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Nathan Horton helps Bruins build 2-1 lead over Maple Leafs 01.03.11 at 8:37 pm ET
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Nathan Horton’s play has been improved of late, but the scoring sheet hadn’t suggested it until he helped the Bruins build a 2-1 lead over the Leafs in the second period.

After a nine-game goal drought, Horton sent a puck to Dennis Seidenberg in the point before doing what made him so popular at the beginning of his Boston tenure: finding his way to the high slot and snapping a shot past bodies and in. The goal, which came at 7:56 of the period, was his 12th of the season.

At 15:30, Marc Savard took a feed from Horton to beat Reimer on a one-timer from the high slot. Milan Lucic, who also got an assist on the play, picked up his first point in eight games.

The B’s outshot the Leafs, 17-8, in the period and have outshot the Leafs, 24-19, though two.

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Claude Julien not ready to ‘blow up’ Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, Nathan Horton line 12.30.10 at 3:51 pm ET
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As the Bruins prepare to take on the Thrashers at Philips Arena, they do so with two lines producing: the Blake WheelerDavid Krejci - Michael Ryder line and the energy line of Brad Marchand, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton. With Campbell reportedly under the weather and considered a game-time decision, they may not even have that. All the more reason for the team’s top line to get going.

Since the post-Rancournament line shakeup (PRLS), the line of Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, and Nathan Horton has produced zilch. Savard and Horton picked up assists on Steven Kampfer‘s goal Tuesday night, but they did so when they were out there for the power play (the penalty expired seconds before the goal was scored). In the third period, Savard and Horton were shown the bench for a stretch of over seven minutes, and Horton finished the contest with a season-low 11:36.

Claude Julien told reporters that in trying to motivate a guy like Horton, you’ve got to know the player’s personality and find a means of motivation that works with that. He’s shown the players on the top line video and used other tactics. With many waiting on the trio to take the form many were excited about following the Horton trade, Julien also implied that patience could pay off.

“They’ve been together for three games. You have the choice of either working with them and trying to get that line going, because you know what the potential is, or you blow it up,” Julien said. “I don’t think we’re ready to blow it up right this second. Were going to try to work with these guys and hopefully get them going, because if they do, they’re going to be a dangerous trio.”

——

Tim Thomas was reportedly first off the ice in the morning skate, so in the most unsurprising news of the day, he’ll be in net. Quick: when was the last time Tuukka Rask started a game? If you said the Buffalo game 15 days ago, you have a good memory.

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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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Mark Recchi scores game-winning goal in final 20 seconds to lead Bruins past Lightning 12.28.10 at 10:12 pm ET
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Mark Recchi sent a wrist shot past Dan Ellis with 19.7 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Bruins a 4-3 victory over the Lightning on Tuesday night in Tampa.

Recchi’s goal was the B’s second power play tally of the night, as the Bruins were on the man advantage late in the contest thanks to a Steven Stamkos boarding call for a hit on Gregory Campbell.

Michael Ryder, Steven Kampfer, and Brad Marchand scored in the first, second, and third periods, respectively to give the Bruins leads in each period. Kampfer’s second-period tally was his first career NHL goal, while Marc Savard got his 700th point in assisting it.

The Lightning were able to tie the game following each of the B’s first three goals, getting tallies from Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.

Tim Thomas made 31 saves on the night and improved to 18-4-3 on the season. The Bruins will travel to Atlanta to face the Thrashers on Thursday.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

- Kampfer’s goal was the latest reminder that he has been just what the Bruins needed when they traded Matt Hunwick. Monday night’s blunder that led to David Booth‘s was the only time the 22-year-old’s style of play has cost the B’s, and he remains their best (and only) puck-moving D-man.

- The Bruins got Brad Marchand back. After missing three games with soreness caused by the crushing hit he took from P.K. Subban. Daniel Paille filled in admirably, but Marchand’s return to the lineup saw him grab his fifth goal, giving him as many as Tyler Seguin.

- The Bruins were able to draw penalties early on the penalty kill twice. With Milan Lucic in the box for hooking in the first, the Lightning power play lasted just five seconds before Stamkos went off for tripping Zdeno Chara.

In the second period, Blake Wheeler went off for high-sticking Dominic Moore, but Teddy Purcell was in the box 16 seconds later for holding. On the night, the B’s were 2-for-6 on the power play, while the Lightning went 1-for-5.

From the WEEI.com Stat Truck: In firing the shot that’s rebound led to Marchand’s goal, Shawn Thornton picked up his second assist of the season. That ties him with Thomas, who also has a pair of helpers.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

- Milan Lucic has now gone five games without a point. Prior to this stretch, which began Dec. 18 against the Capitals, Lucic had only gone two games without a point once. Lucic is a minus-2 throughout the streak. His linemate isn’t faring much better, as Nathan Horton had a season-low 11:36 of ice time, including a 3:09 first period.

- While a couple of rookies shined in Kampfer and Marchand, Seguin has been very quiet. He failed to get a shot on goal, and has now gone 10 games without a goal. He has just two points in those games.

- The B’s blew three leads in the game. The game featured plenty of back-and-forth, but the Bruins had the opportunity to close it out following Marchand’s goal in the third and failed to do so until the Stamkos penalty.

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Bruins look to pick up third straight win as they face Steven Stamkos’ Lightning at 5:14 am ET
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The Bruins, fresh off of jumping into first place in the Northeast division with their 3-2 shootout win over the Panthers on Monday, will take on the Lightning, who lead the Southeast division, on Tuesday night. It’s the second of five straight road games for the Bruins, and the second of three games in four days.

Vincent Lecavalier scored the game-winner for the Lightning on Sunday. (AP)

The last time the Bruins faced the Lightning, they won in blowout fashion, crushing Tampa Bay, 8-1, at TD Garden on Dec. 2. The two teams have split the season series thus far, as the Lightning grabbed a 3-1 win at St. Pete Times Forum on Nov. 22.

The Lightning have won six of their last seven games, while the Bruins are winners of their last two.

Tuukka Rask and Brad Marchand were the only Bruins to take the ice on Tuesday morning, suggesting it will be Tim Thomas in net.

WHERE IT’S AT

- The Lightning are 10-2-2 in Tampa and are a perfect 4-0-0 in home games this month.

- The Bruins are 10-5-1 on the road this season. Their shootout win on Monday was just their second road victory of the month, the first of which came on Dec. 1 in Philadelphia.

NOTABLE NUMBERS

- Steven Stamkos is back on track following his statistical hiccup that lasted from late November into the beginning of the month. He has scored seven goals in his last eight games and has 28 on the season.

- Milan Lucic‘s scoreless streak has now reached four games and he has one point in the last six contests. Lucic had two points when the B’s faced the Lightning on Dec. 2.

- David Krejci and Michael Ryder starred in that 8-1 Bruins victory over the Lightning earlier this month with three points apiece. Both Krejci and Ryder had a pair of points in Monday’s win over the Panthers, and with their line with Blake Wheeler clicking, they’re certainly a couple of players worth keeping an eye on.

- After having three goals entering last Thursday’s game vs. the Rangers, Vincent Lecavalier has doubled that in his last two games. He has a pair of goals in Sunday night’s 3-2 overtime victory over the Thrashers.

- After Monday, it’s now been five straight games without a start for Rask. If Thomas starts against the the Thrashers on Thursday, Rask will have gone more than two weeks without seeing any playing time. Thomas has been stellar in his last two starts, so the Bruins face some serious difficulty in trying to get Rask game experience to keep him sharp.

STORLYLINES GOING IN

- The Lucic – Savard – Horton line has not produced a goal in either of the two game s since it came into being in last week’s line shuffle. In fact, of the four non-special-teams goals the team has scored in the last two contests, half have come from Krejci, with Shawn Thornton scoring the other two.

- Will this one go to overtime, too? Judging by the opponent, it wouldn’t be surprising. The Lightning’s last three games have been decided either in overtime or a shootout. They’re 2-0-1 in that stretch.

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Marc Savard knows there’s nothing worse than being stale during the holidays 12.21.10 at 10:44 am ET
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It was supposed to be a festive night, featuring Rene Rancournaments handed out to 10,000 fans, the Bruins wearing their white home jerseys and the Bruins and Ducks on national TV.

Instead, it turnout out to be one big dud, filled with nothing for Boston hockey fans except the proverbial lump of coal in their stockings – and stale coal at that – which could never light a fire under the Bruins.

The Bruins got 45 shots on Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller but none of them found the back of the net. The Bruins were done in by the Jonas smother.

Even the great Rene Rancourt couldn't inspire the B's Monday.

“You can say we had forty-something shots, but a lot of them were one shot and out,” B’s center Marc Savard said. “We’ve got to dig down. I think the intensity level was lacking tonight on a lot of us and coach switched the lines there for the third. We seemed to have some more jump a bit, just to try and get some energy on the team because like I said, we were getting stale there a little bit.

“We created chances, but bottom line is that you’ve got to come to the rink and want results and I think, including myself, I’m probably top of the list right now I’m not getting any and then therefore, that’s not helping the team at all. So we’ve all got to look in the mirrors here. We’ve got one more before Christmas, it’s huge, and we need it.”

While their coach was ripping them moments later, Savard acknowledged that Claude Julien can’t do much more screaming at them.

“Claude is trying,” Savard added. “I mean, he can’t yell at us every single night. It gets long on him too, so it comes with the guys in the room here to pick up the slack and right now, that’s what we’ve got to do. Like I said, this one more before Christmas here, we’ve got to have a huge effort.”

Savard agreed with Mark Recchi, who told WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning that Thursday’s home finale before Christmas has turned into a must-win for the fragile psyche of the team.

Savard said he has no answers right now but knows they better appear Thursday against Atlanta.

“Well, yeah, I mean, I don’t have the answer for it,” Savard said. We’ve all just got to be that much more intense. Like I said, this one before Christmas is huge. We need it.”

Many people have been wondering about the near-term fate of Julien. But just as many – if not more – have wondered if the lineup and roster need a shake-up.

“No, I don’t think the lineup needs a shakeup,” Savard said. “We’ve got a good hockey club. We’ve just got to get it going here and work together as a unit and we’ll be fine. Our goalies are battling for us every night back there and we’ve just got to give them some support.”

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Bruins at Sabres preview 12.15.10 at 12:14 am ET
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The Bruins will take on the Sabres for the third time this season as the two teams face off in Buffalo on Wednesday night. The Bruins have points in their last six games (4-0-2) and have taken both of their meetings with the Sabres. Their most recent win over Buffalo came last Tuesday when Mark Recchi tipped a Dennis Seidenberg shot past Ryan Miller to give the B’s a 3-2 win in overtime.

Tuukka Rask was first off the ice for the Bruins, an indication he’ll be between the pipes come game time.

WHERE IT’S AT

Tim Thomas has won both of his starts against the Sabres this season. (AP)

- The Sabres are a sub-.500 hockey team (12-14-4) because of their struggles at home. Nine of their 14 losses this season have come in Buffalo, as they’ve posted a 6-9-1 record at HSBC Arena. They are 3-3-0 in their last six home games.

- The Bruins remain a more dangerous team when playing away from TD Garden. They’ve posted a 9-3-1 road record. They took a shootout loss to the Maple Leafs in their last road game.

NOTABLE NUMBERS

- Fighting majors aside, the Bruins have been avoiding the penalty box as of late. They had just one penalty in both Saturday’s game and last Tuesday’s Buffalo game, both of which contests went into overtime. The B’s are 15th in the league in penalty minutes per game (12.9), though that is helped by their 26 majors, a number that puts them fifth in the league despite tying seven teams for playing the least amount of games.

- Milan Lucic is on pace for 44 goals. Does anybody truly see him as a 40-goal-scorer? Variables such as empty netters and a couple softies have been on his side thus far, so while he may eventually slow down, he still figures the finish the season as the team’s top goal-scorer if he remains healthy.

- David Krejci has three points (all assists) against the Sabres this year. He’s only had three points against one other club, and he knocked that out in one game when he scored two goals and tallied an assist in the team’s 8-1 win over the Lightning. Krejci is also on a three-game point steak that began with his two assists last Saturday against the Sabres.

- Marc Savard and Tyler Seguin have combined for just two points — an assist apiece — since Savard made his return to the lineup on Dec. 2. One would have to assume the two will get going and that Seguin will eventually be big asset for Savard, but it simply hasn’t happened yet.

Savard’s ice time has generally been anywhere from 13:15 to 16:26, and he’s averaged 15:01 per night.

- Here’s a totally useless and hardly telling stat from the good ol’ WEEI.com stat truck: The Bruins have won the first game of a three-in-four stretch every time this year. In those games, they’ve grabbed wins in Buffalo (5-2 on Nov. 3), Pittsburgh (7-4 on Nov. 10), New York (3-2 over the Rangers on Nov. 17), and Philadelphia (3-0 on Dec. 1).

STORYLINES GOING IN

- Tim Thomas has started and won both of the team’s games against the Sabres thus far. It’s quite remarkable that Tuukka Rask is on pace for just 26 starts this season, but he’ll get his first crack at the Sabres Wednesday.

- Miller was dealing with a groin injury when the Bruins beat up on Jhonas Enroth and Patrick Lalime on Nov. 3, but he manned the pipes last Tuesday vs. the B’s. It wasn’t his best showing, as he allowed a bit of a softie to Lucic — letting a shot from a tough angle just sneak between his leg and the left post.

Miller is coming off a rough loss to the Penguins on Saturday. He allowed four goals on just 23 shots.

- It is up in the air whether the B’s will dress Tyler Seguin or Daniel Paille. Seguin didn’t play Saturday with what the team called flu-like symptoms, and Paille played well. Claude Julien told reporters that it would be a game-time decision.

- Adam McQuaid, who could have been badly injured on Jody Shelley‘s cheap shot Saturday, is also fine. Both players practiced Tuesday.

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