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Milan Lucic on D&H 11.24.09 at 2:44 pm ET
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Bruins forward Milan Lucic, who returned to the ice last week after missing roughly a month with a broken finger, joined the Dale & Holley Show on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the recent improved play of the Bruins, the impact of Marc Savard’s return and his decision to sign a long-term deal to stay in Boston.

A transcript of highlights is below. To listen to the complete interview, click here.

The Bruins are starting to look a little better. Are you guys happy with the effort the last few games?

Yeah, definitely. We were able to get on a little bit of a roll here, especially on the road, it’€™s a lot tougher winning on the road than it is winning at home, so for myself it’€™s just nice to get back in the lineup, get some wins, and move up in the standings a bit.

When you guys were struggling, did it ever cross your mind that effort was a problem? Would you simplify it and say yes, we just weren’€™t trying hard enough, was that the issue?

I think it was a consistency and ever since I’€™ve been back here the last few games I think that’€™s what we’€™ve improved on, giving a consistent work ethic throughout the game. We’€™ve been able to apply a full 60 minutes of playing hard, and sticking to the game plan, I think that’€™s what’€™s made us successful, and that’€™s what made us get the ball rolling again and get some wins.

How hard is it to come back off a long term injury and how long it takes to knock the rust off? Savard admitted he was a little rusty last night, you slipped right back into scoring goals when you came back into the lineup. Did you feel rusty?

I felt pretty good when I came back in. Me and Savard, our injuries were a little bit different. I was still able to skate, I had the broken finger there so my conditioning was still good and all that type of stuff. They did a really good job keeping me in shape ‘€“ the trainers, and whoever I was working with ‘€“ so when I came back, my conditioning wouldn’€™t be a problem. I’€™ve been able to fit back in nicely with that, and for myself when you’€™re not in the lineup for a long time, you’€™re just really excited and anxious to get back and I think that’€™s what I’€™m doing, playing with a lot of excitement and having a lot of fun.

Anybody who has ever played with Marc Savard is usually very happy about it, those numbers go up when Marc Savard is on your side. What does he do that maybe a lot of us don’€™t see or that you have to know by playing with him?

Firstly, he wants the puck. He’€™s a guy that’€™s a puck possession guy and he wants it all the time. So he’€™s a guy that’€™s very demanding of himself and his line-mates that he wants results and he wants to go out there and contribute every night getting goals and assists, and the thing about him is he’€™s got eyes all around his head, it’€™s funny if you get open for him, he’€™ll find you even when you’€™re not looking at him. That’€™s what makes him such a great player, and for myself I was happy to play with him and have such a successful year with him last year.

Is it kind of like that off the ice too? If you’€™re walking somewhere and Savard is not looking, do you always feel like he cans see you? Does he always have that kind of vision?

Yeah, he’€™s always aware of his surroundings, that’€™s for sure.

This year was the last year of your entry level contract, and you made a commitment to this team. You signed a three-year contract extension with the Bruins through 2012-2013, why was it important to you to make the commitment and stay here?

It was an easy decision for me, I really wanted to stick around in Boston, I really liked how things were going and I really did like the organization and all the people around it. It’€™s a great city, it’€™s a great sports town and the fans are really another huge reason why I wanted to stay. They’€™ve been real great to us and to me since I’€™ve been with the Bruins, and it was just an easy decision to want to stay in Boston.

Read More: Marc Savard, Milan Lucic,
Bergeron emerging as a quiet Bruins leader 10.28.09 at 3:09 pm ET
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WILMINGTON, Mass. — A highly respected hockey voice recently stressed that the leadership of both Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi as two key pieces in the recent turnaround of the Bruins. It’s been those two players, along with captain Zdeno Chara, that have helped grease the wheels of Boston’s resurgence, but there’s also a growing measure of influence from the young voices within the dressing room.

The loss of players such as Stephane Yelle, P.J. Axelsson and Aaron Ward have no doubt left a vacancy in terms of veteran influence within the dressing room, but coach Claude Julien said he’s already convinced that those important breaches have been filled. Young players are stepping up, and emerging leaders are picking their spots to help push along the direction of the club.

To hear Julien explain it, Bergeron is something akin to those old E.F. Hutton financial commercials. When Bergeron speaks, everybody listens — and that’s only been amplified this season as the 24-year-old has again staked claim to his rightful place as one of the brightest spots on Boston’s roster. The Bruins have taken points in four of their last five games, and young skaters such as Bergeron have everything to do with that.

“We talked about the guys we lost in the last year: the Yelles, the Axellsons, the Wards. They were pretty good presences in the dressing room, but at the same time other guys have stepped up,” Julien said. “We’ve asked other guys to step up into those roles in the dressing room, and we had some guys that were ready to take over. It’s been good and getting better, and it’s a transition that needs to be made.

“There’s no point in naming one or two guys. For the most part, the young guys want to do their jobs. The older guys: Z and the Ferences and the Recchis have been there for a long time and they’re going to help out along the way. Bergie is a quiet leader and not necessarily the rah-rah type, but every once in a while he’ll speak. When he does, they listen because he doesn’t speak that often and he doesn’t speak for nothing. So you expect some kind of leadership from those guys, and Marco Sturm has also been a quiet leader. He speaks when it’s time to speak. What you see from them [in the media] and what we see behind closed doors might be a little different.”

The old Bergeron has appeared on the ice where he’s tied for tops in the team with seven points through the first 10 games, and that appears to also be shining through in Boston’s new leadership structure this season.

‘€” Don’t expect Milan Lucic to begin dropping the gloves and transforming into the Incredible Looch when he returns from his broken right index finger. The hulking left winger has been working out and skating on his own, but said that it took at least “two months” for his finger to stabilize the last time he broke a knuckle/finger on his left hand.

That means Lucic won’t be slipping into fight mode for a minimum of several weeks, and probably longer, after the finger is healed enough to suit up again for the B’s.

“You’ve got to be smart about it, protect it a little bit and wait for [the finger] to solidify before you go back to everything you used to do before,” Lucic said. “I definitely didn’t fight right after I came back the last time, and it look a little bit before it was ready to go.”

Lucic had only the one fighting major came when he rearranged Jay Harrison’s facial structure in the blowout win over the Hurricanes in the B’s second game of the season. It may be quite some time before his next one, and there remains the question of how much Lucic will throw down given his value to the hockey team as a top line player and his value in dollars given his newly signed long-term contract.

‘€” There’s been a lot of talk about the incoming Devils before they come into the TD Banknorth Garden Thursday night, and naturally most of the conversation centered around the trap and Martin Brodeur. Both coach and players paid tribute to the disciplined — albeit sleepy — trapping style that New Jersey has become synonymous with, and the legendary goaltender at the end of Jersey’s layered defense.

B’s goalie Tim Thomas called Brodeur’s hybrid style the “one-legged butterfly”, and said that he’s taken plenty from watching the four-time Vezina Trophy winner over the years. Just don’t ask Thomas if he ever watches Brodeur when he’s playing against him, because the reigning Vezina Trophy winner clearly doesn’t get caught up in the individual goalie matchups.

“The truth is he’s a great goalie that’s been fortunate enough to play with a good team in front of him for his entire career,” Thomas said. “You don’t win Vezinas without a good team in front of you, and the New Jersey Devils have been able to build up a strong core and keep them together the whole time through.

“If you don’t have the right team to play with, then it doesn’t matter what system you have. There’s nothing about his style. He just stops the puck. Everybody talks about my style, but he really has his own style, too. He has a way, way different style from everybody else than I do.”

How would Thomas describe Brodeur’s way different style of “stopping the puck?”

“One-legged butterfly. Half-butterfly. Watch him, he goes down on his right knee all the time. He goes into the butterfly, but that isn’t his first move,” Thomas said. “His first move is to go down halfway and then the butterfly is his second move. If you can do it and cover [the 5-hole] up enough enough, then it’s much easier to get up [tall] off one knee.”

Read More: Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas,
Lefebvre recalled from Providence Bruins 10.22.09 at 10:30 am ET
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Big winger Guillaume Lefebvre was recalled by the Boston Bruins on Thursday morning and is expected to be available for Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Lefebvre played for the B’s against the Phoenix Coyotes last weekend on an emergency basis while replacing the injured Milan Lucic, but was sent back down to the Providence Bruins following that game.

Lefebvre had one assist and 42 penalty minutes in five games with the P-Bruins this season and didn’t register anything on the stat line during his one game with Boston last weekend. “Banged up” winger Shawn Thornton was going on the two-game trip with the team through Philadelphia and Ottawa, but Lefebvre’s recall might be a sign that Thornton isn’t quite ready to play.

Lefebvre has two goals and 4 assists along with 13 penalty minutes in 39 games for the Flyers, Penguins and the Bruins through his pro hockey career.

Read More: Guillaume Lefebvre, Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton,
Lucic out 4-6 weeks with a broken right index finger 10.19.09 at 12:26 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins doled out more good news at Monday morning practice when Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli revealed that Milan Lucic had surgery Sunday for a broken right finger, and will miss 4-6 weeks with the injury. Claude Julien corrected the diagnosis at his press availability and revealed that the hulking left forward underwent surgery for a broken right index finger. 

“Anytime you lose a guy like Looch, you’re losing a player that usually has a pretty good impact on the game when he’s on top of it,” said Julien. “It’s certainly going to hurt. I think we saw him more like the player we wanted him to be against Dallas. So it’s going to hurt, but it’s going to give somebody else an opportunity a chance to step.

“We’ve always been a team that’s responded well to that in the past.”

Lucic was placed on long term injured reserve list Sunday amid a flurry of moves by the Bruins, and that requires that the bruising left winger miss at least 10 games and 24 days due to the injury.

“He’ll probably be [out] anywhere between 4-6 weeks. He had surgery on his [finger],” said Chiarelli of Lucic’s injury.

Read More: Milan Lucic, Peter Chiarelli,
Bruins trade Kobasew to the Minnesota Wild 10.18.09 at 8:40 pm ET
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Following a deflating 3-4 start to the season, the Boston Bruins finally reacted to mediocrity on Sunday night and traded Chuck Kobasew to the Minnesota Wild for the rights to unsigned draft choice Alexander Fallstrom, forward Craig Weller and a 2011 second-round draft choice in a deal that also obviously loosens up room under the salary cap. Fallstrom began his freshman year at Harvard University this fall and Weller had played the first five games of this season for the AHL’s Houston Aeros.

Following the trade, the B’s placed Milan Lucic on long term injured reserve with a broken right index finger, and recalled Guillaume Lefebvre, Brad Marchand and Vladimir Sobotka from the Providence Bruins. Marchand had scored five goals in six games with the P-Bruins after impressing B’s officials during this fall’s abbreviated training camp. 

The deal was clearly done largely with the salary cap in mind as the Bruins were forced to head out on a two-game road trip through Dallas and Phoenix with the bare minimum 20 players. Once Lucic was hurt against the Stars, the B’s were forced to call Lefebvre up as an emergency forward and fly him the same day to Phoenix for a Saturday night game.

Clearing Kobasew’s $2.3 million off the books allows Chiarelli plenty of cap room to bring up extra bodies from Providence, and also allows B’s coach Claude Julien to introduce the bench to players that aren’t giving their full effort out on the ice. Kobasew had a single assist in seven games this season, and really hadn’t been much of a factor skating with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi

There wasn’t much roster competition when the B’s couldn’t afford to carry any extra players on their active roster through the first handful of games, and now Julien has that tool in his coaching bag. A quick calculation of the money saved by trading Kobasew, placing Lucic on LTIR — for which he must sit for at least 10 games or nearly a month’s time — and calling up the minor leaguers: roughly $1.15 million.

 The hockey swap also clears Kobasew’s $2.3 million off the books for next season when the team has a number of players looking for new deals including Marc SavardBlake Wheeler, Mark Stuart and Tuuka Rask. Minnesota’s second-round pick in 2011 adds to the bulging toy box of draft picks that Chiarelli and Co. have accumulated over the last two seasons, and gives Boston nine picks in the first two rounds over the next drafts.

 The draft picks give Chiarelli an abundance of bargaining chips once big-time scorers become available around the trade deadline. Boston is clearly in the best position to wheel and deal at the deadline, and now has even more bargaining power with another pick. Those expecting another trade shoe to drop in the next few weeks may be disappointed, however, as it’s likely that this is more along the lines of preparation for the March 3 trade deadline.

NESN.com’s James Murphy originally reported that the Bruins were talking trade with the Minnesota Wild on a deal that centered around Kobasew. Chiarelli was unavailable for comment on Sunday night, but planned to meet with the media at the Bruins practice facility in Wilmington on Monday morning.

Read More: Chuck Kobasew, Milan Lucic, Vladimir Sobotka,
Three things that can turn it around for the Bruins 10.15.09 at 4:42 pm ET
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With four road dates packed into their next five games, the Bruins have a chance to prove that ancient hockey axiom correct. There’s a great and shining chance for the club to bond together on the normally cold and unforgiving road. Who knew that having a few team dinners at Fleming’s Steakhouse in unfamiliar locales could mean so much?

It’s obviously not all about some magical road solution waiting for the Bruins in Dallas and Phoenix. It’s more about things within the Boston dressing room that need to change. The B’s players need to shake themselves out of the snow-blindness caused by a flurry of preseason hype and media predictions that tabbed the Black and Gold as the trendy pick for the Stanley Cup finals.

There’s plenty the Bruins can do to turn things around after a 2-3 start to the season that lacked the passion and work ethic inherent in last season’s 116-point hockey team. The Bruins are simply beating themselves. It’s something that hasn’t been a major problem since the structured, disciplined Claude Julien took over the coaching reigns three years ago.  It’s also something the Bruins are much too talented to be doing.

“We talked about it and addressed a lot of different things that we can do to get better a lot over the last few days,” Milan Lucic said. “We’ve talked about it a bunch. Now it’s time to not do so much talk, and go out and do it.”

It’s high time for Lucic and the B’s to slam down the preseason power rankings and the glossy magazine pieces, and instead strap on the hard hats and tool belts that allowed them to enjoy so much regular season success last winter. There’s plenty of hard work that goes into winning a Cup, and the B’s haven’t exactly dirtied their finger nails quite yet.

“We haven’t played Bruins hockey, and played the way that this team has grown its identity over the last couple of years,” said Mark Recchi. “We have to get back to it and realize how hard it is. Get our focus back. I really believe it’s not that far away. This is a little bit of a wake up call, and this isn’t a bad time to go through this.”

With that in mind, here are three things the Bruins can do turn things around just five games into their 82-game schedule:

1. Will the real Looch please stand up — The bruising 21-year-old winger might have been in too much of a lighthearted mood after becoming the B’s newest millionaire several weeks ago, and by his own admission lost some of his surliness over the last few games.

His numbers aren’t really that far off what they were last season. After five games last season, Lucic had three points, six shots on goal and 14 registered hits to open things up. After five games this season, Lucic has a pair of assists, four shots on goal and the same exact 14 registered hits. But many of those body checks haven’t been of the bone-thumping variety. There certainly haven’t been many defensemen forced to look over their shoulders while digging out pucks in the corner. That needs to change for Lucic and the Bruins immediately, and the B’s forward is well aware.

“The last two games I’ve feel like been getting better at creating, but for me it’s also more about getting on the puck quicker, turning pucks over and then creating scoring chances,” said Lucic. “I feel like I need to do a little bit more of that to get back to where I want to be. Talking with the coaches, and Peter [Chiarelli] and Cam [Neely], the one thing they always tell me is that when I keep it simple with that meat and potatoes-kind of game, I’m at my best. I have to play hard-nosed hockey.”

“I have to pick [the physical] part of my game up and boost the team up with some big hits to get them going. Maybe Wheels can get me going before the game. Maybe we can get some Indian leg-wrestling going in the locker room before the game start. We can just lock legs and see who wins.”

Blake Wheeler, who was taking his skates off right next to Lucic, shot back with: “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you out [on the ice].”

Indian leg wrestling or not, Big Looch knows what he needs to do and is looking to amp up his physical factor for the weekend road games against Dallas and Phoenix along with getting more involved offensively. Perhaps skating with David Krejci will rekindle a spark and bring out the intimidating side he flashed in last season’s playoffs when the two young skaters were paired together. The one big advantage to skating with Krejci is that the right-handed shooter’s first inclination for passes will be with the forehand to his left side. That bodes well for the fire-breathing winger bombing down the left side.

Just call it the Sleeping Bear Syndrome.

It’s no secret that the fear factor is thrown into the opposition when big No. 17 is playing mean, merciless hockey, and it’s paramount to Boston’s success. Lucic knows that he and his teammates are much better when there’s a certain attitude of aggression among the players. He also hinted that the mounting criticism of the B’s sluggish start might be the exact kind of kindling needed to get their competitive fire going. In short, Lucic needs to lead the way in bringing the rage back out onto the ice for the Bruins.

“It seems like right now we’re getting challenged by all kinds of people that are starting to doubt us,” said Lucic. “I think we should use that to our advantage and go against it. We need to play with that edge and physical presence to be successful. The best thing is for us to be aggressive and initiate it right off the start rather than sit around waiting for somebody to wake us up.”

2. Get the special teams back on track — Julien had a simple explanation when asked what could help out a B’s power play that’s managed success only 13.8 percent (4-for-29) of the time in their first five games. His answer was pretty straightforward and to the point: “Score.” Julien is obviously the kind of straight-shooter that has middle management written all over him, but he’s also got a point.

The Bruins need to score by any means possible on the man-advantage, and that means showing both intelligence and poise with the puck. But it also means showing a little desperation when that’s called for during potential tipping points on the power play. Derek Morris and the first power-play unit helped produce four power play scores in the B’s 7-2 thumping of Carolina, and stressed that they need to return back to what made them so successful in that particular game.

They, in essence, need to “go ugly early” in the man advantage and start hunting out those ugly goal situations. Getting position in tight near the net and redirecting pucks, or simply lurking around the cage wating for rebounds could make all the difference.

“When was the last time you saw us get a tip on a goal? Or get a rebound goal on the power play?” asked Morris. “Defenses are getting so good at blocking shots and getting in the shooting and passing lanes during the power plays, and we have to be a little more patient getting the pucks to our forwards.

“Then when we do get the puck down there, we’ve got to start looking for those ugly goals. Crashing the net and getting to that puck right at the split-second when the opportunity is there.

3. Thomas needs to shake off the slow start — The B’s goaltender isn’t going to admit to being a slow starter, but he hasn’t looked like his Vezina Trophy self during the preseason or first three regular season games behind an admittedly mistake-prone defense. A 4.01 goals-against average and an .868 save percentage are so far below Thomas’ norms that there’s no choice but to believe they’re aberrational. He was miles better than playing in the Dave Lewis system, and that’s truly saying something.

Just about at this exact point last season, Thomas stepped up and play shutdown hockey between the pipes in back-to-back games against the Oilers and the Canucks, and made 58 saves in back-to-back shutouts. The Bruins should be looking for much the same out of Thomas this weekend during their tour of the NHL’s southwestern outposts, and he’s up for the challenge.

“The numbers are a little bit distorted. I didn’t feel as bad as the numbers look in the two games that we lost,” said Thomas, who said he didn’t read anything into Tuukka Rask making back-to-back starts. “I haven’t felt really bad, but I’ve just got bad results. It is what it is. I mean … just … it is what it is. I haven’t seen too many goals allowed by us where you’d say ‘Oh, the goalie is struggling.’ ”

“Look at the patterns over the years. The other goaltender has usually played a lot because I haven’t always played that great at the beginning. I don’t like to get that label. Last year my stats were good, but the team wasn’t winning. During the lockout year, I had five shutouts in my first 10 games. You can’t say that’s the way it is every year.”

Read More: Mark Recchi, Milan Lucic, Tim Thomas,
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
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