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Olympic hockey: Group B breakdown 02.16.10 at 1:55 pm ET
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Continuing to break down the Olympic hockey rosters, Group B looks like the deepest of the three groups. Russia is the standout favorite while the Czech Republic and Slovakia field strong teams. The joke about the group is that if the Czechs and Slovaks were still one country (Czechoslovakia) then it would be a powerhouse. Of course, that is not the case. Latvia will will attempt to fight for respectability.

Note: After the preliminary round, each of the 12 teams will be ranked on the basis of points. The top four teams advance to the quarterfinals, with the remaining teams playing to advance.

Schedule (All times ET)

Feb. 16 — Russia vs. Latvia, midnight

Feb. 17 — Czech Republic vs. Slovakia, midnight

Feb. 18 — Russia vs. Slovakia, midnight

Feb. 19 — Czech Republic vs. Latvia, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 20 — Latvia vs. Slovakia, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 21 — Russia vs. Czech Republic, 3 p.m.

Russia

Captain — Aleksey Marozov

Assistants — Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk

Goaltenders — Evgeni Nobokov, Ilya Bryzgalov, Semyom Varlamov

Players to Watch — Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Fedorov

Breakdown — Malkin, Ovechkin and Datsyuk all were finalists for the NHL’s Hart Trophy last year as the league MVP. That is about as impressive of a trio as it gets in Vancouver. The Russians have scoring power to spare but could use a top-flight goaltender to cover the back end. Nobokov is a good, serviceable NHL goaltender but he is never going to be confused with Patrick Roy. The matchup nightmare comes as the Russians roll out line after line of great goal-scorers (Kovalchuk, Ovechkin) mixed with good set-up men (Malkin). Expect the Russians to have a say in the medal rounds.

Czech Republic

Captain — Patrick Elias

Assistants — Tomas Kaberle, Jaromir Jagr

Goaltenders — Tomas Vokoun, Jakub Stepanek, Ondrej Pavelec

Players to Watch — Jagr, Vokoun, Milan Michalek

Bruins on the roster — David Krejci

Breakdown — The Greatest Show on Ice returns to North America. That, of course, means Jagr. Now plying his wares in the KHL, Jagr is one of the top five greatest players of the last 20 years and can still skate well. It will be interesting to watch him take on NHL talent again, and Group B is full of it. Krejci is an interesting member of this team and likely will serve as a second- or third-line center to try to set up Michalek and company. For the Czechs to be there in the end, it will come down to Vokoun. The backstop has played well for a bad Florida Panthers team this year and probably will appreciate having some talent in front of him for once.

Slovakia

Captain — Zdeno Chara

Assistants — Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra

Goaltenders — Jaroslav Halak, Peter Budaj, Rastislav Stana

Players to Watch — Chara, Halak, Marian Hossa, Miroslav Satan

Bruins on roster — Chara, Satan

Breakdown — The strength will be in the defense, with Chara leading the way in front of Halak or Budaj. Milan Jurcina and Andrej Sekera give the Slovakians decent depth on the blue line. The Czechs probably are a little bit deeper overall, but this is a second-tier team that could turn some heads if Hossa gets hot and one of the goaltenders can sustain a roll. Satan will play a part, but do not expect him to carry the team.

Latvia

Captain — Karlis Skrastins

Assistants — Herberts Vasiljevs, Aleksandrs Nizivijs

Goaltenders — Ervins Mustukovs, Sergejs Naumovs, Edgars Masalskis

Players to Watch — Skrastins, Oskars Bartulis, Martins Karsums

(Former) Bruins on the roster — Karsums

Breakdown — Latvia is better known as Dinamo Riga of the KHL. Fifteen players from Dinamo Riga are on the Latvian roster, including Karsums, who was assigned to HC MVD of the KHL from the Tampa Bay Lightning AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals but did not join the team and instead went to Dinamo. Bartulis and Skrastins are both defensemen and the only Latvian players currently on NHL rosters (Flyers and Stars, respectively). Latvia has never finished higher than ninth in any international competition and should get handled easily by the other three teams in the group.

Read More: Czech Republic, David Krejci, Latvia, Martins Karsums
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
Ryder and Bruins jump on Lightning 02.11.10 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
Recchi to carry torch, Bruins look for confidence 01.27.10 at 1:36 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — When the Bruins came out to skate at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday, veteran forward Mark Recchi was conspicuously missing from the ice at Ristuccia Arena. The first thought to come to mind was that coach Claude Julien and the training staff gave Recchi the practice off. Afterall, Recchi is 41-year old wingman has played 1,541 career NHL games and logged a lot of minutes this year, more than Julien figured he would be giving Recchi at the start of the season.

Instead of having an off day though, Recchi had a higher calling — he traveled to his hometown of Kamloops, British Columbia to carry the 2010 Vancouver Olympic torch and light the Olympic cauldron outside the city’s Hillside Stadium on Wednesday evening.

“It is a nice opportunity for him,” Julien said. “I think he has done a lot in his career to deserve that and also in the town where he is going to be running with it.”

Recchi played for Team Canada in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan where the team finished fourth. The torch passes through Kamloops on Day 90 of its tour through Canada and will finish its journey on February 12 in Vancouver to kick-start the 2010 Olympic games.

Leading scorer Marco Sturm did not skate at Wednesday’s practice and it is looking unlikely that he will be available for the games on Friday and Saturday. Other than Recchi and Sturm, the rest of the Bruins skated and had a vigorous practice that was a notch up from the lively skate the team had on Monday.

Miroslav Satan joined the top line in white practice sweaters with Milan Lucic and Mark Savard. 10 games into his Bruins career the tall Slovak has two goals and two assists and six penalty minutes. Satan said that he sees similarities between this Bruins team and the last team he played for — the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

“That is a good example,” Satan said. “It was the same thing. We slipped from the playoff position. At one point I think we were like the 11th spot. Then, all of a sudden things changed quickly and we had a good end to the year and a good end to the playoffs.”

Whereas the Penguins mid-season swoon last year was a product of the team quitting on its coach (who was fired and the team took off after that), Satan does not see it playing out like that this year in Boston.

“I don’t think that is the case here. I think it is more of injuries and mental mistakes that we do in the games,” Satan said. “We, the players, are responsible for it.”

Boston’s real problem right now is that it is stuck in its own head. The team has a lack of confidence which has created a vicious cycle. No confidence means the team has had trouble scoring goals (dead last in the NHL in scoring) and no scoring means the team is losing confidence.

“It is definitely in the head,” Satan said. “It seems like if it is late in a game we make a mistake and that creates another mistake . . . we have to learn to shake that off and know that if we make one it is not the end of the game.”

Patrice Bergeron agreed with the the assessment that part of the reason that the Bruins are having trouble lighting the lamp is because of a lack of confidence.

“It is pretty much about confidence right now,” Bergeron said. “When things are not going your way, the puck is not going your way, it is hitting skates that it is not supposed to. When you lose games like that, you know, confidence is getting away from yourself a little bit but we have to make sure as a team that we bring some emotion back and bring back some hard work. That is the only way we are going to get out it this.”

There are a couple examples of the Bruins getting snake-bitten with pucks off errant skates but the one Bergeron was probably referring to was last Saturday’s game against Ottawa when a goal was disallowed after going off Recchi and Senators goaltender Brian Elliot’s skates. Ottawa forward Jason Spezza ended up scoring the game winner a few minutes later.

Three out of four days into this long practice week, the Bruins are trying to get back into the right mental state of mind.

“We are looking forward to Friday,” Bergeron said. “We have had a good week of practice so far and we have worked hard and we know our game. Keep it simple and working through to get back in the winning column.”

Here is Wednesday’s practice participation by sweater color:

White – Satan, Savard, Lucic.

Grey – Michael Ryder, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler.

Yellow – Byron Bitz, Bergeron, Daniel Paille

Red – Shawn Thornton, Vladimir Sobotka, Trent Whitfield, Steve Begin

Defensemen – Zdeno Chara, Derek Morris, Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman, Matt Hunwick, Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid.

Goaltenders – Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask.

Read More: Mark Recchi, Miroslav Satan, Patrice Bergeron,
Bruins nearing Satan signing 01.01.10 at 10:07 pm ET
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A Slovakian newspaper is reporting the Bruins are on the verge of signing free agent winger Miroslav Satan to a contract. the paper reports the deal could be completed within the next week.

Satan, 35, last played in the NHL last season with Pittsburgh, scoring 17 goals in 65 games. Satan has 354 goals over his NHL career that began in 1995 and has included stints with Edmonton, Buffalo, the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh. The Bruins are looking to bolster an offense that ranks near the bottom of the NHL in scoring.

Read More: Bruins, Miroslav Satan, NHL, Slovakia
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