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Putting the ‘B’ back in the Bruins 05.18.09 at 6:14 pm ET
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For all the accomplishments the Boston Bruins achieved this past season, the biggest may reach far beyond the ice sheet at TD Banknorth Garden.

The Bruins are Boston’s darlings once again. Even with the heartbreaking end in Game 7 against Carolina, these Bruins seemed to have captured the imagination of the  blue-collar fan while casting in the average fan who heretofore has been preoccupied with the Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots.

“It was honestly one of the best (experiences),” 36-year-old defenseman Aaron Ward said on break-up Monday at the Garden. “I came in here two years ago towards the tail-end of the season and I don’t know if people even knew what the ‘B’ represented anymore. We didn’t have an identity. We didn’t have guys that you could associate with or to. You ask people who their favorite Boston Bruin was and they’d reach to yesteryear and it would be Cam Neely or Ray Bourque or Johnny Bucyk and now I think the game is revitalized.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Montreal Canadiens
Scott Walker’s wife diagnosed with cancer during playoff series 05.16.09 at 8:44 pm ET
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The Carolina Hurricanes released a sobering piece of news this morning following Scott Walker’s tumultuous series against the Boston Bruins that saw the scrappy Canes forward sucker-punch Aaron Ward in Game 5 and then pot the OT game-winner in Game 7. Walker’s wife, Julie, has cervical cancer, but the disease is treatable and she is expected to make a full recovery. Walker learned of his wife’s diagnosis during the seven-game series against the Bruins.

“My wife is an amazing person and we are looking forward to a positive outcome from this challenge,’€ said Walker on Saturday afternoon. ‘€œI will address the situation with the media, but my family would appreciate its privacy going forward.’€

Read More: Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Scott Walker,
Aaron Ward on D&C: ‘It is a complete joke’ 05.14.09 at 12:01 pm ET
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Aaron Ward went on the Dennis & Callahan Show this morning to discuss the advantage of home ice in Game 7 of the second-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Capitals’ failure to show up in Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and, of course, to discuss the punch by Scott Walker that left him with a black eye and potential for a broken bone in his face.

“It is a complete joke,” Ward said of the failure to suspend Walker. “If this happened to Sidney Crosby or someone of high value (there would have been a suspension), I’€™m a plumber in this whole situation, it’€™s easier to sweep it under the rug.”

Here are some excerpts from the interview, which can be heard by clicking here:

Q: What do you know for sure about Game 7 tonight?

A: I make it a practice to never notify the media that I listen to them so I was listening to you guys on the way in and you guys had some interesting theories.

It’€™s imperative that you get home ice and you keep home ice throughout the playoffs because you always need that added ingredient to your confidence and psyche. You’€™re more composed, you feel as if you have the masses behind you and for some reason, it adds to your confidence on the ice. I can’€™t explain why but it’€™s just a fact of life, as an athlete, when you have a rowdy crowd, it can be uplifting for your team.

Q: Can the ‘€œus against the world’€ idea work for a team?

A: I honestly think at this stage in the playoffs, the game is played out there and the crowd has an effect on the game. That’€™s pretty good in the first round but come the second round, I’€™m not so sure that works anymore.

Q: How’€™s the shiner looking this morning?

A: I’€™ve got one. It’€™s not looking too bad. He got the outside of my eye. Seems like it’€™s fine right now. If I start putting makeup on the ice, we’€™ve got bigger issues.

Q: Is there any fracture there?

A: In the playoffs, we aren’€™t allowed to reveal what is going on so I’€™ll tell you what I have is a lower body injury.

Q: Did you consider wearing a visor?

A: Back in 1993 I took it off when I was in college and I vowed I would never wear it again. I wore it for two months but I can’€™t stand it. It’€™s just the way you’€™ve been and you’€™re not willing to change.

Q: To what extent will injuries affect you guys?

A: I think it goes with the game; it’€™s a badge of honor. You expect to get injured. If you’€™re not getting injured in a distorted way it means you’€™re not getting into the corners and getting dirty. That’€™s more or less the mantra of this team. Zdeno, just by nature. He’€™s not a guy who shies away from contact. He’€™s naturally going to have it happen. It’€™s a war of attrition out there with us and that’€™s where your medical staff comes into play.

Q: Was going up 2-0 in Game 6 both a blessing and a curse?

A: For us, getting up 2-0, it quelled the crowd. They’€™re now sitting down. But on the other hand, it’€™s tough as a road team to go into an opponent’€™s building and not sit back and protect. Something about it is human nature to try and sit back and protect and I don’€™t know why it is. You have to fight it. Shift by shift on the bench, players talking to each other insuring that something’€™s got to change. If someone told me I was going to have a 2-0 lead in Carolina, I would’€™ve taken the drink out of his hand.

Q: Any reasonable explanation as to why Walker did not get suspended?

A: Have I gotten reasonable explanation? No. My inkling is that sometimes it’€™s out of convenience, fellas. If you don’€™t want to do anything about it, then you can find a reasonable explanation and just accept it. I try not to be sour grapes. My biggest retribution of this whole situation is to shake someone’€™s hand and tell them, ‘€œHave a good summer.’€ I would love to shake hands and know that I’€™m going to go on and play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the near future. We were able to exercise the way we wanted to play in that game and it was frustrating for them.

Q: He implied in his statement that there was some exchange between you two.

A: It was kind of an intimidating experience to stand there in front of 70 media members and tell them that it’€™s a joke. I called the media sheep because if you can look at that video and see anything that I said, the only thing I did with Walker was to brush off his punch with my left arm. How I became the instigator or the symbolic idiot in this situation baffles me. I represent everything that has gone wrong in this series for the ‘€˜Canes. We’€™re a pretty gritty team. It is a complete joke.

I said nothing, he knows I said nothing, management knows I said nothing. If this happened to Sidney Crosby or someone of high value, I’€™m a plumber in this whole situation, it’€™s easier to sweep it under the rug.

Q: Blowout or close game tonight?

A: My Game 7 experiences usually get out of hand. I think someone forgot to tell Washington yesterday that the game was going on. Ovechkin was baffled and that guy can only carry the team so far.

Q: What went wrong in the second and third game for you guys?

A: It’€™s the playoffs. Nothing went wrong. It’€™s the playoffs. That’€™s why they make it a seven-game series. It is truly a war of wits amongst the coaches, players playing the system properly, we couldn’€™t find our momentum and now we’€™ve found it.

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, Scott Walker,
Wheeler is the scratch for the Bruins again in Game 6 05.12.09 at 7:00 pm ET
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RALEIGH, N.C. — For the second straight game rookie winger Blake Wheeler is the scratch for the Boston Bruins — along with Andrew Ference and Matt Hunwick — and Byron Bitz is again in the lineup and skating with David Krejci and Michael Ryder.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, Byron Bitz,
Bruins need speed burners for Game 6 05.11.09 at 6:14 pm ET
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WILMINGTON -With so much focus on the intensity and nastiness that has been cranked up as the result of Game 5 between the Bruins and Hurricanes, one small detail is getting overshadowed.

The Bruins finally found a way on Sunday to contain the speed of Carolina’s attack. Their reward was a plane flight Monday afternoon bound for Raleigh, where they play Game 6 on Tuesday night.

Duplicate Sunday’s effort on Tuesday and the Bruins will bring the series to a Game 7 back in Boston on Thursday night.

“I think our backs are still against the wall,” Milan Lucic said on Monday at the team’s practice facility at Ristuccia Arena. “They’re still up 3-2 going into their barn. There’s pressure in every game of the playoffs, it doesn’t matter what side of the fence you’re on. We’re the ones with our backs against it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton
Walker facing suspension after “sucker punch” incident at 10:19 am ET
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The hibernating Bears woke up on Sunday night, and there shouldn’t be too much worry about any more hockey naps in the remaining two games of the semifinal series against the Carolina Hurricanes. The big question is why the Carolina Hurricanes chose to poke the proverbial Bear in the Cage during a Game 5 blowout, and never was that more evident than Scott Walker’s sucker punch of Aaron with less than five minutes to go in the third period.

Ward and Canes forward Matt Cullen were engaging in the exact kind of pushing and shoving that was evident through the entire game, and Walker came out of nowhere to jump into the fray as the third man in. Walker and Ward both threw quick gloved shots at each other, and then Walker crossed over the line with an overhand right at Ward’s face while the Bruins defenseman still had his gloves on.

It was clear Ward wasn’t going to fight, and Walker took that as open invitation to slam his unprotected face. Walker was tossed from the game with a misconduct, fighting penalty and instigator penalty and — according to section 47.22 of the NHL rule book — the Hurricanes is automatically suspended for a game pending review after drawing an instigator penalty in the final five minutes of regulation. 

Bruins coach Claude Julien indicated after the game that team doctors believe that Ward may have a broken orbital bone as a result of the incident — and that the veteran defenseman could be lost to the Bruins for at least a few games as a result of the injury.

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, who got a clear view of the incident as it happened right in front of the Boston net, essentially said it was a bush league move during a postgame interview with Versus following the third period incident: “That’s one of the worst sucker punches I’ve ever seen. That is something I haven’t seen since I was in the AHL.”

It will be interesting to see how far NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell takes the punishment with an incident like this, which he’ll already be reviewing given the instigator penalty rule. The NHL has an unwritten rule that they come down much harder on infractions when an injury results, and that appears to be the case with Ward’s injury. If Ward is out, the Black and Gold will be forced to dip into their supply of Black Aces at Providence and perhaps tap Johnny Boychuk for defenseman duty after only a handful of NHL games this season.

Here’s the youtube footage of the Walker “sucker punch” with an assist to www.hockeyfights.com:

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, Scott Walker,
Bruins are looking to retain shaprness with the time off 04.28.09 at 1:12 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — It feels like a big holding pattern is taking place here at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday morning as the Bruins await the identity of their next opponent. That identity will be learned after both of tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7’s between Carolina/New Jersey and New York/Washington have been decided.

The B’s skaters went through a spirited scrimmage for a large portion of practice with plenty of hard skating and fast-paced hockey designed to keep the hockey club as sharp as possible following a potential 9 day layoff. That would be the amount of time between games if the second round series doesn’t begin until Saturday night — following a potential Game 7 between the Celtics and the Bulls at the TD Banknorth Garden.

With that in mind “game situations” was the buzzword of the day with the Bruins following practice.

The players have all been attempting different methods to stay sharp during the long layoff period — with goaltender Tim Thomas harkening back to the big breaks that the Finnish Elite League took during the season for Olympic competition and youngsters like 20-year-old Milan Lucic drawing on the junior hockey experience of sometimes going an entire week without games. But there is some unknown territory as to how much rust will be present when the Black and Gold skaters again suit up this weekend. There could be some level of rust in a Game 1 against a team that hasn’t had much more than five or six days off leading into the upcoming series.

Defenseman Aaron Ward enjoyed the time off, and had friends up from Carolina for the weekend while taking in all three of the Red Sox/Yankees games at Fenway Park — including a stint in the NESN booth with Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy on Friday night. Ward has also watched every playoff game while he’s been at home, and derives a similar adrenaline rush watching playoff hockey as he does playing in it. Getting that rumble in the pit of his stomach allows the veteran to feel like he’s taking a “shot” of game adrenaline — and retaining some sharpness — during the long layoff between series.

“I won’t purposely take time out of my day to watch regular season games unless there’s some underlying theme to it — rivalry, there’s going to be a fight or some magical theme to it — but in the playoffs I’ll watch any game I can possibly find,” said Ward. “Last night I was watching San Jose/Anaheim and watching Calgary even though they’re Western Conference (teams) and we could only possibly play one of them.

“They mean something and it keeps you sharp,” added Ward. “We’ve got ten days off and it kind of incites that feeling in you where you get nervous even though you’re thousands of miles away and you’re not playing. You still get the stomach turning and the butterflies going because you know what kind of pressure (those players) are under.”

The B’s are instead focusing on the positive, and the good health that has returned to many of their players. Patrice Bergeron was allowed to rest a sore foot after taking a shot off the skate during the final regular season brawl-a-thon against the Montreal Canadiens. Bergeron endured through the first round of the playoffs in some level of pain, but has had ample time to heal leading into round two.

Defenseman Andrew Ference is back skating with the team after missing all of the first round with an undisclosed injury, and he’s expected to be healthy entering the Stanley Cup semi-finals. Any injuries and minor ailments that have slipped under the all-knowing, all-powerful scope of the Bruins media corps should be healed up, and ready for a war against whichever squad wins the three-legged puck race.

“It’s important that we don’t let ourselves slip,” said B’s bench boss Claude Julien. “We’re trying to stay on top of our game. (The layoff) is a tough challenge right now. We all know that, but it’s a challenge we have to face. There are no excuses at this time of year. You just have to do it.

“What’s going to help is by (Tuesday) night we’ll know who we’re playing, so by tomorrow there is something to look forward to and you’re preparing against a specific team,” added Julien, who jokingly said he’ll be watching two TVs tonight. “Right now you’re sitting there and talking about three teams. Tomorrow we’ll know it’s one team, and we’ll start preparing accordingly. No doubt that’ll help the focus of the team.”

The return to health is the silver lining, and the Bruins are intent to make the most of it.

“(The time off) is a privilege we earned by winning four straight,” said Julien. “We have to take advantage of it. With everything you get, there’s always challenges. I think the fact that we’ve got an opportunity to rest and heal is all positive. The only challenge is to try and remain sharp. I think we’re doing a decent job of that. We’re going to slowly crank it up, so that by the time the first puck drops we’re going to be ready.” 

–Congrats to Zdeno Chara, who gave birth to a bouncing baby girl on Monday night: Elliz Victoria Chara. The baby girl was 7 pounds, 12 ounces at the time of birth at around 7 p.m. last night. On Tuesday morning at practice, Chara called the birth of Elliz “the best day of my life”.

–Point of clarification: I had a link up two days ago to a story from a Bruins blogger about the “Stay Hungry” apparel that the team is wearing, and the story mentioned that Julien came up with the slogan. Julien approached me at practice on Monday, and said that the idea behind the hats and shorts was all Marco Sturm’s idea along with the Canadian Ironhead company that produced the clothing.

The hat and shorts feature a Flinstones-style steak as a Logo along with the “Stay Hungry” slogan on the side of the hat, and most of the players are sporting the hats in the postgame dressing room.

“That was all Sturmy,” said Julien. “I had nothing to do with that. Didn’t want to take credit for something that was Marco’s idea.”

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, Zdeno Chara,
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