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Olympic hockey: Group A breakdown 02.16.10 at 11:05 am ET
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The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics hockey tournament starts at 3 p.m. (ET) on Tuesday at Canada Hockey Place with Team USA taking on Switzerland to begin the Group A preliminary round robin. Throughout the day, we will present short bios of the teams in each group, starting with Group A, where the United States and Canada continue a long international rivalry.

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 — USA vs. Switzerland, 3 p.m.

Feb. 16 — Canada vs. Norway, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 18 — USA vs. Norway, 3 p.m.

Feb. 18 — Canada vs. Switzerland, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 20 — Norway vs. Switzerland, 3 p.m.

Feb. 21 — Canada vs. USA, 7:40 p.m.

United States

Captain — Jamie Langenbrunner

Assistant captains — Zach Parise, Dustin Brown, Ryan Suter, Brian Rafalski

Goaltenders — Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick

Players to Watch — Phil Kessel, Chris Drury, Patrick Kane

Bruins on the roster — Thomas

Breakdown — Team USA’s strength is between the pipes. The Sabres’ Miller is likely to get most of the starts for the Americans, but any one of the three goaltenders can get hot and carry the team into the medal round. Drury was a standout at Boston University, where he helped the Terriers to a national championship in 1995. This will be his third Olympic games. Kane and Kessel could give the team some offensive pop, but to stand up to the likes of Russia and Canada the Americans will have to be able to keep pucks out of the net. Team USA definitely has talent, but it may not be enough to propel it to its first gold medal since the 1980 Miracle on Ice, the only other time Team USA took first aside from the 1960 Forgotten Miracle.

Canada

Captain — Scott Niedermayer

Assistants — Sidney Crosby, Jerome Iginla, Chris Pronger

Goaltenders – Marc-Andre Fleury, Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur

Players to Watch — Whom not to watch? With such a star-packed team there are plenty of names to keep an eye on, but look out for Blackhawks young forward Jonathan Toews.

Bruins on the roster — Patrice Bergeron

Breakdown — The pressure is on the Canadians to win this tournament going away. It is their sport, their country and their gold medal to lose. With Crosby, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley likely to head up the top line and stout defensemen including Pronger on the blue line, it is an NHL general manager’s dream. Add in Luongo and the timeless Brodeur, and Canada has plus players and depth at every position. Look for Bergeron to man center on the third line and play against opposing teams’ top lines as a defensive forward.

Switzerland

Captain — Mark Streit

Goaltenders — Jonas Hiller, Martin Gerber, Tobias Stephan

Players to Watch — Streit and Hiller are the NHL stalwarts, but some young talent at the minor league level includes Yannick Weber of the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs (Canadiens), Andres Ambuhl of the AHL Hartford Wolfpack (Rangers) and Luca Sbisa of the WHL Portland Winterhawks (Ducks).

Breakdown — Gerber and Hiller are the strength of Team Switzerland and Streit is a strong captain for the team, but overall the talent is spread too thin to compete with the North Americans. A quarterfinals run would be an outside possibility.

Norway

Captain — TBD

Goaltenders — Pal Grotnes, Andre Lysenstoen, Ruben Smith.

Who to Watch – Ole-Kristian Tollefson, Patrick Thoresen, Tommy Jakobsen.

Breakdown — Tollefson and Thoresen are the only two players that have any NHL experience and neither are currently in the league. Tollefson has had the most success as the 65th pick of the 2002 draft by the Blue Jackets. He is with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Red Wings system. Tollefson and Thorensen are two of only five Norwegian players to ever lace up in the league. Thorensen played with the Oilers and Flyers and now is with Salat Yulaev of the KHL. Jakobsen is the old bear of the team with 131 international appearances. Do not expect much from Norway. The last time it qualified for the Olympics was 1994, and its highest finish in the tournament was eighth in 1972.

Read More: Canada, Norway, Patrice Bergeron, Switzerland
Bruins rain shots, do not get wet 02.04.10 at 11:27 pm ET
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It is raining shots in Boston.

This is not a weekend bender at The Fours but rather a deluge from the Boston Bruins of pucks on opposing goaltenders. Yet, like a large man with a penchant for good whiskey, the shots are having little effect.

In Thursday’s loss to the Canadiens the Bruins dumped 47 shots on Jaroslav Halak and came away with two goals in the 3-2 shootout loss. Add to that the 42 shots Boston had against Washington on Tuesday and the totals comes to 89 shots in two games with only three goals to show for it. The stat is hard to believe, especially if you are the Bruins who know they have significantly outplayed their opponents in the last two contests.

“Well, that is what happened,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. “Is it hard to believe? We have to stay positive and do the same thing, you know?” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Claude Julien, Mark Recchi, Patrice Bergeron, Steve Begin
Thornton, Sobotka make way for Sturm, Begin 01.30.10 at 7:49 pm ET
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BOSTON  –  The Bruins welcomed their leading goal scorer back to action on Saturday night when Marco Sturm strode onto the TD Garden ice against the Los Angeles Kings.

He missed the last six games with a leg injury, taking his 15 goals with him.

Steve Begin also returned after missing the last five games with a lower body injury. Shawn Thornton and Vladimir Sobotka were healthy scratches to make room on the 20-man game roster.

Thornton, with just one goal in 50 games, and Sobotka (4g, 3a in 43 games) have been very disappointing in their production as forwards and the Bruins are in desperate need of a jump-start to their offense. Entering Saturday, they had an NHL-low 128 goals.

But some of the focus before the game was on those injured Bruins who recently returned – namely Patrice Bergeron and Marc Savard.

“Patrice has been good for us all year,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “It hasn’t been an issue at all with him. He’s been our most reliable player from day one.”

To Julien’s point, the Bruins are 15-5-3 when Bergeron scores or records an assist. Bergeron entered Saturday with 21 assists, second on the team to Zdeno Chara’s 25.

Savard returned on Friday after missing eight games with a knee injury. He had an assist in the 2-1 loss at Buffalo. The team is 11-3-1 when he records a point in a game. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bruins, Marc Savard, Marco Sturm, Patrice Bergeron
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 postgame: Video from Ryder 01.22.10 at 1:55 am ET
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Patrice Bergeron scored his first goal since coming back from a broken right thumb. But his goal, which put the Bruins up, 2-1 after two, turned out to be little consolation as the Bruins suffered another third-period meltdown on TD Garden ice in a 3-2 loss to the Blue Jackets.

The other goal scorer from Thursday night, Michael Ryder, said there’s no panic but the Bruins are still a team searching for ways to finish teams off in the third period.

Read More: Bruins, NHL, Patrice Bergeron,
Bruins cannot close out Blue Jackets 01.21.10 at 10:02 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins dropped a heartbreaker to the Columbus Blue Jackets, as they watched a 2-1, third-period lead disintegrate into a 3-2 loss in front of a packed house at the TD Garden. The Jackets’ R.J. Umberger tipped an Anton Stralman blast from the point past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask with a little more than a minute left in the game.

Michael Ryder struck the first blow in the game off an open-ice dish from Trent Whitfield to give the Bruins an early 1-0 advantage in the first. Columbus struck back later in the period when Raffi Torres intercepted a weak clearing pass from defenseman Dennis Wideman and crossed to Chris Clark, who beat Rask with a slap shot from the high slot.

Boston outplayed the Blue Jackets in the second period and took the lead when Patrice Bergeron split a pair of defenders with a shot that beat Steve Mason low on the glove side. It looked like the Bruins were going to make the goal stand until Antoine Vermette busted down Rask’s door in the middle of the third to tie the game.

Three Stars

Steve Mason — Outside of the Umberger game-winner, Mason was the difference for the Blue Jackets on the night. He showed flashes of his former self from the 2008-09 season and was pivotal in stopping a plethora of B’s scoring chances in the first and second period and finished the game with 32 saves on 34 shots.

Antoine Vermette — The Bruins were never safe or comfortable when the Jackets’ first-line center was on the ice. He scored the tying goal and had a power-play goal disallowed (kicking) in the second period.

Patrice Bergeron — The Bruins’ points leader played a good all-around game and gave the Bruins the lead in the second period. The goal was his 12th of the year and added to his team high 32 points on the year.

Turning Point

The play that set up the Umberger game-winner was a phantom double-minor high-sticking penalty on Milan Lucic at the 18:29 mark in the third. Lucic was driving from the corner to the net when he was called for the penalty, setting up the power play. Columbus scored 15 seconds later after a timeout to break the Bruins’ back.

Key Play

Late in the second period, the Blue Jackets were on their first power play of the game when it appeared that Vermette had beaten Rask with with a dribbling puck when the goaltender was out of position. Rask immediately protested that the puck had gone off of Vermette’s skate and the officials reviewed the play. It turned out that Vermette had indeed kicked the puck into the goal with his back skate and the goal was disallowed because of the center’s “distinct kicking motion.” The Bruins would eventually lose the lead, but the play kept the advantage on their side until the final half of the third.

Read More: Michael Ryder, Patrice Bergeron, RJ Umberger, Tukka Rask
Begin, Bitz and Sturm all out against Sens 01.18.10 at 12:46 pm ET
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The short-handed Bruins will be without forwards Steve Begin, Byron Bitz and Marco Sturm for their matinee clash with the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden. Both are out with undisclosed injuries.

The team, already without Marc Savard and Andrew Ference, could get a boost with the return of center Patrice Bergeron and defenseman Dennis Wideman.

Bergeron has been out for six games with a broken thumb while Wideman returns after an undisclosed injury.

“I think the doctors had a chat with him and he wants to give it a try,” head coach Claude Julien said pregame of Bergeron’s desire to return Monday. “He’s been practicing now for a week.”

As for Bitz, Julien was a little more cryptic.

“Actually, it’s something new,” the coach said. “We’re a little banged up, but we’re grinding through and again, don’t make excuses.”

Read More: Bruins, NHL, Patrice Bergeron,
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