|Julien: ‘[Chara] can be better’||10.30.09 at 12:20 pm ET|
WILMINGTON, Mass. — Full practice at Ristuccia Arena on Friday morning with everybody seemingly healthy and accounted for, and all lines as they were in Thursday night’s loss to the New Jersey Devils.
The Bruins are working on tip drills and battles in front of the net, which factored heavily into just about all of the scoring between the offensively-challenged Devils and Bruins clubs in a 2-1 decision. A lot of focus on jamming the puck beyond the goaltender, and conversely getting the defensemen in the painted area to swat loose pucks away. More after practice as the Bruins prepare for a grueling fives games in eight days schedule that begins with Saturday afternoon’s matinee against the Edmonton Oilers.
–During the battle drills in front of the net Tuukka Rask let a shot slide by him into the goal, and immediately exploded with a fit of goaltender pique. Rask screamed at himself in Finnish and then slammed his paddle hard against the crossbar, and created a violent enough collision that he knocked his Gatorade water bottle off the top of the net. Temper, temper Tuukka.
—Zdeno Chara has been inconsistent through 11 games this season and certainly isn’t living completely up to his Norris Trophy standards while putting up six assists for the Black and Gold. The 32-year-old has had his “up” moments such as his 29:38 masterpiece against the New York Islanders when he notched an assist and a pair of shots on goal, but he hasn’t been able to sustain his play over a long stretch.
The blueliner was out working on his game before and after practice last week, and taking extra shots from the point positions while attempting to get a higher volume of shots toward the cage during the power play. When asked about his captain’s play after practice, B’s coach Claude Julien didn’t pull any punches and said that Chara needs to find his “happy zone” just like the rest of the team.
“[Chara] has been good, but can be better. He knows that,” said Julien. “He’s been good and there are some games where we’ve seen him be dominant like in the past. But we haven’t seen him be dominant night in, night out like he has been. He’s frustrated a little bit too. You saw him working on his shots, and he’d like to get his shots through a little better. But the thing that we like about players is when we see them trying to do something about it.
“That’s what he’s been doing. He’s been working on his shot and trying to find those seams. Eventually it’ll come, but he’s in that stage where he wants to be better — and he can better. I think his whole game has been, at times, up and down a little bit. Let’s put it this way: he’s never been terrible but there are some nights when he’s just been okay. When you talk about Z and having success, we’d like to see him where he was last year when he was a stellar defenseman and stingy. A defenseman that every team hated to play against. This is a game of momentum. Sometimes things fall right into place and sometimes it takes some time. Our whole team is working through that and trying to find that momentum, and I think he’s in that equation as well.”
|Krejci finally getting things up to speed||10.27.09 at 4:33 pm ET|
David Krejci always has acted as his own harshest critic, so who knows what was going through the Czech Republic native’s mind after mustering up a scoresheet doughnut in the Bruins‘ first four games. There were, of course, ready-made excuses after the 23-year-old underwent right hip surgery to repair an impingement last summer and missed the entire preseason.
He was instead dropped into the lineup on opening night after receiving a clean bill of health, and has been slowly kicking the rust of his game during the season.
It took a few games, but the playmaking pivot finally snapped out of his scoreless funk against the Avalanche with a pair of helpers. He’s been getting closer to the nearly point-per-game Krejci of old ever since that Oct. 12 loss. In fact, Krejci has a goal and four assists and sits at plus-5 in six games since the loss to the Avs — and finally smashed through with a clutch game-tying score in Saturday’s shootout win over the Senators.
“We all know that our guys got hurt and now it’s everybody’s job to step and be in the right spot,” Krejci said. “I think the last few games I’ve been feeling much more comfortable. We’re trying to play hard and make it hard for the other team. Keep it simple.”
The goal was Krejci’s first tally in 10 games this season and would seem to act as the final weight lifted off the young center’s shoulders as he reconnects with his game. But appearances can be deceiving. Krejci said he wasn’t even thinking of that score in terms of his first individual goal of the season, and he was instead looking at its importance in the grand scheme of all things team.
“All six of us did a great job [in the final minute against Ottawa] and I was in the right place at the right time,” Krejci said. “It could have been anybody else. I didn’t really take it as my first goal of the season. I took as it the tying goal in a game, and it was pretty exciting.”
The youngster is adjusting to his new role as center on the top line with Marco Sturm and Mark Recchi riding shotgun, and Krejci ticked off resurrecting the power play as the next order of business on the docket.
“It’s been tough because they’re so fast and I’m just trying to keep up with them, but it’s getting better and better every game,” Krejci said. “They’re different players [than Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder]. We’ll see how it goes as we keep playing for each other. We’re going in the right direction now, and it’s about continuing to go in that right direction.”
Krejci is the Bruins player most similar to Marc Savard in both skill set and ability to elevate his teammates around him, but hasn’t worked much with the top power-play unit heading into Thursday night’s tilt against the Devils. He ranks well behind many of his teammates in terms of power-play ice time and is 10th on the B’s with an average of 2:15 of ice time per game on Boston’s man advantage.
Krejci may or may not see an increase in power-play time as his production continues to rise during the month of October, but his teammates are beginning to see the same old Krejci that flourished during last year’s breakout season. That’s just what the hockey doctor ordered with Savard on the shelf and all offensive hands needed on deck for the Black and Gold.
|Marchand ready to talk up his play||at 1:26 am ET|
The gritty B’s rookie has attempted to engage several opponents in some post-whistle “conversations”, but has found that both players and referees aren’t giving the youngster a very lengthy leash. That is until he bumped into another mouth that roared in the form of a hirsute Scott Hartnell skating for the Flyers. Philly’s greasy, grimy troublemaker took one look at the 5-foot-9 Marchand — and it’s more like a Dustin Pedroia 5-foot-9 than a legit height listing — and beat him to the war of barb-wired words.
Hartnell told Marchand to “Go back over the rainbow where he came from” in a surprisingly cultured “Wizard of Oz” reference. The Flyers bad guy was essentially calling the Bruins rookie a Lollipop kid from Munchkinville in the process of talking a bit of hockey smack. Marchand responded by calling the stringy-haired Hartnell “a poodle”, and things were officially off and running for the Black and Gold’s motor-mouthed youngster.
“That was a good one,” said Marchand of Hartnell’s barb. “I even laughed a little bit.”
It seems that little trash-talking exchange might just have been enough to let Marchand escape his cage after understandably holding back in his first few NHL games.
“It’s been a lot of fun. Things are a lot faster and the guys are a lot stronger, but things have been good,” said Marchand. “When I came up here it’s a lot different than the American League. There’s a lot less people [talking smack]. Up here there’s a lot more respect, and there’s less time that I’ve been doing it. The refs tell you to shut up and head for the bench.
“Now that I’m out there getting a little more confident and getting used to things, I’ll probably start [chirping] a lot more.”
B’s followers can expect that plenty of insult trades will be flowing from Marchand provided he continues working hard and building chemistry with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Michael Ryder — a combination that’s sparked production and loads of quality minutes since Marchand arrived on the scene three games ago. The Nova Scotia native brings boundless energy and a healthy amount of skill to the table, but still hasn’t brandished too much of that trademark edge just yet.
The work ethic has also allowed Marchand to slide right into a prime position on Boston’s revamped penalty kill unit alongside fellow newcomer Daniel Paille, and the results have been immediate. Boston hasn’t allowed a power play goal since Marchand arrived on the B’s scene, and the youngster has skaken up a comfortable, veteran roster full of players with a jolt of youthful energy and passion. Whether it’s because Marchand is a lucky charm or actual difference-maker, the Bruins are a perfect 8-for-8 in penalty kills since his arrival. The rookie has totalled slightly over 15 minutes per game in his three Bruins tilts, and logged a healthy three minutes of kill time in Saturday night’s comeback win against the Ottawa Senators.
“One of the things that [Paille and Marchand] have really brought is speed and we’re able to pressure the puck all the way up the ice,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “Paille was already a good penalty killer in Buffalo and we like him in that role. Just in that one day of practice Marchand was one of our best penalty killers in that power play/penalty kill [drill]. So we figured with that combination of speed and tenacity, he’d be a good addition to that. We’ve kind of minimized that [penalty kill] crew over the last few games.”
It’s probably not all that surprising that NHL referees aren’t familiar with Marchand’s chirpy ways on the ice or his uncanny ability to draw opponents into foolish penalties when the action intensifies. Julien has already reinforced within his young player that thriving with an edge and baiting opponents is something that originally earned Marchand his NHL promotion. It’s also part of the skill set that will keep the rookie in Boston.
There may be times when things won’t work out for a young guy adept at provoking a little rink rage, but Julien and Co. are more than willing to balance some growing pains with Marchand’s in-your-face style.
“At some point somebody has to start somewhere, and there’s some young guys — like [Matt] Duchene in Colorado — who are playing pretty well right now,” said Julien. “He’s got a year of pro under his belt and he’s a player that doesn’t get intimidated much.
“He’s got to be careful and make sure it’s the other guy going into the box — and not him. But I think he’s also got a lot of experience at that during his career, so he should be okay. If it’s an issue then there’s no doubt we would address it, but you don’t want to take away a guy’s strength. He can antagonize and draw other players into taking penalties. That’s just the way he plays. We’re not going to hold him back and take away from the things that brought him here. He brings energy, he’s in-your-face, he gets under other player’s skin and he can score goals too.”
Marchand could also afford to step up his aggression in the offensive end after flashing solid instincts during his first NHL game while setting up a sweet Michael Ryder goal against the Predators. The winger indicated that his first job is to get pucks in the hands of Bergeron and Ryder to make plays, but young Marchand can’t forget he’s got enough to skills to pay the bills. After all, the little bulldog of a hockey scrapper was tearing up the AHL with six goals in six minor league games prior to his first call to the NHL Big Show.
“I’m just trying to get the puck to Bergie and Ryder and let them do something with it,” said Marchand, who racked up 59 points as a 20-year-old with the P-Bruins last season. “I think it’s made it a lot easier for me skating with them. They’re two of the NHL’s best players and they’re always there supporting me and letting me know where they are. The biggest thing I do is get them the puck, and let them work it down low.
“I just forecheck hard and create turnovers so they can get opportunities. If I get the puck, then I’m trying to put it in the net.”
The Bruins’ 2006 third-round pick has already earned early respect from his veteran teammates for his tireless energy and unflagging work ethic. Perhaps that youthful exuberance was one of the few ingredients missing from the B’s dressing room. Mark Recchi, with 1,500 NHL games and plenty of teammates under his belt, is impressed with what he’s seen thus far out of Marchand, and buys into the notion of the rookie sparking his older teammates.
“He’s great. He’s a competitive kid and he got so much better as he went along in camp,” said Recchi. “He just works his bag off. That’s what you ask. Play with a little emotion and play with a little of that fire. That’s the kind of passion you want to see when the young kids come up.”
|Savard to miss 4-6 weeks with broken foot||10.21.09 at 12:13 pm ET|
The news just keeps getting worse for the Bruins, who announced Wednesday morning that top scorer Marc Savard was being placed on long-term injured reserve with a broken left foot. The injury is expected to keep Savard out for 4-6 weeks and leaves the team without two of its top-line skaters from the opening night lineup — Milan Lucic is out with a broken right index finger — for at least the next month.
“When he’s on his game, he’s good offensively and good defensively,” B’s coach Claude Julien said. “That’s why we use him on the penalty kill. He anticipates well and he reads the game pretty well. That’s why he excels when he’s on top of his game. That’s why I’ve always said he’s much more than a point-producer when he sets his mind to it.”
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli revealed that Savard originally injured the foot blocking a shot during training camp, but managed to play through the injury until aggravating it in practice Tuesday morning at Ristuccia Arena. It was a seemingly harmless hit on the sensitive spot for Savard, and he spent the better part of Tuesday getting MRIs and CAT scans that determined he was playing through the early portion of the season with a broken left foot.
“It wasn’t hurting that much,” said Savard, who will be in a protective boot for the next two weeks. “I just re-aggravated it yesterday. We took some MRIs and it was broken. The best thing now is to shut it down for a couple weeks here and let it heal.”
The 32-year-old Savard was Boston’s leading scorer with seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) through the team’s first seven games, and this leaves Boston with a gaping hole on its first line and top power-play unit along with its scuffling PK squad.
The team’s core has been through injuries like these before — in 2007-08 the B’s lost Patrice Bergeron for the balance of the season and Savard for the last month — and Julien stressed that they’ll absorb the loss as a team. All that being said, the pressure drops heavily onto the shoulders of 23-year-old David Krejci. The slick, young, playmaking center will be expected to shoulder the scoring and power-play burden just as he did when Savard went down with a broken bone in his back at the end of the 2007-08 season.
“I think you have to lean on everybody when it comes to [filling in for Savard],” Julien said. “Is David a part of that equation? Absolutely. I think that to say that David Krejci has to replace Savard — I don’t know that you’d want to do that because first of all David Krejci just has to play like David Krejci. He was injured and got operated on over the course of the summer and has already played seven games, so it’s up to him to find his game.
“I don’t think he needs to replace Savvy as he just needs to play his game. If [Krejci] plays his game, then that will help us immensely.”
‘¢ Shawn Thornton is a “big question mark” and “very doubtful” for Wednesday night’s game against the Nashville Predators with an undisclosed injury, but the B’s coach said that he’s rapidly improving and could potentially be available come game-time.
“We put him on the ice early this morning and he skated on his own this morning. He’s very doubtful for tonight unless the trainers tell us that he’s ready to go when he gets here tonight,” Julien said. “That just goes to show you that he is a day-to-day player because morning to night time he could actually improve that much. He could be available anytime.”
‘¢ Dennis Wideman will play for the B’s in Wednesday night’s game against after missing the weekend road games against Dallas and Phoenix with an injured left shoulder.
“He felt good all week in both practices, and there’s no issues,” Julien said. “So he should be ready to go.”
‘¢ Expect to see Daniel Paille on Boston’s struggling penalty kill (a 69.7 percent success rate thus far this season) after he filled that role for the Sabres during his career in Buffalo. The B’s certainly are in need of some grit and experience in that particular area of special teams, and Boston is hopeful that Paille can provide it.
“He’s got speed. Obviously he’s got some grit, and it’s a job he did really well in Buffalo,” Julien said. “It’s something he really takes some pride in he should help us in that area. We certainly plan on giving him an opportunity to fill that role on our team.”
‘¢ Tim Thomas is expected to start in net for the Bruins for the third straight game.
Here’s an educated guess for the forward lines against the Predators assuming that Thornton can’t answer the bell:
|Injured Wideman not making the road trip||10.15.09 at 12:06 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Dennis Wideman didn’t practice on Thursday afternoon and will miss the two-game road trip through Dallas and Phoenix this weekend while recovering from a left shoulder injury suffered last Saturday against the Islanders. B’s coach Claude Julien confirmed that Wideman is out for at least the next two games, but said that “as we speak” the club didn’t have any plans to bring up reinforcements from Providence to replace the felled blueliner.
That could change, but — either way — the B’s will certainly miss the puck-moving defenseman that plays upwards of 25 minutes per game when healthy.
“He’s obviously getting better, but not good enough to make the trip,” said Julien. “He’s going to skate here [in the Boston area] this weekend, and we project that he’ll be back for the games after the weekend.
“The one thing Dennis brings to the team when he’s on his game is that he’s a great puck-moving defenseman. I don’t think we can say he’s a real physical defenseman because that’s not his makeup. But he can move the puck well and he’s great on the power play. I would just say you’re missing a pretty good defenseman.”
If the B’s do opt to pull out of the Providence farm as they prepare for a pair of home dates at the Dunk this weekend, sturdy defenseman Andy Wozniewksi and winger/center Vladimir Sobotka would be the players most likely to travel with the team to Big ‘D’. Certainly it would be safter to add another extra healthy body in case another player hits the injury ward against the Stars, and avoid potentially playing short-handed against the Desert Dogs.
|Sturm back to his natural left wing spot||10.14.09 at 2:07 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Marco Sturm admitted that there wasn’t much “comfort” in playing his off-wing on the right side over the Bruins first five games.
“[The left] is where I played the last five or six years, but I can go either way,” said Sturm. “I don’t know if it was comfort [on the right]. It was different. But we’ll see if we go on the left side and I notice a big change.”
The unfamiliar spot on the right wing didn’t stop Sturm from scoring a pair of goals and showing up as one of Boston’s best forwards right from first puck drop. A long spring-into-summer rehab from left knee surgery and an abbreviated preseason schedule due to groin problems did nothing to derail the German forward from starting the season healthy and strong.
So the Bruins slipped in a slight change at Wednesday morning’s practice, and effectively rewarded Sturm by shifting him back over to his natural left wing position on the B’s top line along with center Marc Savard. Michael Ryder was moved to the right wing spot on Savard’s right, and the playmaking center now has legit scorers on either side of him. Milan Lucic was “dropped” to second line left wing along with David Krejci and Blake Wheeler — a move that also allows Wheeler to switch back over to his strong side on the right.
It may not be an indictment of how Lucic has played in the early going, but it’s certainly a bit of a reward carrot for the strong, willful hockey displayed by both Ryder and Sturm through the last few games.
“It’s just a tweak. Never a bad thing just to see if it will help,” said Julien. “Maybe shake some things up, get some attention and spark something up. I don’t think it’s directed at anybody necessarily, except getting the best possible four line combinations.
“I think Lucic has had real good success with Krejci before, and they work really well together when he’s been on that line in the past. With Michael up there, when you look back at the last game I thought he was a really decent player. When he works hard he creates chances, and when he works hard he’s strong on the puck. Sturmy with his speed and with Savvy, you hope something will come out of that.”
Sturm certainly performed satisfactorly at right wing and had the confidence of the coaching staff on his off-side, but also couldn’t hold a smile in at the thought of moving back into his natural wing position. The 31-year-old forward has been one of the few Bruins “feel good” stories while bouncing back strongly from knee surgery. Some players need a year to regain their skating speed after going under the knife, and — because of the January surgery date for Sturm’s surgery — he’s already approaching that milestone just a few months into the season.
That means little-to-no-speed lost and no residual rust on Sturm’s game despite all the reasons in the world for it to be holding him back. Sturm has even surprised himself with his level of play in the early going after being away from the game for a lengthy period of time.
“I’m feeling great so far,” said Sturm. “I’m really happy with the way I’ve started. It’s better than I expected. I had a rough preseason and even when I came [to camp] I felt okay — but I knew I wasn’t there yet. But it came pretty quickly. I’m really happy about that.”
*Julien also noted some enlightening video sessions with some of his players over the last couple of days, and perhaps a few light bulb moments with a host of Bruins skaters that simply weren’t putting in a full day’s work on the ice. Some members of the B’s dressing are fond of saying that there are no passengers on the Bruins’ bus, and any unwanted passengers were put on notice up on the video screen by their Jack Adams trophy-winning coach.
“Some guys are trying to do too much. Some guys aren’t doing enough,” said Julien. “It doesn’t mean those guys that aren’t doing enough think that they’re not doing enough. That’s why you show those guys video, and — like anybody else and I know I’m that way — it’s a lot clearer when you see it.
“I know there are a lot of guys that walk out of there wide-eyed and say ‘Wow, I didn’t know how bad I was’ or ‘I didn’t know that I wasn’t working that hard.’ So now you’ve got their attention.”
*Dennis Wideman didn’t practice with the team Wednesday and remains “day to day” with a left shoulder injury, according to Julien. There’s been no determination made about his availability for the weekend road trip to Dallas and Phoenix, but he shouldn’t miss more than a maximum of those two road games. If Wideman can’t make the trip, it’s likely that B’s GM Peter Chiarelli will call for reinforcements at Providence.
“If he misses the weekend then that’s probably the most [he would miss]. ‘If’ that’s the case” said Julien of Wideman.
*And finally, courtesy of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, your moment of hockey zen. That is a filthy mini 1-on-1 move. Can’t wait to hear Tom Caron describe it.
|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