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Post-morning skate notes: Milan Lucic out, Tim Thomas off first, Mark Stuart takes another step 01.13.11 at 12:23 pm ET
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After participating in Thursday's morning skate, Mark Stuart hopes to return to the Bruins' lineup sometime next week. (AP)

Tim Thomas was first off the ice in Thursday’s morning skate, so it looks like he’ll be rewarded with the start vs. the Flyers after shutting out the Senators on Tuesday. He faces a tougher challenge against Philadelphia, as the Flyers are third in the league with their 3.4 goals per game, while the Senators’ 2.2 goals per game rank 29th.

Forward Milan Lucic will be out for the second straight game, as the undisclosed injury (which seems to be going around these days) hasn’t healed to the point at which Claude Julien is comfortable putting the slumping winger back in the lineup.

“[He's feeling] better,” coach Claude Julien said following the skate. “Obviously he won’t be i tonight, but he’s getting better.”

Julien likened Lucic’s situation to that of Nathan Horton, who missed a pair of games with an undisclosed injury prior to returning in Tuesday’s 6-0 victory over the Senators.

“[He's] day-to-day,” Julien said. “It’s a lot like Horton. He’s dealing with the same kind of situation as far as day-to-day is concerned.”

When Lucic does return, he’ll be looking to both shake of rust and bust out of an 11-game goal drought. Lucic leads the Bruins with 16 goals this season.

While Lucic wasn’t on the ice for the morning skate, defenseman Mark Stuart was. Stuart has been out since suffering a fractured hand and dislocated finger on Dec. 7 and hopes to return to the lineup sometime next week.

Given the impressive play of Steven Kampfer, who was called up following Stuart’s injury, as well as Adam McQuaid‘s safe and solid play on the blueline, the B’s will have a decision to make when it comes to making room for Stuart. To Stuart, the fact that both have played so well tells him that the team is in good shape, and that he shouldn’t assume anything will be handed to him.

“This is the best position to be in, and it’s going to make me work even harder to get back and to play well,” Stuart said.

“It’s definitely the case,” he added regarding the competition he anticipates for his spot. “You have to earn your way back. I don’t care who you are. … Guys are playing well. It would probably be different if the team was on a downswing and they were looking to change things up.

“It’s good to see, though. That’s what you need. That’s what all good teams have. You look around the league at the good teams. They all have guys coming up, guys coming in and out. Everybody can play, everybody comes in and does the job. I think that’s what you’ve seen with us the last month or so.”

Julien noted that with Stuart still a week to 10 days away, he isn’t in any rush to make a quick decision on how things will unfold.

“It’s probably a little early to answer that question,” Julien said. “… [We have] lots of games and so sometimes you have to make those decisions, sometimes you don’t so I’ll give myself a little break on that one.”

Here are some other notes from the skate:

- The lines looked the same for the Bruins as they were on Tuesday against Ottawa.

Ryder-Savard-Horton

Marchand-Bergeron-Recchi

Wheeler-Krejci-Seguin

Paille-Campbell-Thornton

- McQuaid probably likes getting attention more from his play and his fighting rather than from perhaps the scariest moment of his career. With the Flyers in town, though, so too is Jody Shelley, who sent him head-first into the end boards on Dec. 11 when the two were chasing an iced puck.

The B’s blueliner wanted to move on from the play, which got Shelley suspended for two games, at the time, and as the spotlight returns with Flyers, he would rather not dwell on it.

“You never want to kind of see yourself going head-first into the boards at any point in time, but it’s not really something I’m thinking too much about,” McQuaid said. “I’ve moved on, moved past it, and just want to be focused for tonight.”

- Horton wasn’t around following Tuesday’s game or during Thursday morning’s media availability, so it’s tough to gauge exactly how comfortable the winger feels since returning from his undisclosed injury. Julien liked what he saw from the winger on Tuesday, but on Thursday didn’t know if Horton’s feeling completely better.

“Let’s put it this way: he’s well enough to play,” Julien said. “I don’t know that I’d say he’s 100 percent, because you don’t come back from missing games and all of a sudden you’re 100 percent.

“[He was] close enough that the risk factor was kind of pushed aside, and they’re minimal, and that he was able to give us what we wanted and well enough to play.”

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Jody Shelley, Mark Stuart, Milan Lucic
Milbury on D&H: Patrice Bergeron didn’t score three goals 01.12.11 at 2:05 pm ET
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Mike Milbury of NESN, NBC Sports, and Hockey Night in Canada made his weekly appearance on Dale & Holley on Wednesday, discussing all things Bruins and his feelings on the NHL All-Star game.

Milbury was quite direct in speaking about Patrice Bergeron‘s first career hat trick, which he scored in Tuesday’s 6-0 win over the Senators. Blake Wheeler appeared to have scored what was ruled Bergeron’s second goal, and Milbury wasn’t happy with how it was credited.

“The guys that do the scoring have the responsibility to get it right. They have to do everything to get it right. Do they fudge a little on [an assist] once in a while? I bet they do, and I think that’s OK, but they’ve got to be honest and true to it,” Milbury said. “Somebody’s got to tell me there’s a different angle that showed Bergeron scoring the goal, because I watched it several times, and pretty clearly, Blake Wheeler with a backhand [scored]. … I didn’t think there was any question whose goal that was.”

Milbury said that given the fans throwing their hats twice — Brad Marchand‘s second-period goal was initially credited to Bergeron, which at the time would have been his third goal of the game — the Bruins and Bergeron are better off leaving the matter alone rather than giving Wheeler his due credit.

“It would be tough to do that after the three or four times they showered him with hats,” Milbury said, adding that Bergeron should just “take the damn hat trick.”

As for the state of the Bruins, who have been a Jekyll and Hyde team all season with their ups and downs, Milbury said it’s difficult to gauge what type of team the Bruins are given their inconsistent nature. The Bruins have won their last two games after blowing a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 overtime loss to the rival Canadiens on Saturday.

“This is a hard team to pin down right now. I’m trying to figure out, what are they? … I’d just like to see this team hit on all cylinders so I can figure out how good they are,” Milbury said. “Now, they’re a good team, not a great team. They’re going to have to rely on some great goaltending and solid defense. … I’m still not sure just how good this group is.”

Since returning from post-concussion syndrome, center Marc Savard, who is in the first year of a seven-year deal, has struggled to regain the form that made him one of the league’s elite playmakers. He has made costly mistakes and has been benched by Claude Julien in multiple situations. Milbury said the Bruins will need him to get back to where he was for the team to be competitive late in the season and in the playoffs.

“It’s going to be critical to their success to have Savard finding the way back to his game,” Milbury said. “Most guys who have injuries of big magnitude, of some sort of significance, take a long time. … Hopefully by the end of the year, Savard will have found his rhythm and they find the right match for him with linemates.”

Milbury has been one of Nathan Horton‘s biggest critics since the Bruins acquired the forward from the Panthers over the summer. He said that Horton’s play “troubles” him, and that he’s unsure of why the talented winger is so prone to disappearing in games.

“I don’t know if it’s focus, or if it’s his level of competitiveness, but this guy form a tools standpoint has a hell of a lot more to offer on a regular basis,” Milbury said.

“You have got to be involved. You’ve got to be involved on the forecheck, and hopefully you’re involved in the physical side. He’s not afraid, but it doesn’t come naturally to him.”

With Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara both being named to the All-Star game, Milbury criticized the weekend for being “silly” and wondered whether the players would rather have the time off.

“Think of the players. They don’t want to be there,” Milbury said. “Except for the guys that just got named to their first or second All-Star team and want to be in the elite group — I can understand what an honor that’s got to be — but once you’re through that thrill, if it’s not in your city, it’s got to be [tiring].

“They’re going to be escorted around all these nonsensical events … and then play a half-assed game, and then they’ll go home tired,” he added. “Good idea.”

Milbury’s dislike for the All-Star festivities wasn’t limited to the NHL. He said he feels the same way about the Pro Bowl and All-Star games of the MLB and NBA.

“I know it’s a celebration of the sport, but for me it’s not celebrating the sport. It’s denigrating the sport.”

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron,
Milan Lucic out for Bruins, Nathan Horton to return to lineup 01.11.11 at 6:11 pm ET
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Bruins forward Milan Lucic will not play Tuesday night against the Senators at TD Garden due to an undisclosed injury suffered Monday night in the team’s 4-2 victory over the Penguins. It will be Lucic’s first missed game in a season in which he’s led the Bruins with 16 goals through 41 games.

“He’s going to be a scratch for tonight,” coach Claude Julien said prior to the game, “and hopefully it’s a day-to-day situation.

Nathan Horton will make his return to the lineup after missing the last two games with what Julien would only describe as “discomfort.” Defenseman Adam McQuaid, who also missed Monday’s game with an undisclosed injury, is a game-time decision.

“He skated this morning and felt pretty good, so we’re going to make that decision after the warmup,” Julien said.

If McQuaid is unable to go, rookie Matt Bartkowski will be in the lineup in his place. Bartkowski made his NHL debut on Monday.

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton
Bruins look to rebound from loss to Canadiens as they take on Penguins in Pittsburgh 01.10.11 at 2:03 am ET
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The Bruins scored five third-period goals in a 7-4 victory the last time they visited Pittsburgh. (AP)

The Bruins (21-12-7) are in the midst of a rather tough stretch in their schedule, and it continues Monday night against the Penguins (26-13-4) in Pittsburgh. While the Penguins, whose 56 points are the second-most in the Eastern Conference, are looking for their first win without Sidney Crosby (concussion), the Bruins are simply looking for anything that can make people forget about their collapse against the Canadiens Saturday night in a 3-2 overtime loss.

WHERE IT’S AT

- The Penguins are 14-8-1 at CONSOL Energy Center, and only the Capitals and Canadiens have more home points this season. On Saturday, they dropped a 4-0 contest to the Wild at home.

- Despite getting one point in a game in which they should have had two in Montreal, the B’s continue to rack up the points on the road. They are 12-5-4 in away games and haven’t lost a road contest in regulation since Dec. 16.

NOTABLE NUMBERS

- Zero. That’s how many shots Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, and David Krejci combined for on Saturday. Especially in Lucic’s case, that’s about as inexcusable as it gets for a leading goal-scorer, and as we pointed out after the game, it’s something that has happened eight times this season.

- Kris Letang, one of four Penguins voted into the All-Star game in the fan-balloting process, is fourth among defensemen with 36 points. That’s already a career-high for the 23-year old, and he’s on pace to finish his fourth season with 69 points. Letang leads the Penguins with a plus-21 rating.

- If you’re a fan of power play goals, you might want to watch a different game. Over the last nine games, the Penguins are 3-for-32 on the man advantage, while the B’s are 3-for-27. The Bruins have gone five games without a power play goal.

To make matters worse for each team’s power play, they’ll be going against stiff competition. The Penguins and Bruins’ penalty kills rank first and seventh in the league, respectively.

STORYLINES GOING IN

- What will the Bruins’ blueline look like? The Bruins recalled Matt Bartkowski on an emergency basis Sunday, and reports indicate he’ll take the place of  Adam McQuaid in the lineup. The Bruins have been mum on what ails McQuaid. Maybe he caught the “discomfort” that’s going around.

Speaking of which, whether or not Nathan Horton makes his way back into the lineup is another thing to keep an eye on. “Discomfort” is the only word of information the B’s will divulge regarding why the 25-year-old missed Saturday’s game.

Regardless of who the B’s have out, they won’t have the right to complain while in Pittsburgh. Crosby, who still leads the league with 32 goals and 66 points, has been out for the last two games, with the team going 0-1-1 in his absence.

- The Bruins pulled off a memorable one vs. Penguins last time they were in town. The B’s came back from a 4-2 deficit with five third-period goals and took a 7-4 victory behind a three-point night from Mark Recchi on Nov. 10.

- Will the Lucic-Savard-Ryder line live to see another day? With the way it performed on Saturday (two shots on goal, both of which were from Michael Ryder), Bruins fans should hope not. Savard just isn’t himself, and his presence on a top line isn’t helping the B’s quest for offense right now.

- While on the subject of Savard, Monday will be the center’s first trip back to Pittsburgh since suffering his concussion on a hit from Matt Cooke last March 7.

- This will be the first of two match-ups between the two teams over the next week. After the B’s leave Pittsburgh, they will return to the Garden, where they will face the Senators and Flyers this week before hosting the Penguins on Saturday. After Saturday, the two teams won’t meet again until they close out their season series on March 5.

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Kris Letang, Marc Savard, Matt Bartkowski
Update: Nathan Horton out vs. Canadiens 01.08.11 at 4:27 pm ET
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Nathan Horton is out of the Bruins’ lineup as the team takes on the Canadiens in Montreal on Saturday night. Coach Claude Julien had told reporters earlier in the day that the forward was unlikely to play with an undisclosed ailment that Julien would only describe as “discomfort.”

With Horton not playing vs. the Habs, Tyler Seguin is taking his place on the third line, while Brad Marchand is skating with the second line and Daniel Paille is with the fourth line.

Horton has not missed a game this season. In 39 games, he has 12 goals and 14 assists, though he has just four goals over his last 23 contests.

Read More: Daniel Paille, Nathan Horton,
Bruins and Canadiens square off with first place on the line at 8:52 am ET
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Canadiens defenseman James Wisniewski has five points in four games since being acquired from the Islanders. (AP)

First place in the Northeast division is on the line as the Bruins (21-12-6) take on the Canadiens (22-16-3) at the Bell Centre on Saturday night. The Habs have taken both of the contests between the rival teams thus far this season, with Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas taking losses on Nov. 11 and Dec. 16, respectively.

The Bruins are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Wild at the Garden on Thursday. It was their first regulation loss since being blanked by the Ducks on Dec. 20.

WHERE IT’S AT

- The Canadiens are 13-5-3 at the Bell Centre, and their 29 home points are second only to the Capitals’ 33 in the Eastern conference. Following their Dec. 16 4-3 win over the B’s, they spent seven games on the road and have returned to Montreal with an overtime loss to the Thrashers on Sunday and a shootout win over the Penguins on Thursday.

- While this game features one of the league’s best home teams, it also features one of the best road teams in the Bruins. The B’s 12-5-3 road mark is among the best in the conference, as only the Flyers and Rangers have more points (29 apiece) on the road this season.

NOTABLE NUMBERS

- New Habs defenseman James Wisniewski has five points — two goals and three assists — in four games since joining the Canadiens. He was a minus-18 with the Islanders this season, but playing for a winning team has changed that a bit. Wisniewski hasn’t posted a negative rating in any of his games with Montreal since being acquired from New York for second and fifth-round picks.

- Who would have thought that Steven Kampfer would be the hottest Bruins scorer over the last five games? The rookie defenseman has scored the first three goals of his career over the span, including a second-period tally against the Wild in which he sent a rebound from a Patrice Bergeron shot past Jose Theodore.

STORYLINES GOING IN

- There’s no bigger story than what this game means in the standings. The B’s have been in first place since beating the Panthers back on Dec. 27. Since then, they have opened a three-point lead in the Northeast and seen it shrink to one point. The the Bruins have played have played multiple games less than most of the other teams in the Eastern conference, the fact that their division-leading 48 points is worse than those of six other teams in the conference should be eye-opening enough to illustrate how important winning the division is to being in a good spot when the playoffs roll around.

- Will Nathan Horton play? Claude Julien called the winger day-to-day after he left Friday’s practice early with what the coach would only describe as “discomfort.”

[UPDATE: Horton is not expected to play, as Julien told reporters Saturday that he is "very unlikely" to go.]

If Horton plays, it seems he will do so on a new line. Julien flip-flopped Horton and Michael Ryder, meaning Horton is with Blake Wheeler and David Krejci, while Ryder will play with Milan Lucic on a line centered by Marc Savard.

- Though he has battled his way in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch this season, Habs rookie defenseman P.K. Subban has been a pain in the Bruins’ you-know-what. The 21-year-old Toronto native scored his first career goal back on Nov. 11 at the Garden and most recently laid a crushing hit on Brad Marchand that led to the winger leaving the following game vs. Washington and then missing the next three.

(You can brush up on your French with the feed.)

- This is a bear of a stretch for the B’s, as their four games following Saturday includes two games against the Penguins and one against the Flyers. It’s one their schedule’s toughest stretches of the season (they’ve got another one coming up in February that includes games against the Stars, Sharks, Habs, and Red Wings) and a good test of how far this team has come since snapping out of its mid-December funk.

Read More: Brad Marchand, James Wisniewski, Michael Ryder, Nathan Horton
Michael Ryder gets bumped up to top line in Bruins practice 01.07.11 at 12:11 pm ET
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Michael Ryder is having a bounce-back year for the Bruins. (AP)

After Thursday’s 3-1 loss to the Wild, Bruins coach Claude Julien did a bit of tinkering with the lines in practice on Friday. According to multiple reports out of Wilmington, here is how the lines looked:

Lucic-Savard-Ryder

Recchi-Seguin-Bergeron

Wheeler-Krejci-Horton

Marchand-Campbell-Thornton-(Paille)

With Michael Ryder and Nathan Horton essentially switching spots, the rest of the lines seem unchanged. Tyler Seguin has centered the second line for the last two games.

Horton reportedly left practice with an unknown ailment, and Claude Julien told reporters that he considers the winger day-to-day.

Though he has gone four games without a point, Ryder has been one of the Bruins’ best offensive threats this season and is having a bounce-back year after scoring only 18 goals a season ago. The free-agent-to-be has 11 goals and 12 assists this season for 23 points. He is on pace for 23 goals.

Horton has been hot and cold throughout the season, and though his statistics may not reflect it, he has shown improved play over the team’s last four games. He has 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points.

Neither winger would face too major of an adjustment to their new line, as both Horton and Ryder have worked with David Krejci and Marc Savard, their new respective centers. Horton began the season on a line with Krejci and Milan Lucic before recently playing with Savard in the middle of his line with Lucic. Ryder was on Savard’s line when he returned from post-concussion symptoms last month before playing on his familiar line with Krejci and Blake Wheeler.

Read More: Michael Ryder, Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin,
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