for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Joe Morrow and Matt Fraser.

That was a Fourth of July calculated gamble that Chiarelli was willing to take just a week after his team lost in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup finals. Smith has 18 goals this season on the Marchand-Bergeron line, second only to Marchand’s 19 goals this year. Add to that the addition of veteran forward Jarome Iginla to replace Nathan Horton on the top line, and the moves have worked out quite nicely for the Bruins.

Iginla scored again Saturday and all of a sudden has 17 goals with 25 assists. Eriksson assisted on the first two goals Saturday and has 14 helpers on the season, not bad considering he’s missed 21 games with a pair of concussions.

Before he joins one of seven Bruins off to the Sochi Winter Games, Chiarelli was asked before Saturday’s 7-2 demolition of the Senators at TD Garden just how satisfying it is knowing the deals he made in the summer have paid off.

“It’€™s good, I mean that’€™s what is expected of me,” Chiarelli said. “Certainly I’€™ll hear it from you guys if they don’€™t. You, know Iggy ‘€“ high character. So you know you’re going to get a good effort. What were my other deals? Loui [Eriksson], yeah Loui is still a work in progress but I’€™ve seen parts of his game that I’€™m going to expect at some point that I have seen before. He’€™s got to work his way through it but he is a very good two way player and I’€™m happy with him. Reilly [Smith], of course has been good. So yeah it’€™s good. That’€™s what I’€™m expected to do and it helps bringing these players into a successful team and structure. It’€™s easier to do that provided they buy in and these guys have bought in.”

Will he look at bringing in veteran leaders at the March 5 trade deadline?

“Usually when I’€™m trying to add something on a temporary basis, on a rental basis, I’€™d like that player to have some experience,” Chiarelli said. “So, that usually translates into being a veteran. Playoff experience would be good too so that’€™s something I look for, I don’€™t know if I’€™m going to get it if we add somebody but that’€™s what I look for, I think it’€™s important. I t’€™s not so much for leadership; I feel our group has strong leadership. It’€™s more for having been in the battles and having that composure because that is what you need to win, is composure and compete by the composure also.”

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