|Rask gets the nod in net for Bruins||10.12.09 at 1:05 pm ET|
Bruins rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask was the first goaltender off the ice during Monday’s pregame warmups, and that’s a sure indicator it’ll be Rask rather than Tim Thomas in the net for the Bruins Monday afternoon against the Avalanche. Rask made 35 saves in Boston’s 4-3 shootout win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night, and clearly impressed Claude Julien enough for a second consecutive start
|Wideman out for Monday matinee against Avalanche||at 12:31 pm ET|
Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman will miss Monday afternoon’s game with a left shoulder injury sustained during Saturday night’s game against the New York Islanders. Wideman hit the boards awkwardly in the third period of the shootout win over the Isles, and B’s head coach Claude Julien termed the blueliner “day-to-day” prior to Monday’s matinee against the Colorado Avalanche. Johnny Boychuk was a healthy scratch for the first four games of the season, but will dress and play in Wideman’s place in Monday’s lineup.
“It’s not a long-term injury and it’s being evaluated every day,” said Julien. “If he practices then it’s a good sign for Friday, so we’re going to evaluate him as we move on here. It’s nothing more than a day-to-day situation.”
|Turn up the volume: Julien gives it to his B’s||10.09.09 at 1:00 am ET|
Claude Julien won the Jack Adams Trophy for best NHL coach this past summer because last season he knew all the right buttons to push during a first-place regular season finish in the Eastern Conference. He may have pushed his first one this season when he pulled no punches following his team’s dismal 6-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night at TD Garden, dropping to 1-2 on a season-opening five-game homestand. He made it clear that he would put his fourth line out on the ice for every shift if it meant he would get maximum effort.
Julien made that comment because he believed, in watching his team allow six unanswered goals after an early 1-0 lead, that his fourth line was the only one that gave an honest effort.
Here’s a sample of what he and others inside the Bruins dressing room had to say.
|Morris has been a dead-on power play hit||10.06.09 at 3:50 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It wasn’t a common sight last season, but there was at least one Bruins practice that involved the Boston defensemen corps firing pucks through bright orange traffic cones.
The traffic cones were placed near the right and left point areas in the attack zone, and the drill was designed to achieve pinpoint accuracy on the all-important power play blasts. The big gun shots from the B’s defensemen are oft-times the trigger to jolting Boston’s man advantage attack. With that in mind, there were times when a normally mighty power play lost some of it’s bite for the B’s last season when those point shots were nudged a little too far off the mark.
It wasn’t the sheer power of the long-range bids because guys like Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman have slappers capable of obliterating glass behind the net — with the assistance of some good wood, of course. But there were times when the shot would fade wide to either side, or an aggressive penalty kill would smother a shot with one brave sacrificial body.
“That’s the one thing that we lacked last year. At times we really had some trouble getting our shots through,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “Teams are blocking shots and getting into the shooting lanes, and its getting harder to get shots off.”
Despite the intermittent bouts of wildness with their point shots, the Bruins still boasted a 23.6 percent power play success rate, and ranked fourth in the entire NHL. Only the high-powered units in Detroit, Washington and San Jose ranked higher last season.
|Lucic not present at Bruins practice||10.05.09 at 2:37 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruising Bruins winger Milan Lucic wasn’t present at practice Monday morning at Ristuccia Arena, but the 21-year-old winger wasn’t missing in action as a result of the fight-filled action against the Hurricanes. B’s coach Claude Julien confirmed following practice that it was a non-hockey related situation, and Lucic will be back practicing with the team Tuesday.
A Bruins source confirmed that the issue had nothing to do with his right punching hand or either of his legs — amid swirling reports that the big winger was seen limping out of the building Saturday night — and it was truly a very minor situation. Matt Hunwick, who bounced between defenseman and forward last season, replaced Lucic on the left wing skating with Marc Savard and Marco Sturm on Boston’s top line during practice.
If it were something more serious with Lucic, clearly the Bruins would have reconfigured the lines or called Vladimir Sobotka back up from Providence to rejoin the team. Neither of those things happened, and the lean, mean B’s fighting machine will be back in the practice fold tomorrow preparing for Thursday night against the Anaheim Ducks.
“He was excused for non-hockey related, personal issues,” said Julien. “He’ll be back tomorrow.”
|Hunwick learning to stay within his game||at 2:23 am ET|
It ended up being nothing but an afterthought as the Bruins went all FEMA in shuttering the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night, but it was a significant third-period goal for second-year defenseman Matt Hunwick in extended garbage time. The 5-foot-10, 187-pounder struggled to regain his feel early in the preseason, but all it took was one aggressive offensive play to conjure up images of the playmaking defenseman that carved a spot for himself by the end of last season.
Hunwick scored the seventh and final goal for the B’s in the rout over the Canes, and tasted a bit of on-ice revenge despite never making it past one playoff game against the Canadiens. Hunwick was crunched against the boards in that brutally physical Game 1, and the defenseman quickly bowed out of the series with a ruptured spleen.
That seemed like a million hockey years ago, though, as the 24-year-old logged time on the penalty kill and even earned a few power play minutes in the weekend rout. He’s still clearly not where back to the level he finished at last season, but he’s getting closer to form when he’s logging minutes on Boston’s man advantage in the third period while playing in Julien’s meritocratic team structure.
“It’s nice to know that my role on the team is appreciated, and I’m just going to keep doing the things that got me here in the first place,” said Hunwick. “I think physically coming into camp I felt great, and I think on-ice it took me at least a week to feel comfortable. During the summer you try to emulate what you’ll do [during the season], but it’s never the same. It took a little while [to feel good in camp] but it’s getting to the point where I’m feeling pretty good.”
Saturday night’s power play tally was a solid reminder of the dynamic, unpredictable presence that Hunwick can bring to the B’s defenseman corps when he’s playing with confidence and surety. It’s a look that’s pretty varied from the skill sets employed by the other members of Boston’s defensemen crew. Hunwick employs a loose, freelance style on the offensive end when it’s permissible, and picks crucial spots to pinch in from his spot near the blue line.
It’s exactly how the young defenseman converged on his power-play strike. Marco Sturm spotted Hunwick moving in toward the backdoor from his left point position, and the young defenseman didn’t miss his mark when Sturm zipped it on his tape at the far post. Perfect executive. Perfect offensive aggression. Pretty damned close to a perfect power play possession.
There was a legitimate, built-in excuse for Hunwick, of course, when he progressed a bit slowly in the preseason while coming off the splenectomy surgery. The blueliner endured a busy offseason that was probably a bit more jumbled than even he might have liked. Hunwick spent the first half of his summer gaining weight and muscle back after losing more than 10 pounds following his emergency surgery, and then spent several weeks waiting for a new contract with the Bruins.
It all worked out as Hunwick regained full health and was back near his playing weight by the time September arrived, and he worked out an amicable agreement with the Bruins for a two-year, $2.9 million contract. The deal served as a healthy pay raise for a defenseman that finished tied for top scorer among rookie defenseman in the NHL last season, but it also had its price. The shiny new contract perhaps raised expectations for Hunwick within a team that’s already living in a world of raised expectations this season, and the results have been a slow process.
“Practicing with his teammates certainly helped, and he’s just got to keep going about regaining that confidence,” said Julien of Hunwick. “With some guys they’re out there looking to justify their new contracts and other guys are going into their contract years. There are a bunch of different situations, but the bottom line is that you need to go out there and play.
“What you do as coaches is bringing them back and letting them know that you shouldn’t do more because you’re looking for a new contract. And you shouldn’t be putting more pressure on yourself because you’ve got a new contract, and think you should be helping the team more. You go out there, and you’re either rewarded or you will be rewarded for your play. Sometimes less is more. You’ve heard me say that quite a bit. With [Hunwick] he wants to show that he’s a big part of our hockey club, and all he has to do is play the way he did last year. For me, he was as good a defenseman as we had for a while there last year.
Julien recognized a player in Hunwick that was perhaps trying a little too hard to justify the extra zeroes in his bank account, but the young defenseman wasn’t any kind of lost cause. He was instead quick to say that it’s only a matter of time before Hunwick settled back into his second-half game, and his first goal of the season and 17:16 worth of ice time were both encouraging starting points.
|Turn up the volume: B’s ready from the start||10.04.09 at 12:23 am ET|
After laying an egg in their season opener against Washington, the Bruins knew they had to pick up the effort level on Saturday against Aaron Ward, Andrew Alberts and the Carolina Hurricanes, the same team that eliminated last spring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
And there would be no slow start to this one, like on Thursday night when the Bruins fell down early and never really recovered.
The Bruins scored on four of their eight power play chances and routed Carolina, 7-2, before a pumped-up TD Garden crowd that was treated to nearly as many good brawls as goals. Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton added to the festivities with their bouts against the Canes.
Here’s what the combatants had to say, or at least some of the key players and coaches.