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Claude Julien’s take on why Steven Stamkos is more universally beloved than other superstars 11.25.13 at 1:19 pm ET
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Claude Julien

Claude Julien

Claude Julien singing Steven Stamkos‘ praises a couple weeks after visiting him in the hospital certainly isn’t the first case of the Lightning superstar being a welcomed guest in Boston.

Stamkos, who has twice been injured on Garden ice, has long been well-received around these parts, and he’s one of the few star players in the game who seems to be universally beloved.

Even prior to the Max Pacioretty incident, Zdeno Chara was booed every time he touched the puck in another building. Opposing stars get booed in other towns regularly, so what is it about Stamkos [for what it's worth, he is one of the nicest people in professional sports] that makes him adored everywhere?

Julien had an interesting answer.

“What’s kind of unfortunate about the boos and that [is] a lot of it is based on what happens on the ice,” Julien said. “And we know Steve is not a dirty player. But yet, you get Zdeno, who is a physical player, and yet both of those people are just as equally good people; they’re quality people, but the perception of one versus the other is different. So you see the same thing with all those players.

“People are always going to cheer and respect the players that are not physical; they just go out and score goals and play the game. But if you’re physical at all, and you’re throwing your body around and you’re gritty and everything else, then you’re not going to get that same treatment. That’s my explanation for that. Steve is one of those hard-working guys that works hard and will get in the dirty areas but he’s not known as a dirty player — and he’s not.”

There’s obviously a lot of grey area not addressed there, as non-physical stars are booed plenty, but that’s a pretty interesting take from Julien regarding why Chara gets the treatment he does in other buildings.

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Claude Julien visited Steven Stamkos in hospital at 1:10 pm ET
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Steven Stamkos broke his right tibia vs. the Bruins earlier this month. (AP)

Steven Stamkos broke his right tibia vs. the Bruins earlier this month. (AP)

Steven Stamkos had a rough time the last time he was in Boston, as he broke his tibia in the second period of a Lightning loss on Nov. 11 and had to stay in town to get surgery.

The NHL’s third-leading goal-scorer (still) was off crutches Monday as he met the Tampa media, and he revealed that B’s coach Claude Julien paid him a visit while he was in the hospital. He also received a text message from Zdeno Chara wishing him well on behalf of the Bruins.

“I had him at the Olympic Camp and I got to know Steve the person,” Julien said after Monday’s morning skate. “When you look at what he is in the league and what he’s accomplished, to have that happen to him I thought it was just important to go by and see how he was doing. It was as simple as that.

“Again, it’s a guy – I said that after the game – he’s one of those players that people from all the different cities come up to watch and play and he’s one of the reasons we fill buildings and you hate to see that, from anybody’s point of view, to see a guy like that get injured that way. So I stopped by and he certainly feels like he wants that opportunity to represent his country and he’s going to do everything he can and I just went there and kind of showed my support.”

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

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Reilly Smith is just trying to ‘keep the ball rolling’ 11.23.13 at 8:22 pm ET
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Reilly Smith (18) beats Cam Ward for his fourth goal of the season Saturday in Boston. (AP)

Reilly Smith (18) beats Cam Ward for his fourth goal of the season Saturday in Boston. (AP)

Bruins coach Claude Julien looks on the ice and sees the skill of Reilly Smith. Then he has to remind himself and others that he is just 22 years of age.

On Saturday, he saw a sure-fire sign that Smith is fully capable of handling the load at the NHL level. With 6:29 left in the second period of a 1-1 game, Smith broke in on Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward and had the puck on his backhand. Earlier in the season, Smith’s eyes might have gotten too big and he might have felt the pressure to rush the shot. But not Saturday. He waited.

Smith took a pass from Carl Soderberg in the low slot between the circles, skated across the crease and flipped the puck just hard enough that Ward couldn’t control it, providing the go-ahead goal, already the fourth of the season with his new team.

“Kells [Chris Kelly] was tied up in front so he kind of set up a good pick, I didn’t want to force it right through and I thought I might have a little more net going to my backhand,” Smith explained. “Cam [Ward] still almost had it so I was kind of lucky that it snuck through.”

Does Saturday’s patience on the goal show he’s getting more comfortable?

“Absolutely, just little things like that where probably a few weeks or a month ago I probably wouldn’t have done that, I probably would have tried to get it on net right away,” Smith said. “With every day, you build confidence.

“Every day gets a little bit easier. When you stay with the same linemates, for a few weeks or a month, everyday gets easier, chemistry builds every day so just take it day by day but I think everything is going pretty well right now, just try to keep the ball rolling.”

With Kelly and Carl Soderberg on the third line, the young winger acquired along with Loui Eriksson from Dallas for Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley is looking more and more ready to fit in on a regular basis.

“They just feel better more and more about playing together,” Julien said. “They’re reading off of each other extremely well; I said that earlier in an interview about how they’re just reading off each other, they’re anticipating, so they’re always on top of the puck. We still have some lines right now that are kind of waiting to see what the puck carrier is going to do with it and you hope that with time we can get that same level as that third line is right now of anticipating well. They know exactly where they want to go and where they’re going to put the puck so they’re on top of it all the time and the last few games they’ve had a lot of chances and a lot of offensive zone time.

“Again, we’re talking about a young player here. I keep saying it all the time, we always seem to overlook his age and he’s a young player. And the way I think he’s handled himself in pressure situations and handling the puck a little bit better and holding onto it. And at the same time, I thought tonight he shot the puck a little bit more; he had a little bit better of a nose for the net and before, looking to make plays versus shooting the puck. So he’s really turned a corner and is really coming along well for a young player.”

It’s not just Julien either. Smith is winning over veteran teammates at the same time.

“I didn’t know much about him before he got traded,” David Krejci said. “I know he’s a great player, he’s still young, but he’s playing like a ten year vet [veteran]. It’s good to see him doing well; hopefully he can keep it up.”

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Claude Julien tweaks overtime approach to avoid shootout at 5:45 pm ET
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Claude Julien

Claude Julien

The Bruins showed they don’t like the shootout Thursday night by saying they don’t like the shootout. Claude Julien did it Saturday by loading up on forwards during overtime.

In an attempt to get some scoring during the five-minute 4-on-4 session, Julien played Patrice Bergeron’s line with Zdeno Chara and then David Krejci‘s line with Johnny Boychuk, so three forwards and one defenseman rather than two and two.

“We’ve practiced that this year when we’ve done our 4-on-4,” Julien said following the win. “For me, we haven’t been very lucky in shootouts — or we haven’t gotten much out of our shootouts — so I just thought it was important to maybe get a line out there, give us maybe some more offense because of the fact they’re used to playing with each other and not about taking that chance, but taking that strategy and having one defenseman there and making sure a forward always came back. Tonight it paid off.”

Julien’s move paid off, as the B’s got a goal from Krejci’s line when Jarome Iginla split two Hurricanes defenders to set up Krejci’s game-winning goal in Boston’s 3-2 win over Carolina.

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Shawn Thornton on D&C: Tuukka Rask ‘unbelievable’ vs. Rangers 11.20.13 at 11:44 am ET
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Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to discuss the team’s recent hot streak.

Shawn Thornton

Shawn Thornton

That streak includes a 2-1 win over the Rangers on the road Tuesday night. Thornton tallied the game’s first goal, his third of the season. He also scored against the Blue Jackets last Thursday. Despite the offensive outburst, he still recognizes his role as the team enforcer.

“That’s still my job, first and foremost,” Thornton said. “[I’ve been] a little lucky the last few games, but I’ve still got my real job.”

Linemate Daniel Paille scored a shorthanded, game-winning goal in the second period.

“After Paille scored that goal, it kind of gave us a little bit of a lift, and you tend to get pumped up when you see the grinders pop one shorthanded,” Thornton said.

In the last five games, the fourth line — Thornton, Paille and Gregory Campbell – has a combined four goals, three assists and 19 shots.

“I always joke with the media that it doesn’t matter who’s on my line, we’re always the fourth line,” Thornton said. “I remember a few years ago, when [Blake] Wheeler was here, I got bumped up to play with [David] Krejci and Wheeler, but everyone just talked about how Wheeler and Krejci got demoted to the fourth line. It doesn’t matter who it is, if I’m on it, it’s still the fourth line.”

While Thornton and Paille provided the offensive fireworks in Tuesday’s victory, goalie Tuukka Rask shut down the Rangers. He allowed just one goal, and recorded 43 saves.

“Every time we play against those guys he’s unbelievable,” Thornton said. “I think he just really enjoys the challenge of facing Henrik Lundqvist. He earned it last night, he was unbelievable.”

Despite Thornton’s solid play of late, coach Claude Julien opted to make him a healthy scratch for the Bruins’ 4-1 win over the Hurricanes on Monday.

“I don’t like sitting out, obviously, no one likes being the guy that’s the odd man out,” Thornton said. “He told me that it wasn’t because of my play, that I’ve been playing pretty well, it’s just [Jordan] Caron was coming up on sitting out 10 games straight, I think, and he wanted to get him in. And Carolina didn’t really have an enforcer threat, so it was as good a time as any to try to get him back in the game.”

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

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Bruins know Steven Stamkos injury isn’t good for anyone 11.11.13 at 5:32 pm ET
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Steven Stamkos is out indefinitely with a broken right tibia. (AP)

Steven Stamkos is out indefinitely with a broken right tibia. (AP)

It should come as no surprise that when Steven Stamkos flew into the net and pounded his fist in both clear pain and disappointment in the second period of Monday’s Bruins-Lightning game, the TD Garden crowd fell silent. When he was placed onto a stretcher and wheeled off the ice, the sold-out crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Boston fans aren’t always the most gracious, but the unanimous show of support for the Lightning star said that they both respect him — remember, this is the same ice on which Stamkos took a Johnny Boychuk slapshot to the face, got some stitches, slapped a cage on his helmet and went back out there in Game 7 of the 2011 Eastern Conference finals — and don’t want to see the league lose one of its best young players.

The Bruins agreed, and though the top team in the conference losing the league’s leader in goals and points might bode well for the Bruins, it isn’t lost on them that a Stamkos-less NHL isn’t as good an NHL.

“I don’t care whether he’s on another team or not, a player like that is what people pay to come and watch,” Claude Julien said. “… This game is built on guys like that that have tremendous skills, that are good leaders and everything else. It’s unfortunate that those kind of injuries happen to those players. You hope that his injury isn’t too serious and if anything he’s going to come back quick.”

Unfortunately, the injury is serious and he isn’t going to come back quick. It’s a broken right tibia for Stamkos and he’s out indefinitely. He suffered the injury crashing into the net while battling for position with Dougie Hamilton, with his left leg hitting the post first and then the bottom of his right leg following in a scene of which you probably won’t want to catch too many replays.

Gregory Campbell knows a thing or two about tough injuries like this, as he had one of the most famous broken legs in sports history when he broke his blocking an Evgeni Malkin slapshot in Game 3 of last season’s Eastern Conference finals and finished his shift.

“I don’t like to see that happen to anybody,” Campbell said. “I have a lot of respect for him, but whether it’s him or somebody else, injuries are tough, tough to come back from.

Added Campbell: “He’s becoming the face of the game now, one of the key faces of the NHL. In an Olympic year, a lot of things that are negative about it for his own personal game it’s unfortunate. Injuries do happen, it’s something that you have to come to expect, unfortunately. It’s the beginning of a long process when you get injured, and he’s an important player to his team and to the league, but he’s a strong guy. I know he works hard, and I’m sure he’ll be back stronger than ever.”

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Bruins not sure if Adam McQuaid’s injury is ‘day-to-day or a week-plus’ at 12:13 pm ET
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Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid was confirmed out for Monday’s matinee against the Lightning with a lower-body injury, and the Bruins aren’t sure when he’ll be able to return.

“They haven’t told us whether it’s day-to-day or a week-plus,” Claude Julien said. “I don’t have the answer for you there.”

McQuaid appeared to grab his groin area during his second shift of the game Saturday against the Maple Leafs. He was slow to get off the ice and did not return. Asked to confirm that it was a lower-body injury, Julien said that it was the area McQuaid grabbed as he went down.

“I think everybody knows where he got hurt,” Julien said. “I think he grabbed it quick enough that it was pretty obvious.”

With McQuaid out, Matt Bartkowski will play Monday. He was paired with Johnny Boychuk in Sunday’s practice.

For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.

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