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Horton hears a post during scoreless first 02.21.09 at 7:41 pm ET
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Close call for the Panthers toward the end of the first as Florida forward Nathan Horton wheeled right in from the left faceoff circle and rang the outside of the left post, but ultimately couldn’t finish things off for the Panthers.

The Bruins have had some decent offensive chances, but Chuck Kobasew couldn’t finish off a pair of chances in close, and Tomas Vokoun stuck by the post and made a sound stop when snake-bitten Phil Kessel tried to sneak a puck by him.

Two power plays in the first period for the Black and Gold and no sign of Phil Kessel on either unit.

The B’s and Panthers are locked in a scoreless tie at the BankAtlantic Center after one full period of play.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Chuck Kobasew, Florida Panthers, Phil Kessel
Wideman hit in face with a high stick at 7:23 pm ET
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SUNRISE, Fl. — Bruins blueliner Dennis Wideman took a high stick to the face at the 13:05 mark of the first period and has retired to the B’s dressing to have his injury attended to. The errant stick cut Wideman open and there were visible droplets of blood on the ice, and a double minor penalty for high-sticking was assessed to Panthers center Michael Frolik.

UPDATE:Without missing a beat, the gutty Wideman returned to the ice and was manning one of the points on the power play for the B’s following a stoppage in play. That, friends, is a hockey player.

The Bruins and Panthers are locked in a 0-0 tie midway through the first period at the BankAtlantic Center.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Dennis Wideman, Florida Panthers,
My morning links at 11:59 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Another chilly morning in the Florida sun for me and another round of morning hockey links for you. Should be a pretty spirited game between the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers tonight as the Panthers continue to mull whether they are playoff-contending buyers or pretending sellers in the current trade market.

Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is a huge piece at the deadline that could put quite a few teams over the top as he enters unrestricted free agency at the end of the hockey season, and he voiced a desire to go to a hockey organization committed to winning this season during a recent conversation with him.

“You think a little bit (about the future),” said Bouwmeester. “I know the situation and there’s a lot of things I have to consider. It’s a process. For me it’s about going about my business, and it’s about playing hockey and you don’t have to make that too complicated.

“You don’t rule anything out, and we’ve actually been playing some pretty good hockey (in Florida). So that’s exciting,” added Bouwmeester. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs during my career there, but we’re playing well this season. So that’s something to think about.”

On to the links:

Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan Smyth, known for his scoring touch and gritty game, told the Denver Post that he won’t be waiving his “no movement clause” and Avalanche management hasn’t approached him about a deal. His long term, big money contract made him a bad fit for the Bruins anyway, but you can officially cross him off the list now.

–Big blueliner Chris Pronger, who might become available to the B’s as the Ducks are free-falling out into nothin’ out in the Western Conference, was roundly booed last night by Detroit Red Wings fans after a Pronger milestone was announced at Joe Louis Arena during the Ducks/Wings game. The gritty, borderline-dirty play that intimidates many and makes him Public Enemy No. 1 is exactly what would make Pronger such a snug fit in Boston. Pronger and Zdeno Chara patrolling the same line blue line is downright unfair.  A doff of the helmet to Yahoo! blogger Puck Daddy for this one. 

Mark Recchi is another guy that could be a cheaper fit for the Bruins in the lefty shot/UFA mold when it comes to trade deadline deals, and he’ll likely be even cheaper after hitting the bench for the sinking Tampa Bay Lightning recently. For the record, Recchi has a solid 37 points this season and is averaging 16:52 in ice time for Tampa.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Chris Pronger, Florida Panthers, Jay Bouwmeester
Julien: Kessel shouldn’t be afraid “to do extra” while in slump 02.20.09 at 5:00 pm ET
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It’s pretty clear that one of Bruins head coach Claude Julien’s famous messages is being extended out to winger Phil Kessel, who hasn’t scored a goal in his last 13 games — including 10 since returning from mononucleosis in late January.

The streak is the longest since he had a pair of 15-game goal-scoring droughts back in his rookie season of 2006-07.

The 22-year-old was pulled off the power play in Boston’s win against Carolina on Tuesday night, and Julien indicated he wants to see something out of his skilled winger before he’s placed back on the unit. The man advantage scored two goals without Kessel buzzing around at his normal position, so it wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for the youngster’s immediate return to the special teams’ squad.

It’s not exactl akin to benching Kessel in the playoffs as he did last season against the Montreal Canadiens, but it’s another example of some tough hockey love from a coach imploring he see more out of his budding superstars. The Bruins will need Kessel’s firepower with the playoffs on the horizon, and — reading between the lines — they’d like to see him work a little harder at lighting the lamp.

Skating with playmaking David Krejci — who appears to have turned the corner earlier this week against the Hurricanes — and the gritty, aggravating Vladmir Sobotka could be just what the doctor ordered for Kessel. But the B’s bench boss clearly wants to see more oomph and effort out of his ice-cold forward with whichever linemates he finds himself with. 

“The message you’ve got to give to any young player that’s (not scoring) is to work your way through it,” said B’s coach Claude Julien following this morning’s practice at Incredible Ice in Coral Spring, Fla. “That’s the biggest thing. Some people wait for it to happen again, and some people work to make it happen again. That’s that the message that we’re giving him. Don’t stop doing things or don’t be afraid to do extra stuff to get yourself going. If you can shoot 100 extra pucks at the end of practice, then you go and do it.”

The additional work extends out to his work in the shootout, where Kessel has gained a slight air of predictability while continuing to employ his his favorite “deke and drive” move during the shootouts. Maybe it’s just me, but the whole thing sounded quite a bit like a parent telling a young child that they’ll get a better grade if they start doing a little more studying.

“Even in the shootouts it’s about trying to use different moves for him as well and to expand his different types moves,” added Julien. “Nowadays everybody has those scouting reports on both the goalies and the shooters for the shootouts.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, David Krejci, Phil Kessel
Bruins won’t be headed for European opener next season 02.19.09 at 4:04 pm ET
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Though it seemed like a natural fit for P.J. Axelsson to enjoy a homecoming in Stockholm or for Zdeno Chara to have a hero’s welcome in Trencin, Czechoslovakia, the NHL announced this afternoon that the Red Wing, Blues, Blackhawks and Panthers will be the four teams opening the 2009-10 season in Europe next year. There were previous rumblings that the B’s were being considered for “NHL Premiere 2009″, but instead the four teams will play respective games in Sweden and Finland on Oct. 2-3.

Read More: Boston Bruins, P.J. Axelsson, Zdeno Chara,
Glen Murray grievance hearing continued 02.18.09 at 6:51 pm ET
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The NHLPA grievance hearing for former Bruins winger Glen Murray has been continued once again following another round at the NHLPA home offices in Toronto last week, according to NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly. The multi-day hearings began in mid-January concerning Murray and a purported ankle injury at the time of his contractual buy-out by the B’s this summer.

The next Murray hearing date has been scheduled for March 12.

“The Murray matter is a multi-day hearing and we are between hearing dates,” wrote Kelly in an email to WEEI.com. “We hope to finish the case and receive a decision in the near future.”

Once the hearings have concluded, an arbitration ruling is expected to come down 7-10 days following the final day of hearings.

Murray was bought out of his contract this summer, but the team was still on the hook for a $1.38 million salary cap hit this season and next per rules of the CBA. The NHL CBA rules prohibit teams from buying out injured players, and Murray’€™s representation is now claiming that the veteran forward was injured at the time of the buy-out. The team could be on the hook for the $4.15 million owed to Murray in actual salary. A positive ruling for Murray could, however, potentially open up roughly $1.4 million in salary cap space for the Bruins next season.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Glen Murray, Paul Kelly,
Bruins strike back and take third-period momentum 02.17.09 at 11:14 pm ET
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During the recent four-game losing binge that had some questioning just how good a hockey team they can be, the Bruins were uncharacteristically searching for answers and struggling in the third period. The irony is striking, given how much success the team enjoyed over the first half of the season in that very same third period. The Black and Gold were so good and so unstoppable while blowing people away in the final hockey stanza, and it was a formula that many thought would last the whole year through.

Funny how things can change so quickly.

The young Bruins skaters reclaimed the third period and then some when they potted three third-period goals Tuesday night en route to a closer-than-the-final-score 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center on Glen Wesley Night. The Black and Gold also used a victory over the Eastern Conference bottom-dwelling ‘Canes to notch their 40th win of the season ‘€” the first NHL club to earn that distinction this season and just one win away from last year’s entire win total.

The B’s are second in the NHL with 70 goals scored in the third period in 58 NHL games this season (1.20 goals per game in the third period), and the final 20 minutes of regulation represent Boston’s most prolific period through the current season. But they’d suffered third-period collapses against both the Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks, and scored a grand total of two third-period goals in the last six B’s games leading into last night’s tilt.

Much of the third-period slowdown seemed to be right in line with the offensive swoon that a host of Boston’s younger players had suffered since the NHL All-Star break, but familiar names like Blake Wheeler, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron ‘€” among others ‘€” seemed to have finally shaken free of the fatigue and are again fighting for more ice time and all-important points.

Phil Kessel was a buzzing, irritating threat while skating with new linemates Krejci and Vladimir Sobotka, and fired off three shots while showing some pretty good competition and grit levels looking for loose pucks all over the ice. Milan Lucic also rebounded from a so-so effort against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, and Wheeler looked strong and energetic in the third period last night while drawing penalties, creating mismatches on the ice and appearing every bit the big, rangy, talent he appeared to be as he flashed on the scene in the early going.

Wheeler also seemed energized skating with Lucic and center Marc Savard on Boston’s top line, and each jiggling of the lines seemed to finally click in and start working for the Spoked B during the all-important third period. The biggest piece of credit obviously goes to Krejci, who is again playing good hockey as evidenced by his 17:20 of ice time,  two points and a +2 for the evening and a team-high six shots on net for the Czech Republic prodigy.

Medical Ward: Several players were dinged up during the first two stops (P.J. Axelsson, Bergeron) on Boston’s southern road swing through Nashville and Carolina, but it didn’t appear that any of the injuries were significant.

Goat Horns: Dennis Wideman didn’t have any points and finished with a -1 on the night after getting turned into a turnstile by yet another hockey player recently. Wideman struggled a bit defensively and didn’t really have much to on offense as well, and Ray Whitney’s ability to speed right around Wideman set up Carolina’s only goal on the evening. That being said, it was a pretty strong all-around effort for the Black and Gold.

Player of the Game: The aforementioned Krejci really upped his tenacity, grit and compete levels along with his creative, finesse game — a pair of necessary elements needed along with the breathtaking skill out on the ice that’s made him such a bright major league prospect.

Turning Point in the Game: The game completely turned in favor of the Bruins when Bergeron collected the puck during the PK and threaded out a lark of a pass toward the neutral zone that sprang Krejci free. The nifty center outraced the Hurricanes defense, and skated in all alone on the Carolina net. Krejci grabbed himself a filthy backhander as the finishing touch — a deft hockey move that’s was the one-on-one equal of every great offensive player in the league. More efforts like this from Krejci and the Bruins will be right back on track for the playoffs.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, David Krejci, Dennis Wideman
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