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Claude Julien puts Stanley Cup and Boston Strong in perspective: ‘I think we can help in probably a large way’ 06.18.13 at 5:16 pm ET
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Claude Julien knows his Bruins are part of Boston's healing process. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Ever since April 15, sports in Boston has taken on deeper meaning as the city and its people look to heal from the Boston Marathon attacks.

On Tuesday, the off-day between Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, Claude Juilen articulated in a very sensitive way what a Stanley Cup championship might mean to Boston and its people.

“I think we can help in probably a large way,” Julien said. “Everybody is looking right now for something to cheer about, smile about. I guess it doesn’t fix the things or the people that have been lost. That will never be fixed. At the same time you have to try to heal.”

Julien then gave perspective inside the Bruins dressing room and reminded everyone just how much the events of April 15 affected them.

“As much as the city itself has been touched by that, so have we as a team,” I’ve known for a long time, that’s all we talked about in the dressing room. It really hit us hard. Right now, we got to focus on doing our job and trying to stay focused on that so that in the end you hope that you can make that happen.”

Julien said his team is riding a fine line between wanting to be motivated for the people of Boston and going about their job. Julien said the focus now is the latter.

“But right now it’s got to be about us before we can even think about that,” he said. “If we think about ourselves, the job we need to do, hopefully the rest takes care of itself.”

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Claude Julien after Game 3 win: ‘The commitment is totally there’ at 3:43 am ET
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Claude Julien's Bruins are two wins away from a title. (AP)

No more Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from these Bruins, at least not in the eyes of their coach.

After the Bruins dominated Game 3 in nearly every aspect, including a 40-16 edge on faceoffs, Claude Julien heaped praise on the effort level of his team after the 2-0 win that leaves them two victories shy of their second Stanley Cup in three years and seventh in franchise history.

“I think it’s the energy in the game, the effort,” Julien said. “You see our guys, like I said, they’re backchecking, having layers, so when somebody makes a mistake, you have somebody covering up.”

Even several stitches above the eye of Zdeno Chara wasn’t going to keep the commitment level down for the Bruins. Chara said he “lost an edge” during pregame skate Monday night.

“All he did is he slipped, had a little gash over his eye,” Julien said. “I haven’t even seen it. Just by slipping, he got hit just above the eye. Nothing serious.”

The Bruins blocked another 17 shots Monday — to seven for Chicago. Dennis Seidenberg had six by himself.

“We’re blocking a lot of shots,” Julien continued. “The commitment is totally there. Throughout a whole season, it’s not easy to have that full commitment. But I think when you get to this stage, players start feeling it. They go above and beyond. That’s what you’re seeing from our team right now.”

Julien famously lashed out at his team in the first-round series with Toronto, calling the B’s a “Jekyll and Hyde” team when they blew a 3-1 series lead only to grab a dramatic Game 7 win to extend their playoff season.

But that certainly hasn’t been the case since. After the Game 6 loss to the Leafs, the Bruins are 11-2 in these playoffs. And the penalty kill — another area of effort and execution — is a big reason why. With five more kills on Monday, the Bruins have killed off 27 straight penalties.

“It’s our backcheck,” Julien explained. “Our guys are understanding one thing: This is a team, when it attacks, it attacks with four, never three. They’ve got such great skaters back there on the fence that if we don’t do what we’re doing right now, we don’t stand a chance. Our guys, like I’ve said, they’ve committed to that. They realize how important it is to come back. We’re trying to support each other that way and trying to keep it as tight as possible.”

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Claude Julien on Gregory Campbell: ‘He’s part of our family’ 06.17.13 at 2:22 pm ET
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Shawn Thornton ready to stand tall for Bruins in Game 3. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

From the moment Evgeni Malkin‘s shot broke his right leg and he skated around on it, Gregory Campbell has become a Stanley Cup legend in Boston.

On Monday, part of the drama of the Bruins returning home to play Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final at TD Garden will be Campbell in attendance to watch his team play in person. He was unable to make it to Chicago for Games 1 and 2 because of surgery to repair the leg.

“It’s nice to see him,” coach Claude Julien said Monday. “There’s no doubt. Obviously he can’t play. We miss him. He’s a good player for us. But just to be around our team, it’s nice to have him back. He’s part of our family. That’s how we look at things in that dressing room. If he could have, he would have been in Chicago. It was too early after surgery. From here on in, he’s good to go, going to be with us the whole way.”

Campbell, who drew huge cheers during an appearance on the video board in Game 4 against the Penguins, was with the team Monday morning as they prepared for Game 3 Monday night.

Julien has juggled the lines often since the injury to Campbell in Game 3 of the Eastern finals against Pittsburgh. Shawn Thornton has watched his playing time decrease somewhat but in Julien’s eyes he still remains an integral part of the fourth line.

“Let’s not confuse something here,” Julien said. “He’s not in the lineup because of what he brings in the dressing room. We got a lot of guys that do that. He’s in our lineup even though his minutes go down because he deserves to be there. He’s great on the forecheck. He’s actually a lot smarter of a player than a lot of people give him credit for. He reads plays well, doesn’t get himself in trouble much, gets the puck out of our end.

“Certainly his presence makes our team better. We’ve seen that at times when we’ve had to pull him out. There’s no doubt our team is more comfortable with him in our lineup for all the right reasons.”

WIth Daniel Paille jumping up to join Tyler Seguin and Chris Kelly on the third line, the fourth line has been a work-in-progress. With the home team having the last change, Julien figures to have a distinct advantage in getting more time for Thornton and the fourth line.

“There’s no doubt it makes it a little bit easier,” Julien said. “Doesn’t mean it’s going to happen all the time, but it certainly is a lot easier. Joel’s a pretty good coach, smart coach. When he senses something, he’ll take advantage of it. I had to be extra careful in Chicago with that. But, again, tonight hopefully it’s a little easier. Nonetheless, we’re in the Final here, you got to do what you got to do. Sometimes you may play guys a little bit more, but they’re capable of handling the ice time. You’re right, that last change will hopefully give me a little bit of an easier change.”

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What they’re saying in the Windy City: Tuukka Rask is really good, Bruins are outhitting Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews needs to step it up at 1:09 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask continues to be stellar in the Boston goal. (AP)

Chicago sportswriters realized over the weekend what Bruins fans have known for quite some time: Tuukka Rask is really, really good.

Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune writes that Rask has been the Bruins’ “saving grace,” his 1.73 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in the playoffs a huge reason the Bruins have gotten this far. She credits Rask, who collected 33 saves Saturday’s Game 2 overtime win, with preventing the game from “spinning wildly out of the Bruins’ control.”

Count Tyler Seguin among those appreciative of the netminder’s performance.

“He shows on a consistent basis why we have so much confidence in him, but he also gives us more motivation to do it for him sometimes,” Seguin said. “Especially if you look at [Saturday's] game, it could have been 4-0 or 5-0 after the first. We weren’t ready. We were on our heels, and they were playing great. He kept us in the game.”

Kane quotes Rask, however, as staying his usual, humble — albeit tired after not sleeping much Saturday night — self.

“I don’t try to prove anything to anybody else but for myself and my teammates,” Rask said. “I always feel like I’m in a zone. … It’s nothing different. It’s just another game.”

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Bruins can only hope home ice is advantage it was in ’11 at 1:04 pm ET
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The Bruins outscored the Canucks 17-3 over three games in Boston two years ago. (AP)

Two years ago, home-ice advantage was the second-biggest factor in the Stanley Cup finals, just behind having a sane goaltender.

After the Canucks took the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals with wins that were decided in the final seconds, the Bruins came back to Boston and blew Vancouver out by a combined score of 12-1. They won all three home games that series by a combined score of 17-3 before finally winning a road game in Vancouver in Game 7. Dennis Seidenberg remembers the atmosphere of the Garden being “crazy” for those games.

It obviously won’t be that way this time around. For starters, the first two games were split, although they did come down to the wire, just like Games 1 and 2 in Vancouver. The idea of the Bruins torching the Blackhawks in blowout wins like they did the Canucks now that they’re at home? You shouldn’t bet on that either. The Blackhawks are far too defensively sound a team for that to happen, so the Bruins should expect these games to remain close. Maybe they won’t go into overtime every night, but this series has been something of a stalemate.

“Who knows?” Seidenberg said of games being closer in this series than the last time they were in the Cup finals. “It’s tough to predict what’s going to happen tonight, but we have to focus on our game. We have to come out a little better than we did and we’ll see what happens.”

The argument can be made that it took Aaron Rome‘s hit on Nathan Horton to fire up the Bruins with them trailing by two games, as Game 3 was scoreless in the first period. Then Horton went down, and after the Bruins lifelessly struggled to get anything going on their five-minute power play, they came out after the intermission and scored 11 seconds into the second period.

The B’s can only hope that they don’t need an injury to get them into this game, as they were fortunate to escape Saturday’s Game 2 against the Blackhawks with a victory given that they weren’t into it early on.

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Claude Julien: Tuukka Rask ‘just as good’ as Tim Thomas in 2011 Cup run 06.16.13 at 3:18 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask spoke Sunday in front of his locker about the secret to his success so far. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

The comparison has been obvious since the second round of this Bruins playoff run.

Is Tuukka Rask as good as Tim Thomas in 2011 when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup on the strength of one of the best goaltending performances in Stanley Cup history?

In the eyes of Bruins coach Claude Julien, there’s no doubt.

“I think it’s just as good, no doubt,” Julien said of Rask, who is now 13-5 in the playoffs, a 1.73 goals against and a .944 save percentage. All of those numbers better the performance of Thomas when he won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP. “Tim has been a great goaltender for us. When you lose a guy like that, there’s always that fear that you’re not going to be able to replace him.

“Tuukka’s done an outstanding job. To me, he’s been as much of a contributor to our team as Tim was two years ago.”

Rask gave his take on Sunday morning.

“For myself, that was the best I’ve ever seen, obviously,” Rask said of Thomas’ 16-9 record, with a 1.98 GAA and a .940 save percentage in the 2011 playoffs. “I’d never been that deep in the playoffs before and for me, as a spectator, that was the best stretch of goaltending I’d ever seen.”

The only area where Thomas has Rask beat right now is in shutouts (4-2), that and a Conn Smythe trophy, for now.

Rask did admit one thing Sunday – this is the best goaltending he’s played in his career.

“Probably, yeah,” Rask said.

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Shawn Thornton on D&C: Nathan Horton ‘big, tough, scary guy when he wants to be’ 06.14.13 at 11:30 am ET
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Shawn Thornton

Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning, checking in the day before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals in Chicago. The Bruins forward stuck up for Torey Krug and was mum on the status of the injured Nathan Horton, saying he didn’t talk to the first-line winger Thursday.

“I didn’t see him yesterday, so I don’t know the extent of it. I hope he’s in,” Thornton said. “He’s such a good player for us. I’m sure if he’s in, he’s ready to go, so I’m not too worried about him. He’s a big, tough, scary guy when he wants to be. He can take care of himself.”

Although the Bruins officially call it an upper-body injury, Horton reportedly is suffering from a chronic shoulder injury, aggravated most recently during the B’s Game 1 loss. Nonetheless, Thornton wasn’t worried about the Blackhawks targeting the shoulder, should Horton be in the lineup.

“It’s playoffs, so people are finishing their checks anyway,” Thornton said.

When questioned on Krug’s momentum-changing, third-period turnover Wednesday, Thornton was careful not to speculate too much or make any lineup assumptions, admitting he doesn’t know what coach Claude Julien’s thought process is when it comes to benching players.

Thornton did, however, give the defenseman a vote of confidence. Krug has been strong for much of the playoffs.

“For the majority of the game last game, he was really good for us on the power play, he was really good for us getting up the ice and supporting the play. One mistake … is not indicative of how he played,” Thornton said. “Whoever is in or out of the lineup, it won’t be because of anything that happened — I don’t think — in the game previous. If an adjustment is made, it’s because he figures it gives us a better chance to match up in different situations on the other side and give us a better chance of winning.

“I doubt anything’s going to happen, but I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Thornton also hasn’t talked to Krug — the players had Thursday off — but anticipated the rookie being just fine mentally.

“He’s a pretty special player, and a couple of breaks went the other way. It happens to the best of us,” Thornton said. “It’s the same as the dynamic, thought process of the team: You can’t worry about what happened last game. Move on and get ready for Saturday.”

The hosts noted that the Bruins — or Bruins fans — don’t quite have a public enemy No. 1 for the finals as they did in series past. As far as Thornton is concerned, that’s OK. There are more important things going on.

“When you don’t play all year, it’s tough to have that guy, that animosity with a non-rival,” Thornton said. “I’m not sure if it’s necessary. We have to focus on winning games, not taking somebody’s head off. I hear what you’re saying — sometimes it’s motivating when you dislike a certain individual, but this time of year you shouldn’t need an extra motivation.”

To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.

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