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Patrice Bergeron: Bruins stick up for Brad Marchand 12.16.13 at 1:38 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — There was plenty of reaction to Brad Marchand‘s Stanley Cup-themed taunts Saturday night in a game the Bruins lost, and one of them came from the always quotable Kevin Bieksa.

Bieksa, who took perhaps the worst dive of the 2011 playoffs in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals and called the Bruins “stupid” a year later, said after Saturday’s game that the Bruins don’t stick up for Marchand.

“Everyone knows Marchand’s deal,” Bieksa told ESPN.com. “I don’t want to get into a war of words but you know what Marchand is like. I think his teammates know what he’s like, too. There weren’t too many guys sticking up for him in those scrums.”

Patrice Bergeron, who has been a linemate of Marchand’s for the past four seasons, politely disagreed with Bieksa’s assessment.

“I’ve never been the guy that’s going to [talk trash] in the media, [but] I think we all stick up for one another,” Bergeron said Monday. “I think it’s something that we’ve done throughout the time that we’ve been here, so I don’t think that’s really an issue. That particular incident, yeah, maybe Marchy would like to take that one back, but it’s also part of his game. That’s it.”

Claude Julien was critical of Marchand’s actions following the game, saying that his behavior against the Canucks was “definitely not something we will accept in our organization. He declined to say Monday whether he had called the player into his office over the incident.

“If I did, I think it’s for us to keep internally,” Julien said. “I don’t think it’s for anybody else to know about. I was pretty clear in my comments. I think it’s not something that we want, so we deal with it internally in those situations.”

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Claude Julien: Brad Marchand’s behavior vs. Canucks ‘definitely not something we will accept’ 12.15.13 at 3:00 am ET
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Brad Marchand and the Canucks hate each other, but boy does Brad Marchand love reminding the Canucks who won the Stanley Cup in 2011.

The Bruins pest was up to his old tricks Saturday as the B’s and Canucks played each other for the second time since the B’s beat Vancouver in the finals. First, Marchand took off his glove and kissed his ring finger following a second-period spat with Ryan Kesler (something Marchand would later say was a response to Kesler eye-gouging him). Then, with the Bruins on the way to a 6-2 loss in the third period, Marchand raised an imaginary Cup in the air and kissed it.

Claude Julien didn’t exactly give his actions a ringing endorsement after the game.

“I heard,” Julien said. “I did hear, and obviously I don’t watch the game; I coach the game, but I heard. He’s a good player, and he’s an agitator, and there’s some good things to that part of his game, but there’s certain areas where — again, I’ve said it before — you can’t cross the line. Sometimes his emotions get the better of him.

“We’ve worked with him and we’re going to continue to work with him. The perception it gives our organization is not what you want to see with those kind of things. Again, I don’t know what he said to you guys, but it’s certainly something we’re going to deal with.

“He’s too good of a player and we don’t want him to be a different player, but there’s certain things we want him to be different at. From what I hear, what happened, that’s definitely not something we will accept in our organization.”

Kesler wasn’t a fan either.

Marchand said he had reason for the ring-kissing gesture, and this isn’t the first time he’s called a player out for dirty antics. He did so a season ago with Jeff Skinner when he accurately pointed the Carolina forward’s tendency to slew-foot players.

It isn’t the first time since the Bruins’ victory Marchand has reminded the Canucks of 2011. After Kevin Bieksa called the Bruins “stupid” following the teams’ January 2012 meeting (when Marchand delivered a low-bridge hit on Sami Salo for which he later was suspended five games), Marchand responded that the Bruins were “smart enough to win a Cup.”

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Chad Johnson, Jarome Iginla lead Bruins past Oilers 12.13.13 at 12:09 am ET
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Chad Johnson

Chad Johnson

The Bruins continued what’s been a successful road trip Thursday with a 4-2 win over the Oilers at Rexall Place.

Boston jumped out to a 3-0 lead after a first period in which Dennis Seidenberg scored on one of his famous fake dump-ins, Jarome Iginla sent a puck past both a screening Milan Lucic and Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk, and Brad Marchand tallied a shorthanded goal.

Dubnyk was replaced by Jason LaBarbera at the start of the second period, and the Oilers got back in the game with a pair of goals from David Perron. After the Bruins were able to kill off a pair of late penalties in the third period, Iginla sealed the win for the B’s with an empty-netter.

Picking up the win for the Bruins was Chad Johnson, who improved to 6-1-0 on the season. Johnson made a career-high 39 saves in the win.

The Bruins will wrap up their West Coast road trip Saturday with their first trip back to Vancouver since winning the Stanley Cup there in 2011.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

– Johnson gave up a couple of bad goals in the second period, but he came up huge with a glove save on Nail Yakupov from the slot five minutes into the third period on a play that could have tied the game. He then made another stop on a Jordan Eberle shot with the Oukers on a man advantage midway through the third.

– The Bruins came up big on that third-period interference penalty on Marchand, as a unit of Gregory Campbell, Jordan Caron, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk silenced the Oilers on a very lengthy possession that saw Boychuk block a one-timer from Eberle.

The Bruins had an easier time on a Dennis Seidenberg penalty with just over three minute to play, as the B’s cleared the puck regularly against a desperate Oilers team late.

– The occasionally sneaky Seidenberg was up to his old tricks again for the Bruins’ first goal. Taking the puck through the neutral zone, Seidenberg looked to be dumping the puck into the offensive zone until he fired a wrist shot at the blue line that fooled Dubnyk. Remember, this is the same guy who had a pair of center-ice goals over the last few years, one of which came when he gained the red line and, faked a dump-in and threw a wrist shot past Mike Smith back on Dec. 2, 2010.

– It isn’t necessarily a good thing given that it took Lucic off the ice, but Lucic said recently that he expected to get to his usual six or seven fights a season and he meant it. Though his Nov. 30 fight against Dalton Prout was just his first bout of the season, Lucic’s fight Thursday with Luke Gazdic marked his third fight of the season, all of which have occurred over the last six games.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

– The B’s had another injury scare when Seidenberg got hit up high by a shot from the point. Seidenberg turned his head in time to not get hit in the face by the puck, but he was still down for a few moments, with trainer Don DelNegro tending to him on the ice. Fortunately for the banged-up Bruins, Seidenberg stayed in the game.

– The Oilers stepped up their game big-time in the second period, and it was capped by a bad goal late. Johnson, making a save off a puck Perron had tipped from Eberle, poked the puck with his blocker right back to Perron at the side of the net, with Perron then scoring on a wraparound.

– On the subject of Perron’s goals, neither of them were good goals for Johnson to allow. Perhaps Seidenberg was screening him on the Oilers’ first goal, as there’s no other excuse to not stop the wrist shot that beat him stick side high.

– His line was used as a fourth line, but Ryan Spooner‘s struggles at the faceoff dot weren’t an issue. Why? Because his line was only on the ice for one faceoff and he won it. That’s one way to solve the problem. Spooner was given only two shifts in the third period and didn’t play the final 12 minutes of regulation as Claude Julien shortened his bench in a one-goal game.

Campbell took most of the faceoffs for the Bruins, going 11-for-23. Spooner finished with just 8:16 of ice time.

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James Neal respects NHL’s decision to suspend him 12.10.13 at 2:59 pm ET
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James Neal was suspended five games. (AP)

James Neal was suspended five games. (AP)

Penguins forward James Neal said following Tuesday’s practice that he understands why the NHL suspended him five games for kneeing Brad Marchand in the head Saturday.

“Obviously, it’s not the smartest decision I’ve ever made,” Neal said. “I’m glad he’s OK. Going forward here, I need to learn from it. It’s something I can’t do, and I know that. I respect what the NHL’s done, but I’ve got to put it behind me and move forward here.”

Marchand was down on the ice after being tripped by Sidney Crosby, at which point Neal skated by, stuck out his left leg and hit Marchand in the head. The suspension is the third of Neal’s career.

It was at that whistle that the scrum between Brooks Orpik and Gregory Campbell, among others, took place and Shawn Thornton attacked Orpik with a slewfoot and two punches to the head. Orpik is out indefinitely with a concussion and has memory loss. Thornton’s in-person hearing with the league over the play is scheduled for Friday.

After the game, Neal had initially offered little about the play in which he hit Marchand, saying he hadn’t seen the replay. Marchand stayed in the game.

“I mean, what do you want me to say? That I was trying to hit him? No, I’€™m going by him, I don’€™t get out of the way like I said,” Neal said following the game. “I need to be more careful and I guess get my knee out of the way, but I’€™m not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that.”

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Penguins’ James Neal suspended 5 games for knee to Brad Marchand’s head 12.09.13 at 1:18 pm ET
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Penguins forward James Neal was suspended five games by the league on Monday for delivering a knee to the head of Bruins forward Brad Marchand during Saturday’s game at TD Garden.

Marchand was getting up after being knocked to the ice when Neal delivered his cheap shot. Neal claimed after the game that the hit was not intentional despite video evidence that made it apparent he went out of his way to contact Marchand.

“While Neal does not kick or violently thrust his leg toward Marchand, it is our belief after reviewing this incident that this is more serious than simply not avoiding contact with a fallen player,” NHL directory of player safety director Brendan Shanahan explained in a video review of the incident. “While looking down directly at Marchand, Neal turns his skates and extends his left leg, ensuring that contact is made with Marchand’s head.”

The suspension will cost Neal $128,205.15 in lost salary, which will be donated to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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James Neal has phone hearing for kneeing Brad Marchand in head 12.07.13 at 11:25 pm ET
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James Neal will likely be suspended. (AP)

James Neal will likely be suspended. (AP)

Shawn Thornton isn’t the only player who figures to be suspended for their actions in Saturday night’s game between the Bruins and Penguins, as Penguins forward James Neal will have a phone hearing for kneeing Brad Marchand in the head.

Because it’s a phone hearing, any suspension for Neal will be five or less games. Thornton’s is in person, which would allow the league to suspend him for more than five games.

Marchand had fallen to the ice after some stick work from Sidney Crosby, at which point Neal glided by and stuck out his left leg to hit him in the head.

“I was skating by him. I haven’t like seen the replay or anything so I mean I hit him in the head with my leg or my foot or my knee or shin area I don’t know,” Neal said after the game. “But I mean, he’s already going down and I guess I need to try to avoid him, but I have to look at it again. I haven’t gotten a chance to look at it.”

Asked if he intended to hit him in the head, Neal, who has twice been suspended by the league, denied it.

“I mean, what do you want me to say? That I was trying to hit him? No, I’m going by him, I don’t get out of the way like I said,” he said. “I need to be more careful and I guess get my knee out of the way, but I’m not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that.”

Marchand was clearly told by the Bruins to not divulge his thoughts on the situation. Asked whether he saw the replay, Marchand happily and confidently replied, “no.” He gave the same response when asked if he had an opinion on the play.

“I can’t comment on this, guys,” Marchand said after a few questions. “I know you guys can tell I can’t comment. You know I want to, but I can’t.”

Marchand didn’t even honestly shed light on Crosby’s role in the play.

“I think I just tripped myself,” he said. “Tough skates today. Two left feet.”

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma admitted that the play could have been avoided.

“It was a sequence there where I think Marchand and Sid were in it physically,” Bylsma said. “Marchand went down as Neal was skating by, and he didn’t really make an attempt to get out of the way on Marchand.”

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

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Brad Marchand’s improved play pays off with goal, assist vs. Rangers 11.29.13 at 5:19 pm ET
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Brad Marchand

Brad Marchand

It’s still too early to say Brad Marchand has completely turned things around, but he has certainly been making more good things happen over the last few weeks. At times, it hasn’t translated to points, but in Friday’s 3-2 win over the Rangers, it did.

Midway through the first period, Marchand one-timed a Zdeno Chara pass under the crossbar to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. Then early in the third, he weaved through the Rangers defense before setting up Patrice Bergeron for the game-tying goal. It marked Marchand’s first multi-point game of the season, in his and the team’s 26th game played. By comparison, Marchand had five multi-point games in the first 26 games last season and four the year before.

A quick look at Marchand’s game log shows that he had two goals and three assists in his 12 games prior to Friday. Big deal, right? True, that in and of itself is not a big deal. But what could be a big deal is that Marchand has been getting chances.

He had two or more shots on goal in 10 of those 12 games. To put that in perspective, his career average is just under two per game. (Oddly enough, his goal Friday was actually his only shot on goal for the game.) And to add even more context, in the eight games prior to that stretch, he had three shots on goal total.

So Marchand had been getting looks and taking shots; they just weren’t going in. And this is where we point out that Marchand’s shooting percentage going into Friday was 7.5 percent, less than half of his 16.8 and 19.8 marks the last two seasons.

“I really think that he’s picked up his game a lot,” Bergeron said. “Obviously everyone in the last game [a 6-1 loss to Detroit], that was something that we just can’t really talk about. But for six, seven games before that, I thought he was playing really well and improving, moving his feet. Every time he does that, he creates a lot of chances for himself, but also for us as his linemates. I think he’s been playing pretty well actually.”

To illustrate Bergeron’s point about Marchand’s importance to the whole line: in shifts with Marchand on the ice, the Bruins have out-attempted their opponent in 12 of the last 13 games. In the eight games before that — the same eight in which Marchand wasn’t getting shots on goal — the Bruins out-attempted the opposition during Marchand’s shifts just once.

Marchand hasn’t forgotten how to shoot the puck. His goal Friday afternoon — a blast from the lower right circle that Henrik Lundqvist had virtually no chance of stopping — is evidence of that. So if Marchand continues to shoot, chances are more pucks will start to go in.

The biggest concern during Marchand’s early-season struggles was that he wasn’t even getting the chances. According to him, that was because he wasn’t doing a lot of the little things he needed to do to be successful. He admitted on Friday that it started to get to his head, that he started worrying about the lack of points.

“I was frustrated and worried about points and putting up numbers and stuff like that,” Marchand said. “I think I had the wrong mindset there. It was more about the things you’ve got to do to get there and different areas of the game that I had to improve.”

But now he’s in a better place. He knows he’s doing those little things, he knows he’s getting his chances, and he knows the points will follow.

“I think once I just kind of calmed down and worried about playing my game and letting everything else go, I felt a lot better.”

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