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Claude Julien: Bruins fans ‘made you feel proud of this city’ 04.18.13 at 9:32 am ET
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Whether player, coach or team staffer, Wednesday night was a night of solidarity.

That was a point made unmistakably clear by Bruins coach Claude Julien, even after a 3-2 loss to the Sabres at TD Garden.

Julien was asked about his reaction to the fans singing the national anthem and the “We are Boston” chants throughout the game.

“Well, I think like everybody else, it was pretty emotional,” Julien said. “In a way, it made you feel proud of this city and of our fans of this solidarity that was shown throughout this whole thing. Certainly, like I said, proud of this city for how they responded.

“The national anthem was pretty touching. And, obviously, everything that they did. I remember the video, I remember the national anthem and we even saw those people up there on the screen in the TV timeouts. And looking up there and realizing that those guys have done an unbelievable job for this city throughout this crisis and we should be grateful to a lot of people and we should also feel for the people that are going through it right now. I think we still do.”

Did it ever felt like a normal hockey game to Julien and his staff?

“I don’t know,” Julien said. “I think through it all, our guys really wanted to battle hard and make it happen. We had a lot of chances and, sure we probably didn’t bury those and we’d like to be better in regards to that, but the main goal is to go out there and really play well for the cause and I thought we played a really decent game. Unfortunately, sometimes bounces don’t go your way. They tied it up late in the game and I thought we probably deserved to win at that point.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Bruins prepare for emotional return to action 04.17.13 at 12:41 pm ET
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The Bruins will wear a "Boston Strong" decal on their helmets. (Boston Bruins photo)

Wednesday will be an emotional night at TD Garden, as the Bruins’ contest against the Sabres marks the first professional sporting event in Boston since Monday’s bombings at the Marathon.

“We don’t only need to be ready, but we need to show that we want to support everyone in the city,” Daniel Paille said after Wednesday’s morning skate.

The security was ramped up at TD Garden Wednesday, with all entrants being tested with a security wand and having their bags checked thoroughly. Additionally, the Bruins’ helmets now have “Boston Strong” decals on the back.

It isn’t the game-day experience everyone’s used to in which you go to the morning skate, go home and come back to play a game with the rest of one’s everyday life sprinkled in. It’s amplified and it’s more emotional because the seconds spent off the ice are occupied by dealing with Monday’s events. The important thing, Claude Julien said, is that the Bruins use their emotions for good Wednesday night.

“It’s a natural thing to still be emotional, but yesterday’s practice had a lot of energy. Today’s skate, we seemed to be showing a lot of energy,” Julien said. “The only thing left is to bring it to the game and really put it in the right place where we can do what we want to accomplish.”

What the Bruins hope to accomplish is obvious. They want to give Boston not only a distraction from its grieving, but, to quote Brad Marchand from Tuesday, “something to believe in.” They can’t make everything better, but they can help.

“The one thing I sense from our team is we have the ability to maybe help people heal and find some reason to smile again by representing our city properly,” Julien said. “To me, this is a time when you’re proud to be associated with a professional team. Even the NHL and all professional sports. When you look at the support this city’s had from rivals and everything else that are giving us support at this time, it’s amazing. We have an opportunity to make our city proud, and I think we’re all in for it. Hopefully we can do that for the city right now.”

Folks get into the National Anthem every game, but it figures to be an impassioned scene prior to Wednesday’s game. The players have felt the weight of Monday’s events like the rest of the city, so they’ll have to deal with the challenge of keeping it together once they hit the ice.

“Obviously it’s going to be emotional in the beginning, we’re going to show respect, but after that, for the next two and a half hours, we just have to play the game,” David Krejci said. “It’s all we can do to give something to Boston to be happy about.”

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Opinion: Claude Julien needs to schedule rest time for weary Bruins 04.12.13 at 1:34 pm ET
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I’m sick of hearing that the Bruins are tired.

“We ran out of gas,” Claude Julien claimed after Thursday night’s loss to Islanders. “The effort and will was there. They were obviously a little fresher than we were.”

If Tyler Seguin and the Bruins have tired legs, it's up to coach Claude Julien to give them time to get back to full strength before the playoffs. (AP)

Maybe.

That quote came just two days after he said, “The schedule has been as tough as it could ever be on an athlete. We’ve got to be careful of how hard we push those guys, because they are tired.”

I don’t disagree.

The schedule obviously has been brutal. Yes, the Bruins face the same difficulties as every other team in the league, but they currently are in the worst of the gauntlet. Whereas they started the season with more days off than most other teams, they are paying the price for that now.

So I’m happy to concede that exhaustion is playing a role in their recent string of uninspired performances.

Normally, this is the time where I would remind athletes and coaches that if they avoid making an excuse out loud, someone will make it for them. We all know the schedule is tough; let us remind people and it will sound more like an explanation and less like an excuse.

And for Tyler Seguin, who said Thursday night that while he wasn’t making excuses, “we ran out of gas after three games in four nights,” I would repeat that message.

But to Julien, I would offer some additional advice.

If your team is so tired, do something about it!

Look, we all know the Bruins are going to make the playoffs and it’s a virtual certainty that they will fill either the second or fourth seed. So, what would be the harm in resting a few exhausted players for a game or two? If they are so desperate for some fresh legs, why not create them?

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What to make of these Bruins as they head into homestretch 04.08.13 at 1:26 am ET
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Tyler Seguin will have to step up with Patrice Bergeron out indefinitely. (AP)

How good are the Bruins? Depends on your mentality.

The optimist loves their chances. He remembers that the team is one of just four with fewer than 10 regulation losses. The pessimist, on the other hand, is worried. He notices that five of those losses have come in their last 11 games. The realist, meanwhile, is trying to figure out just who these Bruins really are.

Good luck, realist.

Regardless of your level of hope, there is no doubt that Bruins are scuffling right now. The team that looked dead in Philadelphia, asleep for 50 minutes in Buffalo, gave up 87 shots in two home games and then embarrassed itself when it couldn’t even muster a shot in their six-on-four power play late in Montreal is clearly not the same group that cruised to a 19-4-3 record to start the year.

There are some obvious differences. These Bruins have had serious personnel changes since the start of the year. Not only have they lost the contributions from two key centermen (Chris Kelly and now Patrice Bergeron), but their loss has tested their depth at the position. It has forced Claude Julien to juggle his lines and shift both Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley from the wing, weakening two of his four lines. They’ve also been forced to test their depth on the blue line as Matt Bartkowski and Aaron Johnson have spelled the injured Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuck.

Fortunately for the B’s, I think the optimists win this one. Boychuck is already back. Kelly is close to returning. McQuaid has now skated with the team. Only Bergeron remains as a great mystery for the playoffs, and without him I think we all become horribly pessimistic. He is that important to their postseason chances. Without his presence, as Paul Pierce said about Kevin Garnett‘s effect on the Celtics, “They aren’t going anywhere.”

During this downturn, however, we’ve seen a run of third-period losses. A team once built upon late-game surges has seen its power turned off in key spots. I see two possible explanations: Either the Bruins are getting tired in the third periods, or their goalie keeps losing concentration.

I think the B’s are just tired, and so on this question I’ll remain optimistic as well. Much has been made of the condensed schedule and the toll it is taking on especially physical teams. Julien’s blueprint has always been to beat you up for 40 minutes then take advantage of your exhaustion late. If the schedule has prevented them from playing as physically as they’d like, I’ll assume that they are smartly keeping something in reserve for the playoffs.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t causes for major concern.

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Bruins trying to solve an offensive mess 04.07.13 at 11:23 pm ET
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Claude Julien is looking for answers offensively. (AP)

Claude Julien said before the season he was going to be quicker to make reactionary moves this season. It would be impossible to blame him for doing so after Saturday’s loss to the Canadiens.

Julien demoted Tyler Seguin to the third line, put Rich Peverley on the seldom-played fourth line and promoted Gregory Campbell to the second line (making the second line the 2010 version of the Merlot Line, except with Jaromir Jagr in place of Shawn Thornton) for Sunday’s practice. The moves speak to how in flux Boston is offensively, as the B’s have scored two goals or less in four of their last five games, with three one-goal showings.

The lines looked like this:

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Gregory Campbell-Jaromir Jagr
Daniel Paille/Jay Pandolfo-Chris Kelly-Tyler Seguin
Kaspars Daugavins/Jordan Caron-Rich Peverley-Shawn Thornton

Sunday’s lines could have just been a threat on Julien’s part to wake up some of his slumping forwards, and there are plenty of candidates. Brad Marchand wasn’t demoted with the revamped lines, but he has just two goals in his last 17 games. He and Seguin combined for zero shots on goal Sunday night in what was a very untimely disappearing act for two of Boston’s top scorers.

Then there’s the Peverley thing, which is very interesting. Julien clearly expects way more than he’s getting out Peverley (no points, minus-2 rating last five games). After Peverly was a healthy scratch last month, it appears he is back in the doghouse.

It hasn’t been a no-win situation for Peverley, but you do have to take into consideration that he hasn’t been playing with top players for the most part. His linemates have included Chris Bourque, Jay Pandolfo and Kaspars Daugavins. It isn’t exactly like Peverley’s been put in a position to win the Hart Trophy, but it’s reasonable to expect better numbers than he’s put up even with subpar linemates.

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Claude Julien on allowing 87 shots in 2 games: Bad habits have ‘crept into our game’ 04.05.13 at 2:20 am ET
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Claude Julien can read the shot board on the TD Garden scoreboards like anyone else.

He knows full well that the Bruins gave up 47 shots on Tuesday night and escaped with a 3-2 win over the Senators thanks to the play of back-up goalie Anton Khudobin.

He knows full well the Bruins allowed Tuukka Rask to face 40 shots Thursday night against New Jersey, only to have their rear ends saved by the fact their goalie turned away all 40 in a 1-0 squeaker over the Devils.

“Well, he was good,” Julien said in his best understated voice. “You know, he was one of the reasons we won, obviously. He made the big saves when he had to and kept us in the lead at times when they could have gotten themselves back into the game. He was good for us tonight, and sometimes a little bit of rest and a little bit of work with the goalie coach is what goaltenders need.”

Rask wasn’t complaining afterward. Actually, he was happy to see so many pucks early, as the Bruins were outshot 17-6 in the opening 20 minutes after he had the last two games off.

“Yeah, I was saying to Doby [Anton Khudobin] in the first intermission that I would rather take 17 shots, then three or four shots to just get kind of get going and even though they had 17 shots there were a lot of shots from the outsides so it was good to get that feeling. Feel for the puck and stuff like that, so good effort.

“I’d just rather go out there and just get my mind right during the game. Doby played great in Buffalo, played great against Ottawa so I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself sitting out there. I was feeling good for him. He’s kind of in that groove and he’s playing really good so it was good to watch him for a couple of outings there and I felt good out there.”

Is Julien concerned about the shot totals and the way his team is playing defensively? Read the rest of this entry »

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Chris Kelly days away from returning to Bruins lineup 04.04.13 at 12:40 pm ET
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Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly skated for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday as he nears a return from a broken tibia suffered on March 11 against the Senators, but Thursday marked the first time he skated with his teammates.

Kelly participated fully in the Bruins’ morning skate, and though he will not play Thursday against the Devils, Claude Julien said that his return to the lineup is right around the corner.

“I think it’s just a matter of probably days now vs. a week that hopefully he’ll be back,” Julien said.

The coach added that Kelly will travel with the team to Montreal this weekend for Saturday’s game, though it’s too early to tell whether Kelly will actually play vs. the Habs.

Though Kelly is itching to get back on the ice (this is the longest he’s been out with an injury in his NHL career), he isn’t getting too far ahead of himself when it comes to jumping back in the lineup.

“It’s just about how I feel. If I feel good, I do a little bit more the next day,” he said. “If I don’t feel as good, maybe don’t push it as much. One step at a time. Today was my first day with the guys, and it was just a morning skate. Maybe if we practice tomorrow, I’ll get to skate a little longer with them and maybe do a little more.”

Morning skates aren’t a very physical affair, as the half hour is used for skating, line rushes, and other work such as special teams and face-offs. The next step in Kelly’s recovery would appear to be adding the physical aspect.

“I’m hoping not to get hit, to be honest,” he said with a laugh. “If they want to hit me, I guess that will be the next step.”

As for what he’s looking to get out of the final days before he gets back into games, Kelly said that it’s a combination of getting over the injury and getting his strength back.

“I think it’s a little bit of both. Conditioning is definitely a big part of it,” he said. “You don’t want to be fatigued and put yourself in a vulnerable position for other injuries. The fatigue aspect is definitely there. I need to work on that and just feel comfortable with the injury as well.”

When he does return, his line could look different. When he was injured, he was skating with Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron on the third line, but since then the Bruins have added Kaspars Daugavins and Jaromir Jagr, both of whom could eventually be in the third line mix. The B’s have also used Jay Pandolfo more on the third line (Pandolfo and Daugavins played on Peverley’s wings in Thursday’s morning skate).

Kelly’s line struggled mightily before he went down, and the third line has continued to underachieve. He doesn’t view his eventual return as a chance to bounce back with a new linemate or two, focusing instead on just playing when he can.

“I just want to be back. Whoever I play with will be great,” he said. “I know adding [Jagr] was great, and Daugavins as well. There are a few new faces, but whoever I play with will be great with me.”

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