|Meet the Bruins’ new second-line center: Blake Wheeler||11.08.10 at 1:44 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Blake Wheeler left the Ristuccia ice on Monday and walked to his locker, intent on delivering a message.
“Hey guys, I’m playing center!”
The news wasn’t exactly news given that he had served as the second-line center during practice, but even Wheeler could understand that it was a notable topic as the Bruins prepare for the next week or so without the services of David Krejci.
Krejci was diagnosed with a moderate concussion after crashing head-first into the boards following a collision with Blues forward T.J. Oshie early on in overtime during the Bruins’ 2-1 shootout loss on Saturday. He is expected to miss at least a week. When the team returned to practice on Monday, second-line center Patrice Bergeron had jumped onto the first line, with Wheeler sliding in between Jordan Caron and Mark Recchi on the second line.
The Bruins had briefly experimented with the idea of playing Wheeler at center during training camp when it became clear that they’d be without Marc Savard, but ultimately it was Tyler Seguin who stuck as a pivot, playing on the third line. Wheeler, who played center his final two years at the University of Minnesota, is excited for both the opportunity to return to his old position and challenge of regaining the familiarity.
“Today was a bit of the shock to the system, with all the skating and stuff,” Wheeler said. “It’s always nice. I find that it really gets you into the game, gets you involved a lot faster than wing does sometimes because you’re up and down the ice and you’ve got to be really focused defensively. I’ve always liked playing center, so it should be a good challenge.”
Before the team left for its European excursion in late September, it became rather clear that Wheeler would remain a winger, either on the second line or third line. He played a large portion of the preseason with Seguin as his center, but feels that the little time he was exposed to center in camp should be beneficial to what he does going forward.
“It was kind of a crash-course refresher with all the little nuances of playing center,” Wheeler said. “That was huge. It gave me the confidence to know that I could still do that at this level and be effective. For me, that was the biggest thing, just knowing you can do it, and I guess we’ll see how it goes.”
Though familiarity with the center position is something that will come with time, one advantage Wheeler has with this line is that he knows his wingers well. He’s played on lines with both Recchi and Caron this season, and hopes to continue to build chemistry with the two as he adjusts over the next week or two.
“That definitely helps, to have familiarity with guys. Rex always makes it easier on you no matter where you are. That’s always nice, and Jordan’s really strong on the puck, too, so it won’t be any problem for us,” Wheeler said. “We’re going to have to help each other out and pick each other up. It should be no different.”
Wheeler has taken only three faceoffs this season, but has won two of them. He pointed to faceoffs as the biggest burden as he accepts his cameo as a center, and admitted that he hasn’t been practicing them since training camp. As long as he doesn’t lose them clean, Wheeler feels he and his line will be alright.
“That will be the biggest challenge, is the faceoffs. That’s always the toughest part, when you haven’t taken them in a while. I’ll just try to do my best and battle,” Wheeler said. “I know those two guys will be in there helping me out, and trying to get some good wins for me. I guess the job for me is not to lose them clean. As long as you’re in a battle and creating sort of a scrum, that’s half the battle.”
Through 11 games, Wheeler has one goal and two assists.
WILMINGTON — After taking the day off Sunday, the Bruins returned to work at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington on Monday for their first practice following Saturday’s injury to David Krejci. The top-line center suffered a concussion when he hit the boards following a hit from T.J. Oshie in overtime.
With Krejci out, the color-coded lines saw a bit of shuffling. Patrice Bergeron is now wearing a white sweater, signifying he’ll be on the top line with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. Blake Wheeler appears set to center the second line, while it looks like Daniel Paille might get some third-line ice time out of this deal. Here are how the lines look based on the practice jerseys.
Lucic – Bergeron – Horton
Caron – Wheeler – Recchi
Paille – Seguin – Ryder
Marchand – Campbell – Thornton
– Brian McGrattan has been placed on waivers for the purpose of assigning him to Providence. The Bruins have indicated that they will not be recalling anybody for the time being.
|Patrice Bergeron, Bruins ready for three games in four days||11.02.10 at 1:46 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins opened the season with games in Prague on back-to-back nights (or days, depending where you were watching it). Since playing the second game on Oct. 10, they’ve been able to familiarize themselves with comfortable spacing between their games. They’ve had no back-to-back games, and there have been plenty of days in between, playing their games on the 16th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, 28th, and 30th of October. It’s a new month, and perhaps a Patrice Bergeron quote from Tuesday sums up the schedule best.
“Now it’s coming.”
The Bruins will hit the road for Buffalo, where they’ll kick off a stretch Wednesday that has three games in four days, including the first of three different back-to-back nights of work in the next three weeks. From Buffalo they’ll head to Washington to face the Capitals before returning to the Garden to take on the Blues at home.
“The whole month is going to be like that,” Bergeron said of the hectic schedule. “We’re going to need to get our rest when it’s there, but get on a roll and just go from there. Just try to be ready for every game.”
Claude Julien can see that having the back-to-back games will be a challenge throughout the month, but his main focus is on a couple of teams with revenge on their minds. The Bruins eliminated the Sabres in the first round of the playoffs last season, and the 2010-11 edition has taken both of its games against Alexander Ovechkin and the capitals this season.
“It’s going to be a good challenge,” Julien said of the stretch. “First of all, going to Buffalo is never easy building to play in, I don’t care what they’re going through right now. They always play us hard, and then you go to Washington, a team that’s going to be looking for revenge, no doubt, after beating them in back-to-back games. And then you’re coming back late. We’ve got to go to the airport, which is at least an hour’s drive after the game, so we’re going to be getting in late Friday night. Then you’ve got a St. Louis team that’s really playing well and you’ve got to play them at home the next night. It’s not going to be an easy week for us. It’s not going to be an easy trip. We’ve got to be prepared for that mentally as well as physically.”
|Don’t expect Tyler Seguin to live with Mark Recchi||10.29.10 at 4:36 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Tyler Seguin knows that he’s staying, but where is he staying?
After being told Thursday night that he would not be sent back to juniors, the biggest question immediately became whether he, like many young players before him, would live with a teammate, much like Patrice Bergeron in his rookie year with Martin Lapointe.
The obvious line of thinking would lead one to think Mark Recchi, a future Hall-of-Famer and Seguin’s linemate, could be an obvious choice to host the 18-year-old. As a result, both players were bombarded with questions about whether Seguin might should study up on the rules of the Recchi home.
The verdict? The mentorship will have to be limited to the ice and the locker room.
“I don’t have a big enough place right now,” Recchi told WEEI.com on Friday. “I think the team will let him go on his own around the guys. Everybody’s right down town. [Jordan Staal] lived with me [in Pittsburgh], and I had a guest cottage on my property, so it was kind of the best of both worlds. He had his own space, and he hung out with us all the time for dinner and stuff like that. They’ll figure out exactly what [Seguin] wants, and the guys are all within such a small area that everybody’s going to be looking after him anyways.”
Seguin figured as much, and it appears the teenager will try living on his own, but in close proximity to his teammates.
“Right now I think I might be getting my own place, and everyone else kind of in the same building.”
The second overall pick in June’s draft, Seguin has two goals and two assists, good for four points through seven games. Some tried stirring the pot when it came to suggesting there was even a possibility Seguin would return to the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, as the B’s could have sent him back to juniors without burning a year on his contract. In the end, the B’s elected to not wait for the nine-game trial to expire, telling Seguin after seven to get comfortable in Boston.
Recchi, who has seen just about everything in the NHL, couldn’t see a scenario in which the goal-scoring center didn’t stick.
“I didn’t think there would be any doubt [he’d stay],” Recchi said. “He’s talented, and the great thing about it is that he’s got the whole year to grow as a player and learn and get better. It’s a good spot for him to do it, so he’s in a good situation.”
Seguin still keeps in contact with some of his teammates from Plymouth and received a text message from head coach Mike Vellucci after he scored his first career goal. Seguin appreciated the kind thoughts from Vellucci, who essentially resurrected his junior career two years ago, but noted on Thursday that he isn’t rushing to tell him that they officially are no longer affiliated.
“I’m not going to be the one to call him and tell him that I’m staying up here,” Seguin said. “It’s not my place or my position. Once he finds out I’m sure he’ll call me.”
|Patrice Bergeron has Bruins leading Maple Leafs after one||10.28.10 at 8:03 pm ET|
After an awesome ceremony to honor the 92-years-young Milt Schmidt, the Bruins and Leafs skated to a competitive first period, with the B’s jumping out to a 1-0 lead thanks to Patrice Bergeron‘s first goal of the season. Bergeron picked up the goal, a power play tally, on a slap shot off Jonas Gustavsson, at 19:19. The goal was the 100th of Bergeron’s career.
– The Bruins tinkered with the defensive pairings they opened the game with, as Matt Hunwick saw time with Dennis Seidenberg (remember the season-opener?) and Andrew Ference skated alongside Mark Stuart.
– Tim Thomas stopped all eight shots he faced, and got some help when a Luca Caputi shot rang off the right post.
And now for a D2: The Mighty Ducks are Back reference:
Move over, Dwayne Robertston: Brad Marchand laughs at your two minutes for roping. The B’s fourth-line winger took the always interesting two-minute minor for “shooting a stick to a teammate” at 8:46. As rule 10.3 states, “a player will be penalized if he throws, tosses, slides, or shoots a stick to a teammate on the ice. … A minor penalty shall be imposed for an infraction of this rule.”
The audience let out a collective laugh of confusion at the penalty’s announcement, but the B’s were able to kill off each of the two penalites on the period. Mark Stuart went off for interference at 1:03.
|Bruins see improvement in Maple Leafs||10.27.10 at 3:57 pm ET|
The Bruins are preparing for their first match-up against the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night, in an always-anticipated clash of original six teams. In the 2009-10 season, the Maple Leafs were nothing special, finishing at the bottom of the Northeast Division with a 30-38-14 record. Now, eight games into 2010-11, it seems the Leafs have turned things around. Toronto won its first four starts, then dropped three games in a row before picking up a 3-1 victory over the Panthers Tuesday night. The Leafs’ 5-2-1 record currently has them sitting atop the division standings.
‘They’re a good team, they’re a young team,’ Patrice Bergeron said after practice on Wednesday. ‘Their players have developed into good players so I think that’s why they’re improved.’
Right wing Nathan Horton said he knows the Leafs have shown plenty of reasons for other teams to fear them thus far.
“Their defensemen are big, strong, physical, and their forwards are quick and fast,’ Horton said, adding the Bruins will need to be prepared to work for 60 minutes on Thursday. Coach Claude Julien seemed to agree, noting that the B’s are ‘facing a team that’s coming in with lots of confidence, lots of speed and lots of energy.’
Speaking of energy, it has seemed to be just that the B’s have lacked early on in each of their losses this season. On Saturday, the Rangers put up a quick 2-0 lead on the Bruins in the first period, and the Bruins, despite getting goals from Zdeno Chara and Horton, were never quite able to make a full comeback.
‘I think it’s just about making sure we have a good first couple shifts and be good on the forecheck right away,’ Bergeron said. ‘If we get scored one goal against, we’ve got to make sure we keep our balance instead of just getting back over our heels for a couple shifts and letting them score another one.’
|Quebec connection paying dividends for Jordan Caron, Patrice Bergeron||10.15.10 at 1:34 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — A player’s rookie year in the NHL presents some pretty predictable obstacles. Getting used to the speed of the game, limiting mistakes, and not letting the game get inside one’s own head. When the player is under 20 years of age and learning a new language, perhaps the jitters felt and the speedbumps experienced become enhanced a bit, and the rookie naturally seeks the guidance of a player who was once in similar shoes.
That may be exactly the relationship that exists between Bruins second-liners Jordan Caron and Patrice Bergeron. Both players come from Quebec, and like Bergeron did as an 18-year-old in the 2003-04 season, Caron, 19, is entering a new league while also trying to master a new language. To this point, both his English and his game have come along nicely, though the whole package has been aided by the now 25-year-old Bergeron.
After over-thinking situations on the ice at points in the team’s scrimmage in Belfast, Bergeron and Mark Recchi, at the time linemates with Caron, had lunch and discussed the challenges the young winger was facing. The lunch concluded with the two deciding that it would be best if Bergeron took Caron for dinner to remind him of how big a difference he could make.
‘It’s been a long camp for me, but I don’t want to take that as an excuse,’ Caron said a few days after the Belfast game. ‘I guess it has been a long training camp for me, but I have to get over it and just try to do my best.’
While in Prague, Bergeron did take Caron, who by then had been demoted to the third line, out for the meal, one that both players feel helped the rookie.
“We went for dinner in Prague. I didn’t say much. It was just to make him feel comfortable and realize that he’s part of the team and he’s a good player and that even though he’s young, he’s good,” Bergeron said, adding that he told Caron to, “just play the same game that he’s been playing throughout his career.”
After scoring in the team’s preseason finale in Liberec, Czech Republic, Caron was a scratch in the season-opener against the Coyotes, a game in which the team fell to Phoenix, 5-2. He made his NHL debut on Sunday, being bumped back up to the second line with Bergeron and Blake Wheeler. Caron logged a team-low 9:42 minutes of ice time but got a couple of shots on net in the process, making an overall first impression that he’s glad to have gotten out of the way.
Since the team returned from Prague, Caron has skated with the second line and though he has taken to the “anything can happen” mentality, it appears his ice time will only go up as the season progresses. As that comes, so too may more rookie challenges, but Bergeron has made it clear to Caron that he is more than happy with aiding in the adjustment as well as he can. After all, it wasn’t long ago that he had a go-to guy in the locker room for the same purpose.
“Martin Lapointe was always there [for me] my first year,” Bergeron recalled. “He was always calming me down and helping me make sure I wasn’t getting ahead of myself.”
Bergeron lived with Lapointe and his family in his rookie year. On the ice, he made big strides, contributing 39 points as rookie despite facing the challenges that accompany someone learning English off the ice.
“It was pretty hard, especially that first year. It was different and difficult as well, just for opening bank accounts and all that, social security number, and all that stuff,” Bergeron said. “Things that were different with me are pretty much the same with Jordan. They’re all things you’ve got to go through, but with help it’s pretty easy.”
A difference can definitely be observed in Caron’s English from the summer’s rookie development camp until now. He notes that he’s “getting comfortable with everything,” but that he’s not afraid to be persistent with Bergeron if it means getting a firmer grasp on things.
“I don’t want to be annoying, but he told me not to be scared to ask him anything, and that’s what I do,” Caron said.” If I don’t understand a drill sometimes because the language is different, I’ll go right up to him and ask him.”
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