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Gregory Campbell on Game 7: ‘It’s where big players show up’ 04.24.12 at 11:20 am ET
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Big players show up in big games.

It’s one of the time-tested adages used to describe Game 7.

But early on in those winner-take-all contests, it can sometimes be a bit player, or two, or three, who give the stars time to get their legs under them.

Certainly, that was the case in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals last June when Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton all came out guns blazing in the opening minutes, taking the play to the Canucks and setting the tempo so that the Sedin twins couldn’t get going.

“I think it’s important to really play on your toes,” Campbell said. “With a line ours, that’s our job, is to provide that energy, so in situations like Game 7, if you’re a little bit tentative, it’s usually not going to serve you well. We’re a high energy line, high energy players. In situations like Game 7, every play matters so much, there’s so much pressure on every play, it’s best almost better not to think and just use your instincts and that’s what we try to do.”

That’s what they did in Game 5 against the Caps on Saturday, when Thornton threw his weight around in the offensive zone with a couple of heavy forechecks. Moments later, the Bruins had goals 28 seconds apart to tie the game.

“I think for Game 7s, what I’ve learned so far in my short playoff career, it’s got to be a balance,” Campbell said. “You have to be ready. Game 7s are usually the most intense game obviously, because everything’s on the line. You have to control your emotions. You have to walk that line where you’re ready to go, your energy and enthusiasm is high. But if you can make plays under pressure obviously, it’s a pressure-packed situation. It’s usually the team that can make those plays and perform under pressure is the team that wins.

“Execute the game plan. It’s one thing to be excited and rightfully so, it is an exciting time of year. It doesn’t get any better than Game 7, whether it’s the first round or the finals. It’s where big players show up and to be a big player in Game 7 you have to have that balance of energy and excitement mixed with poise and confidence and be able to execute plays.”

Now, the Bruins have Game 7 on their home ice for the third time in their last four winner-take-all contests. Does it matter to Campbell and the Bruins?

“It’s something we work hard for all year long and I think you have to put some importance on having home ice advantage and working hard for it,” Campbell said. “I guess Game 7s, they’re something we as a team like. We keep putting ourselves in that situation. They’re fun to play in. Obviously, the stakes are pretty high and it comes down to a one-game series. We have to be as prepared as possible. It’s been a close series so far and we expect nothing but the same for Game 7.”

Read More: 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Bruins, Game 7, Gregory Campbell
Shawn Thornton again takes one for the team 04.23.12 at 5:37 pm ET
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Shawn Thornton has always been willing to fight for playoff playing time. (AP)

Shawn Thornton made his way out of the Bruins dressing room Monday just before reporters were allowed in. And that’s probably a good thing since he had to take one for the team on Sunday in the crucial Game 6.

With Patrice Bergeron ailing and his status uncertain, Claude Julien had to dress another skilled forward capable of carrying the play on the top two lines if needed. Jordan Caron was called upon for the first time in the series. But that meant someone had to sit. And just like Thornton sat to make room for Tyler Seguin after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Lightning last spring, Thornton was again asked to take a seat on Sunday to make room for Caron if Bergeron wasn’t 100 percent.

“Well, it certainly wasn’t related to play,” Claude Julien said Monday when asked about his reasoning. “It was related to a decision I had to make just before the game. Those are – hard for me to give you that reason right now because it would probably open up a can of worms, so I’m going to leave it at that. It’s certainly not because of Thornton’s play; it’s because of necessity.”

Certainly not. Julien is well aware of the positive impact Thornton has had on his this team in their Stanley Cup run and in being an energy force on Saturday when the team was down 2-0. He delivered a pair of heavy forechecks in the Capitals zone and less than a minute later Brad Marchand was on the ice delivering the first of two goals in 28 seconds to tie the game late in the second period.

And remember, after Horton was knocked out of the Cup finals by Aaron Rome in Game 3, Thornton returned for Game 4 and was part of the “Merlot” energy line that carried play in the opening minutes of Game 7 against the Canucks last spring while the starters got their legs under them. Marchand scored two goals in that game and Thornton was again a force to be reckoned with. Don’t count him out for Game 7 on Wednesday either – if he gets the chance to play.

Read More: 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Shawn Thornton
Chemistry, Class: Gregory Campbell happy to see Shawn Thornton sticking around 03.19.12 at 2:33 pm ET
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Defensemen have defensive partners and forwards have linemates, but if there was such a term as “offensive partner,” it would describe Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton‘s roles.

Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton have played together since Campbell arrived in Boston. (AP)

Thornton, who was given a two-year contract extension over the weekend, has certainly left his mark on Campbell’s career, and Campbell knows it. The veteran center came to Boston as part of the Nathan Horton trade after playing the first six seasons of his career with the Panthers. He played on different lines in his time in Florida, but when he came to Boston, he established something with Thornton that has kept the two together from Day 1. He’d never been essentially tied to another player the way he is with Thornton, and he’s proud to be one third of one of the best fourth lines in the NHL. To him, Thornton makes that possible.

“No. I mean, no,” Campbell said when asked whether he had played with anyone in Florida as much as he’s played with Thornton. “I played with Radek Dvorak I think maybe for two years, but not as constantly as almost on a shift-by-shift basis with Thorty.

“It’s a role that I’m happy to play and he’s happy to play, as part of the depth on this team. It’s not too often that you throw out four lines, and obviously he’s a big part of the fourth line, and his role is interchanging all the time. I think that that position, that … combination in the league is not very common any more, where you have a guy that’s obviously very physical and can fight, but that can play. That’s why he’s valued so much.”

Likely due to the fact that his extension has yet to be announced by the team, the always-accessible Thornton was not available to the media. With Thornton not present to speak, it’s no surprise Campbell was happy to share his delight with the news that the veteran enforcer will be sticking around for two more seasons.

“When your play against Thorty, it’s evident to see that he’s a hard-working guy, but once you’re on his team, you realize how important he is to the team, not only on the ice but off the ice [with] the leadership that he brings and the professionalism that he has every day. He has a hard job,” Campbell said. “I mean, there’s not too many guys in the league that can do what he does physically and also contribute not he score sheet once in a while. He’s a good player. I think he’s a real big part of this team, and it obviously shows with them giving him [a new contract].”

The Merlot Line, as Thornton dubbed it based on its burgundy-colored practice jerseys, has consisted of Thornton, Campbell and someone else for the last two seasons. Brad Marchand started on the trio before moving on to bigger and better things with Patrice Bergeron, and Daniel Paille took over from there.

While many teams don’t give significant minutes to fourth-liners, it was the Merlot Line that changed the momentum of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, as the trio of Campbell, Thornton and Paille turned in a big shift that broke up a much stronger start from the Canucks.

When Paille was hurt earlier this month against the Islanders, the B’s had to play defenseman Mike Mottau with Campbell and Thornton. The chemistry developed between the two is so strong that almost anyone could play on that other wing and it will work.

“I think we take pride in our job and our role,” Campbell said. “Sometimes it changes, depending on the game or whatever it may be. I think Thorty and I just have to be a reliable pair, whether there’s injuries or whatnot, we’ve been fortunate enough to be in the lineup for this long, and not being injured or whatever. I think it’s important for us to be that solid pair that can be relied up upon by the coaches and play different roles.”

As the Bruins have slowly shortened their list of free-agents to be, Campbell has seen his teammates get their new deals one by one. Whether or not his comes next remains to be seen, but Campbell doesn’t want to leave.

“Of course it’s where I want to be,” he said with a laugh as if to dismiss the notion of anything else. “This is a great place to play, a great organization and a successful one. Every player wants to play where they’ve had success and there’s more success to come. The important thing now for us, it’s really nice to see those guys get those extensions … but the important thing is focusing on playing and not the other stuff.”

Read More: Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton,
Bruins taking ‘baby steps’ in right direction toward playoffs 03.09.12 at 11:49 am ET
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The mere suggestion by the toughest Bruin evokes laughter.

But when Shawn Thornton said the Bruins are starting to take “baby steps” in the right direction following the team’s 3-1 win over the Sabres Thursday night, he was making no joke.

“I’m more concerned about how we are playing,” Thornton said. “I think that Rangers game we could have very easily won. I think the way we have been playing for the last week or so is the style of play you’re used to seeing from us. As long as we keep putting up efforts and everyone is showing up every night, the wins will come with those performances.”

The inability to win back-to-back games had become a sort of unintentional comedic relief for the Bruins as they grind toward the playoffs, wondering how they’re going to cope without Tuukka Rask for at least a month and how they’re going to position themselves as they get ready for a title defense.

“It seems to be for a lot of people, and I think it’s the same for us,” Claude Julien said after the 3-1 win over the Sabres, giving the Bruins consecutive wins for the first time since early January. “We’ve been obviously battling with our consistency, and even though this is our first back-to-back win in a long time, I think the fact I was encouraged by our play in New York and it’s just kept coming along in the next game.

“Obviously winning, and then again tonight a pretty decent effort. I think that’s what we’re looking for now as more a consistent effort and hopefully they turn into wins. When you got the amount of injuries you have, you take every win for what they are and [Thursday] was a good win for us.”

Now, with the playoff race in the East tightening, the Bruins realize they need to stop messing around and get in playoff mode.

“Well, we have to, right? We’ve been forced into it by apparently not winning back-to-back games since January 10th through 12th, or whatever it was, and also, just the standings are getting tighter so we’re getting forced into a playoff mode, which is probably a good thing for us,” Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said.

The Bruins have 83 points, which is good for first in the Northeast. But, consider that point total would tie them for third in the Atlantic with No. 5 seed Philadelphia and you see Thomas’ point. Ottawa, which has played three more games, is only three points behind. Win the division and the Bruins almost certainly will be the No. 2 seed behind the Rangers. Finish second and the B’s could wind up anywhere from fifth through seventh.

“It is a baby step, for sure,” David Krejci said of Thursday’s win. “We finally won two in a row. It’s been a while. It feels good. I feel like, especially the last three games, it started in New York, we played really good hockey. We keep playing the way we have, the wins will come.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, David Krejci, Shawn Thornton, Tim Thomas
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.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Shawn Thornton,
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.”

Read More: Brian Rolston, Claude Julien, Greg Zanon, Mike Mottau
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.”

Read More: Brad Marchand, Craig Anderson, Jason Spezza, Shawn Thornton
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