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Only big games left for Bruins 04.01.10 at 12:56 pm ET
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At this point in the season there are no more trap games, no wake up games, no small games or revenge games.

They are just big games.

“A win is a win or a loss is a loss, no matter who you play,” coach Claude Julien said after Thursday’s morning skate. “Whether you are playing a top team in the league, it is going to be a tough competition, just like it was last game or whether you play a team that is out of the playoffs and is loose and they want to be spoilers. If you look at it, we just can’t afford to lose a game.”

With four teams bunched within two points for the final three playoff spots, the team that can get the hottest right now will be able to separate itself from the pack. If Boston wants to be that team, it has a even chance in front of it. Of the Bruins final six games, three come against also-rans (tonight against Florida, Saturday against the Leafs and April 10 against the Hurricanes) and three comes against the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, including two different trips to D.C. to visit the Capitals.

The Bruins have been playing to the level of their competition all year. For every dramatic 1-0 victory over the Devils there have been 5-3 disappointments against the Lightning. Looking back on the season, it has definitely been a roller coaster for fans of hockey in the Hub.

“You have to take advantage of the opportunities and you have to be ready to play,” Julien said. “We’ve got to be better, got to find ways to win and find some consistency.”

Florida has been in a funk of late as losers of their last four including a 6-2 in Buffalo on Wednesday where they were outshot 41-15 by the surging Sabres. Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was a member of the Panthers the last time the Bruins played them (a 3-2 Bruins shootout win on in Sunrise, Fla on Feb. 13, the last game before the Olympic break). He is adjusting well to his new team and has started to contribute offensively with four points (two goals, two assists) and a plus-four rating in his last five games.

“Every time you play against your old team, it is different,” Seidenberg said. “You know all the guys you play against. But, in this case, you have to put it in the back of your mind and just concentrate on getting the points.”

Yes, the points are crucial and Boston does have a real opportunity to move up a couple of spots in the standings with a win on Thursday, but there are other franchise considerations at play around the league that are hard to not note.

For instance, there is a peculiar conundrum for the Bruins as a organization (though not for the players and coaches) in gaining two points at the expense of the Panthers. Florida currently sits three points ahead of the Maple Leafs (tied with the Islanders) for the third worst spot in the NHL. The significance, of course, is that Boston owns the Leafs first round pick this June and would love to see it be the No. 2 overall. The best way to ensure that would be to lose to the Panthers tonight and then beat the Leafs on Saturday. Nobody on the team would ever dare mention it as a course of action but the fans are well aware of where the Leafs are in the standings. If the playoffs are not in the near future for the Bruins they can still take solace in a lottery pick.

— Ference Watch: Day 7

A fair amount of Julien’s pregame presser centered around the healthy, and potential availability, of oft-injured defenseman Andrew Ference. The blue liner does need offseason surgery for a tear in his abductor muscle in his groin as well as a hernia, but that does not mean he is completely unavailable to the Bruins for the rest of the season. Julien said that the plan at the start of this week was to shut Ference down for the week and then take it day-by-day from there. Ference can play with the injury as there is no further health risk of what he can do to the injured area but that does not mean he would be in anyway effective on the ice. Even if Boston is able to bring him back next week, there is no telling how long he will last. Julien acknowledged this point.

“Exactly, I think that’€™s the situation. There is no guarantee. There is a guarantee that he will be back and he will be okay,” Julien said. “Now, how long he will last, that’€™s a gamble. When I say a gamble, there is no health risk to it, but it is a gamble we are willing to take. At least if one of our ‘€˜D’€™s go down, at least there is someone with experience to step in. You look at Providence right now, [Adam] McQuaid is still out of the lineup, so you need some depth along the way and for him to at least give us that insurance is good for us.”

All other healthy skaters were present and accounted for at the morning skate.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Dennis Seidenberg, Florida Panthers
Report: B’s acquire veteran D Seidenberg 03.03.10 at 11:54 am ET
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The wheeling and dealing continued for the Bruins hours before the 3 p.m. trading deadline as they have reportedly acquired veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and the rights to Ohio State defenseman Matt Bartkowski in exchange for right wing Byron Bitz, Craig Weller and a second-round pick, according to TSN in Canada.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Dennis Seidenberg, Florida Panthers, NHL trade deadine
Four in a row: Bruins tame Panthers in shootout 02.13.10 at 9:59 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins played a sleepy game on Saturday in Sunrise but were able to take two points from the Panthers with a 3-2 shootout win. Mark Recchi was the hero for the Bruins in the eighth round of the shootout. Tuukka Rask took the win for his fourth consecutive victory with 26 saves while Tomas Vokoun was the loser for the Panthers with 37 stops.

Mark Recchi tied the game at two in the second half of the third period when he deflected a Dennis Wideman shot passed Vokoun.

The Panthers took the early lead when Nick Tarnasky scored his first of the year at 10:12 in the first period after he was left alone in front of Rask on a rebound. Boston came back when David Krejci scored his 11th of the year at 15:54 when he threw the puck on Vokoun from the corner that beat the net-minder through the legs to tie the game at one.

The lead did not last as Stephen Weiss flew through the neutral zone and put an inside-out move on Zdeno Chara to burn the Bruins captain and knock down Rask’s door with with a wrist shot at 18:54 in the first period.

Three Stars

Mark Recchi — The veteran forward played in his 1550th game to move into ninth on the all-time list and tied the game with his ninth power play goal of the year (team high) in the third period. He had the game-deciding goal in the shootout.

Dennis Wideman — The Bruins defenseman had two assists on the night to give him 19 for the season

Stephen Weiss — The Panthers leading scorer had the best looking goal of the game when he burned through Chara in the first period.

Turning Point

The Bruins went on their first power play of the game at the 9:44 in the third period and made the Panthers pay. Recchi camped in front of Vokoun and was rewarded when he redirected a Wideman shot from the top of the right circle to tie the game at 11:44.

Key Play

The Bruins and Panthers went back and forth in the shootout that went to sudden death eight rounds. Recchi proved to be the hero again when he deposited the puck top-shelf over Vokoun’s shoulders for the game-deciding goal. Krejci and Marc Savard scored in the shootout for the Bruins to keep the Bruins alive. David Booth and Kamil Kreps tallied for the Panthers.

Read More: David Krejci, Florida Panthers, Mark Recchi, Tomas Vokoun
Bruins sleeping in Sunrise at 8:40 pm ET
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The Bruins are sleep walking their way through southern Florida.

There was not much action through the second period. Boston played a sleepy and, at times, sloppy period where it could not get a lot of chances created and fought the Panthers good puck possession through the neutral and defensive zones.

Rookie defenseman Adam McQuaid perhaps got a little juices flowing for the Bruins at 15:06 when he took exception to a high and (slightly) late hit from Panthers forward Victor Oreskovich. McQuaid threw a flurry of punches at Oreskovich right in front of the Bruins bench as he makes his case to stay with the Bruins and deserves and NHL roster spot.

The third period will start the same way as the second as the Panthers lead 2-1.

Shots through second (total):

Bruins — 8 (18)

Panthers  — 11 (19)

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Florida Panthers,
Panthers lead B’s after first at 7:50 pm ET
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The Bruins are in Sunrise, Florida and may have left their game at the beach as they trail for the first time on their four game road trip after the first period. Boston is skating well enough but the urgency of the previous three games does not seem to be present as of yet.

Nick Tarnasky beat Tuukka Rask on a rebound put-away rebound at 10:12 to give the Panthers the early lead. The Bruins have not trailed in regulation since losing to the Washington Capitals last Tuesday. It was Tarnasky’s first goal of the year for the Panthers in his 11th game.

The lead would not last long though as David Krejci tallied his 11th of the year when he threw a wrist shot on Tomas Vokoun on a rush from the baseline on the right wing at 15:54.

Florida took the lead again when the Panthers leading scorer, Stephen Weiss, flew through the neutral zone and put and inside-out move on Zdeno Chara to march straight in on Rask and bury the chance at a 18:54. It was a power play strike as Shawn Thornton was the the box for a holding call at 18:27.

End of first, Panthers up 2-1.

Shots:

Bruins — 10

Panthers — 8

Read More: David Krejci, Florida Panthers, Nick Tarnasky, Stephen Weiss
Bruins aim to tame faltering Panthers 02.12.10 at 9:08 pm ET
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Everybody wants to be on an island in south Florida in the winter.

Well, unless your name is Tomas Vokoun.

In a letter to their fans on Friday, Florida Panthers managing partners Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel had some direct words on what they think of the current direction of their hockey club:

Excerpt —

Clearly, we are not satisfied with some of the players on this team that do not possess the characteristics we need to be successful. We must be accountable for that. Our task moving forward is to acquire players with the attributes, skills and qualities we want in a Panthers player. We must admit the significant shortcomings we have as an organization, and we must move quickly and efficiently to overcome these shortcomings and reshape this franchise on a much more solid foundation.

Translation? We are blowing the doors off this roster and starting from scratch.

The Panthers are having the direct opposite reaction to a horrendous streak than the Bruins. Where as Peter Chiarelli has been patient and waited for Marc Savard and Milan Lucic to come back healthy and productive and has been rewarded with three straight wins this week, Panthers general manager Randy Sexton cannot seem to wait to break up his roster. Heading into Saturday’s game Florida only stands six points from a playoff birth but it probably is looking at the teams ahead of it (like the Bruins) and has made the determination that the roster, as currently situated, does not have the talent or chemistry to break out of the funk.

That is where Vokoun comes in. The Panthers goaltender is having a good season and played well recently, despite Florida’s five-game losing streak. Vokoun is 5-7-1 in his last 13 games with a 1.77 goals against and .947 save percentage but is hampered by the fact that the Panthers are perhaps the worst defensive team in the league giving up 34.1 shots a game does not help the stalwart backstop. On top of that Florida is on an 11-game streak where it has scored two goals or less. Sound like the Bruins recent woes? Yeah, just about.

Without Vokoun, the Panthers would not even be sniffing a playoff spot and he may be the only player on the Panthers’ roster that might not be on the move. He has another year left on his deal and a no-trade clause. Sexton has stability at the most fickle position in the game and, if he is thinking clearly, should not mess with a good thing and build from the backstop on out. Trading Dominic Moore to the Canadiens for a second round pick on Thursday was a good start and there will probably be more trades on the way.

On the Bruins side of the aisle, things are looking better. The team looks to incorporate the lessons it has learned in the positive week before the Olympic break and continue them in Sunrise on Saturday. Twice this week the Bruins have broken the two-goal barrier that had been holding them back and Tuukka Rask has made them stand up (despite barely hanging on after being spotted a five goal lead on Thursday). Rask is 3-0-2 in his last five straight starts with a .942 save percentage and will likely start against the Panthers.

Miroslav Satan will miss the game after suffering a laceration on his hand in a first period hit into the boards on Thursday. Satan flew back to Boston and had the hand looked at and the report is that there is no tendon damage but rather just a fresh cut that will keep him out on Saturday. Coach Claude Julien could not comment on whether or not the cut will keep him from playing with Team Slovakia in Vancouver but suspected that Satan would probably play. Lucic and Shawn Thornton did not practice on Friday because of reported food poisoning but are expected to go on Saturday.

Read More: Florida Panthers, Milan Lucic, Miroslav Satan, Shawn Thornton
Horton hears a post during scoreless first 02.21.09 at 7:41 pm ET
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Close call for the Panthers toward the end of the first as Florida forward Nathan Horton wheeled right in from the left faceoff circle and rang the outside of the left post, but ultimately couldn’t finish things off for the Panthers.

The Bruins have had some decent offensive chances, but Chuck Kobasew couldn’t finish off a pair of chances in close, and Tomas Vokoun stuck by the post and made a sound stop when snake-bitten Phil Kessel tried to sneak a puck by him.

Two power plays in the first period for the Black and Gold and no sign of Phil Kessel on either unit.

The B’s and Panthers are locked in a scoreless tie at the BankAtlantic Center after one full period of play.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Chuck Kobasew, Florida Panthers, Phil Kessel
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