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Thoughts from the pre-Habs morning skate 01.13.09 at 12:38 pm ET
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There’s always a bit more life in the catacombs of the Old Garden when the Montreal Canadiens are in town for a Northeast Division showdown, and that’s again the case this morning on Causeway Street. The Habs are looking for revenge after a pair of beat downs in their last two epic games against each other, and the B’s are beginning to really deal with some roster and depth issues as the injury/illness bug continues to creep up and crawl through the team.

–Center Patrice Bergeron again skated before practice this morning — along with Andrew Ference and Milan Lucic — and that makes three consecutive days that the 23-year-old has laced up the skates and got the heart rate up and the blood pumping without any evidence of headache or setback.

This is music to ears of the Bruins’ fan base and, more importantly, to Bergeron himself.

“It’s great to be back out on the ice. I’m very happy,” said Bergeron, who pumped his heart rate up to 155-160 on the bike before he was cleared to get back on skates. “When I talked to you guys the other day

Manny's name tag, mask, and equipment were all in his stall within the Garden dressing room this morning...

Manny's name tag, mask, and equipment were all in his stall within the Garden dressing room this morning...

I didn’t know it was going to be that quick. It’s just skating for now and taking some shots and we’ll see further on. It’s just good to be back and a relief that I have a chance to skate again.

“I don’t want to have any setbacks, so we’re taking it slowly and surely,” added Bergeron. “If I feel good, then I feel good.

–Bruins coach Claude Julien had Martin St. Pierre and Milan Lucic both alternating turns with Chuck Kobasew and Marc Savard on the B’s top line during the morning skate and it really appears to be a mix-and-match game for Claude Julien with Phil Kessel removed from the lineup for the near-future. Lucic is a game-time decision with his undisclosed injury after sailing through the morning skate, but — either way — there won’t be a much-anticipated bought between Looch and Big George Laraque with the Habs’ enforcer out of the lineup tonight.

Facing the loss of 21-year-old star forward Phil Kessel to mononucleosis for a minimum of 2-4 weeks while also balancing significant injuries to Marco Sturm and Patrice Bergeron, Bruins coach Claude Julien said that the Bruins will do what they’ve always done best: survive.

“He’s no different than any of the guys that we’ve lost [to injury] so far,” said B’s coach Claude Julien, whose team will face a highly motivated Montreal Canadiens squad tonight at the TD Banknorth Garden. “Every time you lose key players like that it’s a big loss. But we’ve had a lot of practice with it, especially last year. We survived it, and we’ll survive it again.

“We have to rely on the guys at our disposal to play solidly and to play well.”

–The search for Manny’s name plate ended at the Garden this morning as it stood there firmly in place along with his mask and all of the rest of his equipment in the Boston dressing room. Julien said that Fernandez is dealing with, as GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed yesterday, “general soreness” and something “very minor” that has the veteran puckstopper currently on day-to-day status.

No word on the whereabouts of his much-discussed Ristuccia Arena name plate, but there appears to be a burgeoning request by the Bruins Faithful to have it appear on EBay – and available to the tip-top bidder – after a wee little piece of laminated paper with the goalie’s name on it sparked an avalanche of message board trade rumors on the great HFBoards yesterday afternoon.

“Hopefully we’ll see him on the ice tomorrow. That really is the situation with Manny,” said Julien, attempting to close the case of the ‘tender name plate.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Manny Fernandez, Milan Lucic
Kessel out a month with mono 01.12.09 at 9:52 pm ET
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Kessel will be out roughly a month with the "kissing disease"

Kessel will be out roughly a month with the "kissing disease"

With Marco Sturm and Patrice Bergeron already on the shelf with injuries, the injured reserve list grew by one yesterday when Phil Kessel was put on the shelf with mononucleosis. The illness is believed to be about a month-long recovery process from the high-scoring winger with a team-high 24 goals, and leaves the B’s with a gaping hole on their top line.

The B’s brass has been resolute in their desire to fill any roster vacancies with in-house solutions, and — truth be told — things didn’t seem all that bad when it was simply Sturm and Bergeron on the injured reserve. The B’s have won all season with Sturm alternating between an ice-cold start to his season and injuries that nagged at him all winter long leading up to the knee issue. In Bergeron’s case, he’s laced up the skates and made it out on the ice and is weeks away — rather than months from a return to game action.

But there isn’t anybody capable of replacing a potential 40-goal scorer in Kessel over the next month when the Black and Gold will play 13 games and head into the stretch run prior to the playoffs. A large B’s cushion in both the Northeast Division and the Eastern Conference will allow them some patience in trying out some Providence Wanna-B’s — but the need for a trade may become an inevitability.

After playing in all 82 regular season games last season, Kessel skated in all 42 games this season and has potted a team-high 24 goals and added 17 assists. His 24 goals rank tied for third in the entire NHL and
he owns the longest point streak in the league, having accumulated points in 18 consecutive games from November 13-December 21, 2008.

Boston’s first round pick (5th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, the 21-year-old Kessel has recorded 54-53=107 totals in 194 career NHL games. He had played in 167 straight regular season games, dating back to January 9, 2007.

Along with Kessel’s trip to the injured reserve, the B’s assigned both South Boston native Kevin Regan and defenseman Matt Lashoff back to Providence and called both center Martin St. Pierre and Tuukka Rask back up to Boston. The move appears to be an admission that the “minor issue” involving Manny Fernandez won’t be sufficiently resolved by tomorrow night’s game against the Canadiens, but — then again — that situation seems to keep changing by the minute.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Manny Fernandez, Marco Sturm
Bergeron back on the ice this morning at 10:42 am ET
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Bergeron returned to the ice for the second consecutive day in Wilmington this morning...

Bergeron returned to the ice for the second consecutive day in Wilmington this morning...

Just days after Patrice Bergeron vowed to return to the Bruins this season, the 23-year-old center skated on the ice at Ristuccia Arena for roughly a half-hour this morning. There’s still no timetable on Bergeron’s return, but getting back on the ice is a significant step in Bergeron’s progress. The B’s center also skated briefly yesterday as well. Bergeron was joined by Shane Hnidy — with a visor attached to his helmet protecting the still-massive shiner on his left eye — as well as Milan Lucic, Aaron Ward and Andew Ference for some turns on the practice ice before the rest of the team conducted regular practice. 

 
 
 
 
 

 

“[Bergeron] did well. He was out there for over a half-hour,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “He continues to progress. “It’s nice to see him back on the ice and it’s encouraging for him too. It means he’s a step closer to his goal of returning. It’s great for him and great for the team.”

–Julien also indicated that Manny Fernandez wasn’t on the ice today, and is dealing with a minor injury “issue”. Julien indicated that Fernandez won’t be a scratch for tomorrow, and that likely means Kevin Regan’s one-day dress rehearsal with the Bruins will have him back down in Providence tomorrow. The sheer mathematics of a Boy Goaltender from Southie coming up with enough game tickets to satiate family and friends is mind-blowing. Then add in the fact that it’s against the hated Habs. I simply can’t wrap my simpleton journalistic head around it.

For what it’s worth, Fernandez’s nameplate was also missing from its usual location within the Ristuccia Arena dressing room this morning – which should send Bruins conspiracy theorists into orbit. Kevin Regan was moved into the vacant locker in between Tim Thomas and Fernandez, and it looked as if Fernandez’s nameplate had been yanked from its spot. Could mean nothing, or it could mean that the wheels are in full spin toward dealing Manny Fernandez for a top flight defenseman or for some help/healthy bodies at forward. Stay tuned.

Read More: Aaron Ward, Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Manny Fernandez
Bergeron speaks… 01.09.09 at 11:25 am ET
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There was one overiding theme to Friday’s media availability with Patrice Bergeron at TD Banknorth Garden. “This year is different.” From Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to coach Claude Julien to the man himself, everyone wanted to make sure this much was clear – this year’s concussion, suffered on Dec. 20 against Carolina, is NOT like last year’s grade 3 concussion that ended Bergeron’s 2007-08 season in October against Philadelphia. Last season, Bergeron addressed the media in December before a press room full of reporters and it was an uncomfortable if not traumatic experience for everyone in the organization, including Bergeron. This year, while crowded with cameras and reporters to the right of his locker stall, Bergeron look far more at ease as he took questions. Last season, there were concerns not just about his career but his long-term health. While those concerns are there for every player, Bergeron talked about getting his heart rate up to 140 beats a minute for 35 minutes while doing cardio. And last year, till the very end of the season, there was no indication when he might return. This year, reading between the lines, it seems as though a return somewhere around the All-Star break at the end of the month may not be out of the question. Joe Haggerty has the full story at Pucks with Haggs. Let’s listen to what the parties had to say Friday at the Garden.

Bergeron said it’s been tough staying positive after taking the hit from Dennis Seidenberg.

Bergeron is confident he’ll be back.

Bergeron said he’s not the first to get a concussion from the jaw.

Chiarelli admits he was nervous when Bergeron took the hit to the jaw.

Chiarelli said Bergeron has peace of mind now.

Chiarelli is confident Bergeron will be back.

Julien said everyone wants to see him back.

Julien said this concusion is not comparable to last season’s hit against Philadelphia.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, concussion, Patrice Bergeron
Bergeron’s agent: His first concussion wasn’t necessarily a contributing factor 12.29.08 at 10:11 pm ET
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Bergeron got some positive news during his most recent visit with his neurologist...

Bergeron got some positive news during his most recent visit with his neurologist...

The bad news is that Patrice Bergeron is still battling the recurrent, nagging headaches that typically linger after suffering a concussion brought on by a violent NHL collision gone wrong. The two-way center is not going to be in the lineup when the Bruins and Penguins face off against each other at the TD Banknorth Garden on New Year’s Day, and there’s a strong possibility the calendar could be into February or March before he’s again donning the Spoked B in an NHL game.

But…the 23-year-old center also received some encouraging news last week as well when he met with Bruins team physician Dr. Peter Asnis and noted Boston neurologist Dr. Robert Cantu. Cantu related to Bergeron that “99 percent” of NHL players would have similarly suffered a significant concussion in the manner of collision that saw the side of Bergeron’s face smack into the unforgiving shoulder pads of Dennis Seidenberg with such violent force.

Cantu’s statement was meant to assure Bergeron that his second concussion wasn’t the sign of a player that’s becoming more and more succeptible to head injuries and hockey dings — as players like Eric Lindros and Pat LaFontaine both became increasingly fragile when a career full of head hits began to take their toll. The concussion was instead simply another stroke of bad luck for a player chock full of the stuff over the last calendar year. Cantu’s assessment of the hit and the damage done, according to Bergeron’s agent Kent Hughes, was encouraging to Bergeron, who might have understandably feared that he could become another cautionary concussion tale in the NHL.

Here’s a quick Q&A with Hughes, who gave an update that should put a little skip in the step of Bruins’ fans hoping that Bergeron can make another heroic hockey return sooner rather than later. It seems — reading between the lines of what Hughes is saying here – that a six week absence might be a reasonable span of time if Bergeron continues to improve at his current rate, but that’s still very much in question.

As Hughes correctly states, it’s always uncertain when it comes to a timetable for the brain’s healing process. So we’ll wait and see. Here’s Hughes:

How is Patrice doing? KH: He’s doing well. This injury is not of the same severity as the last one that he suffered.

Is he still experiencing the headaches at this point, or are they starting to dissipate? KH:I just got back into town so I haven’t checked in with him [Tuesday] on the symptoms, but the neurologist told him that the concussion he suffered the first time around was not necessarily the contributing factor in this one. [The neurologist said that] the hit that he took would have caused a concussion in 99 percent of the people that were on the receiving end whether they had previously been concussed or not.

That’s good news…KH:As far as concussions go, most don’t have a timeline in terms of recovery because it’s really a question of the brain and how it responds. That’s the experience I’ve had with all of my clients dealing with concussions, as well as with Patrice last year. It’s something we really went back and forth with [Bergeron] last year. You typically wait for the person to be asymptomatic at rest for a period of time and then you introduce some physical activity. Then you see if the player has a relapse of any kind with the post-concussion symptoms. That process continues until the athlete can go through the whole course of physical activity without any relapse.  

And the recovery seems to be very much on a case-by-case basis. KH: Yeah, and the other integral part is that there really isn’t really any kind of time frame like with an ACL tear, whether it be a short or long. You know how badly you tear your knee and you know that you can potentially miss an entire season because of an injury.

The problem with the brain injury is that the majority of concussions don’t show up on any kind of imaging. They really rely on how the brain responds. At the outset you could say it’s a three-week injury, but it could be one week or it could be six weeks depending on the brain and the body and how they react to the physical activity. It could be six [weeks], or it could be longer.

The doctor believes that whether he’d suffered that previous concussion or not, he was very, very likely to suffer a concussion after the hit he took [against Carolina]. There are some guys you see that have been concussed so many times that the slightest hit dings them, or whatever. Patrice Bergeron is really a little bit of a victim here in that he’s taken two really bad blows in a span of only about 30 games. It’s a really physical sport, but it’s not often you take two blows like that in such a short span [of games]. There are some [players] that, for lack of a better term, have softened and are susceptible and it might not take such strong blows to cause a concussion.

How is Patrice’s state of mind as he’s handling all of this a second time around? Is he angry? Frustrated? Is he encouraged by the news from the doctor? KH: Yeah. I was with him on Saturday and there was certainly a level of frustration with him because he was concerned about when he can go [and play]. I think there was also a level of enthusiasm after what he learned [from Cantu and Asnis].

I think the last time around there was a series of moments where he would improve steadily and then he would be down if he there was a setback. My guess is that this time around he’ll be a bit more guarded in reacting to how the process is going, and just let the healing process take its course.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Kent Hughes, Patrice Bergeron,
B’s suffer losses in 13th straight home win 12.20.08 at 11:05 pm ET
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It was a convincing 4-2 win for the Black and Gold against a Carolina Hurricanes team playing quality hockey heading into Boston, but the 13th straight victory at the TD Banknorth Garden also had its share of negatives. Patrice Bergeron went into Saturday still searching for ways to reclaim his hockey groove after missing nearly all of last season with a concussion, and yesterday’s game ended for him in the second period with another potential head injury.

Bergeron went zipping in for a hit on Carolina defenseman Dennis Seidenberg at mid-ice during the second period of Saturday’s win, but a freak thing happened on the way in for the clean hit. The right side of Bergeron’s face and head violently crunched into Seidenberg’s right shoulder as he attempted the finishing check.

The 17,565 in attendence went eerily silent as Bergeron fell to the ice chest-first in a heap and lay all-but motionless for several uncomfortable, agonizing moments. Bergeron’s story has been one of triumph all season long – despite the lack of overwhelming offensive production — but things took an ugly detour yesterday after only 7:53 of ice time in the game. It’s a sickening feeling to watch a hockey-crazed crowd of 17,000 fall into a silent haze when the dreaded head/neck injury drops a player to their knees, and that was the regrettable backdrop at the Garden midway through the second.

“All the noise and standing isn’t good for the player. We try to keep quiet. That is how I was brought up; you try to keep quiet when something like that happens,” said Manny Fernandez, who watched the Bruins’ medical staff and trainers attend to the fallen Bergeron before the 23-year-old skated off under his own power. ”But he was strong enough to get back on his feet by himself, which is a good thing. He was able to skate off on his own strength, so that is a positive.

“Like I said, we can’t think about that too much right now. We have to let the doctors take care of him. We will need him back. But I don’t think that other teams are going to take it easy on us because he is out of the lineup, so we have to concentrate on what is left and go from there.”

After the game, the Bruins said that Bergeron was still being evaluated and that the club wanted to be precise with the diagnosis for Boston hockey’s Golden Boy. The most revealing part of the information relay concerning Bergeron’s injury took place when coach Claude Julien spoke with the player between the second and third period. Bergeron himself told Julien he was “dinged up” after the collision with the Carolina blueliner, and Julien absolved Seidenberg of any wrongdoing in the situation.

“I saw it with my own eyes but I wanted to see if it was an elbow, a stick, or a shoulder,” said Julien. “It was not a cheap shot by any means, it was a collision.”

Dinged up or not, Bergeron was alert and the doctors were still evaluating him in the hours following the afternoon matinee. It was a far cry, however, from the Oct. 27, 2007 hit by Randy Jones that ended the skater’s 2007-08 season after only 10 games. It’s too early to rule it a concussion or start doling out meaningless and arbitrary dates that the skilled player might return, and the Bruins promised to release a statement once the doctors had given a final diagnosis.

 ”The doctors are looking at it and haven’t given us any indication as to the severity of it,” said Julien. “We’ve asked…they haven’t diagnosed him yet as to whether it is [a concussion] or is it not. He said he got dinged pretty good.”

Here is the hit. At this point, the only thing to do is send best wishes that it’s not something damaging enough to prevent Bergeron from playing the game he loves and cherishes:

Fourth Line Breakdown

Saturday’s win also featured a solid effort from the disparate members of the ever-changing Bruins ”energy line.” Stephane Yelle potted the empty net goal that iced the game in the waning seconds of the third period — his fifth score of the season –and registered three hits in victory. Rugged rough-housing Shawn Thornton scored the game-winning goal on an unassisted tally in the third period, registered a game-high six hits in a relentlessly physical effort throughout, and even had four shots on net to finish off the all-around performance.

Vladimir Sobotka also continued to add an aggravating sandpaper presence to pair along with Yelle and Thornton. Sobotka even stopped agitating long enough to feed a beautiful backhand dish that set up a David Krejci strike and handed Boston their first lead of the game in the third. The assists was Sobotka’s first point of the 2008-09 season.

“It is amazing how some guys that don’t score often, score against the same teams.  It was nice to see him get the winning goal,” said Julien of Thornton, who has feasted offensively on Carolina over the last few years. “If you have everybody over the course of a season playing a big role in a win, its nice to see those guys in the role of giving energy to our team, throwing hits out there, and trying not to get scored on, get rewarded.  Yelle got that fourth goal in the empty net, Thornton, and I thought Sobotka had a real good game on that line tonight.”

A little known tidbit about Thornton’s goal against the ‘Canes: he utilized a time-honored bit of puck chicaneary for the score. Thornton gamely called out “reverse” when Carolina defenseman Joe Corvo was handling the puck behind the Hurricanes net, and Corvo promptly obliged. With his back to the fourth liner hiding in wait alone behind the net, Corvo shoveled the puck behind him directly to Thornton. The B’s winger took the gift puck and zipped it past Cam Ward for his second goal of the season.

Was Thornton’s ruse a legal, above board hockey manuever, or was Thornton’s shout-out similar to the ploy A-Rod used screaming “I Got It!” to foul up the Toronto Blue Jays infielders two seasons? Thornton seemed slightly sheepish afterward when explaining his technique, but the 31-year-old didn’t seem to care how much it bothered the ‘Canes.

“They were going back for the puck and I kind of screamed ‘reverse’ to their defenseman and I think he thought I was their guy,” said Thornton. “He gave the puck right to me, and I think it went off [Ward's] stick and in. I dunno. I just buried my head for once and it finally went in for me.”

Is that acceptable behavior on the ice?

“Probably not…it might be a little dirty, but I don’t care,” said a laughing Thornton. “Dirty or wily, whatever way you want to look at it. [That doesn't] work too often. Maybe one out of a 100.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Manny Fernandez, Patrice Bergeron
Sounds of the game… Bruins 4, Hurricanes 2 at 3:37 pm ET
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While the Bruins were busy racking up their 13th straight home win, much of the focus afterward was for the well-being of Patrice Bergeron. His serious concussion last year had people wondering for not only his professional career but his long-term health. Then in the second period, he went to the ice after taking a hit int he neutral zone and was motionless while trainers tended to him. He eventually left the ice alert but was being evaluated after the game. As for the game itself, Marc Savard, Shawn Thornton, David Krejci and Stephane Yelle (empty net) all scored to lead the Bruins to the victory. They don’t play at home again until Jan. 1 against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Claude Julien on the status of Patrice Bergeron.

Julien said the Hurricanes gave the Bruins a stiff test.

Manny Fernandez said the Bruins seem to be getting the breaks on their current run.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Manny Fernandez, Patrice Bergeron
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