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Is Lucic really up to full speed? 02.27.10 at 12:42 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — With 22 games left and a playoff spot up for grabs, the Bruins would like to know that they finally have everyone on their roster healthy and ready to contribute to the grind.

For Milan Lucic, that may not exactly be the case.

The Bruins were running 2-on-1 drills midway through practice on Saturday. Lucic was paired with Michael Ryder who backhanded a pass from behind the baseline that deflected off of the blade of Lucic’s skate. It must have buzzed through his bad ankle and his leg because the hulking left winger winced momentarily before resuming his spot in the drill.

“It was all good,” Lucic said. “That type of stuff happens all the time. It feels good, better since before the break. That is what is seems what the break was good for.”

Lucic still keeps the ankle pretty heavily taped but says that it is a precautionary measure.

“You kind of have to because it is so easy to re-injure that you want to be safe,” Lucic said. “I don’t like being taped before every game and every practice. It is a little different, a little annoying but it is something that you got to do to get through this.”

Coach Claude Julien more or less agreed with his forward and said that if Lucic thinks he is fine, Julien is not going to second-guess him.

“You have to take his word for what he is saying,” Julien said. “I am not going to second-guess him but an ankle injury is an ankle injury. Those things don’t totally disappear but I haven’t heard him complain about it and it is effecting him. Our trainers seem to think he is good. I think what you are seeing is more of a guy who has had so many setbacks this year that it is going to take him a while to catch up. I think that is what we talked about when he came back.”

Baseball players will tell you that wrist injuries are some of the hardest to really recover from because they tend to linger. Baseball players use their wrists for just about everything they do and every year you will see a plethora of hamate bone breaks and sheath tendon tears (Dustin Pedroia had the former, David Ortiz the latter). In hockey, the ankle is a similar type of malignant injury because it is hard to come back from considering all the stopping and starting skating requires.

The Bruins company line right now is that Lucic’s ankle is fine, yet it is easy to wonder how fine it actually is. Even after the initial buzz from Ryder’s pass that Lucic said “happens all the time” he still looked like he may have been favoring it at the end of the practice, especially after a puck battle drill in center ice. The battle went back and forth (kind of a “keep away” type of drill) and the pair broke towards the goal and Lucic slipped in the offensive zone. He came up wincing after and did not look like he wanted to put too much weight on the ankle.

No matter how well the ankle is actually feeling, do not look for the young wingman to miss any time unless another dramatic injury occurs. For now the ankle is well enough to play on and Lucic do so, no matter if it is slowing him down or not.

– The practice lines were the same they have been the last two days.

Saturday participation by sweater color:

White — Daniel Paille, Marc Savard, Mark Recchi

Grey — Blake Wheeler, Vladimir Sobotka, Michael Ryder

Red — Byron Bitz, Steve Begin, Lucic, Shawn Thornton

Defensemen — Dennis Wideman, Andrew Ference, Mark Stuart, Matt Hunwick, Derek Morris, Johnny Boychuk

Goaltenders — Tuukka Rask, Matt Dalton

Read More: Milan Lucic,
Recchi leads by example 02.26.10 at 1:11 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — It was your typical late-season practice at Ristuccia Arena on Friday. The Bruins did some battle drills, some rebound drills, shooting drills with the foam pads. For the most part it is a matter of getting their work in, back to full speed after a week-and-a-half watching the Olympics.

Towards the end of the session the Bruins forwards worked on rebound drills in front of the net. Veteran Mark Recchi looked to be taking the lead in the drill, as well he should. With 1550 career NHL games and 557 goals, Recchi knows how what it takes to make a living in the crease.

“Yeah, you look at what he does and since the first day that he was here, the thing he does so well is he stands and he is a good screener in front of the net and gets a good tip in front of the net. What he does is he stands right in front of the goaltender and he is right in front of the goalie’s face and you always give yourself a good chance to score when you do that.”

With all his experience, Recchi is the perfect type of tutor for the younger players on the roster learning the nuances of what it takes for a good screen. Recchi, for his part, is not all that vocal as a mentor. He trusts that the younger guys will see what he does and mimic the veteran’s movements.

“You don’t even really have to ask him, you just look and see what he is doing and that is why he has as many goals as he does,” Lucic said. “I think he has told me and [Wheeler] and other guys how he does it and it is kind of nice to learn from someone like him to see how it is done.”

Recchi agrees that he is more of a leader by example than a vocal presence.

“They come and work at it,” Recchi said. “It is not so much talking but a matter of working. You have to be willing to go there and they actually have been unbelievable at it and have gotten a lot of those little goals because of it.”

Recchi said the trick to being successful in front of the net is developing a lack of fear.

“Yeah, you can’t be afraid,” Recchi said. “You are going to get hit with pucks, whatever. We got got great defensemen who try to hit it smart. Sometimes you are going to get slashed or cross-checked. You have to be willing to pay the price to go there. A lot of the time it is not even creating tips. It is rebounds, creating traffic, creating some other opportunities for other guys. That is one thing you have to think about. It is not about you it is also about all the other guys.”

Coach Claude Julien sees the work that Recchi puts in with the younger guys and appreciates having a veteran like that on the roster.

“That is what you hope to see,” Julien said. “You hope that your veteran players, especially a guy like Mark who has been around the block not once, but probably a few times, you know. He has been good with the kids. He is willing to share his knowledge and he is willing to share also what he would have wanted to know when he was that age and I think that has really helped our young players to be a little more hungry and willing to learn the things that sometimes you don’t always want to learn.”

Standing in front of the net is not an easy job in the NHL but Recchi has a way about him that proves contagious to the rest of the players.

“Coaches will always say, you know, when you can get your team to do some things that they may not like doing but they know will make us better, that is when you know you have your team going in the right direction,” Julien said. “I think that is part of what Mark does with some of those guys. It is like ‘hey, it is not fun to stand in front of the net and you may not like it, but if that is what is going to give you success then you should be willing to do it.’ That is what he has done and he has shared those tidbits with the players and it has been good.”

Does Lucic see a career as a coach in Recchi’s future?

“Yeah, I definitely think so,” Lucic said. “He knows the game, he is smart and, you know, he has played in every situation so he knows what it is like. I think definitely he could make a pretty good coach some day.”

For his part, Recchi has no interest in being a coach on the professional level. He owns 12.5 percent of the Kamloops Blazers in his native British Columbia and partners with other NHL players such as Jerome Iginla. Coaching may not be in Recchi’s future but that does not mean he will leave hockey behind.

“No coach,” Recchi said. “Maybe my kid. My boys is eight and maybe I would coach him. I like the management part more than I like the coaching part. I would like to build a team more than [coaching] them. I am part owner of the Kamloops Blazers so, I am able to watch it and be part of something like that, be part of some of the juniors teams. So, you know, we will see. I would like to get involved in organization at some point and kind of see where it goes from there. Before that I want to take time and see my kids and my family and see where it goes from there and figure it out. It intrigues me and something that I would really like to do but it is also very time consuming.”

Friday participation by sweater color:

White — Daniel Paille, Marc Savard, Mark Recchi

Grey — Blake Wheeler, Vladimir Sobotka, Michael Ryder

Red — Byron Bitz, Steve Begin, Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton

Defensemen — Dennis Wideman, Andrew Ference, Mark Stuart, Matt Hunwick, Derek Morris, Johnny Boychuk

Goaltenders — Tuukka Rask, Matt Dalton

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Mark Recchi, Milan Lucic,
Ference: Time to go to war 02.25.10 at 7:04 pm ET
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Tying up the loose ends from practice. Andrew Ference is ready for the stretch run, Milan Lucic got to take in the festivities in downtown Vancouver and Claude Julien gives his thoughts on the break and the Olympics.

Ference was not sure if he was going to be able to play before the break but with Johnny Boychuk taking a puck to the face before the four-game road trip, he was pressed into duty sooner than he had envisioned. It took him a game or so to get back into the swing of things but said that he was ready to go.

“It was good. We didn’t have any back-to-back games, which was good. Had a chance to recover the next day and everything was good. Plus, we won, which makes a big difference,” Ference said.

Ference said his body held up well and it was just a matter of regaining his timing.

“They definitely had me ready to play. It wasn’t a situation where it made anything worse. It was just a matter of regaining the timing but everything worked,” Ference said “The first game I was pretty conservative. Just made sure that I didn’t get into any bad situations. Just the reaction time  and being a little slower but just getting that first game out of the way and getting back to normal.”

The Bruins are as healthy now as they have been all season which will be a big benefit in the frenetic pace that will be the final month-and-a-half of the regular season. Ference said that it is not a time to hold back.

“I don’t think anybody is feeling sorry because it is going to be the same for every single guy in the league,” Ference said. ” We knew that going into this year, you know, everything Olympic year is tight,” Ference said. “That whole playoff run, so, you obviously have to take care of yourself and keep yourself in good health. Other than that you just have to go to war. You can’t try to conserve yourself or stay out of trouble during the game. You have to go full on, it’s a battle and on the rest days you rest. You rest hard.”

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Read More: Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Milan Lucic,
Bruins breakdown: The fast lane 02.24.10 at 12:22 pm ET
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We continue our Bruins breakdown at the break with the men in the passing lane. On Monday the centers got their attention and Tuesday was for the men riding shotgun. Wednesday is for the men who like to skate fast and hit hard — the left wings.

The group is split by two players who like to let their speed make statements, Marco Sturm and Daniel Paille, and two men who often let their fists do the talking, Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton.

On Thursday we will look at the top three defensemen on the roster and the three back blue liners on Friday before finishing up with the goaltending situation on Saturday.

Without further ado  . . . .

Sturm — Last September the Big Bad Blog took a look at what Sturm would mean to the Bruins offense this year. The idea was that Sturm would be able to fill in the goal-scoring production of the departed Phil Kessel and, if the rest of the team played to its 2008-09 levels, then the Bruins would still be near the top of the leading in scoring.

So much for that.

Last season the Bruins were second in the league in scoring with 3.29 goals per game, almost all of which was done without Sturm because of a knee injury. This year the Bruins have receded to below 2006-07 and 2007-08 levels when they scored 2.56 and 2.51 goals per game, respectively. At 2.35 goals per game this season the Bruins are dead last in the NHL in scoring with the next closest team (Edmonton at 2.43) almost a full tenth of a point ahead of them.

Call it the curse of Sturm.

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Read More: Daniel Paille, Marco Sturm, Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton
Bruins aim to tame faltering Panthers 02.12.10 at 9:08 pm ET
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Everybody wants to be on an island in south Florida in the winter.

Well, unless your name is Tomas Vokoun.

In a letter to their fans on Friday, Florida Panthers managing partners Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel had some direct words on what they think of the current direction of their hockey club:

Excerpt –

Clearly, we are not satisfied with some of the players on this team that do not possess the characteristics we need to be successful. We must be accountable for that. Our task moving forward is to acquire players with the attributes, skills and qualities we want in a Panthers player. We must admit the significant shortcomings we have as an organization, and we must move quickly and efficiently to overcome these shortcomings and reshape this franchise on a much more solid foundation.

Translation? We are blowing the doors off this roster and starting from scratch.

The Panthers are having the direct opposite reaction to a horrendous streak than the Bruins. Where as Peter Chiarelli has been patient and waited for Marc Savard and Milan Lucic to come back healthy and productive and has been rewarded with three straight wins this week, Panthers general manager Randy Sexton cannot seem to wait to break up his roster. Heading into Saturday’s game Florida only stands six points from a playoff birth but it probably is looking at the teams ahead of it (like the Bruins) and has made the determination that the roster, as currently situated, does not have the talent or chemistry to break out of the funk.

That is where Vokoun comes in. The Panthers goaltender is having a good season and played well recently, despite Florida’s five-game losing streak. Vokoun is 5-7-1 in his last 13 games with a 1.77 goals against and .947 save percentage but is hampered by the fact that the Panthers are perhaps the worst defensive team in the league giving up 34.1 shots a game does not help the stalwart backstop. On top of that Florida is on an 11-game streak where it has scored two goals or less. Sound like the Bruins recent woes? Yeah, just about.

Without Vokoun, the Panthers would not even be sniffing a playoff spot and he may be the only player on the Panthers’ roster that might not be on the move. He has another year left on his deal and a no-trade clause. Sexton has stability at the most fickle position in the game and, if he is thinking clearly, should not mess with a good thing and build from the backstop on out. Trading Dominic Moore to the Canadiens for a second round pick on Thursday was a good start and there will probably be more trades on the way.

On the Bruins side of the aisle, things are looking better. The team looks to incorporate the lessons it has learned in the positive week before the Olympic break and continue them in Sunrise on Saturday. Twice this week the Bruins have broken the two-goal barrier that had been holding them back and Tuukka Rask has made them stand up (despite barely hanging on after being spotted a five goal lead on Thursday). Rask is 3-0-2 in his last five straight starts with a .942 save percentage and will likely start against the Panthers.

Miroslav Satan will miss the game after suffering a laceration on his hand in a first period hit into the boards on Thursday. Satan flew back to Boston and had the hand looked at and the report is that there is no tendon damage but rather just a fresh cut that will keep him out on Saturday. Coach Claude Julien could not comment on whether or not the cut will keep him from playing with Team Slovakia in Vancouver but suspected that Satan would probably play. Lucic and Shawn Thornton did not practice on Friday because of reported food poisoning but are expected to go on Saturday.

Read More: Florida Panthers, Milan Lucic, Miroslav Satan, Shawn Thornton
Bruins hold off Lighting for third straight 02.11.10 at 10:16 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins scored four first period goals en route to a 5-4 victory over the streaking Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa Bay on Thursday. Michael Ryder had two goals and an assist in the first and Milan Lucic added to tip-in goals to pace the Bruins attack. Tuukka Rask won his third straight game for Boston with 30 saves and now has earned points in five straight. The Lightning came back on Boston with two second period goals and another in two in the third before the Bruins were able to put the game away.

Antero Niittymaki let in the four first period goals on 21 shots before being pulled for Mike Smith to start the second.

Ryder almost had a natural hat trick in the first. He got an assist on Lucic’s first goal with a shot from the point that the big forward deflected on its way passed Niitymaki. Ryder scored twice later in the period with the first coming courtesy of a give-and-go on the rush with Blake Wheeler and then another on the power play off a shot from Marc Savard to make it 4-0.

Lucic was credited for his second of the game in the second period when the Bruins made it 5-0. Lucic tipped a shot off a turn-and-blast from Zdeno Chara in the high slot that found its way through Smith’s pads.

The Lightning came back late in the second on the power play when Martin St. Louis picked up two goals in the final four minutes as the Bruins picked up a couple questionable penalties. Steve Downie scored the third and fourth goals for Tampa Bay in the third period.

Three Stars

Michael Ryder — The Bruins winger had his 15th career three-point game and has eight goals in nine career games against Niittymaki. His two goals give him 15 on the season.

Milan Lucic — The big bodied Bruin got credit for two goals on the night with deflections in front of the Lightning net. Lucic now has five goals on the year.

Martin St. Louis — Tampa Bay’s veteran forward had two second period goals and now has seven in the Lightnings’ last six games.

Turning Point

Boston’s third goal of the game was one of the best of the year for the Bruins. Ryder tipped a backhand tip pass to Wheeler who immediately gave it back to catch Niitymaki completely out of position. Ryder rammed the puck home and followed it with a trip/dive into the net to give the Bruins the 3-0 lead. Boston had taken 2-0 leads in its past four games but this was the first time in a long time that the Bruins were able to take a three-goal advantage in the first period.

Key Play

Lucic scored his second of the game on a tip in the second period to make it 5-0. The goal become important as the Lighting would score four straight through the end of the second period into the third to make it a one-goal game with 8:51 left before the Bruins were able to put it away.

Read More: Martin St. Louis, Michael Ryder, Milan Lucic, Steve Downie
Ryder and Bruins jump on Lightning at 8:29 pm ET
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The Bruins have not been able to score four goals in a game for a while. Let alone four in a period.

The Bruins took a first period lead when Miroslav Satan beat Antero Niittymaki with helpers from Derek Morris and Marc Savard at 4:24. Satan took advantage of  defenseless Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman who had lost his stick up the ice and was unable to support Niittymaki in front of the net. The Bruins have scored the first goal in five straight games dating back to last Tuesday against the Capitals. That streak includes four straight 2-0 leads starting last Thursday against Montreal.

Make it five.

Milan Lucic gave the Bruins the two-goal advantage at 11:21 when he may (or may not have) tipped a Michael Ryder shot from the point that was just enough to make it passed Niitmaki. Ryder’s shot went through both Lucic and Lightning defenseman Matt Smaby and it was not clear if Lucic actually got a stick on it though it definitely touched Smaby. At this point the officials are crediting Lucic with the goal, his fourth of the year.

Ryder would make up for it on one of the nicest looking goals of the year when he went give-and-go with Blake Wheeler in front of Niittymaki. Ryder had a backhand pass to Wheeler on the dot who returned it immediately for the easy one-timer into the net. Ryder followed the puck and climbed out of the goal with a fist pump and a three goal lead.

Ryder would make it 4-0 1:35 later on the power play (Steve Downie four-minute roughing 16:41). Savard skated from the left half wall and put a wrist shot on Niittymaki that the goaltender deflected to the back wall. It bounced back up for Ryder who deposited it in the top corner for the Bruins first four goal game in about a month. Ryder now has 15 goals on the year.

The Lightning would not get a shot on Rask for the final 13 minutes of the period and the Bruins head to the locker room with a sizable shots margin.

Shot through first:

Bruins — 21

Lightning — 13

Read More: Antero Niittymaki, Michael Ryder, Milan Lucic, Miroslav Satan
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