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Bruins aim to finally win two in a row 03.08.12 at 12:30 pm ET
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When it comes to the Bruins, the last two months have been the definition of mediocrity. They were shut out five times in February and they’ve gone 11-12-2 over their last 25 games. Their scoring has dropped off and they’ve been allowing goals at a greater rate.

The Bruins' struggles might have them jumping out of their skin. (AP)

Perhaps the most alarming bit about their sluggish stretch is that they have not managed to win back-to-back games over their lsat 25 contests. It’s been since Jan. 10 and Jan. 12, and on Thursday they will have their latest chance to string together two victories.

The Bruins have obviously been banged up, but even the talent that’s left on the roster is capable of more. They’ve certainly been better over their last few games, but ultimately they can’t put their finger on what’s made it so difficult to win two in a row.

“I don’t know. We’ve been playing better of late,” Shawn Thornton said Thursday morning. “I think New York, we deserved to win [vs. the Rangers, a 4-3 loss]. I think we played well in Toronto. I think our game’s getting back to wear it needs to be. As long as we stay consistent with the way we’re playing, I’m happy.”

Last season, the Bruins were also struggling around this point of the season. On March 8, the B’s dropped what would be the second of four straight games (0-2-2) as part of a 1-3-3 stretch. The B’s found a way to pick up over the last few weeks, going 7-3-1 over their last 11 games.

Obviously, that didn’t solve all of the Bruins’ problems at the time. The B’s dropped the first two games of the Eastern conference quarterfinals to the Canadiens before coming alive and winning the series in seven games. Not letting the losses get you down is a mindset preached in the Bruins’ room, and it’s one that helped them then and eventually helped them win the Stanley Cup.

“We said it a lot last year. We didn’t let the highs get too high and the lows get too low,” Thornton said. “I know it’s cliche, but it’s true. We kind of just go about our business and focus on the next game. I think we’ve been pretty good at that this year, too. I think the experience has helped, but that was a big key in our success last year, just not worrying about what just happened, whether it was a big win or a big loss. [It was about] focusing on what’s coming up.”

On Thursday, the challenge to win two straight will come in the form of the Sabres, a squad that’s beaten the B’s in their last two meetings. Winning two straight hasn’t been easy for the Bruins of late, and it certainly won’t be easy given Buffalo’s situation. The Sabres are two points out of a playoff spot and have picked up their game, picking up points in nine of their last 10 games (7-1-2).

“They might be desperate, but they’re also playing great hockey, so it’s a combination of both,” Claude Julien said of the Sabres.

Two of the Bruins’ losses following wins over their last 25 games have come against the Sabres, so the B’s will be looking to change that trend Thursday night at the Garden. They feel they’ve been playing well enough recently (nine goals over their last two games) to pick up back-to-back wins for the first time in a long time. Frankly, they’re overdue.

“Our attitude in this room has never been a problem, but I think that we’re playing better of late,” Thornton said. “If we continue to be consistent playing that way, then we’re going to be good.”

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Greg Zanon won’t play for Bruins Tuesday night 02.28.12 at 12:17 pm ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Tuesday’s morning skate that he expects additions Brian Rolston and Mike Mottau to be in the lineup when the B’s take on the Senators Tuesday night. Greg Zanon just arrived in Boston and did not take part in the morning skate and will not play Tuesday.

Julien added that forward Shawn Thornton, who has been sick recently, is expected to be in the lineup. Thornton was present for Tuesday’s morning skate.

Rolston, who was acquired with Mottau from the Islanders Monday, centered Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Caron in the morning skate.

Julien said he was “really happy with the moves, which provide the B’s with depth for the stretch run.

“Depth doesn’t mean they don’t belong in our lineup,” Julien said, “it means we have a lot more options now.”

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Shawn Thornton: Senators ‘not sneaking up on anyone anymore’ 01.31.12 at 12:38 pm ET
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The Senators are second in the Northeast Division. (AP)

The standings are deceiving. The Bruins are running away with the Northeast division.

While the Senators (27-19-6, 60 points) currently sit just four points behind the B’s (31-14-2, 65 points), Ottawa has played 52 games this season to Boston’s 47. That means the time to worry about losing the division won’t be coming soon, but it doesn’t mean the Bruins shouldn’t be mindful of the only other team in their division that’s currently in line for a playoff spot.

The Senators should enter Tuesday night’s game with a full head of steam. No, they haven’t played well of late (see below), but they should be on a hockey high after hosting the All-Star game this weekend. They weren’t expected to compete as well as they have this season, but they’ve certainly gotten the Bruins’ attention.

“[They're] a hard-working team that’s pretty well coached with a goalie that’s fairly hot this year,” Shawn Thornton said following the Bruins’ morning skate. “I played with him in the minors, and when he’s on, he’s on. They’re definitely not sneaking up on anybody anymore. … It will be a good game for us coming out of the break.”

While Thornton is right in saying the Senators have registered on Boston’s radar, he may have been a little generous with his praise of goaltender Craig Anderson. One thing that has remained constant this season has been the Senators’ porous work in their own end. Ottawa is 27th in goals against with an average of three goals allowed per game, and though Anderson has been a workhorse for them (he has started 19 consecutive games and will be between the pipes for his 20th straight on Tuesday), he is currently rocking a 2.90 goals-against average, which is 37th in the league.

Though the Senators might be coming into Boston on a high following the weekend’s festivities, they, like the Bruins, are looking to make up for a rough stretch prior to the break. While the Bruins went 3-3-1 over their last seven games, the Senators went 3-4-0, including dropping three straight games on the west coast going into the break.

Still, if the Bruins don’t wake up from their pre-break slumber, they’ll have trouble on their hands Tuesday night. Jason Spezza has 50 points on the season (20 goals, 30 assists), while 21-year-old defenseman Erik Karlsson has 47 points (tops among NHL blueliners). The Senators average 2.9 goals per game, which is eighth in the league.

“They’re a really good team,” Brad Marchand said of Ottawa. “They have a lot of skill over there, and a lot of young guys who are working really hard. Those are always tough teams to play against, and they’re playing really good hockey right now.”

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Brad Marchand: Shawn Thornton knew Dale Weise wanted to fight Adam McQuaid 01.11.12 at 2:26 pm ET
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Bruins forward Brad Marchand, making his regular appearance on WEEI with Mut and Merloni, revealed Wednesday that Bruins forward Shawn Thornton knew that Vancouver forward Dale Weise was not trying to fight him in the first period of Saturday’s game.

Weise extended a challenge and appeared ready to drop his gloves prior to a face-off in the opening period, but when Thornton dropped his gloves at 14:58 of the period, Weise, who had fourth Nathan Horton earlier in the period, kept them on. Though at first glance it appeared Weise was using a cheap tactic to sucker Thornton into a penalty, Marchand said Wednesday that the challenge was indeed being extended to Adam McQuaid, and that Thornton jumped in to “surprise” Weise.

“I’m going to clear it up for everyone who’s listening,” Marchand said. “It was actually a really sneaky play by Thorty. Weise was trying to fight McQuaid, who was standing behind Thornton on the point. McQuaid was going to fight him. So, Weise was yelling and saying, ‘Yeah, let’s go, let’s go.’

“Thorty just figured that at that point he’d drop his gloves and surprise Weise. And the ref just kind of heard Weise yelling ‘Let’s go’ and thought he was talking to Thorty and conning him into a penalty. Thorty kind of surprised him when Thorty dropped his gloves. Weise had no idea Thorty was going to do that.”

Added Marchand: “Him and Quaider know each other a bit from the minors and I think junior as well. They might have went at [it] there.”

Marchand’s words corroborate Weise’s story, as he told reporters prior to Monday’s game that he was trying to fight McQuaid.

Thornton expressed confusion by the play following the game, though he did suggest that Weise could have possibly been looking to fight McQuaid. Both players were given unsportsmanlike conduct minors for the ordeal.

“Oh, he said ‘let’s go’,” Thornton said after the game. “I don’t know if he was talking to me or someone else but [referee Dan O'Rourke] heard him and [referee Don] VanMassenhoven heard him and that’s why he went with me I’m assuming. I mean, you’ll have to ask him. But Donny said, “wait until the puck drops” and I said “of course”. I heard him say ‘we’ll go’, maybe he was talking to McQuaid or I have no idea. But, I thought it was, obviously thought it was go time.”

Thornton added Tuesday night on Comcast Sports Net that he wanted to fight Weise because he was among the players who jumped him when he was drastically outnumbered 3:54 into the game.

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Right or wrong, Shawn Thornton sticks up for his teammate Daniel Paille 12.09.11 at 1:04 am ET
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Yet in another example of how NHL players are different than any other sport, Shawn Thornton stood up and admitted Thursday – after battling with Krys Barch of the Florida Panthers – that he was just fighting to stick up for his teammate and nothing else.

Midway through the first period, with the Bruins and Daniel Paille on the puck in their own defensive zone, Barch came over to the far corner boards to the left of Tim Thomas and drilled Paille up against the wall.

The force of the two heads colliding was so great that both went to the ice in a daze. When Barch got up, there waiting was Thornton to fight the Panthers forward, who had the nerve to lay what Claude Julien said was a “clean hit” on Paille. Truth be told, Barch did get two minutes for elbowing at the time but replays shows it was a shoulder hit and nothing more.

“I didn’t see it,” Thornton admitted. “I really didn’t, I still haven’t seen it. I just saw Paisey [Paille] laying there and obviously the type of team we are, I’m going to air on the side of sticking up for him. I mean, if it was a clean hit, then it was a clean hit but if it wasn’t, I’m glad we got in there. I mean for, especially guys like me and Soupy [Gregory Campbell] aren’t going to- we’re definitely going to step up if one of our teammates is laying there.

Campbell, indeed, was also ready to fight for Paille, having already dropped his gloves when Paille was drilled by Barch.

“Yeah, that’s my job- it’s both our jobs, I guess,” Thornton said. “Soupy [Gregory Caampbell] is a very, very character guy that, I mean, I’m very fortunate to play with a guy like that but I was trying to get over there at the same time and I think, I mean me and Mr. Barch [Krystofer Barch] have a history anyway so it’s, I take that upon myself, but I commend Soupy for getting in there right away too.

“We’re definitely, I mean especially for me and him I mean, that’s the type of players we are. I think we’re not going to let liberties be taken while were out there, that’s for sure. I was more focused on what I was doing and then I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it after, so wind out of the sails thing, I was on the other side of the rink so wrong guy to ask, I guess.”

Thornton did say the team felt better when they saw Paille in between periods, though they knew right away with a head injury, Paille was done for the night.

‘Well, I saw him in between periods so I think, a little bit of relief there, we were talking, so a little bit of relief there,” Thornton said. “I haven’t gotten an update on him but at least I had a conversation with him so that’s a little easier to take.”

Paille was sent to an area hospital after the game for tests to determine the severity of the injury and whether or not he suffered a concussion.

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Bruins not satisfied with win streak as long as they’re out of top-eight 11.16.11 at 4:11 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins’ 3-7-0 start to the season brought many words to mind: surprising, unacceptable, even the overused “hangover.”

The Bruins have won six games in a row. (AP)

Based on history, what should have come to mind would be more along the lines of “screwed.”

The Bruins found themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference when they had just six points through 10 games. If Thursday’s game against the Blue Jackets were to be played two weeks ago, it would have been a matchup of cellar-dwellars. Instead, the B’s have rattled off six straight wins that’s seen balanced scoring from all four lines.

“We’re very confident in the group we have,” Shawn Thornton said Wednesday. “We dug ourselves a bit of a hole, yes, but we knew we were right there. I think the guys did a good job of just sticking with it and working through it to get to where we need to be.”

The win-streak has brought the Bruins all the way up to ninth in the conference, just one point behind the Senators for eighth with three games in hand. Year after year, good teams get off to bad starts and are never able to recover due to the difficulty of climbing the standings with three-point games. After all, over two teams in the last two years who weren’t in the top eight on Nov. 1 ended up making the playoffs.

There are two ways of looking at what the Bruins have done here. One thing to take from it is that it’s proof that moving up in this league isn’t easy. The Bruins have been hotter than any team in the league, and the fact that it hasn’t catapulted them into the top eight shows that there’s still work to be done.

“Ninth still doesn’t put us in a playoff position. Our goal is to keep climbing, and you see how tough it is. We’ve won six games in a row and we’re still not in a playoff position,” Gregory Campbell said. “It’s a feather in our cap to have done what we’ve done, but for us to have so many losses early on, we can ill afford to get comfortable and rest on our streak so far.”

After the Bruins play the Blue Jackets and Islanders on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, they will have one of their biggest two-game stretches of the young season. Monday will see them square off with the Habs in Montreal and Wednesday will take them to Buffalo. The B’s currently trail the Sabres by four points in the Northeast division. If the B’s can grab four easy points against the struggling Blue Jackets and Islanders, they could be sitting pretty to move up even further and not only vie for a top-eight spot, but for the division lead.

“We’re just trying to maintain our intensity, our solid play structurally, and continue climbing,” Campbell said. “We have two huge division games coming up next week, so in order to set ourselves up to make another jump [in the standings], we have to win these next two games.”

For the streaking Bruins, there doesn’t seem to be a hint of satisfaction. They’ve made it hard on their opponents over the last six contests, but anybody in their dressing room will tell you the goal isn’t to win six in a row. The goal to correct the bizarro standings of two weeks ago, and get their names right around the top.

“For us, we’ve been down below too long,” Claude Julien said. “It’s been a month and a half. The season’s been going, and we’re still in ninth of today, not in a playoff spot. We feel we’re a much better team than that. I think that there’s an opportunity here in this next week and a half to really, I guess, move up in the standings as long as we can continue to win games and play as well as we have.

“It’s one of those things where we don’t want to be relying on other teams to do our job. It’s up to us to continue to play well and win hockey games. I think if we can keep playing the way we have lately, this next week and a half is going to really be telling for our hockey club.”

Added Campbell: “No matter who you are or what team you are, how good you are, this league is full of good teams,” Campbell said. “Things change quickly, as you’ve seen. We have to stay focused on the task here and set ourselves up. We’re in a good spot now, but teams ahead of us keep winning. It’s up to us to do the same.”

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Andrew Ference on D&C: ‘We needed a little shakeup’ 10.21.11 at 10:47 am ET
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Andrew Ference

Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference joined Dennis & Callahan Friday morning for his weekly appearance. After the Bruins’ dominating 6-2 victory over the Maple Leafs Thursday night, Ference talked about Boston’s line changes and improvement on the power play.

“It’s one of those things, the power play was actually working pretty good, we were getting the puck around, we just weren’t putting it in,” Ference said. “We were working towards larger things on the power play and we felt that it was doing a lot of good things, so it was a matter of time.”

The Bruins scored twice on the power play against Toronto, with Ference assisting on one of those goals. In addition to better play from special teams, the Bruins also benefited from some line changes made by coach Claude Julien in recent days. The top line of Milan Lucic, Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin was particularly effective against the Maple Leafs. Ference said that the line changes helped the Bruins get back to focusing on the simple parts of the game.

“I think it helped, it energized guys I think a bit, just to give them a little kick in the pants,” Ference said. “I think when you change linemates, you get out of your comfort zone a bit. You really just concentrate on doing simple things, like skating hard, getting to the net, throwing pucks at the net.

‪”It was a good move. We needed a little shakeup. Guys were a little bit stale with the old lines and you can always go back to them, but I think just letting guys concentrate on the simple things really helps.”‬

Ference also talked about emotions running high in the Bruins’ loss to the Hurricanes on Tuesday and forward Shawn Thornton‘s value to the team.

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On Boston’s penalty-filled loss to the Hurricanes: “I think that game, the emotion was a byproduct of the frustration. When our team’s good, the emotion’s just a part of our game. It’s not forced, it’s just there. I think that I mentioned after the game, the game of hockey within its rules allows us to be very physical, allows us to be emotional without hitting the box all night. When our team’s playing well, sure there are fights here and there, but we’re just a physical team all the time. We’re always hitting, always forechecking, always giving teams no room. … In a game where there’s a bunch of fights and a bunch of penalties and it’s just kind of chaotic with the physical stuff, that’s going to happen once in a while but that stuff’s definitely not something that we define ourselves as.”

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