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Big minutes coming for the blueliners 04.07.10 at 12:39 pm ET
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Dennis Seidenberg became the latest Boston blueliner to be sidelined when he had surgery on his forearm Tuesday. (AP)

Dennis Seidenberg became the latest Boston blueliner to be sidelined when he had surgery on his forearm Tuesday. (AP)

WILMINGTON — What happens when the core disintegrates?

You could take the movie version like in that terrible version of a modern B movie “The Core” in which there are a lot of mysterious lightning storms that happen to strike over Rome as an example. Or maybe in the new blockbuster “2012″ in which the world tears itself to shreds and humanity’s elite are forced to take refuge in the digital age version of the ark. Either way, it was not that pretty.

Perhaps not quite as dramatic, but the Bruins have relied on steady defense and goaltending this year to put themselves in position to make the playoffs despite their league-worst offense. Yet, in the last week, the Bruins have had two of their top three defensemen need to have surgery and their best blueliner and captain break his nose. Mark Stuart will miss about two weeks after having surgery for cellulitis in his finger and Dennis Seidenberg is out for the rest of the season (barring some miraculous playoff run) after having surgery to fix a lacerated flexor carpi radialis tendon in his left forearm that he sustained in the first period against Toronto on Saturday.

The Seidenberg surgery came more out of the blue because it seemed that he was all right on Tuesday after he talked to the media, giving no indication that an operation was imminent.

“I think in the morning he felt pain and obviously before the game we tried something with him and in the warmup he still felt pain,” coach Claude Julien said. “In the short time I have known him I think it is pretty obvious that he is a tough individual, so for him not to go something was obviously wrong and the diagnosis we got from Toronto was not the same diagnosis we got here.”

Add to that the perpetual mystery that is Andrew Ference (out for the regular season but being evaluated every day) and Boston has all of a sudden become very light on the back end.

Practice at Ristuccia on Wednesday looked a little more like training camp than a team preparing for its final three games in a season in a playoff race. Adam McQuaid and Andrew Bodnarchuk have been recalled to the Bruins from Providence, and the ways things are going they are up for longer than just the usual “emergency basis.” On the offensive side, Trent Whitfield and Brad Marchand are not exactly the players one would expect to see on the roster in early April, but so it goes. (To be fair, Marchand and Whitfield have earned their extended cups of coffee.)

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Read More: Adam McQuaid, Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Dennis Seidenberg
Bruins look to sustain momentum versus Sabres 03.29.10 at 12:14 pm ET
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The Bruins will host Ryan Miller and the Sabres Monday night at TD Garden as they try to continue the push to make the playoffs. Boston currently holds the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, two points behind both Philadelphia and Montreal and two points ahead Atlanta. Blake Wheeler said it best this morning after the morning skate “one bad night and we could be in ninth.”

Buffalo, as a divisional opponent, is a team that the Bruins are familiar with and one of the only teams ahead of them in the standings that they can claim any significant success against. In the first four matches of the series this year the Boston is 3-1 against the Sabres and have outscored them 11-4. The Sabres have a five point lead on Ottawa for the division title and are only two points behind Pittsburgh for the No. 2 seed in the conference.

“You are playing the top team in our division, you are playing against a pretty good goaltender who has been good for them all year, a big key to their success” coach Claude Julien said. “A team, I think, over the course of the season that we have played very well. Again, these are big games for every team right now. They are trying to move up, not just in the division but in the conference. It is going to be a tough game tonight but we are up to it. I think our team understands the important-cy of every game and it is something we have to shown every night from here on in.”

Keeping the energy up and the skates moving has been a key for the Bruins this year. The bottom line is that any momentum that the Bruins generate is dependent on their compete level coming out of the gate.

“The effort the last four games has been pretty consistent so I think the guys are pretty happy,” forward Shawn Thornton said. “Come with energy, I suppose. It has to be from the drop of the puck. Can’t wait. You have to carry [the momentum], I don’t know the exact formula but we have to do it.”

“He has done some really good things and there are some things that we have wanted him to get better at,” Julien said. “I think he is a very willing individual and wanting to get better and showing signs of a guy who wants to improve in the areas we want him to.”

– Andrew Ference will not play tonight as he continues to battle a hernia/groin injury that will require off-season surgery.

“We continue to get him checked out. Hopefully by the end of the day we will be a little clearer on his status,” Julien said.

With Ference out, Matt Hunwick will take his spot on the blue line. Hunwick has not had the best of sophomore seasons with a team high plus/minus of -16 for the year.

“He has done some really good things and there are some things that we have wanted him to get better at,” Julien said. “I think he is a very willing individual and wanting to get better and showing signs of a guy who wants to improve in the areas we want him to.”

Hunwick’s younger brother, Shawn, was the goaltender for the Michigan hockey team that lost on Sunday night to Miami of Ohio in the regional finals before the Frozen Four. He made 32 saves but the RedHawks topped the Wolverines in double overtime. Matt said that he watched the game and had not talked to his brother but had sent him a text.

“I told him to keep his head up and that he played really well,” Hunwick said. “He was one of the reasons they got to the tournament and do so well down the stretch … There is not too much to say, sent him a text and told him to keep up.”

– Tim Thomas was the first goaltender off the ice  this morning which is a good indication that he will be the starter tonight.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Matt Hunwick, Ryan Miller
Bruins breakdown: The puck movers 02.27.10 at 5:29 pm ET
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The second to last installment of our Bruins breakdown at the break focuses on the portion of the team where the Bruins never seem to have enough — puck moving defensemen.

This group, consisting of Andrew Ference, Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick has not been the bright and shining beacon of hope that the Bruins would like to see from three relatively talented individuals. Injury and inconsistency has the Bruins thinking a trade for another puck mover at the deadline might be in order for the second year in a row.

Ference – The problem with Ference is that his body is a ticking time bomb. He has not played in 60 games in a season for the Bruins since being acquired from the Flames in Feb. 2007. He played in 82 for the Calgary in 2005-06 and a combined 80 between the Flames and Bruins in 2006-07. Since then the his high is 59 for the Bruins in 2007-08. With 46 games played so far this year and 22 left to play, there is a chance for him to actually play in most of the Bruins games this season.

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Read More: Andrew Ference, Dennis Wideman, Matt Hunwick,
How The Bruins Broke The Slump 10.11.09 at 12:42 am ET
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There is a formula for success that works for just about every facet of life you can imagine: K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple, stupid.

This principle is especially pertinent in hockey. If players start pushing too hard, gripping their sticks and getting cute with the offense then there is a good probability that their team will not score. That was essentially the problem with the Bruins for the first 52 minutes in tonight’s 4-3 come-from-behind shoot-out victory over the New York Islanders.

The Bruins ended up with a respectable 30 shots but it took a flurry at the end to get to that point. As of 9:50 in the third period the Bruins had 17 shots with only three in the period. Not a good combination for a team looking to overcome a 3-0 deficit. Until that point the Bruins were flat, had problems controlling the puck and thus sustaining momentum against one of the lesser-skilled teams in the NHL. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Byron Bitz, Marc Savard, Matt Hunwick
Bruins fall silent to the Ducks after strong start 10.08.09 at 9:28 pm ET
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Thursday night might turn out to be one of the oddest games of the year for the Bruins, who appeared even in shot totals on the final score sheet but did nothing to control play over the final two periods of play. After a 1-o lead through the first 20 minutes — one that might have been more if the B’s could have finished a few more opportunities — the Ducks ripped off six, count ‘em six unanswered goals in a 6-1 thrashing over the B’s at TD Garden.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the evening was how little fight the Black and Gold Bears had in them after taking a few punches from the Ducks during the decisive second period.

“When you’ve got to talk about the fourth line being your hardest working line all the time, then it doesn’t bode well for your hockey club,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “I’m not going to start picking on individuals tonight because we had too many guys that were not going. I’ll just have to deal with the dirty laundry inside that dressing room.”

Once again the fourth line was probably Boston’s best all night and both Shawn Thornton and Steve Begin actually registered three shots on goal apiece after just one period of play. But the Bruins began practicing the art of undisciplined play in the second period, and the ageless Finn, Teemu Selanne, potted a pair of power play strikes in a throwback performance.

Boston’s only score turned out to be Marco Sturm’s first period strike created on a nifty backhanded saucer pass from playmaker Marc Savard. Sturm rifled a slapshot from the left faceoff dot that trickled through Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller’s pads to give Boston a brief 1-0 lead at the 16:33 mark. The B’s followed with more offensive threats, but couldn’t put anything else past Hiller. The B’s also finished out a perfectly horrid evening by throwing up an 0-for-6 on the man advantage.

The B’s didn’t show a lot of fight after Corey Perry capped off Anaheim’s three-goal second period with a pretty one-man rush that had Boston’s defense standing still. That plume of smoke visible on television was steam coming out of the ears of Julien after another stink bomb thrown down so early in the season.

YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND, AND NOTHING’S GONNA EVER KEEP YOU DOWN: Teemu Selanne. The 39-year-old flying Finn hadn’t registered a point in Anaheim’s first two games, but did some major damage on the Ducks power play against the Bruins. Give Selanne’s teammates credits for setting him up with shots in places where he could do plenty of damage in tight close to the net.

GOAT HORNS: Matt Hunwick. He’s been off to a slow start coming back from surgery, and he’s looked pretty uncomfortable playing off his strong side at right defense paired with Mark Stuart. The Ducks scored their first PP goal on his interference penalty and he was caught standing still on Perry’s strike. He also allowed Evgeny Artyukhin to go wide on him for Anaheim’s fourth goal in the third period. Hunwick finished a minus-2 for the evening, and is still trying to find his game.

Read More: Marco Sturm, Matt Hunwick, Teemu Selanne,
Lucic not present at Bruins practice 10.05.09 at 2:37 pm ET
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Lucic wasn't present at practice, but he's expected to live amid ominous reports

Lucic wasn't present at practice, but he's expected to live amid ominous reports

WILMINGTON — Bruising Bruins winger Milan Lucic wasn’t present at practice Monday morning at Ristuccia Arena, but the 21-year-old winger wasn’t missing in action as a result of the fight-filled action against the Hurricanes. B’s coach Claude Julien confirmed following practice that it was a non-hockey related situation, and Lucic will be back practicing with the team Tuesday.

A Bruins source confirmed that the issue had nothing to do with his right punching hand or either of his legs — amid swirling reports that the big winger was seen limping out of the building Saturday night — and it was truly a very minor situation. Matt Hunwick, who bounced between defenseman and forward last season, replaced Lucic on the left wing skating with Marc Savard and Marco Sturm on Boston’s top line during practice.

If it were something more serious with Lucic, clearly the Bruins would have reconfigured the lines or called Vladimir Sobotka back up from Providence to rejoin the team. Neither of those things happened, and the lean, mean B’s fighting machine will be back in the practice fold tomorrow preparing for Thursday night against the Anaheim Ducks.

“He was excused for non-hockey related, personal issues,” said Julien. “He’ll be back tomorrow.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Matt Hunwick, Milan Lucic,
Hunwick learning to stay within his game at 2:23 am ET
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It ended up being nothing but an afterthought as the Bruins went all FEMA in shuttering the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night, but it was a significant third-period goal for second-year defenseman Matt Hunwick in extended garbage time. The 5-foot-10, 187-pounder struggled to regain his feel early in the preseason, but all it took was one aggressive offensive play to conjure up images of the playmaking defenseman that carved a spot for himself by the end of last season.

Hunwick scored the seventh and final goal for the B’s in the rout over the Canes, and tasted a bit of on-ice revenge despite never making it past one playoff game against the Canadiens. Hunwick was crunched against the boards in that brutally physical Game 1, and the defenseman quickly bowed out of the series with a ruptured spleen.

That seemed like a million hockey years ago, though, as the 24-year-old logged time on the penalty kill and even earned a few power play minutes in the weekend rout. He’s still clearly not where back to the level he finished at last season, but he’s getting closer to form when he’s logging minutes on Boston’s man advantage in the third period while playing in Julien’s meritocratic team structure.

“It’s nice to know that my role on the team is appreciated, and I’m just going to keep doing the things that got me here in the first place,” said Hunwick. “I think physically coming into camp I felt great, and I think on-ice it took me at least a week to feel comfortable. During the summer you try to emulate what you’ll do [during the season], but it’s never the same. It took a little while [to feel good in camp] but it’s getting to the point where I’m feeling pretty good.”

Saturday night’s power play tally was a solid reminder of the dynamic, unpredictable presence that Hunwick can bring to the B’s defenseman corps when he’s playing with confidence and surety. It’s a look that’s pretty varied from the skill sets employed by the other members of Boston’s defensemen crew. Hunwick employs a loose, freelance style on the offensive end when it’s permissible, and picks crucial spots to pinch in from his spot near the blue line.

It’s exactly how the young defenseman converged on his power-play strike. Marco Sturm spotted Hunwick moving in toward the backdoor from his left point position, and the young defenseman didn’t miss his mark when Sturm zipped it on his tape at the far post. Perfect executive. Perfect offensive aggression. Pretty damned close to a perfect power play possession.

There was a legitimate, built-in excuse for Hunwick, of course, when he progressed a bit slowly in the preseason while coming off the splenectomy surgery. The blueliner endured a busy offseason that was probably a bit more jumbled than even he might have liked. Hunwick spent the first half of his summer gaining weight and muscle back after losing more than 10 pounds following his emergency surgery, and then spent several weeks waiting for a new contract with the Bruins.

It all worked out as Hunwick regained full health and was back near his playing weight by the time September arrived, and he worked out an amicable agreement with the Bruins for a two-year, $2.9 million contract. The deal served as a healthy pay raise for a defenseman that finished tied for top scorer among rookie defenseman in the NHL last season, but it also had its price. The shiny new contract perhaps raised expectations for Hunwick within a team that’s already living in a world of raised expectations this season, and the results have been a slow process. 

“Practicing with his teammates certainly helped, and he’s just got to keep going about regaining that confidence,” said Julien of Hunwick. “With some guys they’re out there looking to justify their new contracts and other guys are going into their contract years. There are a bunch of different situations, but the bottom line is that you need to go out there and play.

“What you do as coaches is bringing them back and letting them know that you shouldn’t do more because you’re looking for a new contract. And you shouldn’t be putting more pressure on yourself because you’ve got a new contract, and think you should be helping the team more. You go out there, and you’re either rewarded or you will be rewarded for your play. Sometimes less is more. You’ve heard me say that quite a bit. With [Hunwick] he wants to show that he’s a big part of our hockey club, and all he has to do is play the way he did last year. For me, he was as good a defenseman as we had for a while there last year.  

Julien recognized a player in Hunwick that was perhaps trying a little too hard to justify the extra zeroes in his bank account, but the young defenseman wasn’t any kind of lost cause. He was instead quick to say that it’s only a matter of time before Hunwick settled back into his second-half game, and his first goal of the season and 17:16 worth of ice time were both encouraging starting points.

Read More: Claude Julien, Marco Sturm, Matt Hunwick,
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