|Big Looch is back at Bruins practice||10.06.09 at 11:10 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Milan Lucic is skating free and easy without any trace of a limp on the top line along with Marc Savard and Marco Sturm in Tuesday morning’s Bruins practice at Ristuccia Arena. Big Looch missed Monday’s session with a non-hockey related issue that was essentially a tiny facial abrasion that got slightly infected, and was addressed medically Monday. The original bump on his kisser wasn’t sustained playing hockey, and Lucic is back on the ice Tuesday morning.
The “personal day” for Lucic had nothing to do with his legs or his right punching hand. Both were thrown out as speculation after Lucic abused Jay Harrison in a bloody brawl Saturday night during their win over the Carolina Hurricanes. But neither theory was the actual case with Lucic, who appears good to go against the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night.
–The Boston Bruins/Carolina Hurricanes fight-filled Saturday night opener for NESN earned a 3.9 household rating, which marks the network’s highest rated season-opening broadcast in 25 years of covering the Bruins. NESN’s 3.9 rating was also the highest average household rating recorded in the Boston DMA (designated market area) during the game’s 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm window, beating all other broadcasts and cable networks during that time period.
The network’s previous high rating for a season opening broadcast came during a Bruins 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on January 23, 1995 when the network earned a 3.8 rating for its first broadcast coming out of a lockout shortened season.
|Lucic not present at Bruins practice||10.05.09 at 2:37 pm ET|
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.”
|Bruins beat up Canes on and off the ice||10.03.09 at 9:51 pm ET|
With images of last year’s fist-filled Dallas Stars game dancing in their heads, the Bruins exploded on the score sheet and pounded the Hurricanes into submission in a 7-2 win at TD Garden Saturday night. The B’s came out firing after a disappointing opener against the Washington Capitals, and scored three quick goals against the Hurricanes in a dominant first period.
The buzzing B’s outshot the Hurricanes by a 21-7 margin in that first period and registered more shots in one energetic period against the Canes than during an entire lackadaisical game opening night against the Alex Ovechkin traveling band. Steve Begin, Derek Morris, Michael Ryder, Marco Sturm and Marc Savard all registered multi-point nights among 13 B’s names on the score sheet, and the victory was punctuated by a huge team-wide brawl at the end of the second period.
Last season’s work ethic finally kicked into gear one game too late, but all the telltale signs of last year’s team were evident in the effort toward power play opportunities and beating Carolina to every last loose puck.
“That’s mainly what we talked about yesterday all day and today. We talked about effort. If the effort was there a lot of things would fall into place,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “We needed more than the 1o minutes we got the other night, and we more or less got 60 [minutes] tonight.
“For us this was an opportunity to redeem ourselves and show the fans what opening night should have been like. It should have been more like tonight.”
Milan Lucic cut open Jay Harrison’s forehead with a punishing right during the first brutal fight, and an Andrew Alberts cross-check to Marco Sturm following the ensuing face-off sparked on a team-wide scrum. As NESN’s Jack Edwards so aptly said last season during a rout of the Canadiens, the Bruins beat Carolina badly on the ice and they beat them up.
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND AND NOTHING WILL EVER KEEP YOU DOWN: Steve Begin. The ex-Habs energy forward was single-handedly killing penalties, set up a pair of goals and amazed one and all with his hockey package of skill, skating speed and grit on the fourth line. Bruins fans are going to adore the former Montreal tough guy, and the love affair clearly started last night.
GOAT HORNS: Carolina’s blueline was pretty awful throughout Saturday night’s game without Joni Pitkanen, and there may not have been a slower pairing than Andrew Alberts and Aaron Ward. Both were minus-2 with bad turnovers all around the ice, and Alberts touched off the hockey pig-pile with a cheap cross-check. Alberts ended his night by picking a fight with Shawn Thornton, and getting beaten badly with a flurry of rights and lefts.
Here’s the Lucic/Harrison bloodbath courtesy of youtube:
Revenge was on the mind of several Bruins players Saturday morning headed into a game against a Carolina Hurricanes team that eliminated them in heart-wrenching overtime fashion in Game 7 last season.
It wasn’t the biggest or most prevalent thought after dropping a bomb against the Washington Capitals opening night, and the B’s know that priority number is getting their own hockey house in order. But hockey players have long memories when it comes to sudden, season-ending defeats with the kind of passion raised by a seven-game series leading to the conference finals.
B’s coach Claude Julien said he didn’t care what motivated his team – whether they needed the extra little oomph from last year’s series with the Canes or a public drubbing at the hands of the Caps was more than enough – but he expected a far different hockey team out of the gate and through 60 minutes in game No. 2.
“Is it revenge? Is it about this year, about winning a hockey game? It can be about a lot of different things,” said Julien. “I don’t care how the guys think about it. I just really care about us going out there, and it’s more about how we’re going to perform tonight than anything else. Whichever way they want to motivate themselves, that’s OK with me. We just have to bounce back from a tough outing.”
Julien pulled Lucic aside during Friday’s practice and had a long chat with his Hulk on skates, and it was most likely about the lack of first line impact in their 4-1 loss to the Caps. The trio totaled one shot on net through 60 uninspired minutes, and Lucic practically invited Alexander Ovechkin over for tea and crumpets when the Russian winger climbed through Big Bad Looch in the slot for his second goal of the night.
Plenty of the Bruins were still stuck in their hibernating slumber Thursday, and the Hurricanes just might be enough to poke the Bear in the cage.
“Obviously they’re a team that spoiled our season last year, and I think there’s a lot of thinking going into this game that [Carolina] would be a great team to get us on the right track,” said Milan Lucic. “They’d be a great team to get our first win against.
“It’s definitely not going to be easy and we expect them to come out hard. Everybody is still a little bitter about what happened last year. It’s only the regular season, but they’re a big two points that we need. Get that first win of the season, and it’d be a lot nicer if it comes against these guys. Not a lot of revenge, but just a little bit. Just enough [payback] to have a smile on your face when the game is over.”
The B’s and Canes had almost mirror-image openers – with the B’s losing on Thursday and Carolina dropping a similarly uninspired debut against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night – and both finished with 0-fers on the power play while struggling to put together offense.
With Tim Thomas in net and no discernible changes to the lineup after Saturday morning’s skate, here are a few thoughts from a select group of B’s players when asked what sticks in their mind from last season’s playoff defeat.
Lucic: “The way they came out. I was real impressed with the way they came out and put us back on our heels, and they put in a real team effort. Guys stepped up for them to score big goals. Just the way they were able to apply pressure and keep it on. I was definitely impressed with the way they were able to do that. We don’t expect anything less from them. The worst thing you can do is underestimate them because they played last night and think they’re going to come out slow. They’ll have that extra bit of jump to get that first win of the year.”
Byron Bitz: “Losing, I guess. That was just bitter. Especially the way we battled back in that series. To come up one goal short was pretty tough to take. You look at the lineup is pretty similar to what they have this year. It’s a new season. You don’t want to say ‘revenge’ but it’s important to come out tonight and have a pretty good effort. We played them seven hard games and it’s definitely still in our minds. I watched Game 7 on replay just at the start of camp and watched it. Didn’t get all the way through it. It was such a long game and I already knew the ending.”
David Krejci: “For me, it’s over. What happened last year happened. We know what happened last year, but it’s a new season and we’re looking forward to it. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m over it. I don’t want to go back to it. It was hard, and now we’re here with our team for this year. I don’t want to talk about losses. I just want to talk about the games we won.
Dennis Wideman: “There’s a little extra excitement tonight, and hopefully we can take it to them. When I think about that series, it’s about not playing our best. We didn’t play as good as we could, and we didn’t play like we did in that first series [against the Canadiens]. That’s what leaves the sour taste. If you play as good as you can and you still lost a series, then it’s a little easier to swallow than if you didn’t play as well as you can.
–Aaron Ward will be in his first game back at the Garden since the summer deal to the Carolina Hurricanes, and he’ll be paired with ex-Bruins defenseman Andrew Alberts. Ward has been a steadying, off-beat influence in the Carolina dressing room, and was exactly what the doctor ordered for team chemistry and defensive stability – the same kinds of things he brought to Boston for almost three years. He even has his own radio show in Carolina, something that isn’t shocking to Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice.
“He did a good job last night seeking out the puck carrier in our end and playing physical, which is what we know him to be from playing all those games against him last year,” said Maurice. “He’s a good calming veteran guy with a pretty wicked sense of humor. We like those guys around here. They keep things loose when the grind comes.
“He’s got a bit of a prankster in him. I think he enjoys it. I think you see that with guys like him when they get a little older and get more secure in their careers. When you’ve got three Stanley Cup rings you can probably enjoy the game a little bit. You have to have those kinds of guys in the room, and I think they’re really critical to how your [locker] room operates.”
|Chara, Bruins are ready for Ovechkin’s Capitals||10.01.09 at 12:21 pm ET|
It’s clear by the circumstances surrounding the Bruins season opener against the Washington Capitals that things have changed demonstrably for Boston in one season’s time. Big time.
The fact that the Black and Gold merit a national TV audience on Versus is one clue, and the marquee match-up against Alexander Ovechkin and the electric Caps is quite another. Milan Lucic was among the excited grouping of B’s forwards anxious to get things going in the B’s dressing room Thursday morning, and seemed poised to make a statement about Boston’s worthiness in the Eastern Conference scheme of things with millions of hockey eyeballs ready to bear witness.
“Everyone seems ready to go, and is pretty anxious for the puck to drop. Everybody can feel it in the air, and I think we’re all pretty excited to get things going,” said Lucic. “I see that we’re on Versus, so it’s big across the US and we want to start the season off right.
“When is the last time the Bruins had a chance to start at home? We’re excited to do that. We’ve obviously set the bar high for ourselves and we’re focused on being one of the top teams in the East this year. We need to just focus on ourselves and what we can do to get there this year.”
–The B’s have a couple of new mantras written on the walls within the Bruins dressing room that gives some insight into their goals for the upcoming season. Above the doorway from the dressing room to the hallway reads the painted slogan “Knowing is Not Enough: We Must Apply. Willing is Not Enough: We Must Do.” and above the lockers of goaltenders Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask reads a second painted sign that says: “We are What We Repeatedly Do. Excellence, Therefore, is Not an Act, But a Habit.”
–Confirmed with newly resigned B’s assistant general manager Jim Benning that Vladimir Sobotka does not have to clear through NHL waivers to rejoin Boston this season. Since the 22-year-old Czech Republic forward has been signed for less than three full years, he is exempt from re-entry waivers. It’s apparently an either/or scenario with the three years of service time or maximum of 70 games played as the ceiling, and Sobotka doesn’t have to fit into both criteria.
–Zdeno Chara always gets excited for the defensive challenge presented by high-powered offenses and NHL superstars like Alex Ovechkin, and the scoring threats don’t get any bigger than reigning Hart Trophy-winner Alexander the Great. The 32-year-old defenseman has learned not to get lulled into the one-on-one matchups against big time players like Ovechkin, but takes it as a personal challenge to bottle up the entire explosive Washington unit including Ovechkin, Mike Knuble, Alexander Semin and Mike Green among others.
“We know that [the Caps] have a skilled team and we have to be on top of our game. But it’s a team game and we have to play that way,” said Chara. “If you’re watching just one guy, then everybody else is getting the room. You have to play against them together as a team, and we know that we have to be disciplined as a unit especially when that first unit is on the ice.
“It’s good to have that challenging competition. You have to be on your best game, otherwise they’ll take advantage. That always brings the best out of me and the team. It’s not just me against Ovie, it’s our line against their line on the ice.”
–Claude Julien indicated that Steve Begin, Marco Sturm and David Krejci are all at full health for Thursday’s opener against the Caps and all will play — a scenario that became obvious when the B’s sent Vladimir Sobotka down to Providence on Wednesday afternoon. Begin will center a fouth line of Shawn Thornton and Byron Bitz, Krejci will center his customary line with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, and Sturm will ride the right wing on Boston’s top line alongside Marc Savard and Milan Lucic. No shock that any of the three are playing as they’ve been skating over the last three days leading up to Thursday afternoon.
|A resolution may be near for Kessel, Bruins||09.10.09 at 3:18 pm ET|
A fascinating multi-layered piece from Elliotte Friedman on his CBC blog on Wednesday afternoon appears to be a meaningful shot over the bow of Phil Kessel and agent Wade Arnott amid reports that Kessel has moved on from potential contract talks with the Bruins. According to a Boston.com account, hockey sources claim that Arnott has informed Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli that both player and agent are beginning to negotiate with the 29 other NHL teams holding potential interest in the restricted free agent.
Not much of a shock there as Kessel’s camp and the Bruins haven’t really spoken at all through an entire summer to negotiate a fair deal for the 21-year-old sniper. So now they’re moving on to teams that might be willing to pay the $4-5 million freight that Kessel’s market should likely bear on the free agent market. The B’s have roughly $1.7 million in cap space with training camp set to begin this weekend, and the two sides are looking at a contactual chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon. Tough to refute a lot of Friedman’s observations in a column culled from discussions with unnamed Bruins sources, but they are damning to Kessel nonetheless.
One thing should be added to Friedman’s revealing snapshot of Kessel from some eyes within the walls of Causeway Street. Kessel led the Bruins with 36 goals and was among the top 20 goal-scorers in the NHL last season while ranking 116th in the NHL in terms of power play ice time per game. That should give hockey followers an idea of how much higher his hockey production can rise. Kessel also missed a dozen games while fighting through mononucleosis and the late-season shoulder injury that resulted in off-season surgery, and would have easily cleared 40 goals had he remained healthy.
Among the interesting tidbits from Friedman are:
–Kessel wouldn’t play through a torn labrum and torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder until teammates informed the young winger that fellow teammates were playing through much worse injuries.
–The talented winger is a gifted skater and shooter that enjoyed a breakout season in 2008-09, but much of Kessel’s production was attributed to Kessel’s pairing with Marc Savard last season. Kessel needs to skate witha gifted passer that can get him the puck in spots where he can utilize his blazing speed, but that could be said of just about every scorer worth their salt in the NHL. Without a crafty playmaking “piece” like Savard skating with him, Friedman wrote, a Kessel experiment would fail.
–Kessel is compared to hulking winger Milan Lucic in terms of work ethic and willingness to improve his strengthwith weight room dedication, and Kessel isn’t looked upon favorably. There’s been whispers throughout Kessel’s years in Boston that the youngster is averse to needed weight room work and is slow to absorb constructive criticism from the coaching staff and teammates. It’s part of the reason he’s been mentioned prominently in trade rumors in each of his three seasons with the Bruins, and it’s why the goal-scorer is again on the verge of being dealt away to another NHL destination.
One other hockey fact that rings true about the Kessel/Lucic comparison: Looch is going to be a cornerstone player for years to come with the Bruins, but the youngster doesn’t possess the hands, speed and shot to score 36 goals in a season.
Kessel is also compared with 23-year-old Krejci, and again the goal-scoring phenom isn’t cast in a favorable light. Krejci is more respected in the room for playing through a hip injury that required surgery without a complaint during the season, and he was awarded with a three-year, $3.75 million contract that is actually viewed as very club-friendly in many circles.
The Bruins set something of a ceiling for Kessel in their own minds with the $3.75 annual salary awarded to the playmaking Krejci, but goal-scoring players with Kessel’s skill-set always command more salary than their assist-happy, two-way playing brethren. An elite – or potentially elite — goal-scorer is the most rare and valuable commodity in today’s NHL. Kessel is the only skater on the Boston Bruins roster with that kind of potential, and nobody can match his blend of speed, skill and wrist shot on the roster.
–Kessel has had some fairly well-documented run-ins with B’s coach Claude Julien during their two years together in Boston, and culminated in Kessel getting benched three games in favor or Jeremy Reich for the 2007-08 playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens. Reportedly they’ve argued on things as trivial as the stick that Kessel is using in games and the youngster isn’t very receptive to criticism of any kind.
Apparently the Bruins have also required “good cops” in the Bruins locker room — teammates on the winger’s side that make sure Kessel has the proper support system in place within the B’s dressing room. Kessel would be extremely uncomfortable under the Toronto microscope if that’s where he were to eventually end up when he’s ready to play in mid-to-early November. That situation would be further exacerbated if Kessel doesn’t have the very-same support system in place with the stern Ron Wilson and blustery Brian Burke running the Maple Leafs Show.
One unnamed Bruins teammate referenced Kessel’s combination of youth and immaturity, and assumed that he’ll learn as he gains age and experience. That should be true, and his goal totals should also grow as he gains more power play time and enters his hockey-playing prime. Ruling out growth and improvement in an asset so skilled as Kessel would be unwise, but it appears that too much water has already traveled under the bridge between player and hockey team. How many times does a player have to hear his name involved with aborted trade proposals before he begins to believe that his own hockey team truly doesn’t want him on the roster anymore?
Two? Three? Maybe four?
A difficult free agency negotiation and countless trade rumors during Kessel’s career have taken their toll on the essential bond of trust between player and organization, and it appears that the end is in sight soon. All that remains is to see what hockey sweater Kessel will wear next season. Because it certainly doesn’t appear that it’ll be the Black and Gold of the Spoked ‘B’.
|Lucic invited, Savard snubbed for Team Canada camp||07.02.09 at 12:44 pm ET|
It was a dream come true for Milan Lucic when the 20-year-old hulking winger found out he was among the 46 names invited to the Team Canada Olympic orientation/tryout camp this summer. The Vancouver, B.C. native had a career-best 42 points in 72 games for the Bruins during his second season in the NHL during 2008-09, and made a name around the league with his punishing body checks and physical presence at such a tender young age.
Marc Savard, on the other hand, was a notable name omitted from the preliminary Olympic list after getting plenty of support for the team during the NHL season after continuing to develop his two-way game under B’s head coach Claude Julien. Team Canada is loaded with talented centers among the 46 invitees, but most hockey observers would be hard-pressed to explain how St. Louis Blues center Andy McDonald is more Olympics-worthy than a two-time All-Star in Savard. Savard has averaged 89 points a season over the last four years and was a career-best +25 with the Bruins during a breakout year for the team.
Team Canada’s camp is scheduled from August 24-27 at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, and 46 players were identified Thursday morning as candidates for upcoming international events in the 2009-10 season: the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and 2010 IIHF World Championship.
The 46 invitees include: CANADA’S MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ORIENTATION CAMP ROSTER
Martin Brodeur (Montreal, Que./New Jersey, NHL), Marc-André Fleury
(Sorel, Que./Pittsburgh, NHL), Roberto Luongo (Montreal, Que./Vancouver,
NHL), Steve Mason (Oakville, Ont./Columbus, NHL), Cam Ward (Sherwood
Park, Alta./Carolina, NHL)
François Beauchemin (Sorel, Que./Anaheim, NHL), Jay Bouwmeester
(Edmonton, Alta./Calgary, NHL), Dan Boyle (Ottawa, Ont./San Jose, NHL),
Brent Burns (Ajax, Ont./Minnesota, NHL), Drew Doughty (London, Ont./Los
Angeles, NHL), Mike Green (Calgary, Alta./Washington, NHL), Dan Hamhuis
(Smithers, B.C./Nashville, NHL), Duncan Keith (Penticton, B.C./Chicago,
NHL), Scott Niedermayer (Cranbrook, B.C./Anaheim, NHL), Dion Phaneuf
(Edmonton, Alta./Calgary, NHL), Chris Pronger (Dryden,
Ont./Philadelphia, NHL), Robyn Regehr (Rosthern, Sask./Calgary, NHL),
Stéphane Robidas (Sherbrooke, Que./Dallas, NHL), Brent Seabrook
(Tsawwassen, B.C./Chicago, NHL), Marc Staal (Thunder Bay, Ont./N.Y.
Rangers, NHL), Shea Weber (Sicamous, B.C./Nashville, NHL)
Jeff Carter (London, Ont./Philadelphia, NHL), Dan Cleary (Carboneau,
N.L./Detroit, NHL), Sidney Crosby (Cole Harbour, N.S./Pittsburgh, NHL),
Shane Doan (Halkirk, Alta./Phoenix, NHL), Simon Gagné (Ste-Foy,
Que./Philadelphia, NHL) , Ryan Getzlaf (Regina, Sask./Anaheim, NHL), Dany
Heatley (Calgary, Alta./Ottawa, NHL), Jarome Iginla (St. Albert,
Alta./Calgary, NHL), Vincent Lecavalier (Île-Bizard, Que./Tampa Bay,
NHL), Milan Lucic (Vancouver, B.C./Boston, NHL), Patrick Marleau
(Aneroid, Sask./San Jose, NHL), Andy McDonald (Strathroy, Ont./St.
Louis, NHL), Brenden Morrow (Carlyle, Sask./Dallas, NHL), Rick Nash
(Brampton, Ont./Columbus, NHL), Corey Perry (Peterborough, Ont./Anaheim,
NHL), Michael Richards (Kenora, Ont./Philadelphia, NHL), Derek Roy
(Rockland, Ont./Buffalo, NHL), Joe Sakic (Burnaby, B.C./Colorado, NHL),
Patrick Sharp (Thunder Bay, Ont./Chicago, NHL), Ryan Smyth (Banff,
Alta./Colorado, NHL), Martin St-Louis (Laval, Que./Tampa Bay, NHL), Eric
Staal (Thunder Bay, Ont./Carolina, NHL), Jordan Staal (Thunder Bay,
Ont./Pittsburgh, NHL), Joe Thornton (St. Thomas, Ont./San Jose, NHL),
Jonathan Toews (Winnipeg, Man./Chicago, NHL)
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