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Thoughts from the pre-Habs morning skate 01.13.09 at 12:38 pm ET
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There’s always a bit more life in the catacombs of the Old Garden when the Montreal Canadiens are in town for a Northeast Division showdown, and that’s again the case this morning on Causeway Street. The Habs are looking for revenge after a pair of beat downs in their last two epic games against each other, and the B’s are beginning to really deal with some roster and depth issues as the injury/illness bug continues to creep up and crawl through the team.

–Center Patrice Bergeron again skated before practice this morning — along with Andrew Ference and Milan Lucic — and that makes three consecutive days that the 23-year-old has laced up the skates and got the heart rate up and the blood pumping without any evidence of headache or setback.

This is music to ears of the Bruins’ fan base and, more importantly, to Bergeron himself.

“It’s great to be back out on the ice. I’m very happy,” said Bergeron, who pumped his heart rate up to 155-160 on the bike before he was cleared to get back on skates. “When I talked to you guys the other day

Manny's name tag, mask, and equipment were all in his stall within the Garden dressing room this morning...

Manny's name tag, mask, and equipment were all in his stall within the Garden dressing room this morning...

I didn’t know it was going to be that quick. It’s just skating for now and taking some shots and we’ll see further on. It’s just good to be back and a relief that I have a chance to skate again.

“I don’t want to have any setbacks, so we’re taking it slowly and surely,” added Bergeron. “If I feel good, then I feel good.

–Bruins coach Claude Julien had Martin St. Pierre and Milan Lucic both alternating turns with Chuck Kobasew and Marc Savard on the B’s top line during the morning skate and it really appears to be a mix-and-match game for Claude Julien with Phil Kessel removed from the lineup for the near-future. Lucic is a game-time decision with his undisclosed injury after sailing through the morning skate, but — either way — there won’t be a much-anticipated bought between Looch and Big George Laraque with the Habs’ enforcer out of the lineup tonight.

Facing the loss of 21-year-old star forward Phil Kessel to mononucleosis for a minimum of 2-4 weeks while also balancing significant injuries to Marco Sturm and Patrice Bergeron, Bruins coach Claude Julien said that the Bruins will do what they’ve always done best: survive.

“He’s no different than any of the guys that we’ve lost [to injury] so far,” said B’s coach Claude Julien, whose team will face a highly motivated Montreal Canadiens squad tonight at the TD Banknorth Garden. “Every time you lose key players like that it’s a big loss. But we’ve had a lot of practice with it, especially last year. We survived it, and we’ll survive it again.

“We have to rely on the guys at our disposal to play solidly and to play well.”

–The search for Manny’s name plate ended at the Garden this morning as it stood there firmly in place along with his mask and all of the rest of his equipment in the Boston dressing room. Julien said that Fernandez is dealing with, as GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed yesterday, “general soreness” and something “very minor” that has the veteran puckstopper currently on day-to-day status.

No word on the whereabouts of his much-discussed Ristuccia Arena name plate, but there appears to be a burgeoning request by the Bruins Faithful to have it appear on EBay – and available to the tip-top bidder – after a wee little piece of laminated paper with the goalie’s name on it sparked an avalanche of message board trade rumors on the great HFBoards yesterday afternoon.

“Hopefully we’ll see him on the ice tomorrow. That really is the situation with Manny,” said Julien, attempting to close the case of the ‘tender name plate.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Manny Fernandez, Milan Lucic
Kessel out a month with mono 01.12.09 at 9:52 pm ET
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Kessel will be out roughly a month with the "kissing disease"

Kessel will be out roughly a month with the "kissing disease"

With Marco Sturm and Patrice Bergeron already on the shelf with injuries, the injured reserve list grew by one yesterday when Phil Kessel was put on the shelf with mononucleosis. The illness is believed to be about a month-long recovery process from the high-scoring winger with a team-high 24 goals, and leaves the B’s with a gaping hole on their top line.

The B’s brass has been resolute in their desire to fill any roster vacancies with in-house solutions, and — truth be told — things didn’t seem all that bad when it was simply Sturm and Bergeron on the injured reserve. The B’s have won all season with Sturm alternating between an ice-cold start to his season and injuries that nagged at him all winter long leading up to the knee issue. In Bergeron’s case, he’s laced up the skates and made it out on the ice and is weeks away — rather than months from a return to game action.

But there isn’t anybody capable of replacing a potential 40-goal scorer in Kessel over the next month when the Black and Gold will play 13 games and head into the stretch run prior to the playoffs. A large B’s cushion in both the Northeast Division and the Eastern Conference will allow them some patience in trying out some Providence Wanna-B’s — but the need for a trade may become an inevitability.

After playing in all 82 regular season games last season, Kessel skated in all 42 games this season and has potted a team-high 24 goals and added 17 assists. His 24 goals rank tied for third in the entire NHL and
he owns the longest point streak in the league, having accumulated points in 18 consecutive games from November 13-December 21, 2008.

Boston’s first round pick (5th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, the 21-year-old Kessel has recorded 54-53=107 totals in 194 career NHL games. He had played in 167 straight regular season games, dating back to January 9, 2007.

Along with Kessel’s trip to the injured reserve, the B’s assigned both South Boston native Kevin Regan and defenseman Matt Lashoff back to Providence and called both center Martin St. Pierre and Tuukka Rask back up to Boston. The move appears to be an admission that the “minor issue” involving Manny Fernandez won’t be sufficiently resolved by tomorrow night’s game against the Canadiens, but — then again — that situation seems to keep changing by the minute.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Manny Fernandez, Marco Sturm
Bergeron back on the ice this morning at 10:42 am ET
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Bergeron returned to the ice for the second consecutive day in Wilmington this morning...

Bergeron returned to the ice for the second consecutive day in Wilmington this morning...

Just days after Patrice Bergeron vowed to return to the Bruins this season, the 23-year-old center skated on the ice at Ristuccia Arena for roughly a half-hour this morning. There’s still no timetable on Bergeron’s return, but getting back on the ice is a significant step in Bergeron’s progress. The B’s center also skated briefly yesterday as well. Bergeron was joined by Shane Hnidy — with a visor attached to his helmet protecting the still-massive shiner on his left eye — as well as Milan Lucic, Aaron Ward and Andew Ference for some turns on the practice ice before the rest of the team conducted regular practice. 

 
 
 
 
 

 

“[Bergeron] did well. He was out there for over a half-hour,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “He continues to progress. “It’s nice to see him back on the ice and it’s encouraging for him too. It means he’s a step closer to his goal of returning. It’s great for him and great for the team.”

–Julien also indicated that Manny Fernandez wasn’t on the ice today, and is dealing with a minor injury “issue”. Julien indicated that Fernandez won’t be a scratch for tomorrow, and that likely means Kevin Regan’s one-day dress rehearsal with the Bruins will have him back down in Providence tomorrow. The sheer mathematics of a Boy Goaltender from Southie coming up with enough game tickets to satiate family and friends is mind-blowing. Then add in the fact that it’s against the hated Habs. I simply can’t wrap my simpleton journalistic head around it.

For what it’s worth, Fernandez’s nameplate was also missing from its usual location within the Ristuccia Arena dressing room this morning – which should send Bruins conspiracy theorists into orbit. Kevin Regan was moved into the vacant locker in between Tim Thomas and Fernandez, and it looked as if Fernandez’s nameplate had been yanked from its spot. Could mean nothing, or it could mean that the wheels are in full spin toward dealing Manny Fernandez for a top flight defenseman or for some help/healthy bodies at forward. Stay tuned.

Read More: Aaron Ward, Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Manny Fernandez
Boy Goalie from Southie called up to B’s at 7:29 am ET
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Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has recalled goaltender Kevin Regan from the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League) on an emergency basis. Regan will join the club today and practice with the team at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington at 10:30 a.m. in place of injured goaltender Manny Fernandez.

Fernandez appears to be out for today’s practice with what coach Claude Julien termed a “minor thing”.

Regan, a South Boston native, has appeared in 14 games this season for Providence and posted a 6-4-1 record with a 3.33 Goals Against Average and .875 save percentage. Regan played four years at the University of New Hampshire from 2004-2008, finishing as the Wildcats’ all-time leader in wins and the only goaltender in school history to record back-to-back 20 win seasons. His 2007-2008 honors included a unanimous selection as Hockey East Player of the Year, finalist for the Hobey Baker Award for the nation’s top collegiate player, First Team All-American, Fist Team All-Hockey East and the Walter Brown Award as the top American-born player in New England.

He made his professional debut lat year with the Providence Bruins at the conclusion of his college season and earned a 3-0 shutout on April 12, 2008 against Manchester.

The 24-year-old Regan was drafted by the Bruins in the ninth round (277th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

The Bruins conclude their six game homestand Tuesday night, January 13, against the Montreal Canadiens at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Kevin Regan, Manny Fernandez, Peter Chiarelli
B’s finally getting some good health news 01.05.09 at 5:15 pm ET
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The Tim Thomas "Uncle Sam" All-Star campaign didn't catch on in the fan write in vote...but he still could make it as an Eastern Conference reserve

The Tim Thomas "Uncle Sam" All-Star campaign didn't catch on in the fan write in vote...but he still could make it as an Eastern Conference reserve

In a much-needed reprieve from the war of attrition that’s been going on with the Bruins’ squad over the last month, B’s coach Claude Julien and his team needed some good news in the health department — and got it at this morning’s practice in Wilmington.

Andrew Ference took part in the hour plus practice at Ristuccia Arena – though he skated off early for “precautionary reasons” — and was among the healthy-enough-to-skate B’s players that heard Julien’s booming voice screaming during the intense morning of drills. Ward didn’t skate at practice with the team, but Julien deemed that his charley horse situation is improving dramatically.

The “mild” charley horse knocked the 35-year-old out of Saturday’s loss in the second period, and Ward will be a game time decision for tomorrow night’s tilt against the trap-happy Minnesota Wild. Granted Marco Sturm is likely gone for the season with left knee surgery and there’s no timetable for Patrice Bergeron’s road back from his concussion, but things are starting to look up for the band-aid B’s. 

”He’s doing a lot better,” said Julien of Ward. ”His motion and range today was pretty good. He’s going to skate with us tomorrow and we’ll see how he does.”

Ference, out since mid-November following surgery to repair a fractured tibia incurred after blocking a shot during a penalty kill situation, continues to work ahead of schedule and should be back playing in real games over the next week. Tomorrow is a longshot, but nontheless healthy bodies are beginning to fill up the dressing room.  Julien was asked if he could presumably go from having six healthy defenseman to a choice of eight living, breathing, healthy bodies for tomorrow night’s game, and the B’s bench boss didn’t rule out the possibility.

“Ference is still day-to-day and he’s been put through some battle drills today [in practice] so we’ll see how he fares tomorrow,” said Julien, of a Tuesday morning skate that will portend whether Ward or Ference return to the lineup against the Wild. “There’s a possibility that we’ll look at Ward tomorrow and Ference is practicing with us and day-to-day. We’re kind of on the bubble with that.

There’s still some question marks that will be answered tomorrow morning, but we could be [anywhere] from 8 to 6 tomorrow very easily,” added Julien.

All-Star Snub Reaction

Bruins players selected for the Eastern Conference All-Star team will find out Thursday around noontime when the NHL announces the reserve players for the Jan. 25 NHL showpiece event. The B’s didn’t have a single player voted into the Eastern Conference starting lineup — a group filled solely with Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens players – announced over the weekend, and goaltender Tim Thomas felt like it might be a case of too many good Bruins to choose from. Or perhaps not enough tech-savvy, prospering cheaters among the B’s fan base.

Just taking Thomas’ case, it’s a tough decision to choose between Thomas and fellow veteran goaltender Manny Fernandez. Both goaltenders have worked together in seamless fashion to become the best goaltending duo in the NHL this season. Thomas and Fernandez, Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara and Phil Kessel are all certainly deserving of All-Star recognition, and it’s a safe bet that at least two of them will be invited to participate in Montreal’s All-Star weekend three weeks from now.

“I hadn’t thought about it,” said a clearly amused Thomas. “Obviously it was fan voting, so it was unrealistic. The other angle to look at is that this team is so good that it makes it really hard to choose [individual players]. Obviously [the fan voting] was Pittsburgh computer programmers versus Montreal computer programmers. It’s tough to make choices when you could pick so many good players, or you could be like Pittsburgh and Montreal and pick your whole team.” 

Read More: Aaron Ward, Andrew Ference, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien
Things tighten up for B’s in weekend sweep 12.28.08 at 8:36 pm ET
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Bruins Win! Aaaaaaarrghhhhh....Bruins Win!

Bruins Win! Aaaaaaarrghhhhh....Bruins Win!

The intensity level and heart-thumping pulse of NHL games traditionally rises as the season marches forward, and things begin to tighten up a bit both offensively and defensively — a puck phenomenon that’s coming to life right before the eyes of Bruins’ followers.

 Both the Carolina Hurricanes and the Atlanta Thrashers forced the Black and Gold to work extensively in back-to-back efforts in order to take a sweep of the weekend games – including Sunday night’s 2-1 win over Atlanta at Phillips Arena – and put their overall winning streak at eight games.

The B’s have handled the Trashers, out of that hockey hotbed deep in the heart of Atlanta, all season long, but Sunday’s taut triumph was most hotly contested of the season against the Thrash. It’s also indicative of the kind of tooth and nail games that await the Boston Golden Bears over their next 40 plus games. 

NHL hockey is a much different animal in January, February, March and April — with teams jostling for playoff pole position as the NHL standings begin to settle – than it is in the opening months of October and November, and things certainly won’t be as swimmingly easy as they seemed for Boston over the season’s first few months. Add the tricked-out intensity to the host of injuries the B’s continue to battle through, and you have a pretty impressive effort for the weekend. A Tuesday night tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins is all that’s standing between the Black and Gold and a five game sweep during their current holiday road trip.

Not to be confused, of course, with the Griswold theme song otherwise known as Lindsay Buckingham’s “Holiday Road”.

The B’s are the King of the Eastern Conference Hill right now, and they’re going to get everybody’s best from here on out. With that in mind, here’s a few observations from the solid victory over the Thrashers:

Trading the "other Manny" this season would be foolish given the way he's melded in with Tim Thomas

Trading the "other Manny" this season would be foolish given the way he's melded in with Tim Thomas

–Now may be the time for everybody to stow away those Manny Fernandez trade proposals. There’s no way the Bruins are a better team this season without hockey’s version of Manny Being Manny splitting time with Tim Thomas between the pipes. 

They’ve formed the best Boston goaltending duo since the unforgettable Andy Moog/Reggie Lemelinteam in the 80′s and 90′s, and they still lead the NHL in team save percentage this season. Thomas and Fernandez have put together a .930 save percentage thus far, which puts them .06 percentage points ahead of both the Minnesota Wild and the Florida Panthers for NHL bragging rights.

Last night was a game the Bruins likely wouldn’t have won if not for the 34-year-old Fernandez, and the graceful butterfly style he used to make 32 saves Sunday night. His successive saves on Thrashers forwards Erik Christensen and Bryan Little with less than a minute to go in the third period were things of beauty, and were among a handful of saves that preserved the ‘W’ for the Bruins. Fernandez is now 12-2-1 on the season, and has pushed himself into a vital, irreplaceable role on this Bruins’ team.

It would be the worst kind of hockey karma to break this Killer B’s tandem up — a notion that all the hockey krishnas outthere should be nodding in harmonious agreement with.

Ryder equals Mr. Clutch

The game-winning third period goal was obviously hatched by the breathtaking David Krejci-authored saucer pass to a streaking Michael Ryder while he crashed the Atlanta net, but it also highlighted an interesting piece of Ryder trivia. The score — a quick redirect of the skidding puck through Thrashers goalie Keri Lehtonen’s pads — was Ryder’s team-leading seventh game-winning goal of the season thus far.

Ryder also leads the NHL with his collection of seven game-winning tallies, and sits two GWG’s ahead of fellow NHL luminaries Jeff Carter, Patrick Marleau, Daniel Sedin, Johan Franzen and Petr Sykora this season. It seemed symbolic that his seventh game-winner of the season was also his 14thoverall lamp lighter – the exact same goal-production total he managed in 70 restless, unhappy games with the Montreal Canadiens last season.

Congrats to Coach Julien

Let's hope Claude hasn't made any plans for NHL All-Star weekend in Montreal next month

Let's hope Claude hasn't made any plans for NHL All-Star weekend in Montreal next month

A tip of the PWH chapeau to Bruins coach Claude Julien, who has seemingly wrapped up the Eastern Conference coaching honors at the NHL All-Star Game after leading his Bruins squad to such a commanding lead during the first three months of the season. According to the fountain of first-hand knowledge known as wikipedia, since 1996 the head coaches for the two All-Star Game have been the coaches of the two teams that are leading their respective conferences in point percentage (i.e. fraction of points obtained out of total possible points) as of January 1.

With a commanding point lead over everyone else in the Eastern Conference, that would leave Julien to man the bench at the Bell Centre — a building that was once the coach’s home turf while he ran the show with the Montreal Canadiens from 2002-06. For a hockey building that’s housed some pretty high-intensity Bruins/Habs moments over the last two years, it will certainly be a proud moment for the Quebec native to play a prominent role in one of the Canadiens’ showpiece events during their 2008-09 Centennial celebration.

It should also be one of several honors bestowed on Julien in a season that’s been a testament to his ability to preach defensive responsibility, teamwork, patience and accountability to a dressing room full of young men on skates that have been ready to learn since Day One of training camp.  

Read More: Andy Moog, Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien
B’s suffer losses in 13th straight home win 12.20.08 at 11:05 pm ET
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It was a convincing 4-2 win for the Black and Gold against a Carolina Hurricanes team playing quality hockey heading into Boston, but the 13th straight victory at the TD Banknorth Garden also had its share of negatives. Patrice Bergeron went into Saturday still searching for ways to reclaim his hockey groove after missing nearly all of last season with a concussion, and yesterday’s game ended for him in the second period with another potential head injury.

Bergeron went zipping in for a hit on Carolina defenseman Dennis Seidenberg at mid-ice during the second period of Saturday’s win, but a freak thing happened on the way in for the clean hit. The right side of Bergeron’s face and head violently crunched into Seidenberg’s right shoulder as he attempted the finishing check.

The 17,565 in attendence went eerily silent as Bergeron fell to the ice chest-first in a heap and lay all-but motionless for several uncomfortable, agonizing moments. Bergeron’s story has been one of triumph all season long – despite the lack of overwhelming offensive production — but things took an ugly detour yesterday after only 7:53 of ice time in the game. It’s a sickening feeling to watch a hockey-crazed crowd of 17,000 fall into a silent haze when the dreaded head/neck injury drops a player to their knees, and that was the regrettable backdrop at the Garden midway through the second.

“All the noise and standing isn’t good for the player. We try to keep quiet. That is how I was brought up; you try to keep quiet when something like that happens,” said Manny Fernandez, who watched the Bruins’ medical staff and trainers attend to the fallen Bergeron before the 23-year-old skated off under his own power. “But he was strong enough to get back on his feet by himself, which is a good thing. He was able to skate off on his own strength, so that is a positive.

“Like I said, we can’t think about that too much right now. We have to let the doctors take care of him. We will need him back. But I don’t think that other teams are going to take it easy on us because he is out of the lineup, so we have to concentrate on what is left and go from there.”

After the game, the Bruins said that Bergeron was still being evaluated and that the club wanted to be precise with the diagnosis for Boston hockey’s Golden Boy. The most revealing part of the information relay concerning Bergeron’s injury took place when coach Claude Julien spoke with the player between the second and third period. Bergeron himself told Julien he was “dinged up” after the collision with the Carolina blueliner, and Julien absolved Seidenberg of any wrongdoing in the situation.

“I saw it with my own eyes but I wanted to see if it was an elbow, a stick, or a shoulder,” said Julien. “It was not a cheap shot by any means, it was a collision.”

Dinged up or not, Bergeron was alert and the doctors were still evaluating him in the hours following the afternoon matinee. It was a far cry, however, from the Oct. 27, 2007 hit by Randy Jones that ended the skater’s 2007-08 season after only 10 games. It’s too early to rule it a concussion or start doling out meaningless and arbitrary dates that the skilled player might return, and the Bruins promised to release a statement once the doctors had given a final diagnosis.

 “The doctors are looking at it and haven’t given us any indication as to the severity of it,” said Julien. “We’ve asked…they haven’t diagnosed him yet as to whether it is [a concussion] or is it not. He said he got dinged pretty good.”

Here is the hit. At this point, the only thing to do is send best wishes that it’s not something damaging enough to prevent Bergeron from playing the game he loves and cherishes:

Fourth Line Breakdown

Saturday’s win also featured a solid effort from the disparate members of the ever-changing Bruins “energy line.” Stephane Yelle potted the empty net goal that iced the game in the waning seconds of the third period — his fifth score of the season –and registered three hits in victory. Rugged rough-housing Shawn Thornton scored the game-winning goal on an unassisted tally in the third period, registered a game-high six hits in a relentlessly physical effort throughout, and even had four shots on net to finish off the all-around performance.

Vladimir Sobotka also continued to add an aggravating sandpaper presence to pair along with Yelle and Thornton. Sobotka even stopped agitating long enough to feed a beautiful backhand dish that set up a David Krejci strike and handed Boston their first lead of the game in the third. The assists was Sobotka’s first point of the 2008-09 season.

“It is amazing how some guys that don’t score often, score against the same teams.  It was nice to see him get the winning goal,” said Julien of Thornton, who has feasted offensively on Carolina over the last few years. “If you have everybody over the course of a season playing a big role in a win, its nice to see those guys in the role of giving energy to our team, throwing hits out there, and trying not to get scored on, get rewarded.  Yelle got that fourth goal in the empty net, Thornton, and I thought Sobotka had a real good game on that line tonight.”

A little known tidbit about Thornton’s goal against the ‘Canes: he utilized a time-honored bit of puck chicaneary for the score. Thornton gamely called out “reverse” when Carolina defenseman Joe Corvo was handling the puck behind the Hurricanes net, and Corvo promptly obliged. With his back to the fourth liner hiding in wait alone behind the net, Corvo shoveled the puck behind him directly to Thornton. The B’s winger took the gift puck and zipped it past Cam Ward for his second goal of the season.

Was Thornton’s ruse a legal, above board hockey manuever, or was Thornton’s shout-out similar to the ploy A-Rod used screaming “I Got It!” to foul up the Toronto Blue Jays infielders two seasons? Thornton seemed slightly sheepish afterward when explaining his technique, but the 31-year-old didn’t seem to care how much it bothered the ‘Canes.

“They were going back for the puck and I kind of screamed ‘reverse’ to their defenseman and I think he thought I was their guy,” said Thornton. “He gave the puck right to me, and I think it went off [Ward's] stick and in. I dunno. I just buried my head for once and it finally went in for me.”

Is that acceptable behavior on the ice?

“Probably not…it might be a little dirty, but I don’t care,” said a laughing Thornton. “Dirty or wily, whatever way you want to look at it. [That doesn't] work too often. Maybe one out of a 100.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Manny Fernandez, Patrice Bergeron
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