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Dennis Seidenberg’s return provides hope for Bruins’ stability 11.13.15 at 12:01 am ET
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In terms of this season’s monetary compensation rankings, the Bruins got their No. 2 defenseman back from injury on Thursday night.

And while Dennis Seidenberg wasn’t on the ice nor responsible for any of the three Colorado goals scored in a 3-2 come-from-ahead loss to the Avalanche, neither did Seidenberg’s mere presence in the lineup solve Boston’s biggest woes so far in 2015-16: erratic team play and a penchant for blown leads, particularly on home ice at TD Garden.

“We had a good start like we have had in the past,” said Seidenberg, back on the ice after missing the season’s first 14 games due to back surgery. “A lot of games, actually. We just didn’t follow up, we kind of lost our game, getting pucks deep and moving our feet. They took it to us. They scored two goals in that first [period] coming back, and then we were just kind of flat it seemed like and just couldn’t get it back on track putting pressure on their net.”

If that game analysis sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. Coach Claude Julien has heard it and seen it, too.

“Same old, same old, I guess,” said Julien. “We were off to a good start again and you get a 2-0 lead. Instead of continuing to play your game you’re starting to see long passes that end up in icing, you saw some turnovers at the blue line. We’re a little stubborn right now respecting our game plan the whole game.”

Julien continued: “You’re so proud of your team one night because they come in and play hard and you win hockey games and you tell yourself this is the identity of our team. This is how we’ve got to play. And then the next night it’s not there. Not every night’s going to be perfect, some nights you’ve got to grind it out a little bit more and this is what we should’ve done tonight, [but] we didn’t seem to be in sync.”

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Bruins’ defense shuffle led to rare move from Claude Julien in recent games 11.12.15 at 12:56 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

Claude Julien has been trying some new things with his lineup this season. He’s even separated Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the Bruins’€™ current equivalent of Hall & Oates (assuming you’€™re smart and don’€™t underrate John Oates).

On defense, Julien’€™s experimenting has led to an unusual occurrence recently: a righty playing the left side. That’€™s very uncommon in the NHL, but when Julien opted to take left Joe Morrow out of the lineup for righty Zach Trotman, the result was a righty (Kevan Miller) having to play his off-side. That will change once Dennis Seidenberg returns to the lineup (as early as Thursday evening).

The reasoning behind why righties typically don’€™t play the left side is simple: They never really learned to do it because they’€™ve never had to. With left-shot D outnumbering them, it’€™s so rare that a team would have more righties than lefties. As such, it’€™s common for lefties to have experience playing the right side — Dennis Seidenberg and Torey Krug play both sides well — but very uncommon for a righty to be comfortable over on the left.

“To me, it would be common if some of those guys really felt comfortable on those sides,’€ Julien said this week. “We’€™ve seen Dennis Seidenberg in the past play the right side and it doesn’€™t bother him to play his off-side. Some players are capable of doing that. Some others aren’€™t that comfortable because they’€™ve never done it before. We’€™re having to make some decisions here. There’€™s guys that are saying, ‘€˜I haven’€™t really done it but I’€™m willing to give it a shot,’€™ and I think we’€™ve seen enough from some of those guys to let them go there and do that job.”

Miller, one of four righties in Boston’€™s seven-man group, played the left side at times in college and in Providence due to lefties being injured at various points. Though he noted he’€™s had the odd even-strength shift here and there on the left side over the last few years — never many at a time — he said it took adjusting when playing the last couple games.

“There’€™s advantages and disadvantages,” he said. “Obviously on offensive zone faceoffs, you have certain one-timers out there and then you see different plays better sometimes, but obviously worse with others. You kind of just have to manage your game.”

Seidenberg appears close to returning, with Julien saying he’€™s a game-time decision for Thursday’€™s game against the Avalanche. Should both Seidenberg and Krug (also a game-time decision after taking Tuesday’€™s and Wednesday’€™s practices off) play, Miller will be free to return to the right side, assuming he stays in the lineup. Thursday’s morning skate saw Miller play on the right side of a pairing with Krug.

While he’€™s obviously more comfortable on the right side, he hopes the Bruins won’€™t hesitate to use him on the left if need be in the future.

“I feel like everybody would probably prefer to be on their strong side, but anything you can do to help the team, you’€™re going to do it,’€ he said. ‘€œIf they ask me to do it, then I’€™m happy to do it.”

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Dennis Seidenberg ‘getting close’ to returning to Bruins’ lineup 11.11.15 at 3:23 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — While the Bruins shared some bad injury news regarding their forwards, they seem pretty close to getting some help on defense.

Dennis Seidenberg, who missed all of training camp after having back surgery on Sept. 24, is closing in on a return. Nearly seven weeks into an anticipated eight-week recovery (Thursday will mark seven weeks), Seidenberg is taking contact and participating in battle drills with teammates.

“It’€™s getting close. Closer,” Seidenberg said after taking part in 3-on-3 battle drills in Wednesday’€™s practice. “It’€™s tough to say, but I’€™m feeling better on the ice. I’€™m feeling strong in the battles. It’€™s about being more comfortable skating, and that’€™s getting better.”

Seidenberg has insisted that pain is not an issue, nor is his back. He says that he’€™s comfortable taking contact but is still monitoring how his lower-body strength is coming along since being back on the ice.

“The physical part is not the thing I have to worry about. It’€™s all about the lower leg and the strength and being able to sustain whatever challenge I have out there,” he said. “That’€™s the main thing I have to look at.”

Claude Julien said that Seidenberg is ‘€œbeing evaluated every day because he is getting closer’€ to returning to Boston’€™s lineup. It seems unlikely he would play on Thursday against the Avalanche, but it’€™s safe to say the team expects him to play at some point during the team’€™s upcoming homestand.

While the Bruins will welcome Seidenberg’€™s return if and when it comes, they’€™re also managing their expectations in the early going. Seidenberg struggled last season in his first campaign back from a torn ACL, and though he came into informal practices in the summer eager to bounce back, the fact that he hasn’€™t seen game action for roughly seven months suggests it could take time for him to hit his stride.

“When a guy hasn’€™t had a training camp and hasn’€™t had a game this year, you can’€™t expect him to come back and all of a sudden be firing on all cylinders,” Julien said. “When he does come back, we realize that we may have to monitor his ice time and who he plays against, and so on and so forth. Those are things that we’€™re prepared for the minute he’€™s good to go.”

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Dennis Seidenberg on track with recovery, unsure where he’ll slot in on Bruins D 11.03.15 at 12:07 pm ET
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When Dennis Seidenberg saw the defensive mess that allowed 16 goals over the first three games of the season, he didn’€™t put any extra pressure on himself to hurry back from a herniated disc that required surgery in late September.

The veteran defenseman wanted to help, but he was already antsy to return to the lineup in the first place.

“It doesn’€™t matter if the team loses or wins. If they lose, you’€™re like, ‘€˜I want to come back and help them.’€™ If they win, I want to be back and be part of it,” he said Tuesday. “It’€™s always better when the team does well, but I always put the same pressure on me. I want to come back as fast as possible, but also be responsible going forward.”

That responsible approach has him where he is now. Nearly six weeks into an anticipated eight-week recovery (Seidenberg had surgery on Sept. 24, so six weeks ago Thursday), the 34-year-old defenseman says he is on schedule with his recovery and not necessarily ahead of it. He’€™s been skating for over two weeks (Oct. 19) and joined teammates last week.

Seidenberg still isn’€™t taking contact, but he seemed optimistic that he’€™ll be able to add more to his plate if all goes well in the coming days.

The veteran defenseman missed all of training camp due to the back issue, which popped up during informal practices in September before eventually requiring surgery. He insisted Tuesday that he has no pain in his back, and that the brunt of his recovery has been getting his legs back. That makes sense given that Seidenberg said following his surgery that it was discomfort in his leg that initially prompted him to bring the issue to the attention of team doctors.

Given that Seidenberg’€™s back isn’€™t hurting him, he doesn’€™t feel he’€™s had to be extra careful.

“If I had pain, I would be like, ‘€˜Oh my god, I’€™ve got to be careful,’€™ but I’€™ve been feeling nothing in my back,” he said. “It’€™s just about power coming back in my leg and that’€™s the only restriction I have right now. There hasn’€™t really been a feeling where I’€™m like, ‘€˜I’€™ve got to be really careful,’€™ but then again, you look at a back injury and with nerves being involved, you do want to be a little bit cautious.”

Once Seidenberg is ready to return, it will be interesting to see how the dominos fall on Boston’€™s blue line. Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid would appear to be locks to stay in the lineup, with Joe Morrow and Millers Kevan and Colin possibilities to sit. Zach Trotman has been a healthy scratch for nine consecutive games.

“To be honest, I haven’€™t really thought about that yet,” Seidenberg said. “The guys have been playing great and in the past we’€™ve always played with each other. It doesn’€™t matter who it is; we’€™ve always changed the pairings and I don’€™t see a reason why it’€™s going to be different this time.”

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Dennis Seidenberg returns to practice, Kevan Miller and Joonas Kemppainen to make trip 10.29.15 at 10:23 am ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins saw one defenseman return and another one miss practice at Ristuccia Arena. Dennis Seidenberg participated in his first practice of the season, while Kevan Miller was absent after suffering an injury Tuesday against the Coyotes.

Also absent from practice was Joonas Kemppainen, who missed a couple of shifts Tuesday as well. David Pastrnak, who missed the last 8:48 of the game after taking a shot off the foot, participated fully in Thursday’€™s practice. According to Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald, Miller skated briefly before practice.

Claude Julien said after practice that Miller and Kemppainen will make the trip to Florida for this weekend’s games. Both are game-time decisions for Friday’s game, though Julien said he expects both to play.

“Today was probably more maintenance and allowing him to be better for tomorrow,” Julien said of Miller, adding that such was also the case for Kemppainen.

The forward lines in practice were as follows:


Should Miller and Kemppainen both play, the Bruins’ lineup would figure to be unchanged from Tuesday’s win over the Coyotes, which saw Zach Trotman and Zac Rinaldo as the healthy scratches. Trotman, who has been a healthy scratch for the last seven games, would play should Miller not be able to go.

Seidenberg has been out since training camp after getting back surgery on Sept. 24. He has been skating since last Monday, but Thursday marked his first time on the ice with teammates since the surgery.

“For him, it was more to get him a little bit more encouraged by being with other players out there,” Julien said. “He just did the line drills and the puck-moving part of it. He still has a ways to go; he definitely can’t take any contact, but just the fact that he’s able to be out there with us is definitely encouraging for him.”

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Dennis Seidenberg still not sure how injury occurred 09.28.15 at 11:56 am ET
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Coming off last week’€™s surgery to repair a herniated disc, Dennis Seidenberg is walking around just fine. He is far from playing hockey, however.

Speaking to the media for the first time since having a 45-minute procedure Thursday, Seidenberg said on Monday that he has to wait two weeks for his incision to heal before meeting with a doctor. In the meantime, he won’€™t do anything but go for walks.

The Bruins said upon announcing Seidenberg’€™s surgery and eight-week absence that the player suffered a back injury while working out. Seidenberg’€™s version of the story disagrees with the Bruins’€™ message, as he stressed Monday that he does not know what caused it.

“I wish [I knew],”€ he said. “Usually when something like this happens, you’€™re like, ‘€˜Oh my god,’€™ doing a movement or exercising somehow, but I woke up that morning — that was, I think, Monday [Sept. 14] — just feeling that nerve pain.

“I had a feeling in the back of my leg, and then eventually shooting down my calf. I notified the staff. I went to see a doctor and got an MRI first that showed nerves being pinched –€” L5-S1.

“From then on, the doctor said, ‘€˜OK. We’€™re going to wait a week and see if it goes away by itself.’€™ Sometimes that happens with an extruded disc. It didn’€™t, so we went on to do the surgery.”

Seidenberg added that he felt more discomfort than pain.

“I didn’€™t have any pain,” he said. “I just had — not a numbness, but my calf wasn’€™t firing. I couldn’€™t push off. After surgery, I was walking the same day.”

The 34-year-old’€™s injury (and subsequent procedure) is similar to what Chris Kelly had at the end of the 2013-14 regular season. Seidenberg noted that his recovery is expected to be cleaner than Kelly’€™s was because he had his surgery earlier, thus avoiding atrophy. Kelly didn’€™t have surgery until six weeks after his injury, while Seidenberg got his done after two and a half weeks.

“We kind of nipped it in the bud pretty quickly,” Seidenberg said. “Hopefully that helps in the recovery.”

Seidenberg lamented the timing of his injury, as he was hoping to solidify a defense that needs steady top-four defensemen badly. He hopes he can still do that when he eventually returns.

“Eight weeks is still pretty long,” he said. “Missing any time is not good, but it’€™s the start of the season. Hopefully I’€™ll get to play a good amount of games and be good.”

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Don Sweeney will continue to monitor trade market following Dennis Seidenberg injury 09.23.15 at 12:17 pm ET
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Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

Shortly after Don Sweeney chose against signing a relatively low-cost veteran defenseman late in the offseason, he said that while he had faith in his young defensemen, he would continue to monitor options to improve the team. That’€™s GM speak for “maybe I’€™ll do something, maybe I won’€™t.”

While Seidenberg’€™s absence leaves the Bruins without a veteran defenseman (28-year-old Adam McQuaid is now the team’€™s oldest healthy defenseman not named Zdeno Chara), it does not necessarily make them worse. The Bruins hoped Seidenberg would be better than he was last season, but they didn’€™t know that.

As such, Sweeney now can potentially let all of Boston’€™s healthy NHL-caliber defensemen (of which there are eight — Chara, McQuaid, Torey Krug, Zach Trotman, Matt Irwin, Joe Morrow, Kevan Miller and Colin Miller) make the team and let the cream rise to the top. He can also go out and trade for cream (this has gotten confusing), which could potentially leave the Bruins with an even bigger logjam of good-not-great defensemen once Seidenberg returns in two months.

“It’€™s a void that internally we’€™re trying to assess,” Sweeney said Wednesday, “and as I’€™ve always said, I’€™ll continue to talk to the other teams and people that may or may not be available to see if we need to fill that void.”

Sweeney said that he would potentially swing a deal for a defender. ‘€œonly under the right circumstances.’€

“It’€™s got to be the right fit for us relative to the guys that we have and have been assessing overall,” he said. “We felt that we had very good depth, albeit some of it inexperienced, but now they’€™re getting an opportunity. Hopefully now they can take advantage of it.”

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