|Post-morning-skate notes: Claude Julien doesn’t want a repeat of last Sabres meeting||01.20.11 at 1:12 pm ET|
With the Bruins seeing the return of Andrew Ference to the lineup on Thursday, Adam McQuaid isn’t necessarily the odd man out yet, so to speak.
McQuaid missed last Monday’s game with an undisclosed injury, with the team calling up Matt Bartkowski to play in his place. The medical staff still doesn’t feel that McQuaid is in tip-top shape, so Claude Julien isn’t yet ready to say that the 24-year-old will once again be relegated to life as a healthy scratch.
“If they keep playing the way they are, it’s going to be difficult [to make a choice],” Julien said. “There’s no doubt. It’s certainly not going to be an easy decision to make, and if they’re all playing well, I’ve seen situations where you alternate and make sure they’re all playing.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. It’s not something you look forward to but it’s something that you have to deal with at times. Right now I think our back end’s been pretty good for us, and they all deserve to play.”
With Steven Kampfer considering surgery on his broken nose, Julien isn’t very surprised that the right-handed puck-mover has played through the discomfort he’s been experiencing. Kampfer broke his nose Saturday against the Penguins when Zdeno Chara got him in the face with his stick.
“It’s been getting a little better, but I think that there’s blood up there that has clogged up his sinuses and has made it hard for him to breathe, but he’s certainly playing through it, and that’s what we’re talking about [with guys playing through pain].
“We know what Kampfer brings to our team,” Julien added. “We haven’t got a lot of guys that are offensive minded and mobile defensemen like he is, and when you make a decision [on who to play], you make it based on that as well.”
Tuukka Rask is expected to start. Here are some other notes from the morning skate:
– The lines all looked the same for the Bruins on Thursday morning. They are as follows:
Ryder – Savard – Horton
Marchand – Bergeron – Recchi
Lucic – Krejci – Seguin
Wheeler – Campbell – Thornton
– This will be Blake Wheeler‘s third straight game on the “energy line.” While many would have expected the 24-year-old to be a top-9 forward, Julien said the emergence of Brad Marchand has allowed them to use Wheeler with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton.
“I think the fact that we put Marchand with [Patrice] Bergeron and that line was going well, we thought that Wheels is probably really similar to [Marchand] as far as his relentless forecheck and his good skating. I thought he’d be a good fit for that line and we’ve always liked that line since the beginning of the year and somehow without moving Marchand [back] we’re trying to keep it a lot of the same.”
Wheeler has 10 goals and 11 assists for 21 points this season. He picked up an assist on Campbell’s second-period goal on Monday.
– Julien is hoping to not see anything resembling a repeat of the B’s last meeting with the Sabres. The Bruins blew three different leads on Jan. 1 before losing, 7-6, in a shootout. Julien said the game was a shootout in more ways than one given the back-and-forth nature of the game, calling the contest “uncharacteristic of the way these two teams play each other.”
Luckily for the Bruins, Drew Stafford, who had a hat trick and scored in the shootout, will not play for Sabres tonight due to a groin injury.
On the season, the Bruins have gone 2-1-1 against the Sabres.
– Tyler Seguin, who has spent the last couple of games on a line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic, doesn’t have a point over his last four games. Seguin and Krejci seem a natural fit for one another given their speed, and Julien said that he likes the rookie on the wing with Krejci in the middle.
Seguin is obviously in a more comfortable place than he was at the beginning of the year, and he’s had flashes of brilliance that he’s tried to sustain. Julien said Thursday that the second half of the season will be another challenge that the second overall pick will encounter.
“I think we still know there’s room for him to continue to improve. And you know, as we get closer to the end of the year, games get tougher and tougher and he’s got to learn to be able to battle in those circumstances and that’s what we expect from him,” Julien said. “His skill level is what it is, it’s great and it’s going to keep showing more and more as he progresses with experience.
“The one thing he hasn’t faced yet is that second half of the year where games mean so much to teams and that grinding part of it means more and more and he’s got to be able to battle through that.”
Seguin is 15th among rookies with 16 points this season.
|Steve Kampfer suffers broken nose, Marc Savard ‘fine’ after fall into boards||01.15.11 at 4:11 pm ET|
Rookie defenseman Steve Kampfer was sent to the hospital with a broken nose after being bloodied by teammate Zdeno Chara 57 seconds into the second period. Chara became entangled with Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis in the offensive corner when Kampfer came skating by, catching Chara’s stick in the face.
“He went to the hospital and has a broken nose,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “They are just checking him out. We’re going to find out more and the severity of it [Sunday].”
Dupuis was called for the major high-sticking penalty but TV replays clearly showed it was Chara’s stick that did the damage.
“I think it was my stick but not 100 percent sure,” Chara explained after the 3-2 loss to the Penguins. “I was batting and somehow my stick got high, hit Stevie. Just an unfortunate play. But I don’t know exactly how it happened.”
Meanwhile, Marc Savard took a header into the far boards in the third period, after a hit from Pittsburgh’s Deryk Engelland but after spending about a minute on the ice, he got to his knees and skated off on his own power.
“From what I’m told, there was nothing wrong. It was a clean hit,” Julien said. “He was off-balance, got his bell rung a little bit but he’s alright.”
Savard, of course, was hit by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke last March 8 on a blindside hit and missed several weeks with a Grade 2 concussion. The two had a couple of run-ins on Saturday but no major brush-ups.
Still, Savard will pay close attention to how he feels over the next 24 hours before getting ready for the Hurricanes on Monday afternoon at TD Garden.
“I’ll monitor it and watch the rest of the day, see how I feel a little bit,” Savard said. “I was a little bit shaken up.”
|Zdeno Chara and the Bruins didn’t want to ‘ruin’ the good vibes from Pittsburgh||01.12.11 at 2:55 pm ET|
As much talk as there was following Tuesday’s 6-0 win over the Senators about Patrice Bergeron and his first career hat trick, there was just as much about the impressive way the Bruins followed up their dramatic win in Pittsburgh 24 hours earlier.
“It’s huge,” said captain Zdeno Chara. “You want to follow up with a good performance. You don’t want to have obviously a nice comeback game and then come back and just ruin it. I mean that’s totally something you don’t want to do.”
The Bruins showed what they call in hockey “good jump” in getting up 2-0 after one and 5-0 after two periods. But for Chara to consider the night a truly good one, the B’s would have to finish the job.
“Even after the first 20 or 40 minutes of tonight’s game, you don’t want to, at the end of the night, count regrets that you played well for 40 and bad for 20,” he added. “You just want to have a good feeling after the game that you really played a solid 60 minutes.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien agreed. It was a good night from what he could see from behind the bench.
“I like the way we skated. I thought we had some good jump right off the start and we had some good clean breakouts and it allowed us to have some good speed through the neutral zone,” Julien said. “We got pucks behind their D and took advantage of it. I thought our guys were well-focused tonight. It was important to build on last night and not sit on it.”
It’s rare for a team to show such good energy on the back-end of a back-to-back in mid-January like the Bruins did but Tim Thomas wasn’t complaining, as he posted his career-best sixth shutout of the season.
“We looked like we had really good legs tonight on a back-to-back with the heavy schedule that we’ve had and that’s a good sign too,” Thomas said. “A lot of things went our way tonight.”
And, of course, leading the way was Bergeron with his first career hat trick.
“We’ve talked about it, after the game in Pittsburgh, to just carry what happened in the last three minutes, you know, and carry that over to tonight, and I think we did that, you know, all game, the 60 minutes that’s what we needed.”
What the Bruins needed and got on Wednesday was the day off to stay inside and avoid the blizzard outside. They’ll need their rest with the Flyers and Penguins coming to town on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. Just another two games to test how far these Bruins have come in turning around their season.
|Why the Bruins feel so bad for Tuukka Rask||01.06.11 at 11:54 pm ET|
Thornton called out the rest of the team for non-support of goalie Tuukka Rask. The Bruins netminder made several athletic saves, including a spectacular one on Martin Havlat to keep the Bruins tied. But the save was for naught as the Bruins fell, 3-1, Thursday night to the Minnesota Wild.
“Tuukka was awesome again,” Thornton said. “I think its awful that that kid plays so good for us all the time and we don’t get the wins for him its’¦we care about him and we should probably show it in a better way, he stood on his head for us pretty much every night and I don’t know his save percentage is .940 or something stupid like that.
“That should be good enough to win a lot of hockey games so we have to look ourselves in the mirror as far as that goes.”
Not that anyone is nit-picking at this point, but his save percentage is .928 after stopping 31-of-33 shots he faced, not including the empty-netter by Mikko Koivu with less than a minute to go that sealed Boston’s fate.
“It has been disappointing for him all season,” B’s benched center Marc Savard added. “He comes in and gives us a solid effort. We can’t seem to score at all when he is in there. I feel bad for him. He is one of the best goaltenders in the league.”
What about the man himself?
“I always try to have a good feeling, you know?” Rask said. “We definitely’¦ we talked about playing better after the second period and, you know, digging deep but, an awful’¦ an awful mistake there went in and cost us the game. I don’t even know what happened, it’s just, I guess we just lost our focus.”
As frustrated as he gets, Rask said he is doing everything in his power to stay upbeat – though the stat sheet shows otherwise, at least in terms of wins and losses.
“Yeah, you know I try to feel good about myself everyday and think positive, and you know, the past couple games have been solid,” Rask said. “Tough to lose like this, it’s kind of frustrating but you always try to feel good about yourself, but the last three games have been a step in the right direction.”
Rask has stopped 67-of-70 shots in his last two games, showing Claude Julien that he might just be ready to pick it up for the second half of the season. There was no better example of that than his save on Martin Havlat late in the second period to keep the game tied, 1-1. From his stomach, he put his left hand up at the last moment to rob the man who already had beaten Rask for the first goal of the game.
“I saw him at the last second, and I just dove there, and I guess the puck was bouncing a bit for him too, and he didn’t get enough wood on it,” Rask said. “But, you know, it’s’¦ you got to be lucky to make those saves, too, but, I guess, half luck, half skill.”
In just his 13th game – and 12th start – Rask fell to 3-8-1 despite a 2.58 goals against average, a record neither Thornton nor their coach – Julien feels Rask even remotely deserves.
“This is a goaltender tonight that was outstanding for us, deserving a better fate and gave us a chance to win,” Julien lamented. “And so I feel bad for him because he deserves probably to be in the win column tonight, not in the loss column.”
The Bruins have begun to catch fire since pounding the Thrashers, 4-1, at the Garden on Dec. 23. They have points in each of their last six games, coming away with four wins in a stretch that’s seen them go 4-0-2. On Thursday, they face a Wild team that has won two in a row and is two points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
WHERE IT’S AT
– The B’s haven’t played at the Garden since their statement game against the Thrashers, On the season, they are 9-6-3 at home, including their season-opening loss in Prague.
– The Wild are 3-1-1 in their last five away games. Their road record is identical to the Bruins’ home record at 9-6-3.
– It’s been a tale of two Tylers, so to speak, regarding Tyler Seguin and his production at home and on the road. Seguin has picked up just three of his 13 points in home games, and has scored just one goal at TD Garden. Here are his splits:
Home (17 games): 1 G, 2 A, 3 P, minus-5
Road (19 games): 5 G, 5 A, 10 P, plus-7
Milan Lucic is among the guys who have fared just about the same regardless of location. He’s split his 28 points right down the middle, picking up 14 at home and 14 on the road.
– The Bruins have gone 0-for-6 on the power play over their last three games, which suggests they could stand to draw a few more penalties and capitalize when they do so. The Wild have kill off 81.2 percent of their penalties this season, which puts them 19th in the league in penalty kill percentage.
– Minnesota winger Martin Havlat has four assists in his last four games and has totaled 27 this season. The numbers aren’t all pretty for Havlat, as he was a minus-four on Sunday against the Coyotes in a 6-5 overtime loss.
STORYLINES GOING IN
– Who will center the second line? Claude Julien gave Tyler Seguin a good deal of time between Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi in the Monday’s 2-1 victory over the Maple Leafs. The coach said Tuesday that he feels comfortable using the two interchangeably in the middle and on the left wing, as Bergeron got plenty of experience at wing early on in his career.
– The Lucic-Savard-Horton line looks as though it has finally gotten going, as it was able to produce goals from both Nathan Horton (his first in nine games) and Marc Savard on Monday. Horton finished the night with a pair of points.
– With the five-game road-trip in the mirror, this game kicks off a rather difficult stretch over the next eight games. Their coming opponents include the Canadiens, Penguins (twice), Flyers, and Hurricanes (twice).
|Tuukka Rask remains a cool customer in dealing with role||01.05.11 at 6:55 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Right now Tuukka Rask is looking for a happy medium of sorts. Perhaps the most surprising backup goalie of the year, Rask has made just 11 starts this season after emerging as the starter down the stretch and into the playoffs in the 2009-10 campaign.
“It’s different, and I think everybody has to go through it at some point, Rask said Wednesday. “In my short career, I haven’t sat on the bench that much, and this is definitely the most I’ve ever sat. ‘¦ You can’t get satisfied sitting on the bench. You’ve got to work hard and try to find you game and get those wins the team needs.”
The opportunity to get those wins has not been presented to Rask nearly as much as many expected going into the season. Tim Thomas has been the man between the pipes for more than two-thirds of the Bruins’ games thus far, and Rask recently spent seven games straight games on the bench.
With his role so different from what he and a great number of people had anticipated, it’s no wonder that coach Claude Julien has expressed some sort of concern with making sure the goalie stays confident. The remedy for any confidence issues the 23-year-old could be battling is more frequent starts, and results when he does play.
“It’s funny how it goes, confidence-wise when you’re playing a lot and you’re in that groove and you’re feeling good about yourself, and then you don’t play that much,” Rask said. “You shouldn’t be feeling bad, but there’s nothing you can do about it because you haven’t played. You try to find that groove and get on it, but it’s challenging. Hopefully I can find it.”
With Rask’s starts on Saturday and Monday, the Finnish netminder received consecutive starts for the first time all season. Getting the start Monday seemed big for Rask, as he rebounded from a poor first-period showing in Buffalo to a performance in which he shut down the Leafs en route to a 2-1 victory. He said that he approached both games the same way, and that given the circumstances under which he was pulled against the Sabres, the Bruins’ weren’t in too bad of shape at the time of his exit.
“I was still up, 4-3, when I got pulled,” Rask said. “It wasn’t that tough for me to prepare mentally and then try to have that bounce-back feeling. Still, when you get pulled, you don’t want to get pulled twice in a row. You try to earn the trust and earn the win. That’s the only thinking I was thinking.”
Rask is 3-7-1 with a 2.63 goals against average this season. His .927 save percentage would be good for fourth in the NHL if he had enough minutes to qualify.
|Claude Julien defends goaltender switch, saying Bruins ‘needed some bigger saves’||01.01.11 at 10:37 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask, making his first start since Dec. 15, was pulled from the game after allowing three goals on 16 shots in the first period. The B’s led, 4-3, at the time, and went on to lose, 7-6, to the Sabres in a shootout.
Following the game, coach Claude Julien defended the decision in his post-game interview on NESN.
“We felt that we needed some bigger saves,” Julien said. “He hasn’t played in a while, but still, we needed to win this hockey game, so we thought it was important to make that change.”
Rask is 2-7-1 this season.