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Phil Kessel looking to put an end to “frustrating” scoring drought 02.11.09 at 7:37 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Phil Kessel is quick to admit that he’s frustrated after going a season-high 10 long games without lighting the goal lamp.

For a 21-year-old that was on pace to score 50 goals during a white hot first half of the hockey season, it’s a pretty stunning cold stretch for a young sniper that had seemed to be putting it all together. During those aforementioned 10 games Kessel has managed only four assists and is sitting at a -1 amid a battlefield of hockey games against playoff teams across the Eastern and Western Conference.

It should be noted that Kessel — who missed a handful of January games with mononucleosis and has been mired in the goal-less stretch in games sandwiched around the illness — said he’s only felt 100 percent himself on the ice in the last few games. But it’s clear that Kessel has been among the stick-wielding culprits in a Boston offensive slowdown since the All-Star break that’s seen them average only 2.6 goals per game over their last eight games.

The B’s right winger has already set career highs in virtually every offensive category this year as he heads into restricted free agency, but that doesn’t stop this current slump from bugging the Bruin.

“Obviously you get a little frustrated, but you’ve got to go out there and keep doing your job until things change,” said Kessel, of the longest goal-scoring drought of what’s been a pretty charmed season for the third-year skater. “I’ve had some good opportunities, but they’re not going in. You’ve got to keep going and try to get back into it.

It’s gonna come…stuff changes,” added Kessel. “It’s a funny game like that. You go through little stretches and stuff won’t go in. You get a little frustrated, but things will turn.”

Some of it has been an inability to get to the spots and creases he found so plentiful in the first half of the season, and some of it has simply been getting back into the flow with linemates Marc Savard and Milan Lucic. Kessel has averaged 3.3 shots per game over the course of the season, but he’s dropped down to 2.4 shots per game since coming back from mono on Jan. 29. 

Bruins coach Claude Julien pointed to some progress in Kessel’s game, but there’s still improvement to be made in getting to the grimy areas of the ice and “digging deeper” after the coaching staff went through video work with the young forward last week.

“He’s gotten some chances,” said Julien. ”Sometimes you can work at creating more as well. But it’s never a one-sided thing. The fact that he’s getting some chances is a good sign, but you’ve also got to find a way to bury those and dig deeper to score goals. That’s what good goal scorers do.” 

–B’s coach Claude Julien didn’t have anything to add to the conditions of injured players Petteri Nokelainen (eye) and Chuck Kobasew (upper body, lower body, knee), and said they will both be evaluated and perhaps an update will be available on Thursday. Kobasew was at the B’s practice rink to receive treatment on Wednesday morning, but didn’t get out on the ice.

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Petteri Nokelainen won’t return tonight 02.10.09 at 8:31 pm ET
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Petteri Nokelainen was hit with a high stick in the final seconds of the first period, and B’s media relations just announced that “he won’t be returning” to tonight’s game due to the injury. Chuck Kobasew took Nokelainen’s place alongside Krejci and Wheeler at the beginning of the period, but coach Claude Julien has been mixing and matching lines during the period.

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Bruins and Flyers locked in 3-3 tie 02.07.09 at 2:23 pm ET
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With Manny Fernandez between the pipes for his first game since Jan. 8, scores by Marc Savard, Byron Bitz, Chuck Kobasew in the first twenty minutes have the Bruins and Flyers tied at 3-3 in the second period. Bitz scored Boston’s second goal on a juicy rebound right at the goal mouth after Mark Stuart’s slap shot from the high point rattled around the Philadelphia cage.

The goal was the first career NHL score for the 24-year-old rookie from Saskatoon. The B’s and Flyers are tied 3-3 after two full periods of play following Philly agitator Scott Hartnell’s game-tying goal in the second period.

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Bruised left foot for Milan Lucic 02.06.09 at 2:20 pm ET
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The last guy to give Lucic purple toes was last seen eating through a straw

The last guy to give Lucic purple toes was last seen eating through a straw

Bruins left winger Milan Lucic was back at practice this afternoon and declared himself ready to play in tomorrow’s matinee against the Philadelphia Flyers. Looch suffered a bruised left foot when he took a shot off his big dog in last Wednesday night’s tilt versus the Flyers in Philly. According to the hulking forward, he’s got a colorful and healthy bruise and some “purple toes” after taking a shot off the left foot near the skate’s lacing.

Lucic was trying to get a tip on a shot in front of the net at the time of the injury, but he missed the puck with his trusty blade and instead caught the speeding rubber biscuit flush off the front of his left foot.

“It’s good news,” said Lucic, who missed Thursday night’s game against the Senators with the injury. “I think we treated it right (Thursday) and today, and it looks like I’m going to be ready to play tomorrow.

“It’s the game of hockey; stuff like that happens all the time and you just have to be mentally strong and battle through it,” added Lucic. “I’ve got some nice purple toes. It looks funny right now, but it made a lot of progress from yesterday morning to last night.”

In other tidbits from practice:

–Dennis Wideman obviously isn’t a big listener to WEEI during the late morning and early afternoon hours, if at all. When I told him that he should tell Holley that he was a big fan of his “Holley Hockey Minute” when he gets on the air, Wideman replied without missing a beat: “Oh…you mean Holley isn’t a girl? That’s good to know.”

–Aaron Ward was down with the flu that’s been traveling around the Bruins club — and the Celtics for that matter over the last week — and wasn’t at practice. Chuck Kobasew was also given a maintenance day away from the ice by coach Claude Julien.  Michael Ryder was also given the day off after a high stick caught him in the face and cut him open during last night’s shootout win against Ottawa.

Julien and Manny Fernandez also both revealed that physically he’s ready to jump back into game action, but it’s more a matter of getting a certain feel in net between the pipes after three weeks of inactivity.

“He’s feeling good and physically I think he’s 100 percent,” said Julien. “I think we made the right decision in doing what we did and letting him heal his aching back. That’s the main thing right now, so it’s just a matter now of spotting him in a situation when we feel that he feels he’s ready.”

It was a pretty good showing at practice this afternoon at the TD Banknorth Garden given that B’s Media Relations maestro Matt Chmura estimated that the team finally got into Boston around 2:30 a.m. Friday morning.

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B’s talked about signing Shanahan 01.29.09 at 2:58 pm ET
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The B's missed out on a chance to add more magnificent hockey hair to the roster when they didn't sign Brendan Shanahan

The B's missed out on a chance to add more magnificent hockey hair to the roster when they didn't sign Brendan Shanahan

According to several hockey sources, the Bruins and current New Jersey Devils forward Brendan Shanahan discussed a potential one-year deal during the first few months of the hockey season — but both sides ultimately opted to go in different directions. The B’s decided to stick with the exciting young talent that’s performed so very well for them this season, and the right-handed shooting Shanahan inked a one-year $800,000 deal with the Devils. Shanahan and his Atlantic Division-leading Devils will be taking on the B’s at the TD Banknorth Garden (7 p.m.) tonight.

It’s been well-documented that the Bruins have been actively looking for a big, left-handed shot to A) replace the lefty shot they’re currently missing with Marco Sturm gone for the season and B) add another southpaw shot to an overabundance of right-handed shooters (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder, Chuck Kobasew) on the Black and Gold roster.

The 40-year-old Shanahan has the grit, size and the power play skills that could have made for a potent addition to Boston’s playoff roster, but the veteran winger ultimately didn’t fit the left-handed shooting mold listed in the Bruins’ want ad for a “have shot, will travel” kind of player.

To his credit, Shanahan wasn’t talking about specifics this morning with any of the teams involved in the pre-signing sweepstakes, but the Bruins clearly fit the 20-year veteran’s criteria: a northeast location and a competitive situation.  

“There were a lot of teams in the mix, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about other teams right now,” said Shanahan, who has two goals in three games since signing with the Devils on Jan. 15. “I’d be lying if I said there weren’t other teams in the mix that I was obviously interested in and curious about.”

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Sounds of the game… Bruins 6, Senators 4 01.09.09 at 8:39 am ET
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With everyone in the Bruins locker room stopping just short of saying it was a must win, the Black and Gold came out with energy and intensity in the opening minutes of the first period to take a 2-0 lead over Ottawa. It was the first time in seven games that they scored first and they are now an impressive 19-3-2 when they light the lamp first. Then Shawn Thornton got into a fight with Ottawa’s Chris Neil and head coach Claude Julien thought that would raise his club’s intensity even more. But the opposite happened as Ottawa seemed to wake up. The Bruins blew leads of 2-0 and 3-1 before finally showing its superior muscle in the third and coming away with a 6-4 much-needed win.

Claude Julien on why this win was important after two straight losses.

Zdeno Chara said this win was more important that fans may think.

Marc Savard said the Bruins needed to get back into the win column.

Blake Wheeler said the team needs to keep the pressure on after a good start like Thursday.

Chuck Kobasew said Thursday shows that the Bruins just need to be more consistent.

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Sturm Face ready for a return? 12.17.08 at 3:30 pm ET
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There's always room for the Sturm Face on any hockey club...In fact the B's are 4-0 when the Sturm Face has come out this season

There's always room for the Sturm Face on any hockey club...In fact the B's are 4-0 when the Sturm Face has come out this season

The Bruins’ brass remains optimistic that Marco Sturm is sufficiently recovered from his concussion/whiplash symptoms to don the sweater and skate against the Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow night. Sturm has missed 12 games with the post-hit issues, but has been skating on-and-off for the last few weeks. With that in mind, Sturm stepped up his activity today during practice while working with the PP unit at Ristuccia Arena. Dust off the Marco Sturm Faces, because they may be in full effect at the Garden come Thursday night.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Sturm will be able to return tomorrow night, but will be a game-time decision after tomorrow’s morning skate and warm-up prior to the game. With Sturm out of the lineup for roughly a month, it’s likely that Julien and Co. will treat the winger in much the same they treated Chuck Kobasew when he returned from injury earlier this season.

“I say cautiously with Marco because I thought he was close at one point when he was skating, but then he took a step backwards,” said Julien. “But right now in the last week everything has been positive and he’s been moving forward to coming back.”

The coaching staff can plop Sturm onto a fourth line with Shawn Thornton and Stephane Yelle to give them a little bit more offensive punch and ease the German forward back into the B’s fold. How did it work for Kobasew? He only notched a goal and an assist in a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 8 — a performance that Sturm hopes to match if he gets in against the Leafs at the Garden tomorrow evening.

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