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Why can’t the Bruins beat the Hurricanes? 02.01.12 at 4:22 pm ET
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They say that in order to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. The Bruins’ problem this season is that they can’t beat the worst.

The Bruins are 0-3-0 against the last-place Hurricanes this season. (AP)

The Hurricanes will enter the Garden Thursday night with just 45 points on the season, which puts them dead last in the Eastern Conference, but they’ll also come in having won all three previous meetings against the Bruins this season.

For one reason or another, the Hurricanes have given the Bruins, who are a point out of first place in the conference, fits. Whether it was on Oct. 18, when Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic lost their cool on Tim Gleason late in the third period, or in their last meeting, when the B’s blew a third-period lead and saw Carolina score three unanswered goals, the Bruins simply haven’t been up to the challenge against perhaps the least challenging opponent in the East.

“To be honest, I don’t think we’ve played well against them,” Gregory Campbell said after Wednesday’s practice. “That’s no discredit to them. The first two losses came within a week, and that was probably when we were playing some of our poorest hockey of the season. I thought the last time we were in there, they played an awesome game. They were hard on us, and we weren’t prepared for that. We weren’t prepared to skate, and they were all over us. They basically smothered us, and they deserved to win that game.”

If there’s been one certainty with the Bruins this season, it’s been their dominant third-period play. They have a plus-66 goal differential in the third period this season, but the Hurricanes have even beaten them there. Only three Bruins opponents have outscored them in the third period this season: the Avalanche (who scored their only goal of the game in teams’ lone meeting), the Canadiens (who have scored four goals against the B’s in the third compared to Boston’s three) and the Hurricanes. Of those teams, the Hurricanes have the best third-period differential against the Bruins, as they’ve outscored Boston, 7-4, in the third period when the teams have met this season.

The Hurricanes recently locked up Gleason with a four-year, $16 million deal, meaning perhaps the best defensive option for the trade deadline has been taken off the market. It also means the Hurricanes will remain equipped to continue to bring it to the B’s as they continue to face them.

But for the Bruins and their struggles against the Hurricanes, they aren’t thinking about the opponent. They’re focused on the way they’ve played the opponent, and it hasn’t been up to par.

“I think it’s not really about us focusing on what they’re doing to beat us,” Campbell said. “It’s more so us focusing on brining our game and seeing what that presents.”

If the Bruins can win, perhaps they can use it as a springboard to get them back to where they were prior to their current stretch of sloppy play. The B’s are 4-3-1 in their last eight games, and failed to show up in the first 40 minutes before beating the Senators Tuesday with a third-period comeback.

“Things have slipped. It’s no secret in here,” Campbell said. “Claude [Julien] has been realistic with us. We’re not playing up to the potential we’re capable of. They’ve done their job. Our job as players is to get back to that, and it’s no secret. We just have to play our game like we did in November and December, and that’s a formula that brings success for us.”

Between their previous inability to beat the conference’s worst team and a desire to get back to the level of play they found during their 21-3-1 stretch, a lot of things can change for the Bruins Thursday night.

Said Campbell: “Good teams find a way to be consistent. That’s our issue right now.”

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Gregory Campbell’s Gordie Howe hat trick leads Bruins past Devils 01.19.12 at 9:31 pm ET
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Gregory Campbell led the way with a Gordie Howe hat trick as the Bruins got back to winning Thursday night, defeating the Devils, 4-1, in Newark, N.J.

Danius Zubrus set up Petr Sykora‘s 12th goal of the season late in the first period to give New Jersey the lead. The two teams played a scoreless second period before Andrew Ference tied the game with a shot from the top of the circle in the third period. Nathan Horton gave the B’s their first lead of the night on the power play, scoring his third goal in the last two games.

Thirty-five seconds later, Campbell buried a rebound off a Shawn Thornton shot, giving the Bruins a two-goal lead with more than half a period left to play. Chris Kelly added an empty-netter.

Campbell’s goal sealed the Gordie Howe hat trick for him, as he fought Brad Mills in the first period and assisted Ference’s goal.

The Bruins will next play Saturday when they host the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers at TD Garden.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

– One of the things that has made the Bruins such a good team this year has been their play in the third period — a time that they have used the period to either get leads or add to them. Thursday was no different. The B’s four unanswered goals improved their third-period differential to a whopping plus-37.

– Ference’s goal was his first in 25 games, but he’s still been having a very good season from a statistical standpoint. Ference isn’t relied upon for his scoring. His third goal of the season tied his personal best with the Bruins (he had three last season; four is his career high). Ference now has 18 points, which is the most he’s had in a single season since he had 31 with the Flames in the 2005-06 season.

– The Bruins are no strangers to scoring two goals in a minute, and they did it for the 14th time this season when Campbell followed Horton’s goal with a tally of his own. The shift that follows a goal is always a crucial one, and Claude Julien has often trusted the fourth line to take those important shifts. It paid off again Thursday.

– Thomas had allowed seven goals over his previous two starts entering Thursday night, but he was able to bounce back and bring his ‘A’ game to New Jersey, robbing David Clarkson on a rebound in the second period as one of 28 saves the reigning Vezina winner made on the night.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

David Krejci‘s line continued to allow goals, something Julien called the trio out for Tuesday night. Krejci won the faceoff in the Bruins’ zone prior to the Devils’ first goal, but Zubrus got to the puck behind the net and fed Sykora. Because Horton’s goal came on the power play, he has been a minus-4 over the last three games.

– The B’s had just six shots on goal in the first period for the third consecutive game. The B’s have been plagued by slow starts in recent games, and though the B’s came out looking less sloppy than they did Tuesday, they still need stronger starts to these contests. They have one first-period goal in the last four games.

– The Joe Corvo-Dennis Seidenberg pairing has become dangerous for the Bruins. Corvo has struggled mightily in his own zone of late, and Seidenberg has been catching some really bad bounces. The B’s saw a couple of those in the second period, including one puck that bounced off Seidenberg and right to a flying Ilya Kovalchuk in the neutral zone, but neither cost the B’s.

Brad Marchand, who was playing in his first contest since being suspended five games for his hit on Sami Salo, had a rather quiet return to the lineup. The second-line winger had no shots on goal Thursday night.

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Bruins happy to see that Tomas Kaberle has weathered the storm 12.19.11 at 12:58 pm ET
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Perhaps nobody will ever know what the Hurricanes were thinking when they gave Tomas Kaberle a three-year, $12.75 million contract this season, but he isn’t their problem anymore.

The Hurricanes dumped the underperforming Kaberle’s contract this month when they shipped the veteran blueliner to Montreal in exchange for Jaroslav Spacek. Thus far, Kaberle, who was a favorite among teammates in Boston, is proving that one team’s garbage can be another team’s gold.

In his first 27 games in Carolina, Kaberle registered only five points — all assists — and had a dreadful minus-2 rating and was even made a healthy scratch. After stringing together back-to-back games in his 28th and 29th contests for Carolina, he was sent to Montreal, and he’s been a point-a-game player since. In four games since the trade to Montreal, Kaberle has matched his total through 27 games with the Hurricanes in registering five assists. That makes him four points shy of the nine-point total he had in 24 regular-season games with the B’s last season.

“He’s come in and kind of helped settle our power play down,” Habs coach Randy Cunneyworth said Monday. “I think he’s done a great job of showing a lot of poise back there and finding the openings that are available to him. he sees the ice so well. He’s a guy that knows how to play back there, and he’s a guy that will do great work going forward. We’re pleased to have him on board. It was good timing, having him aboard, because we were kind of floundering on the power play, so we’ve kind of gotten into a better direction with him back there.”

For a guy who had a tough go of it in Carolina and even in Boston before the team won the Stanley Cup, the Bruins are happy to see him doing well.

“Kabby is a great, great guy, a great person, and he’s a really good player. He signed a really good deal,” Gregory Campbell said with a grin after Monday’s morning skate. “I don’t feel too sorry for him [for his struggles], but I think he’ll do well in Montreal. He’s used to playing in that market. Obviously he played in toronto for a long time, and he helped us a lot. I know he’s going to help them, just hopefully not tonight.”

Said Claude Julien: “Kabby was a great individual, and for whatever people may think of him, he helped us win a Stanley Cup. Maybe people didn’t see him as having as much of an impact as they all thought he would, or even ourselves, but he still brought a positive element to our hockey club and he certainly helped us control the puck from the back end onto the power play. What he’s done right now in Montreal is exactly what he’s known for – being a good power play guy, a good puck moving defenseman and I hope he succeeds because he deserves it.”

Kaberle was not available to the media Monday morning. He did participate in morning skate though, so that should dispel rumors that he was at a Hello Piggy Band concert.

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Morning skate notes: Zdeno Chara to travel with Bruins 12.13.11 at 11:49 am ET
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Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask will be between the pipes Tuesday as the Bruins take on the Kings at TD Garden. Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Tuesday’s morning skate that he intends to play Thomas Wednesday against the Senators.

Gregory Campbell was not on the ice for the morning skate. He will miss Tuesday’s game and will “probably not” play Wednesday, according to Julien. Campbell is dealing with a foot injury, and Zach Hamill is expected to center the fourth line in his place.

Daniel Paille, meanwhile, underwent a neuropsych evaluation Monday. The winger said the team was still awaiting results on the test, with Julien adding that he could play if he is cleared before the game. Paille took part in the morning skate.

Zdeno Chara (leg) did not skate, and will miss Tuesday’s game. Julien did say, however, that the captain will travel with the team to Ottawa Tuesday night. The coach said he was unsure whether Campbell would go.

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Bruins recall Zach Hamill at 10:23 am ET
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In a sign that both Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell might not be able to go Tuesday against the Kings, the Bruins have recalled Zach Hamill from Providence.

Hamill has played two NHL games this season, picking up an assist while with the team last month. He got off to a hot start in Providence this season but has only one point over his last nine games.

Campbell was in a walking boot Monday after taking a shot off the foot Saturday in Columbus. Paille is working his way back from a light concussion suffered last Thursday. He practiced Monday for the first time since the injury.

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Call-up might be necessary as injury bug continues to bite Bruins 12.12.11 at 2:48 pm ET
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Both Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille could miss Tuesday's game. (AP)

The Bruins, already without defenseman Zdeno Chara for Tuesday’s game against the Kings, might need to make a call to Providence in order to ice 12 forwards.

Center Gregory Campbell, who did not practice Monday for the Bruins, is in a walking boot and is considered questionable for Tuesday’s game with an injury suffered when he was hit in the foot with a shot.

While Campbell may be out for the B’s, the team did see the return of Daniel Paille to the ice. Paille, who suffered a concussion Thursday, said he has not been feeling symptoms and that he hopes to get back in the lineup this week. Bruins coach Claude Julien considers Paille day-to-day.

If both players are unable to go, the B’s would need to call up a player from Providence in order to ice four full lines.

“I think that’s something we’re probably going to look at,” Julien said, “and either later today or tomorrow morning, if need be, we’ll be calling somebody up.”

Julien said he doesn’t know whether Campbell has had x-rays taken of the foot, but that the center has been walking with a limp.

Said Julien: “He’s in a walking boot limping, and he’s had treatments here this morning, so I don’t know exactly what the final verdict is more than that he told me he was questionable.”

Paille said that he was feeling symptom-free and good enough to get back in the game Thursday, but that the team kept him out as a precaution. Additionally he still has visible scars on his face from the Steve Staios shot that hit him in the face last month, and he’s also fighting a cold. It’s safe to say Paille’s had better luck in the past, but he isn’t complaining. His main focus is getting back in the lineup, and after taking limited contact Monday (his first time back on the ice since being hit by Krys Barch), he hopes that time will come this week. He’ll need to pass a neuropsych evaluation before he can do that.

“Obviously, if I can [play Tuesday], I will, but obviously at this point I haven’t discussed it with Claude or Peter [Chiarelli],” Paille said, adding that he’d “like to” be back for at least one of this week’s three games.

If both Paille and Campbell are unable to go Tuesday, one option for the Bruins might be forward Zach Hamill, who has experience at both wing and center and picked up a point in a two-game stint with Boston this season. Hamill got off to a hot start in Providence this season, but has just one point, a goal, over his last nine games.

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Daniel Paille returns to practice, Gregory Campbell, Zdeno Chara absent at 11:12 am ET
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WILMINGTON — Zdeno Chara wasn’t the only one to miss Monday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena.

Fourth-line center Gregory Campbell was also absent for the B’s as they hit the ice to prepare for games on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Kings and Senators, respectively. It could simply be a maintenance day for Campbell.

The good news the Bruins received on the injury front was that Daniel Paille was back on the ice and skating with the Merlot Line. Paille suffered a concussion Thursday on a hit from Krys Barch and did not play Saturday against the Blue Jackets. With Paille back, each line had three players for a total of 12 forwards Monday. Jordan Caron remains on the Merlot Line.

Here were the defensive pairings with Chara out with a leg injury:

Dennis SeidenbergJoe Corvo

Andrew FerenceAdam McQuaid

Steven KampferJohnny Boychuk

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