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Mike Milbury on D&H: Problems loom for B’s if first line cannot improve 01.19.11 at 12:49 pm ET
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Mike Milbury

NESN and NBC Sports NHL analyst Mike Milbury made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday to talk about the Bruins. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Milbury said this is the best he’s seen Patrice Bergeron play. “[He's] seeing the ice, quick to the puck, totally unafraid, does all the little things right, good on the draws, goes to the front of the net, sees the ice well — there’s nothing to not like about his game,” Milbury said.

The lack of production from the first line is a concern to Milbury. “[Nathan] Horton, [Marc] Savard and [Milan] Lucic have got to find a way to put points on the board,” he said. “They’ve been winning a whole bunch of games without a lot of support from those three guys. Listen, there’s no getting around, it’s their top line. And if your top line isn’t producing the way you expect it to, you’re going to run into problems sooner or later.

“The flip side of that is, because of the balance that they now have, they’re able to do it while the first line finds their rhythm.”

Of Horton, Milbury said. “He’s yet to get fully engaged in the game on a regular basis. By that I mean hustle to loose pucks, work really hard to get there. I’ve seen him fight and he can really go, so I know he’s not afraid. But the point is — and this is the common catchword — there’s got to be more urgency to his game. He’s got to want it more. He’s got to fight for loose pucks a little bit more. He’s got to be a little bit more reckless in his game. Until he gets that, his progress is going to be checked, in my opinion.”

Meanwhile, Milbury likes what he’s seeing from the fourth line. “The Bruins have as good a fourth line as there is in the game right now with [Brad] Marchand, [Gregory] Campbell and Shawn Thornton,” Milbury said. “[Campbell] plays hard every night. He’s a coach’s dream, because you know what you’re going to get shift after shift.”

As for Marchand, Milbury said: ”He uses his assets, which are his feet, and a little bit of grit to get where he needs to go. … We talk about Horton and engaging and getting the most out of what you’ve got. Well, this kid is getting all of what he can give and then some.”

Looking at the Eastern Conference, Milbury said, “I still think Pittsburgh is the team to beat, and Philly second.”

As for the Bruins, “It’s still a team that I think has yet to hit its full stride,” Milbury said. “But things have changed now for the Bruins. [Tuukka] Rask is back in the picture, [Tim] Thomas is still playing incredibly well, the defense is starting to act like it can jump into the offense or produce when it comes to getting shots on goal, and you’ve got three lines, at least right now, that are playing I think well enough to win on most nights — and they are winning on most nights. If they can ever get that first line humming, they’ve got to be be a strong candidate to come out of the Eastern Conference.”

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Chris Kunitz goal has Penguins leading Bruins after one 01.15.11 at 1:47 pm ET
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The Penguins don’t have Sidney Crosby, but they do have a 1-0 lead after a period at TD Garden.

Jordan Staal took a pass from Matt Cooke, and with Tuukka Rask’s attention on Staal, the former second overall pick sent a pass to Chris Kunitz in front of the net. The puck went off Kunitz’ skate and into the net, with a review of the play showing there wasn’t a kicking motion and that Kunitz had fanned on a shot.

The Penguins’ goal came shortly after Cooke got out of the box for an interference call. Cooke was sent off after barreling into a puck-less Adam McQuaid in front of the B’s net.

Gregory Campbell and Craig Adams provided the fisticuffs for the period, dropping the gloves at 15:10. Once Campbell got his right hand free, the B’s center landed several rights in succession.

The teams each have 12 shots on goal.

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Statistician’s research suggests Gregory Campbell, not Patrice Bergeron, is Bruins best defensive forward 01.13.11 at 3:59 pm ET
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Here’s an interesting one. Patrice Bergeron‘s strong statistical output of late (17 points over the last 13 games) has made him a popular candidate for this season’s Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is given to the league’s best defensive forward. One’s candidacy for the award, which is supposed to be focused on the defensive aspect of the game, is generally aided by good offensive numbers, making Bergeron, who is among the top two-way forwards in the game, a good fit.

Yet this piece from James Mirtle in today’s Globe and Mail (and feel free to form your own opinion of it) throws a bit of a monkey wrench at the system. Taking the quality of players faced and how many goals they are on the ice for in both even strength and shorthanded situations into, a bit of research from Behind the Net statistician Gabriel Desjardins suggests that Bergeron isn’t even the best defensive forward on his own team.

Desjardin’s research suggests that Gregory Campbell was the first half’s second-best defensive forward, ranking behind only Washington’s Brooks Laich. Bergeron ranks No. 24 on the list. Here’s a look:

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Bruins return to practice in Wilmington 01.05.11 at 10:38 am ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins took the ice Wednesday for their first practice at Ristuccia Arena since the day after Christmas. All healthy players were accounted for, while Mark Stuart, still recovering from injuries to his hand and finger, skated with John Whitesides prior to the skate, according to the Bruins.

The color-coded lines when the players took the ice were the same as they had been since Gregory Campbell returned in the team’s victory over the Maple Leafs Monday:

Lucic-Savard-Horton

Seguin-Bergeron-Recchi

Wheeler-Krejci-Ryder

Marchand-Campbell-Thornton-(Paille)

The B’s did some line work, practiced the power play and had some fun with penalty shots. Blake Wheeler tried to pull a Linus Omark, and though he pulled off the spin move, he did not beat Tuukka Rask.

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Gregory Campbell to miss Saturday’s game vs. Sabres 01.01.11 at 6:01 pm ET
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Bruins center Gregory Campbell will miss Saturday’s game vs. the Sabres, as coach Claude Julien told reporters prior to the game that the center remains “under the weather.” Campbell was also held out of Thursday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Thrashers.

Prior to falling ill, Campbell had played in each of the team’s first 35 games. He has tallied three goals and six assists while centering the “Merlot Line” with Brad Marchand and Shawn Thornton. In Campbell’s absence Thursday, Tyler Seguin jumped from second line wing to fourth line center, while Marchand took Seguin’s usual spot with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. Daniel Paille played Marchand’s usual role as fourth-line wing.

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Gregory Campbell out vs. Thrashers 12.30.10 at 6:40 pm ET
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Bruins center Gregory Campbell was not on the ice during warmups prior to Thursday nights’ tilt against the Thrashers, as he is reportedly under the whether. With Campbell out, Tyler Seguin will center the fourth line, with Brad Marchand jumping to Seguin’s spot on the second line and Daniel Paille taking Marchand’s place on the fourth line. Here is how the lines will look after the changes:

Lucic – Savard – Horton

Marchand – Bergeron – Recchi

Wheeler – Krejci- Ryder

Paille – Seguin- Thornton

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Mike Milbury on D&H: Nathan Horton ‘needs a size 12 up the derriere’ 12.29.10 at 1:58 pm ET
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Mike Milbury

NESN and NBC Sports hockey analyst Mike Milbury made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday with guest hosts Mike Mutnansky and Chris Villani. To hear the interview, including Milbury’s thoughts on the upcoming NHL Winter Classic in Pittsburgh, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Milbury said enforcer Shawn Thornton deserves credit for sparking the Bruins with his fight just seconds into the game against the Thrashers last Thursday. The B’s won that game and now have won three straight. Said Milbury: “I thought Thornton was tremendous in the game where the team needed emotion, and he clearly once again established himself as a guy that won’t relent and won’t fall off the map, even though others around him might be suffering and feeling sorry for themselves. This guy just does it. It was a huge pick-me-up.”

The Bruins won Tuesday night after a controversial call went their way late in the game, with the Lightning getting penalized for Steve Stamkos‘ shoulder-to-shoulder hit that sent Gregory Campbell sprawling into the boards and the B’s scoring the game-winner on the ensuing power play. In a story in Wednesday’s Tampa Tribune, writer Erik Erlendsson brought up the fact that Campbell’s father, Colin, is the NHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations. Milbury agreed that the call was incorrect, but he was not pleased with the insinuation that Campbell’s father’s role had any effect on the referee’s decision.

Said Milbury: “No. 1, that’s really dirty pool cheap shot involving Greg Campbell. No need to go there. … This call had nothing to do with who was involved in the play. A lot of times you say a guy like Stamkos gets the benefit of the doubt. The star player usually gets a little bit more room by and large in the league. So, knock that off the table as consideration and call it really low-down journalism in my impression.”

As for the penalty call, Milbury said it’s another example of a negative trend in the game. “Where are we going with this?” he said. “I’ve called it a number of things; I’ll leave it at wussification. To me, that was a great hit, good body position, [Campbell] lost his balance. The whole climate throughout the league has been, sorry, soccer mom mentality. Little Johnny might get hurt if he gets hit hard enough, and we’re all worried about hits to the head and overly sensitive to stuff that occurs.

“It’s a dangerous sport and guys will get hurt and they can get hurt, but if we’re going to eliminate hits like the Stamkos hit on Campbell — [Devils analyst] Ken Daneyko was saying last night, ‘This is a courageous game.’ We’re taking the courage out of the game when you take away a hit like that. You’ve got to put guys in a little fear and a little jeopardy. And when those people have to face that, they have to get through it somehow or other. If we eliminate those circumstances, I think we’re doing the game a disservice. Last night I thought was a terrible call.”

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