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Mike Milbury on D&H: Nathan Horton ‘needs a size 12 up the derriere’ 12.29.10 at 1:58 pm ET
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NESN and NBC Sports hockey analyst Mike Milbury made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday with guest hosts Mike Mutnansky and Chris Villani. To hear the interview, including Milbury’s thoughts on the upcoming NHL Winter Classic in Pittsburgh, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Milbury said enforcer Shawn Thornton deserves credit for sparking the Bruins with his fight just seconds into the game against the Thrashers last Thursday. The B’s won that game and now have won three straight. Said Milbury: “I thought Thornton was tremendous in the game where the team needed emotion, and he clearly once again established himself as a guy that won’t relent and won’t fall off the map, even though others around him might be suffering and feeling sorry for themselves. This guy just does it. It was a huge pick-me-up.”

The Bruins won Tuesday night after a controversial call went their way late in the game, with the Lightning getting penalized for Steve Stamkos‘ shoulder-to-shoulder hit that sent Gregory Campbell sprawling into the boards and the B’s scoring the game-winner on the ensuing power play. In a story in Wednesday’s Tampa Tribune, writer Erik Erlendsson brought up the fact that Campbell’s father, Colin, is the NHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations. Milbury agreed that the call was incorrect, but he was not pleased with the insinuation that Campbell’s father’s role had any effect on the referee’s decision.

Said Milbury: “No. 1, that’s really dirty pool cheap shot involving Greg Campbell. No need to go there. ‘€¦ This call had nothing to do with who was involved in the play. A lot of times you say a guy like Stamkos gets the benefit of the doubt. The star player usually gets a little bit more room by and large in the league. So, knock that off the table as consideration and call it really low-down journalism in my impression.”

As for the penalty call, Milbury said it’s another example of a negative trend in the game. “Where are we going with this?” he said. “I’ve called it a number of things; I’ll leave it at wussification. To me, that was a great hit, good body position, [Campbell] lost his balance. The whole climate throughout the league has been, sorry, soccer mom mentality. Little Johnny might get hurt if he gets hit hard enough, and we’re all worried about hits to the head and overly sensitive to stuff that occurs.

“It’s a dangerous sport and guys will get hurt and they can get hurt, but if we’re going to eliminate hits like the Stamkos hit on Campbell ‘€” [Devils analyst] Ken Daneyko was saying last night, ‘This is a courageous game.’ We’re taking the courage out of the game when you take away a hit like that. You’ve got to put guys in a little fear and a little jeopardy. And when those people have to face that, they have to get through it somehow or other. If we eliminate those circumstances, I think we’re doing the game a disservice. Last night I thought was a terrible call.”

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Read More: Blake Wheeler, Gregory Campbell, Marc Savard, Michael Ryder
Bruins answer the call with convincing 4-1 win over Thrashers 12.23.10 at 9:38 pm ET
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The Bruins spent the past two days dealing with backlash from both fans and the media over their recent struggles. They responded in a big way Thursday, playing one of their better games of the season in defeating the Thrashers, 4-1, at TD Garden.

Though Patrice Bergeron got the B’s on the board with a shorthanded goal in the first and Michael Ryder tallied what proved to be the deciding goal, Shawn Thornton was the offensive hero for the 17,565 to pack the Garden seats. The energy line winger had a big night, beating Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec for two goals.

Tim Thomas improved his record to 15-4-3 on the season.

The Bruins will have two days off before returning to practice on Sunday. From there, they will embark on a five-game road trip before returning home to the Garden on Jan. 6.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

– Shawn Thornton came an assist away from a Gordie Howe hat trick and a goal away from a real one. His fight with Eric Boulton off the opening the face-off helped ignite everybody in attendance, while his two goals brought his season total to a career-high seven.

– The Bruins responded to the call for more passion and motivation. They were more offensively persistent and sustained energy throughout the night. Additionally, they did it against a very good Thrashers team. This game was looked at by some (including your’s truly) as a game the team could use to establish more of an identity. Now that they’ve shown they can respond to losses as ugly as Monday night’s, the next step is seeing to it that there aren’t any more like their embarrassment vs. the Ducks.

The fans undoubtedly left the house satisfied, as an all-out brawl broke out with 4:06 remaining in the game following a Freddy Meyer hit to Milan Lucic’s head. Lucic, Nathan Horton, Andrew Ference, and Marc Savard dropped the gloves for the B’s.

– Thornton wasn’t the only one to show up on the stat sheet multiple times. Patrice Bergeron (G, A) and Daniel Paille (2 A) also had two points on the night. With Brad Marchand still out due to soreness stemming from the P.K. Subban hit, it’s good for Paille to have a game that can give him some confidence should he stick in the lineup for another game or two.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

– With the match penalty that Lucic received for punching Freddy Meyer in the helmet, he now faces a suspension, pending review. It was clearly intent to injure on Lucic’s part and it’s hard to believe anybody will view it as anything but.

– Of course, Dustin Byfuglien scored the Thrashers’ lone goal. Byfuglien had a goal and three assists when the Thrashers beat the B’s last month, so his tally on Thursday gave him his fifth point against the Bruins this season.

Tyler Seguin and Steve Kampfer were the the lone Bruins players to have a negative rating. After his minus-1 on Thursday, Seguin is a plus-1 on the season.

– The Canadiens were held on for a 3-2 win over the Hurricanes after scoring twice in the final 3:03 of the second period. The B’s remain two points behind the Habs for the division lead.

Read More: Michael Ryder, Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, Shawn Thornton
Milan Lucic: With fans ‘calling for blood,’ players must execute 12.21.10 at 1:23 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins, losers of four of their last five games, find themselves searching for answers as they try to find a balance of both consistency and emotion. After Monday’s 3-0 loss to the Ducks showcased a glaringly lethargic team, the B’s find themselves in an unflattering light around town. Fans are questioning coach Claude Julien, while the lack of a full team effort has resulted in expected media scrutiny. Amidst all the negativity, forward Milan Lucic said the guys on the ice are the ones who ultimately have to produce if they want to right the ship.

“Everyone’s calling for blood, the media’s writing negative stuff about us, but we’ve got to have each other’s back and stick up for one another, and it’s all going to start from in here,” Lucic told WEEI.com Tuesday. “It’s got to be a team effort where all 20 guys are committed to putting in the work.”

Lucic said the team is aware of their struggles and that the effort is there to get the team in the right frame of mind come game time, but that there comes a point at which trying isn’t good enough.

“We try to do things to rally one another and pump each other up before the game. We’re saying the right things, it’s just a matter of going out there and doing them. That’s the main thing right now. Talk is cheap. You’ve got to go out there and do it.”

The 22-year-old leads the Bruins with 16 goals this season, but with the team struggling as badly as it has been, each of the top three lines saw major shakeups. Lucic, who had played with Nathan Horton and either David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron all season, will now skate with Horton and Marc Savard.

“I’ve played with Savvy before, and Savvy’s obviously excited to play with Horton for the first time here,” Lucic said, while adding that “we’ll see what happens next game.”

“Hopefully we can create some chances and get some results.”

The Bruins need the latter more than anything right now.

Read More: Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton,
Bruins shake lines up following ugly loss at 11:34 am ET
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WILMINGTON — Nobody could have been happy following the B’s 3-0 loss to the Ducks on Monday, and Claude Julien responded by shaking up the offensive lines in practice on Tuesday. Brad Marchand remains out, so the lines were as follows:

Lucic – Savard – Horton

Recchi  – Bergeron – Seguin

Wheeler – Krejci – Ryder

Paille – Campbell – Thornton

A couple of quick thoughts to consider:

– Looks like that generation-spanning line might finally get some serious time. The Recchi – Bergeron – Seguin line looked good in training camp but has never been a fixture in the regular season.

Nathan Horton finally gets Marc Savard to set him up. This could mean improved offensive production, but Horton’s entire game needs a shot of energy.

– There was a bit a brief exchange between Savard and Bergeron at one point in the skate, with the two exchanging cross-checks. It didn’t seem serious or something that lasted throughout the practice, but it’s good to see some fire from a squad that’s been lethargic.

Read More: Brad Marchand, Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin,
Bruins vs. Ducks preview 12.20.10 at 10:39 am ET
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Two teams with 38 points will face off on Monday when the Bruins (17-10-4) take on the Ducks (17-15-4). The B’s will see an Anaheim team that aside from a six-game win streak to begin November has struggled to find consistency. The Ducks enter Monday night having lost two straight, while the Bruins broke a three-game skid on Saturday by beating the Capitals, 3-2. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, as the B’s had to fend off a swarming Washington offense in the third period after holding a 3-0 lead in the first.

WHERE IT’S AT

– The Bruins are 8-4-3 at the Garden (8-5-3 in home games including the Prague opener) and have turned their luck at the Garden around since entering December as a 4-4-2 home team. The Bruins have come away with a point in all five home contests this month, posting a 4-0-1 record.

– The Ducks have been a fine home team, but their 6-9-3 road record is what finds them in third place in in the Pacific division despite having played three more games than the first-place Stars (43 points) and second-place Sharks (39). The Ducks have lost their last two games, both of which were on the road, and are 2-2-1 in their last five road contests.

NOTABLE NUMBERS

Blake Wheeler has points in consecutive games for just the third time this season, while he has scored in back-to-back contests for the first time all year. Things are starting to pick up production-wise between the 24-year-old winger and linemate Patrice Bergeron (four points in the last two games), so whether the second line can keep up their new-found means of success is worth keeping an eye on.

– The number of shots allowed recently has been alarming. Tim Thomas saw 40 or more shots just once in 15 starts through the first two months of the season. This month, however, Thomas has seen at least 40 in four of his seven starts.

Saturday was the most blatant case of the shots-on-goal problem. The B’s were outshot 26-2 in the third period. Those 26 shots for the Capitals in the final 20 minutes were five more than the 21 the B’s had all game.

– Anaheim right wing Corey Perry enters Monday night’s game fifth in the NHL with 38 points. The 25-year-old has eight points in his last four games, including an impressive showing Dec. 12 against the Wild in which he picked up his first hat trick and tied a career-high with five points.

Ryan Getzlaf also finds himself top 10 in the league in points with 35. The former first-rounder scored both of Anaheim’s goals in Saturday night’s 4-2 loss to the Hurricanes.

STORYLINES GOING IN

– The Bruins may have broken their losing streak, but their struggles are still evident. Fortunately for them, they are no longer the woeful home team they were last season and for the majority of this season. This seems to be the right setting for them to get the convincing win they haven’t had since perhaps the Tampa Bay game or the Buffalo contest. Wins over the Islanders don’t count.

– Despite the sub-par play over their last four games, the B’s, currently with 12 points in December, are a win away from tying the 14 points they had in November, their most successful month this season. Including Monday, the Bruins have five games let this month.

– The inconsistency for Nathan Horton is back, and with three shots on goal (and zero points) in his last three games, he’s got to shoot more and be more physical to avoid confirming the reputation he had coming in as a player who disappears.

Read More: Corey Perry, Nathan Horton, Tim Thomas,
Bruins hope days off pay off 12.14.10 at 2:15 pm ET
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The Bruins had a rare two-day break from the ice after Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Flyers. The players’ time was their own on Sunday, while they spent Monday at Target in Woburn Christmas shopping for children who have to spend the holidays in the hospital.

On Tuesday, they returned to Ristuccia Arena, working on the power play and practicing for over an hour.

“The two days [off] is definitely nice,” Nathan Horton said. “I think we’re overall rejuvenated, and everybody’s ready to go. Everyone was excited to get back after two days. It’s been a while, and it’s nice to have a couple of days off.”

The B’s were preparing for their upcoming stretch of three games in four days beginning on Wednesday in Buffalo. After their bout with the Sabres, they’ll travel to Montreal to face the Canadiens on Thursday before returning home against the Capitals on Saturday.

Given how heavy the schedule has been, Claude Julien saw Sunday and Monday as a good opportunity to let the B’s rest up and let any aches players may be feeling work themselves out.

“I think so,” Julien said when asked if the time off was necessary. “It’s been a pretty heavy schedule for a lot of teams around the league. It’s an opportunity for us to keep them off the ice here for a little bit.”

With the return to the ice, Julien liked what he saw out of his guys. The break, which he hoped would allow them to “clear their heads a little bit and get ready for a big week,” seemingly paid off with a good practice.

“I think they looked like they had lots of energy,” Julien said. “Sometimes a couple of days off it good for you. When you say a couple of days off, I don’t think they really had days off. They were busy doing other things. It’s one of the few times that we’re able to help them out in a way where they can get their rest and get away from practice.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Nathan Horton,
Bruins use Monday to knock off Christmas shopping at 9:38 am ET
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WOBURN — Christmas shopping is crazy enough, but it’s a little crazier when professional athletes are doing the same, easily identifiable by their jerseys and Santa Clause hats.

That was the scene at Woburn’s Target store on Monday as the B’s did their annual Holiday Toy Shopping to pick up presents for local hospitalized children.

“It’s always nice, especially when you know it’s going to kids that won’t have a chance to be home for Christmas,” captain Zdeno Chara said. “At least this way, we want t make it really easy and comfortable for them. Hopefully they’re going to enjoy it.”

This was no case of grabbing the first things you can find and calling it a day. Players were given checklists, shopping carts and Target employees as they went through the store. Nathan Horton, a father who admittedly is learned on the popular gifts, had no trouble filling shopping carts with toys and even iPods.

It wasn’t long ago that 18-year-old Tyler Seguin was getting giddy over Christmas presents. The youngest player on the team, Seguin said he enjoyed Power Rangers toys as a child. As he picked presents on Tuesday, he was careful and deliberate in taking a good look at each gift before tossing it in the cart.

“This is a lot of fun,” Seguin said as he inspected the toys. “Any time you get to give back to the community and fans, it’s always a nice feeling. I get to tell my family all the good stuff and good causes we’re supporting.”

The B’s have been picking up presents for hospitalized children since the days of Ray Bourque. After Bourque was sent Colorado, Concord-born Hal Gill took over the operation, with P.J. Axelsson succeeding Gill. Patrice Bergeron, the longest-tenured current Bruins player, runs the show now.

“I liked doing it when Hal was here, and then P.J. took care of it,” Bergeron said Monday. “Once they left, I told [Director of Community Relations] Kerry [Collins] I wanted to take over because it’s something that I like and I think it’s something that the kids enjoy. It’s something that’s very important for the community.”

The next step of the process is actually delivering the gifts, which players noted is the best part.

“Today, it’s fun. You’re throwing a bunch of toys and stuff in the cart, but the big thing is when we drop them off at the hospitals,” Mark Stuart said. “It’s good to actually meet the kids and actually know where it’s going. That’s important with any charity.”

Read More: Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara,
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