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Sobotka cleared to return 03.27.10 at 11:18 am ET
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After missing Thursday’s game with a neck strain and mild concussion, Vladimir Sobotka said Saturday morning he was cleared to return to action against the Calgary Flames. The center suffered the injury when he was hit during the game in Atlanta on Tuesday night.

“It’s been evident in the last couple of games, we’ve been successful just being hard on the puck and getting there on the forecheck,” linemate Milan Lucic said. “Having him back, he’s a fast player and he’s really strong on the puck, he’s going to help being back in the lineup.”

Read More: Bruins, Flames, Milan Lucic, NHL
Julien: ‘It’s our own fault’ 03.26.10 at 3:33 am ET
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Just 49 seconds into the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien had a classic ‘I can’t believe what I just saw’ look on his face.

He couldn’t believe Steven Stamkos, one of the most skilled goal-scorers in the game, was spotted a good two strides offsides into the Bruins zone without being whistled for the infraction. That break allowed him to take a near-perfect pass from Steve Downie and beat Tuukka Rask for an early 1-0 lead.

But afterward, as much as he wanted to blame the missed offsides for costing them the first goal of the game and some valuable early momentum, he just couldn’t bring himself to also overlook the responsibility his team bears for coming up flat on home ice at an extremely inopportune time.

“It was, yeah, I don’t want to say it was just one of those nights, but, like I said, certainly with every little thing that happened, they found a way,” Julien said. “The first one, again is an offside goal. But it still doesn’t mean there’s something we could have done about it, we could have reacted better. So you got to blame yourself for those kind of things.

“We didn’t have a good start tonight,” Julien said. “The opportunities that we gave them, they capitalized on. Defensively, I didn’t think we were as sharp as we have been. When you spot the type of players that scored for them tonight some opportunities, they certainly will make the best of it. So it’s our own fault for not being sharp without the puck, sharper [without the puck].”

As a result of Thursday’s letdown game, the Bruins missed a golden opportunity to move up in the standings as Philadelphia lost in overtime to Minnesota. The Flyers now stand two points ahead of the Bruins for 7th in the East.

“Your number one concern is your team,” Julien said. “It doesn’t mean you don’t look at the scoreboard after it’s all said and done, but right now our concern is we need to bounce back and we need to win the next hockey game. When the next hockey game happens to be in your home building, where we got to get better as well. So that’s probably the most important concern right now.”

Read More: Bruins, Claude Julien, Lightning, NHL
Second period summary: Bruins vs. Lightning 03.25.10 at 8:42 pm ET
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The Steven Stamkos show continued late in the second period as his power play blast beat Tuukka Rask for his 45th goal of the season. Not only did the goal with 25.8 seconds left in the period put Tampa Bay up, 4-2 after two periods, it tied the unsung star with Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead.

Johnny Boychuk and Zdeno Chara are having similar nights. The two defensemen have been downright offensive.

Chara had a couple of bad giveaways in his own zone in the first period but scored Boston’s first goal with an aggressive pinch up the slot with 26.8 seconds left.

Then, in the second period, Boychuk lost control of the puck behind Tuukka Rask. It was stolen by Paul Szczechura, who put it past the unsuspecting Bruins netminder for a 3-1 Tampa lead.

But Boychuk, like Chara, redeemed himself with a nifty shot from the low right point. Boychuk used the screen in front of Antero Niittymaki beautifully and when the puck went through the five-hole, the Bruins had closed the gap again to one at the 10:22 mark.

In the opening two minutes, there was an ironic moment as Shawn Thornton took out Kurtis Foster on the corner boards to the right of Niittymaki. The check close to the head of Foster could be the first instance of discipline from the new NHL ‘Blindshot Headshot’ rule enacted earlier in the day.

It was exactly one week ago when Thornton exacted his revenge on Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke for a hit on Feb. 7 on Marc Savard that left the Bruins center out indefinitely with a concussion.

Bruins are more-than-doubling up Tampa Bay on the shot clock, 31-15, after 40 minutes.

Read More: Bruins, Johnny Boychuk, Lightning, Matt Cooke
First period summary: Bruins vs. Lightning at 7:51 pm ET
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The Bruins carried play for most of the first, outshooting Tampa Bay, 19-8, but some breakdowns in front of Tuukka Rask led to two Tampa Bay goals and a 2-1 Lightning lead after one.

The NHL’s leading goal scorer not named Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin put the visitors on top just 49 seconds into the game.

Steven Stamkos, streaking down the slot, took a feed from Steve Downie and redirected a pretty shot past Tuukka Rask for a 1-0 Lightning lead. Replays showed Stamkos appeared to be clearly offsides, which is what Bruins coach Claude Julien argued in vein from the bench.

Stamkos has 44 goals this season. Only Crosby and Ovechkin – each with 45 – have more.

Vincent Lecavalier faked a slap shot from the top of the left circle only to pass to a rushing Martin St. Louis, who beat Rask with just under two minutes left in the first for a 2-0 lead.

The Bruins finally responded with 26.8 seconds remaining on a 4-on-4 when David Krejci fed a pinching Zdeno Chara in front of Niittymaki. Chara put it past the Tampa netminder and the Bruins finally had some life.

The Bruins didn’t let the early goal slow them down. They carried play for much of the first 15 minutes, outshooting Tampa, 11-3.

Marco Sturm had a mini-breakaway in from the Lightning blue line with five minutes left but Niittymaki again came up big.

Read More: Bruins, Lightning, NHL,
Milbury on D&H: ‘Mired in this Neanderthal B.S.’ 03.18.10 at 12:50 pm ET
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NESN hockey analyst Mike Milbury checked in with Dale & Holley show (audio here) to talk about Thursday night’s Bruins-Penguins game and the potential for nastiness involving Penguins villain Matt Cooke. Milbury said he’s heard that NHL vice president Colin Campbell will address the teams prior to the game. Said Milbury: “That’s what I’m hearing. I don’t know what he’s going to say, but I’m sure there will be references to past incidents, [Todd] Bertuzzi-[Steve] Moore, for example, and he doesn’t what any nonsense and what-not, which is good. We had such a great buzz after the Winter Classic. We had such an incredible buzz after the Olympics, and now we get stuck and mired in this Neanderthal B.S., which is really unfortunate for the sport.”

Milbury said he expects the Bruins will seek retribution early. “I hope it isn’t silly. I hope it’s mano-a-mano and confrontational and sends a message to Matt Cooke that this isn’t going to happen. And I actually think if it happens twice, I wouldn’t be too disappointed. But I don’t want it to deteriorate. … The actual game had such a positive buzz. I don’t want to lose that in the circus sideshow here. I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think there’s a need to go after Sidney Crosby in any untoward way.”

Added Milbury: “The Bruins, their macho is challenged, their ego is challenged, their self-esteem is on the line. I think they’re going to feel compelled to get even, whatever that means. I’m not so sure they have to. I wish all this stuff happened spontaneously rather than a planned event, but it happens.”

Milbury said it’s important not to let things get out of hand, for the sake of all involved. “We want a hockey game,” he said. “A hard-played and well-fought — no pun intended — hockey game, where if there’s a way to get some measure of justice when you feel like justice had not be been served on a cheap-shot hit to your teams’ most valuable player, so be it. So be it. Man, oh, man, this is not a real war, this is a professional hockey game to be played hard and within the boundaries of the rules, for the most part. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that people get hurt out here.”

As for Campbell, Milbury said: “I think he’s done … what he thinks is right, by the book. You may have issues with that, but I know Colin Campbell well enough to know he takes the job seriously. … He struggled with it. He struggled with this decision big-time.”

Milbury said the Penguins should let Cooke know his dirty play will not be tolerated any more. “It’s disgraceful if they haven’t addressed it already,” Milbury said.

As for the Bruins’ chances to make the playoffs, Milbury said: “I think it’s going to be Boston or New York, and I give the edge to Boston now.”

Read More: Bruins, Colin Campbell, Matt Cooke, Mike Milbury
Brickley on D&C: Bruins will respond to Cooke at 8:31 am ET
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Andy Brickley, NESN analyst for Bruins games, checked in with the Dennis & Callahan show to talk about Thursday’s night’s game between the B’s and the Penguins. (For the audio, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.)

Penguins forward Matt Cooke has become Public Enemy No. 1 in Boston. (AP)

Penguins forward Matt Cooke has become Public Enemy No. 1 in Boston. (AP)

Brickley said he has no doubt the Bruins will seek revenge on Penguin Matt Cooke for his hit on B’s center Marc Savard. “No question [the Bruins] need the points, given the situation that they’re in in the Eastern Conference, but that will be secondary tonight,” Brickley said. “This is an opportunity for the Bruins to respond, something they didn’t do at the time when Savard was hit by Matt Cooke, and they will take every opportunity to make sure their character is no longer in question.”

Brickley said he expects both teams will be eager for the confrontation to take place as soon as possible. “If I was Danny Bylsma, the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, I would make sure Matt Cooke starts tonight. Don’t give it a chance to continue to percolate. Wait for his first shift and allow the crowd and everybody else to get behind this. And I would expect Boston to line up guys like [Zdeno] Chara and [Milan] Lucic and [Mark] Stuart, and make sure it’s a very long night for Matt Cooke.

“You almost feel like don’t suspend this guy, make him have to play the full game, he can’t take any shifts off, he has to play the full 60 minutes. That might be the best retribution.”

Brickley said the Bruins need to go right up to Cooke and put him on the spot. “You call him out,” Brickley said. “It’s very plain and simple. You want to make it the longest night you can possibly make it for him.”

Asked about the possibility of Cooke refusing to engage a Bruins challenger, Brickley said: “That would not be the best course of action for Matt Cooke, and I don’t expect that to happen. I don’t think that will be allowed to happen. This is a guy that plays on the edge, he’s a repeat offender. If you took a look at the list of players that he’s fought in his career, it’s not a who’s who of the tough guys in the NHL, so I guess there’s that possibility, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Brickley said he still is unable to understand the reasoning behing the league’s decision not to suspend Cooke. “They got it wrong,” Brickley said. “Plain and simple. Colin Campbell got this wrong. This was a blindside hit to a defenseless player in a position where he had no idea the hit was coming. It was predatory in nature, he targeted the head, and he’s a repeat offender. How can you not suspend this guy? I don’t understand the logic behind it. They had an opportunity to make the right call, the make a difference. … They dropped the ball.”

Added Brickley: “There’s no logic and there’s no reasoning sufficient for me to be able understand the rules that come down from the office in New York. Colin Campbell is going to be in attendance tonight. The two teams will be addressed. Warnings will be put out. They created this culture — they created it, and now they want to manage it.”

As for the Bruins’ lack of a reaction in the game when the hit took place, Brickley said: “Nobody really got a real good look at it outside of Michael Ryder, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt. … Sometimes you just don’t see it when you’re out on the ice.”

Read More: Add new tag, Andy Brickley, Bruins, Colin Campbell
The Hat Trick: Bruins finish strong 03.16.10 at 10:21 pm ET
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The Bruins apparently now get it.

They understand that the season hinges on every single game, every single shot and every single shift. On Tuesday night, with a 5-2 road win over Carolina in Raleigh, N.C., they showed just 24 hours after a slow start doomed them to a 3-2 loss to New Jersey they can bounce back and finish a season-long trip on a positive note.

And they showed their ultimate focus, while the hockey world is focused on Thursday’s potential “revenge” game against Matt Cooke and the Penguins at TD Garden. It’s a contest that fans have circled and highlighted since Marc Savard was lost to an elbow/shoulder from Cooke on March 7.

The Bruins have 74 points and solidified their hold on eighth place in the Eastern Conference. They have two huge home games coming up with the Penguins and then the Rangers at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on national television.

The Bruins wasted no time showing they meant business. We’ll do the same in breaking down a win that gave the Bruins a 3-3-1 road trip.

STARTING FAST, FINISHING STRONG

Dennis Seidenberg set the tempo of the game right out of the chute when his shot from the right point was redirected past Manny Legace by Patrice Bergeron just 23 seconds into the game. Seidenberg’s play was typical of the Bruins defensemen all night as they jumped into the play to jump-start the offense.

The starting fast theme continued two periods later when goalie Tuukka Rask stopped Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal in the opening 30 seconds of the third as the Hurricanes were trying to convert a power play to tie the game. Instead, the Bruins came back with a rush of their own and capped it when Mark Recchi scored 45 seconds into the final period.

The Bruins twice had two-goal leads, at 2-0 and 3-1, and both times, Carolina cut it to one. But on this night, the Bruins found the finishing kick.

Michael Ryder took advantage of  a horrendous turnover by the Canes and ripped off a one-timer that made it 4-2. David Krejci’s spin-o-rama job with 7:33 remaining put the game on ice and allowed the Bruins to finally look ahead to their grudge match with Cooke and the Penguins on Thursday at the Garden.

SPREADING THE WEALTH

The Bruins had five different goal-scorers on Tuesday night. Starting with Bergeron, and continuing with Johnny Boychuk, Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder and David Krejci, the Bruins spread it around on Tuesday. What was evident was that every line was skating hard. That, combined with the defensemen jumping into the play made for a formidable and productive combination.

Yes, the Bruins were again out to lunch on the power play, going 0-for-4. But that was offset by their five-on-five scoring chances.

FINGERS CROSSED FOR BERGY

With just under three minutes remaining in a game that was going entirely the way of the Bruins, they had a reminder of just how frustrating this season has been. Mark Stuart picked up a loose puck at the left point, just inside Carolina’s blue line, and rifled a shot toward the net. Patrice Bergeron, as he did on the game’s first goal, got in front of Legace to run interference. But unlike Seidenberg’s well-placed drive, Stuart’s blast elevated quickly and caught Bergeron on the inside of his right knee.

Fortunately, x-rays following the game on Bergeron’s leg were negative but the shot was sure to have left a mark just the way Bergeron has on the Bruins offense all season. Bergeron, as head coach Claude Julien has pointed out all season, has been the single-most consistent player on the roster and they can ill-afford to lose him and Savard coming down the stretch.

Read More: Bruins, Colin Campbell, Hurricanes, Mark Recchi
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