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Left out: Aaron Johnson making best of tough situation 05.12.13 at 1:36 pm ET
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Aaron Johnson

TORONTO — Hey, remember Aaron Johnson?

With the Bruins definitely without one lefty defenseman in Andrew Ference in Game 6 and potentially without another in Wade Redden, the left-shooting Johnson — on paper — would appear to be a logical option for Claude Julien. Johnson’s been skating with the team regularly as he waits for his opportunity, though it’s one that won’t likely come.

Said Johnson Sunday: “I have been skating every day and playing every day and doing whatever possible, other than playing in game situations.”

And that’s the conundrum. It’s been a whole lot of “other than playing in game situations” for Johnson, as the last time he played in a game was on March 30. The Bruins wanted to send him to Providence late in the season in order to get him into some games, but they weren’t able to send him down for a conditioning assignment without having to put him through the waiver process.

Now that they could use him, that lack of game action makes him borderline untouchable (unless as a last resort) in the playoffs, as the Bruins simply can’t trust someone who’s played so little in such a key spot.

“It’s been tough for Aaron,” Julien said. “For me, it’s about what players are allowed and not allowed to do. We would have loved to give him an opportunity to play and play in Providence, but the CBA doesn’t allow it, and it’s kind of played against him and right now we have a player that hasn’t played in a long time. It’s tough for him.”

With Matt Bartkowski figuring to play in place of the injured Ference, the Bruins would be left with Johnson and Dougie Hamilton as potential replacements for Redden if the veteran blueliner (termed a game-time decision by Julien) can’t go.

In that case, the right-shooting Hamilton would get the call over Johnson based on the fact that he’s sharper. Hamilton played more regular-season games and has gotten into one playoff game already, though Game 2 created issues that would likely arise again if the rookie plays Sunday.

Because Hamilton would be replacing a left-shot, the Bruins would need to take Dennis Seidenberg off the top pairing to give them another left-side defenseman. That didn’t work out in Game 2, when the B’s played their defensive game of the series and Seidenberg was on the ice for three goals against. Playing Johnson would avoid having to break up that shutdown pairing, but it would also bring too much uncertainty to such an important game.

Johnson, who understands his situation but hasn’t moaned about it, stayed out longer for the morning skate with the rest of the healthy scratches Sunday. He knows that Sunday would have been a potential opportunity for him to play, but that his lack of games (12 in the regular season between Boston and Providence and none in over a month) makes his chances remote. If he does get the call, he’s certain that rust won’t be a factor.

“I think it’s just a matter for myself, staying ready, if that call does come to just play my game,” Johnson said. “I mean, I’ve played this game for a long time now, 10 years professionally. There’s no secret recipe. You just kind of go out and play your game. Obviously it will be a little faster in [the postseason], but I think when that happens, you just try to keep it simple.”

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Bruins Thursday notes: Nathan Horton OK, David Krejci loves being ‘unpredictable’ and Tuukka Rask ‘in the zone’ 05.09.13 at 3:46 pm ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien was calm and cool Thursday explaining his team's approach up 3-1. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

The Bruins held an optional skate on Thursday at TD Garden, with optional being the key word. David Krejci and Dougie Hamilton were among several Bruins in the tunnel outside their dressing room playing soccer but other than that there was no on-ice activity as the Bruins rest after their Game 4 victory over the Leafs that leaves them one win from the second round.

Coach Claude Julien confirmed that Nathan Horton is OK after taking a vicious body blow on a forecheck from Dion Phaneuf that led to Krejci’s game-winner in overtime Wednesday night. Horton is expected to be ready and play Game 5 Friday night at TD Garden.

Julien covered a number of topics on Thursday, including the play of Krejci, the nerves of steel of Tuukka Rask and what makes the Bruins so much fun to coach at this time of year.

Here were his answers in Thursday’s Q & A with reporters at TD Garden.

On if after the game he realized how good of a game last night was: “Yes, I do. I said it [Wednesday] night, I said it this morning to the guys. It shouldn’t be looked at who’s an experience team, who’s a young team, who’s this, who’s that; it should be viewed as two teams playing really good hockey right now. There’s a lot of teams that Leafs squad would have beat playing the way they did and we’re, when I say fortunate, that we played well enough and found a way to score that overtime goal to get that win, because it was a real good game that could have gone either way.”

On the mentality heading into a possible clinching game: “You’ve got to play your best game because we know how hard it to close. That’s the thing you hope your players realize extremely well after all the experiences we’ve had throughout the years. We now know how hard it is to close and no reason for us to come out tomorrow and not play as hard, if not harder, than we did last night.

On how important it is to come out hard and set a tone Friday night: “No matter what, we came out, I thought we came out well last night and we were down 2-0. It wasn’t because we didn’t have a good period, it was circumstances that one was a bit of a missed assignment, but a nice good goal on their part. The other one was just an unfortunate break on our part because Tuukka [Rask] was screened until the last second. I really felt we played well enough and came out in the second and regained ourselves and got ourselves back in the game.

“It’s just a matter of making sure you’re ready, you know how hard to start. Everybody says, ‘Well, you’ve got to come out hard,’ both teams have to come out hard. The most important thing is you’ve got to be ready to play, not just a period, or have a good start, but play the whole
game, not just in a physical way, but a mental way.”

On if the other lines are way behind the David Krejci line right now: “I think it’s pretty obvious that that the line is leading the way right now. Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] scores a goal last night, it as on the power play. I think Bergy’s played well, I thought Tyler [Seguin] played extremely well here in Boston and that line was actually good, but I don’t think Tyler played his best, and neither did Brad [Marchand], in Toronto. They’ve got a chance to redeem themselves here, but the other lines have, at some point, produced, as well. But Krejci’s line is, no doubt, the dominant line, I think that’s the biggest thing. We saw that – I feel like I’m repeating myself – a few years back when I thought [Chris] Kelly, [Rich] Peverley, and [Michael] Ryder were a dominant in the Montreal series, and then other lines picked it up afterwards. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of always having somebody doing something to help us win hockey games and, so far, that’s what’s been happening.”

On what changes occur in Krejci’s game when the postseason comes around: “Well, some people like playing in these situations and we’ve seen those in the past from other players on other teams. He’s a playoff performer, he loves the intensity, the excitement of it. He comes up big in those kinds of situations. It’s always nice to have those kinds of players on your team and, so far, David’s always been a good playoff performer for us. It’s a good thing he’s on our team.”

On what it is about Tuukka Rask’s temperament that allows him to shine in situations like overtime: “Well, I think right now that Tuukka is calm, he’s in the zone, he’s not getting too high, not getting too low. All he wants to do is stop the puck. He’s been pretty good and he is temperamental at times, we’ve seen that side of it, too, when he’s not happy with either a situation or himself. But at the same time, right now, he understands how important it is to stay focused and he’s done a great job of that.”

On how much more dangerous Krejci is when he is shooting the puck: “It makes him unpredictable. When he’s not shooting and he’s not, maybe, at the top of his game, often you’ll see him looking to pass, now he’s taking whatever is given to him; sometimes it’s a pass, sometimes it’s a shot. He’s confident. Right now, everything about David is good; he’s been good on draws, he’s been good at scoring goals, he’s making great plays, he’s involved in the gritty areas, he’s been physical, he’s been all around such a great player. That’s what makes him good. Maybe, everybody would like to see him do that for 82 games, unfortunately, that’s not the case.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, David Krejci, Nathan Horton
Claude Julien: ‘You need breaks in the playoffs. … We scored on the opportunity given to us’ 05.08.13 at 11:21 pm ET
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David Krejci gave Claude Julien plenty to smile about with a hat trick and the game-winning goal in OT in Game 4 Wednesday. (AP)

To Claude Julien, Game 4 came down to the Bruins getting a break and making one of their own. Tuukka Rask made a glove save on Joffrey Lupul midway through overtime through a partial screen.

Minutes later, David Krejci took advantage of Dion Phaneuf taking out Nathan Horton in the Bruins’ end and went off on a break that ended in the game-winning goal in overtime as Boston beat Toronto, 4-3, at Air Canada Centre. Krejci’s hat trick produced a dramatic win that puts Boston up, 3-1, in the best-of-seven series, meaning the Bruins can clinch their first postseason series win since winning the Cup in 2011 with a win Friday night in Boston.

“I think they definitely wanted to win this game for the sake of going back to Boston tied,” Julien said. “At the same time, we wanted to win this game as well to put ourselves in the position to just have to win one more game.

“In overtime it was about making sure we made plays and not pass up on shots. Rask made a great save there on Lupul. He was screened and stuck the glove out and made the save, and that was huge for us. There was a post there by Kessel. You need breaks in the playoffs and we got some in overtime and you make your own. We scored on the opportunity that was given to us.”

As for Krejci and his line in this playoff series, Julien couldn’t be happier.

“Obviously, his line has been good through the whole series but tonight, David certainly was the guy shining and was on top of his game. He’s been a real good playoff performer for years for us and he continues to do that. There are just certain players that thrive on playoff hockey and he’s one of those guys.

“There’s a couple of things. We know he’s a great playmaker. He’s a great skill player but the other part is he doesn’t shy away from traffic, he doesn’t shy away from a physical game. He’s very gritty when he needs to be gritty. If he’s got one weakness, it’s that he’s very hard on himself at times when things aren’t going well. But when you see him play like that, not sure you want to call it a weakness because when he does find his game, he’s a pretty dominant player.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, NHL, Stanley Cup Playoffs
Brad Marchand: ‘Toronto Stronger’ sign ‘very disrespectful’ 05.07.13 at 6:19 pm ET
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Brad Marchand

TORONTO — On Tuesday, Maple Leafs players stayed away from questions about the “Toronto Stronger” sign that was held up — complete with blue and white ribbon — by a fan prior to and during the Bruins’ Game 3 victory in Toronto. The players said they hadn’t seen the sign, though James van Riemsdyk (a New Jersey native who played college hockey at UNH) said that it isn’t “the best idea” to make a joke about such an issue as sensitive as the Boston Marathon bombings.

Brad Marchand has made a career of saying things that get under players’ skin, but he felt that the sign crossed the line, as it didn’t hurt the Bruins, but a city that has been through a lot.

“I think sometimes fans overreact with things and sometimes go places maybe they don’t need to go. Obviously it’s a very tragic thing that happened. I don’t think anyone should ever take it lightly or make a joke out of it,” Marchand said. “Obviously, people can be very disrespectful, but Boston went though a lot and you saw the respect that every team that we played against after that gave to our city. It’s not about going about going after our guys, our team and putting the team down. It’s more about the city and the people. Everyone reacted the right way about it and gave their respect. If fans want to go the other way then that’s up to them, but it’s not really necessary.”

Claude Julien also found the sign insensitive but pointed out that fans can be that way during the playoffs, noting that a fan in a Leafs jersey was knocked out at TD Garden after Toronto’s Game 2 win.

“Playoffs bring a lot of passion to the fans and rightfully so, and those things are things that happen,” Julien said. “There was an incident in Boston that unfortunately happened to a Leaf fan, and last night’s sign, to me, had nothing to do with hockey. ‘Boston Strong’ is about something that struck our city, not our team and maybe it’s a little sensitive for the Boston people. Those kind of things happen in the playoffs and the best and sometimes the worst comes out of the passion of our game. That’s all I can say about that situation. It’s maybe a little sensitive for the city of Boston more than it is for our hockey club.”

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

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Randy Carlyle, Claude Julien squabbling over faceoffs at 4:04 pm ET
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Claude Julien (AP)

TORONTO — It came a little earlier than it did two years ago, but the coaches have officially begun a war of words through the media. In 2011, it was then-Lightning coach Guy Boucher and Claude Julien going back and forth regarding penalties being called. This year, it’s Leafs coach Randy Carlyle and Julien over who’s doing what on faceoffs.

The Maple Leafs and center Tyler Bozak (who went 7-for-23 on Monday) vented their frustrations with the how often Leafs players were getting tossed from the faceoff circle, also claiming that Bruins centers didn’t put their stick down first, as the road team should. Carlyle said the team has watched video of the faceoffs and feel the B’s have an unfair advantage.

“Faceoffs are always a big part of any hockey game,” Carlyle said. “When you’re at home, you think you would be afforded some of the staples of the opposition having to be down first and stop. In our review, there were things going on out there that we don’t agree with.

“It’s supposed to be visitor down, home team down, puck down. That clearly was not happening as per video.”

The Bruins held a 45-30 edge on faceoffs Monday, thanks largely to having one of the better faceoff men in the league in Patrice Bergeron (who won 12 of 20) and having third-liners Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly combine to go 22-of-26. Julien responded to Carlyle’s comments by saying the Leafs are looking for calls from the officials in Game 4, a cry he hopes isn’t heard.

“I’ve heard a lot about the faceoff issue,” Julien said. “I’ve looked at the video too and it is what it is — guys getting kicked out, not getting kicked out. When you lobby for something it’s because you’re looking for a bit of a break next game and that’s what Randy’s doing right now. He’s lobbying for some breaks on the faceoffs.

“It’s going to be interesting to see whether the referees and the linesmen just do their job next game and not worry about who’s crying wolf.”

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

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Claude Julien has the back of Jaromir Jagr: ‘That was vintage Jagr’ 05.06.13 at 11:09 pm ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien showed Monday night that he had the backs of his players. (AP)

Everyone knew Jaromir Jagr was due to break out.

He picked a very good time to do exactly that as Claude Julien had his patience in the 41-year-old superstar rewarded in Monday’s 5-2 win over the Leafs in Game 3 of their first-round series at Air Canada Centre.

Heading into Game 3, the line of Jagr, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly hadn’t done much. They were struggling to find a rhythm in the first two games. Jagr was weakened heading into the playoffs by flu-like symptoms, cutting down on the amount of time he could spend generating any type of chemistry with teammates.

That changed 5:57 into the second period when he stripped the puck behind the Leafs net and found Peverley all alone in front of James Reimer for the goal that made it 2-0 Bruins.

“It’s my job to make the excuses, and I made the excuses for them because I felt it was right,” Julien said. “Jags hasn’t been feeling that great and he had to turn a corner here and, at the same time, he had new line mates that hadn’t played much together so it’s just a matter of giving him some time. Sometimes, you have to be patient and I’m more of a patient guy that I am someone who’s going to panic, and tonight it paid off because I thought they were a real good line for us.

“It speaks a lot to Jags. It doesn’t matter how old he is or how long he’s been in the league. It doesn’t matter how much he’s accomplished. He’s a real proud competitor and he takes everything at heart. And the fact that he hadn’t been doing as much as he would’ve like to because of circumstances, he was determined to be a difference-maker tonight and help our team. I thought he did a great job. And the other two guys were a lot more comfortable with him tonight. And again, talking and practicing together certainly helped. He’s strong on the puck, and I know every time he has it, they need one or two guys on him to take it away and that means somebody’s open. He does a great job of that and I thought he was on top of his game tonight.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Jaromir Jagr, Milan Lucic
Bruins lines unchanged as Rich Peverley, Dougie Hamilton appear to be healthy scratches 05.01.13 at 12:26 pm ET
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Claude Julien (AP)

Claude Julien insisted on Tuesday that his lineup for Game 1 wasn’t set, and after showing the same one in Wednesday’s morning skate said the same thing. Until different lines and defensive pairings take the ice, assume he’s fibbing.

The lineup Wednesday morning was as follows:

Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Tyler Seguin
Kaspars Daugavins – Chris Kelly – Jaromir Jagr
Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara – Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference – Johnny Boychuk
Wade Redden – Adam McQuaid

Tuukka Rask

Julien said that Horton is a game-time decision after missing the last five games with an upper-body injury, but Horton said Tuesday that he expects to play and has practiced the last two days. The coach did admit that Dougie Hamilton will “probably” be a healthy scratch in favor of Redden.

It’s really unlikely that a coach whose lineup has been in flux would really change his lines last-minute before the playoffs start, so expect to see that lineup for Game 1. The one area where there could be a late change would be the left wing spot on the third line, where Rich Peverley could enter the lineup in favor of Daugavins. Peverley appears to be in Julien’s doghouse, but he’s versatile and just so happened to lead the Bruins with three goals and five points in their seven playoff games last season.

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

Read More: Claude Julien, Dougie Hamilton, Rich Peverley,
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