|Morning skate notes: Bruins-Lightning||03.25.10 at 12:33 pm ET|
Do not look now, but the Bruins are actually closer to the two teams in front of them in the playoff race than the teams behind. Has the focused shifted from just trying to hang onto to a spot in the tournament to gunning down the Flyers and Canadiens?
“That has been our focus all along, you know,” Blake Wheeler said. “Nobody has really separated themselves from that pack. We understand the importance of the games we just played but we thought it was more important to get those points to move ahead in the standings because we have an opportunity to move up each game and that is our focus, game to game.”
Boston now stands one point behind the free falling Flyers, two behind the Montreal and only five back of Ottawa for the seventh, sixth and fifth spots in the conference. If the Bruins could manage to jump up to the sixth slot they would likely face Buffalo (as the third division winner), a matchup that would be the most favorable of all the options circling the top of the Eastern Conference.
Moving up in the conference is contingent on one thing that has eluded the Bruins thus far in the season — consistency. Can the Bruins take the positive effort from the last two games and apply it to the Lightning Thursday then the Flames and Sabres on Saturday and Monday?
“It is always one of those situations the way our team has been this year that we haven’t been able to get the consistency that we wanted,” coach Claude Julien said. “These last two games have certainly been a step in the right direction but you have to build a little more momentum before you can make that assessment, I guess. There is another challenge for us tonight.”
Notes from the morning skate:
Vladimir Sobotka took a nasty hit into the boards from the Thrashers’ Evgeny Artyukhin on Tuesday and sustained a head/neck injury that Julien said was not a concussion but there was not date set for the center’s return.
“There is never a timetable for injuries like [Sobotka’s], but he is better today,” Julien said. “So hopefully we will know more about his situation by tomorrow.”
Veteran center Trent Whitfield has been recalled from Providence to step in the Sobotka’s place on the line with Milan Lucic and Miroslav Satan.
“I think that [Whitfield] is certainly a guy that can make plays and is a hard worker and, again, that is the way we put it this morning and we could change it tonight,” Julien said. “I though Steve Begin played one of his better games on Tuesday and he is another guy who can go in that spot if we need to and we will kind of feel our way through this one tonight.”
Whitfield just hopes he can continue on the good work that Sobotka had been doing in recent games before the injury.
“I just hope that I am not disruptive,” Whitfield said. “He had been playing pretty well the last few weeks and I just want to go out there and work hard and get them the puck and hopefully maybe we can score a goal and get play a good, solid game.”
There has been nothing fancy about the Sobotka line. Straight dump and chase, active on the forecheck and in the neutral zone type of hockey.
“That is my kind of line. I play a pretty straight up and down kind of game too,” Whitfield said. “Just get it in deep, get the puck to the net and get to the net. Get a couple ugly ones and maybe a nice one. Who knows?”
— Andrew Ference signed a three-year contract extension yesterday. Julien weighed in on what he thinks of keeping the blue liner around for the next few years.
“He has been a pretty reliable defenseman when he has played for us and it is good for him that he has come to an agreement,” Julien said. “He has good experience back there and he is also a good leader and again, barring injury he has been nothing but dependable.”
— Tuukka Rask was the first goaltender off the ice at TD Garden which will make him the probable starter on Thursday night. Matt Hunwick and Brad Marchand both skated for a little extra time than the rest of the team which is a good indicator that they will be healthy scratches come game time.
|Bruins wary of Thrashers||03.22.10 at 1:42 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Question: Where the heck did the Thrashers come from?
All of a sudden the hockey team from Atlanta is a point behind the Bruins for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a chance to jump Boston if it can win on home ice Tuesday night. This from a team that just about everybody had counted out after they traded one of the best goal scorers in the league in the form of Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils on Feb. 4.
“Well they picked up some pretty good players along the way,” coach Claude Julien said. “[Clark] Macarthur from Buffalo and obviously in the New Jersey deal they got a pretty good defenseman out of it (Johnny Oduya) who I think is underrated. They have got a pretty good team, they are getting good goaltender right now and I thin they are pretty confident. It is a good challenge for us tomorrow … we know that when we play well and how we can, we are capable of beating any team.”
After losing five our of six to start the month of March, the Thrashers have caught fire of late with four straight wins over Phoenix, Buffalo, Ottawa and Philadelphia. One could say that the Trashers wins over the Flyers and Senators were favors to the Bruins (both teams are three points ahead of Boston with 79 points) but it is a paradox that fans in the Hub would preferably not explore — have a team behind them get hot and take points from the teams ahead only to come and steal their playoff spot.
The win over the Rangers was good for the psyche of the Bruins. Their practice on Monday morning was lively and boisterous, which has not always been the case at Ristuccia in 2010. That being said, New York is not exactly a team burning down the barn.
“Atlanta is more dangerous because Atlanta is playing good,” Tim Thomas said. “New York is just hanging in there and Atlanta has been charging from behind. I think Atlanta will be the bigger test. It is always in our hands we just got to get timely goals like we did against New York and try to keep them off the board as much as possible.”
The Bruins looked like a much different team on Sunday against the Rangers than they did last Thursday in the grudge match verse the Penguins. The mood around the team was quite different from game to game whereas Boston seemed a little tight with all the scrutiny around the Pittsburgh game that was not as present against New York.
“I think Pittsburgh was a little bit of a wake up call,” Johnny Boychuk said. “You got to come out and play. You can’t take any day off especially since we are battling for the playoffs. Last night everybody came to play and we battled and stood up for each other. We just wanted it. That was the difference between both games.”
Thomas admitted that the flu bug was a problem on Thursday and Boychuk said that it had a tough 24-hour effect on a bunch of members of the team.
“We knew they were both important games and we came up big in one and not in the other,” Thomas said. “We had a lot of guys sick against Pittsburgh. You hate to say that plays into it, but it does. Let’s face it, Pittsburgh and New York are two different teams.”
— Patrice Bergeron is going out of his way to get in touch with Matt Brown, the Norwood High hockey player who broke his neck in a hockey game in January. Brown is in Atlanta at the Shepard Center for Rehabilitation undergoing treatment.
“I have been through similar stuff and I know it is tough to sometimes stay positive,” Bergeron said. “You get frustrated. It is something that I want to share with him and I am excited to go see him, him and his family. We prepared a little bag of stuff to remind him about Boston a little bit. Some movies, some stuff different professional teams in Boston, some clam chowder and stuff like that. I hope he is going to like it and it is going to be fun to first meet him and see how he is doing.”
Here is the practice participation by sweater color:
White — Milan Lucic, Miroslav Satan, Vladimir Sobotka
Goaltenders — Tuukka Rask, Tim Thomas
|Claude Julien pregame press conference, 3/18||03.18.10 at 12:46 pm ET|
|Julien: This is not the 1970s||at 12:26 pm ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien addressed and unusually large group of media after their morning skate on Thursday before their game against the Penguins. Like the Boston players, Julien deflected most talk about how his team will handle Matt Cooke after his hit that put center Marc Savard out for the season with a Grade 2 concussion on March 7. Julien also noted that Blake Wheeler, Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Wideman did not participate in the morning skate because of a flu bug that is going around the team and that each will be a game-time decision.
Here is the transcript courtesy of the Bruins media relations staff:
On what his message was and will be for Bruins, in light of all of the media attention surrounding tonight’s game:
I don’t think I have to say everything I said in that dressing room. The one thing I can tell you is there’s an importance for us to win and get ourselves in the playoffs. That’s obviously pretty important for us, and the rest will take care of itself.
On if the best retribution in his mind (despite others’ opinions) is to win tonight’s game:
You can do [it] a lot of ways, and we’ll deal with the situation when the situation comes about, but we know that the number one thing is to win a hockey game here.
On what he thinks Colin Campbell and Terry Gregson will say to him, Dan Bylsma, Peter Chiarelli and (Penguins GM) Ray Shero today:
No idea. Really, no idea. I’m preparing for my game and whatever they tell me, we’re going to listen and see what they have to say, but I have no idea. Obviously they don’t want this to get out of control. That’s why they’re here and they’re certainly going to keep a close eye on it, including the referees and I think everybody knows that.
|Ference: Time to go to war||02.25.10 at 7:04 pm ET|
Tying up the loose ends from practice. Andrew Ference is ready for the stretch run, Milan Lucic got to take in the festivities in downtown Vancouver and Claude Julien gives his thoughts on the break and the Olympics.
Ference was not sure if he was going to be able to play before the break but with Johnny Boychuk taking a puck to the face before the four-game road trip, he was pressed into duty sooner than he had envisioned. It took him a game or so to get back into the swing of things but said that he was ready to go.
“It was good. We didn’t have any back-to-back games, which was good. Had a chance to recover the next day and everything was good. Plus, we won, which makes a big difference,” Ference said.
Ference said his body held up well and it was just a matter of regaining his timing.
“They definitely had me ready to play. It wasn’t a situation where it made anything worse. It was just a matter of regaining the timing but everything worked,” Ference said “The first game I was pretty conservative. Just made sure that I didn’t get into any bad situations. Just the reaction time and being a little slower but just getting that first game out of the way and getting back to normal.”
The Bruins are as healthy now as they have been all season which will be a big benefit in the frenetic pace that will be the final month-and-a-half of the regular season. Ference said that it is not a time to hold back.
“I don’t think anybody is feeling sorry because it is going to be the same for every single guy in the league,” Ference said. ” We knew that going into this year, you know, everything Olympic year is tight,” Ference said. “That whole playoff run, so, you obviously have to take care of yourself and keep yourself in good health. Other than that you just have to go to war. You can’t try to conserve yourself or stay out of trouble during the game. You have to go full on, it’s a battle and on the rest days you rest. You rest hard.”
|Bruins rain shots, do not get wet||02.04.10 at 11:27 pm ET|
It is raining shots in Boston.
This is not a weekend bender at The Fours but rather a deluge from the Boston Bruins of pucks on opposing goaltenders. Yet, like a large man with a penchant for good whiskey, the shots are having little effect.
In Thursday’s loss to the Canadiens the Bruins dumped 47 shots on Jaroslav Halak and came away with two goals in the 3-2 shootout loss. Add to that the 42 shots Boston had against Washington on Tuesday and the totals comes to 89 shots in two games with only three goals to show for it. The stat is hard to believe, especially if you are the Bruins who know they have significantly outplayed their opponents in the last two contests.
|With a lack of offense, Julien gets defensive||at 10:55 pm ET|
Claude Julien just watched his team take 47 shots on net and score twice in 65 minutes, including a 4-on-3 power play in overtime and a scoreless shootout. All of this on top of 42 shots on Tuesday night that resulted in just one goal in a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.
The Bruins coach was had seen enough. And when he was asked whether three goals in 89 shots and nine straight losses means his team was no better than average, Julien responded.
“We believe we have a better-than-average hockey team,” Julien said. “I think our team was pretty good tonight. I’m not going to stand here and say we’re a bad team. Absolutely not.”
Click here to hear Julien’s response in Thursday’s postgame presser following a 3-2 shootout loss to Montreal.
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