|Marc Savard set to play in Game 7, no Bruins lineup changes||05.14.09 at 12:01 pm ET|
Bruins center Marc Savard isn’t going to let a knee injury stop him from skating in Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night, and B’s head coach Claude Julien said that his crafty pivot will be in the lineup. Savard suffered a knee-on-knee hit from Carolina winger Chad LaRose in the third period of Game 6, and exited the game early after Julien sent him to the dressing room.
Julien indicated on Thursday morning following the pre-game skate that the Bruins will skate the same lineup that took the ice in an impressive 4-2 victory over the Candy Canes on Tuesday night. That means Byron Bitz, who impressed with his blue collar work along the back wall with puck possession, will again skate with David Krejci and Michael Ryder.
“We’ll have the same lineup tonight (as Game 6),” said Julien. “There shouldn’t be any changes.”
–Julien and his veteran players said that the most important key to success in the Game 7 setting is staying composed and keeping panic and chaos out of a game that can very easily spiral out of control.
The weight and pressure of season elimination can be a divisive influence that can pry a player out of their comfort zone and get a team out of their game plan — and Julien stressed it was important for his team to stick with the style of play that’s resulted in two straight wins leading up to Thursday night.
“It’s being composed. Being composed. You saw it in the game last night in Pittsburgh that they were able to come out and play their game and they were successful,” said Julien. “You’ve got to be composed. I thought even last year in Montreal in Game 7 during the first period in Montreal, we were the better team.
“But sometimes you need the breaks and then (the Canadiens) got another goal in the second to make it 2-0. Had we stayed probably a little more composed, we could have battled back and got ourselves back into the game. But we were a young team last year. You hope what the young guys learned last year was to handle the pressure situation of Game 7 much better.”
–B’s center Stephane Yelle is playing in his 12th career Game 7 tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes, which is tops among all active NHL players and ranks him second in NHL history with Glenn Anderson and Ken Daneyko. The key to success from a guy that’s been there nearly a dozen times:
“There’ll be chatter before the game like there always is, and if the young guys have questions then they’ll usually come and ask them,” said Yelle. “Sticking with the game plan and not panicking (is key). When you start panicking you tend to get away from what you should be doing, and usually you feel like there’s a ripple effect along the team and things turn to chaos. That’s when you lose sight of what you’re supposed to do.
“Different personalities will handle differently. I try to learn from my previous ones and go from there. My first year was Patty…Patty Roy and he had played in tons of them already. He was just a great leader and I followed him when I was younger being from Ottawa. I knew what he was all about. I just tried to watch him and see what he was doing (before Game 7).”
–Carolina winger Scott Walker has taken on the role of ultimate villian after sucker-punching Aaron Ward in the third period of Game 5 — and then subsequently skirting by with a simple $2500 slap of a fine — but said he’s not going to get rattled by the “Ulf Treatment” at the Garden on Thursday night.
“I played in the minors a lot and it gets rowdy in some of those barns, and obviously in Vancouver it was a lot similar to this. A little bit in the New Jersey it rowdy behind the bench, but you don’t really notice it that much. It’s such an important game in Game 7 that I don’t think the fans will affect the way they play or we play … or myself. It’s great for them that they’ve got something to yell and scream about, but I don’t think we’ll lose our focus or anything like that.”
–There seemed to be some indications out there that a potential Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins would be scheduled at the TD Banknorth Garden on Sunday — likely Sunday afternoon. Stay tuned for that one because it could be another doubleheader if the Boston Celtics series goes to seven games.
|Yelle still in question for Thursday night vs. Kings||03.18.09 at 5:14 pm ET|
Veteran center Stephane Yelle again practiced, but is still in question for Thursday night’s tilt against the Los Angeles Kings with the ever-mysterious “upper body injury”.
“It’s a day to day process,” said Julien of Yelle’s condition. “It’s certainly looking better, and I think we’ll probably find out more about it tomorrow at the game day (skate). We’ll see if he’s ready to go.”
If Yelle can’t go, it’s likely that the Bruins will once again place Byron Bitz in the middle between Shawn Thornton and P.J. Axelsson. Bitz, by the way, spent a good 5-10 minutes at the end of practice in front of an empty net taking all manner of shots aimed directly at him while he practiced tipping and redirecting pucks in front of the high traffic area.
If the rest of the Bruins team is looking for a player that’s proving he’s willing to pay the price on a daily basis, it was Bitz as he was taking direct hits to his feet and body while searching for the perfect tip.
–Odd Julien comment when the line of questioning moved toward Manny Fernandez and whether the B’s bench boss still has confidence in the second portion of his goaltending duo. Fernandez hasn’t played in a game since his famous pirouette move during a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers nearly two weeks ago, and has coughed up four goals in four of his five games since returning from a lower back injury.
“There are no issues there. What people see on the outside and what’s happening on the inside are two different things. We talk. He knows exactly what’s going on,” said Julien. “There are things that not everybody needs to know about. We’ll leave it at that.”
–A bit of good-natured ribbing for Big, Bad Milan Lucic, who told his teammates that his girlfriend dragged him to go see the Britney Spears concert at the TD Banknorth Garden on Monday night. Looch said he was a fan of Spears’ early work when he was in the sixth or seventh grade, but the hulking left winger was more than a little surprised when he found out that Spears lip-synchs throughout her entire concert.
Looch was the only B’s player that admitted taking in the Circus Show at the Garden, but several Bruins players wondered if Marc Savard might have also made it over to Causeway Street for a rousing rendition of “Womanizer”. According to Bruins blueliner Andrew Ference, Savvy is an actual “Britney Fan.”
“It was so funny because (Lucic) came in here the next day (after the concert) and Looch was like ‘You wouldn’t believe it…she lip synchs.” said a laughing Ference. “I was like ‘No (expletive)’. What do you think that she did? He was like … surprised or devastated. I don’t know what.”
It was a busy week for Lucic, who also took in the Dropkick Murphy’s St. Patrick Day show on Wednesday night at the House of Blues.
–Marc Savard wasn’t ducking any criticism after Julien touched upon the center’s giveaway at the end of Penguins game on Sunday afternoon — a turnover that led to the Penguins banking the empty net goal and really salting away a hotly contested hockey game.
“I’m out there trying to make plays, and I just need to make them stronger ones at times. That’s part of the game. I’m going to continue to try to make plays. That’s what I do, and that’s my game. I just need to make smarter plays at times. Unfortunately when things aren’t going well it goes in your net. And that’s what has happened on a couple of occasions.”
|Yelle “doubtful” for Saturday afternoon vs. the Islanders||03.13.09 at 3:23 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Veteran center Stephane Yelle went through another practice at Ristuccia Arena Friday afternoon, but Bruins coach Claude Julien termed the fourth line pivot “doubtful” for Saturday afternoon’s game against the New York Islanders. Yelle has missed the B’s last three games with an “upper body injury”, but appears to be making progress toward a return.
‘It doesn’t mean he won’t (play), but I’d put him at doubtful,” said Julien.
It’s expected that rookie center Byron Bitz will again line up in the middle for the fourth line in place of Yelle tomorrow afternoon.
While many will likely take the lowly Islanders lightly, they have taken five of their last seven games and shocked the Canadiens in overtime last night.
“That’s what happens this time of year. The Islanders have taken the ‘youth’ path and those guys have a lot of energy this time of year,” said Julien. “They know that they’re not necessarily headed for the playoffs, but they’re looking at their future and they want to make an impression this season.
“So they’re playing with as much intensity as teams that are trying to stay where they are — like us at the top for example,” added Julien. “I don’t think we should approach that game like any other game because we know the damage that they can potentially do to a team.”
|Don Cherry giving Byron Bitz some props||03.03.09 at 12:40 am ET|
A big smile quickly appeared on big Byron Bitz as he worked his way through the Bruins dressing room Monday morning at their practice facility in Wilmington, and rightfully so. The fourth-line grinder has made quite the healthy impression with his hockey smarts — something the Bruins scouting staff prides themselves on being able to spot — and gritty big man’s game, and those skills led the 6-foot-5 rookie to be featured during Hockey Night in Canada’s Coach’s Corner on TSN Saturday night.
Canada’s favorite hockey mouthpiece, dandy Don Cherry, started out in fine Grapes form by calling him “Byron Blitz” and then praised him as a good Saskatoon boy while showing some of the highlights from his successful two months in Black and Gold. The big-boned winger started out as a welcome banger with ideal size and strength along Boston’s fourth line, but Bitz has begun flashing some offensive skills over the last few weeks and has something that the B’s could always use: size, strength and steely fearlessness when it comes to throwing his big body into the areas of peril around the ice.
“At first he's playing not to make mistakes when he gets here, and once he gets his confidence level and some games under his belt, he starts showcasing a little bit more of what he has, and that's what I've been saying the last little while,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien of his big forward. “I think once this guy gets more experienced and more confidence under his belt, he's going to score us some goals here and there, and he's starting to show that right now.”
Bitz has three goals in his last three games, and has found lamp-lighting glory with tips and strong stick work in front of the net, a dogged willingness to chase loose pucks and rebounds around the net and an opportunistic approach when a crashing lane toward the net materializes before him. The 24-year-old has been the perfect big-bodied compliment to bare knuckles winger Shawn Thornton and center Stephane Yelle on Boston’s fourth line, but a little Coach’s Corner love had to be the – pun completely intended – cherry on top for “a good Saskatoon boy”.
It certainly looks as if Big Byron has carved himself a man-sized niche on this Bruins roster.
Here’s the full Coach’s Corner segment from Saturday, and stick around to watch Cherry’s ridiculous pro-Canada, anti-Russia rant about Alex Ovechkin’s boisterous celebrations following the goals that he scores. Hate to break it Don, but oversized personalities like Ovechkin and, yes, even Sean Avery are exactly what this game needs more of if it hopes to keep growing worldwide. Aside from that, the obvious Don Cherry bromance with Sidney Crosby is a little disturbing.
|Byron Bitz playing big for the Bruins in victory||02.24.09 at 11:10 pm ET|
Even the most accomplished puck soothsayer might have had a difficult time predicting the Garden crowd of 16,781 would be chanting a chorus of ”We Want Bitz” in the waning minutes of last night’s Bruins/Panthers tilt.
But that’s exactly what happened in the strange but true world of the Boston Bruins.
The brawny rookie winger from Saskatchewan banged home a pair of lamp-lighters but couldn’t snare the elusive third for the natural hat trick in Boston’s 6-1 triumph over a cagey Panthers crew at the TD Banknorth Garden last night.
“It was amazing,” said Bitz, who clearly didn’t bask in the adulation of 17,000 chanting fans when he was skating for Cornell. “It meant a lot. Everyone on the bench (was chanting along) and it was a lot of fun. It was just one of those nights.”
The evening was a bit of microcosm for the no holds barred, physical nature that the 24-year-old has brought to the table since getting called up Boston on Jan. 10. While flashier puck talents like Vladimir Sobotka, Martins Karsums and Matt Lashoff have bounced up and down the ”Lou Merloni Turnpike” between the Providence Baby B’s and Boston, Bitz has found a way to stick and carved out a pretty hefty-sized niche for himself on Boston’s fourth line.
“We were getting to the net very well,” said Bitz. “Shots were getting through. With my size, it’s to my advantage to get (to the net). (To be) a big body in front. To get in front of the goalie and take his vision away is a big part of my game.”
Last night, the B’s were holding on to a one-goal lead in the second period, and hadn’t really pulled away from a Panthers team that looks like they could be a handful for higher-seeded teams come Stanley Cup playoff time. The Black and Gold were clearly seeking a spark, and that’s exactly what they received from the energetic Bitz when he redirected a puck thrown in front of the net by heady veteran Stephane Yelle.
The under-the-radar Yelle simply threw the puck straight at the net from the left sideboards, and Bitz tipped the biscuit straight up past the crossbar and clean off the netting. The puck hit the twine and shot right back outside of the goal, but it was immediately ruled a score without any need to consult with the Great NHL Wizard Behind the Curtain in Toronto.
With less than five minutes to go in the second period, the energy restoration following Bitz’s second goal of the season was palpable. The B’s were buzzing with a little more room to operate courtesy of the two-goal advantage, and the floodgates opened for three more third period goals.
Fourth-liners Yelle, Bitz and Shawn Thornton have been playing consistently solid, responsible, blue-collar hockey over the last few weeks, and actually logged more respective ice time minutes (43 minutes, 15 seconds) last night than the newly reunited trio of David Krejci, Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder ( 42 minutes, 17 seconds).
It’s obvious that Bitz has been welcomed as a bruising part of the Bruins team and isn’t likely to be going anywhere, any time soon, and coach Claude Julien even hints that there may be some untapped scoring potential in Big Bitzy’s power game.
“Not only does he bring his size and strength along the boards, he's been solid. But I think he's a guy that with confidence and with experience you are going to see him probably score more goals. That's what he demonstrated a little bit of that tonight,” said Julien. “But he's still here because he deserves to be here and'¦ we haven't gotten away from what we've been saying all along.
“If you deserve to be here, it doesn't matter if you are a free agent, first round or seventh round pick, you're going to play here and right now he's shown us that he belongs in our lineup and as long as he does that, he is going to stay there.”
So what was Bitz planning on doing last night after hearing his name screamed in adulation by Bruins Nation, and subsequently basking in the glow of his first two-goal game in the NHL? Bitz was going to Shawn Thornton’s house in Charlestown, naturally, and planning on enjoying some of Thornton’s wife’s cooking.
Not quite DisneyWorld, but certainly something that’s been a key to the big lug’s success.
Injury Ward: No major injuries to speak of. But on a completely unrelated topic, there was a decent middleweight bout between Chuck Kobasew and Keith Ballard. It would have been even better if both players were without the visors that pretty much defeat the purpose of scrapping in the first place. The fight was certainly more passion than premeditation.
Player of the Game: Without question, Bitz was the man of the hour last night. In a time during the B’s season when both Julien and GM Peter Chiarelli have been preaching for players to get more involved around the dirty areas of the ice, Bitz picked up a grimy tip in front of the net and banged home a long rebound of a Yelle shot on a nice hustle play in the third period.
Goat Horns: Krejci has been very inconsistent as of late, and was banged around pretty hard by the Panthers defense last night. The high-end talent skated 17 shifts, didn’t register a point or a shot on net, lost 7 of his 11 faceoff draws and his line was shut down for the most part last night. The effort seems to be there with Krejci, but a few good bounces would take some of the pressure off.
Turning Point: Bitz was obviously the turning point in the game, but Michael Ryder’s return to the lineup offers what could be a quasi-turning point for Boston’s stretch run over the last quarter of the season. Ryder cashed in on a power-play goal, and immediately gives the PP unit a finisher around the net that makes them all kinds of dangerous. He adjusted well to the face shield, and definitely had a little extra hop in his step. Ryder also helped set up Mark Stuart’s first period goal that built Boston their 2-1 lead after the first period.
“I think when you are ready for so long and you come back, you always are a little more pumped up for the first game,” said Ryder, who finished with a goal and an assist and two shots on net. “I think this game and last week helped a lot. After a couple of shifts, I felt good out there.”
|B’s suffer losses in 13th straight home win||12.20.08 at 11:05 pm ET|
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.”
|It’s all good… Bruins ready for two-city trip||12.09.08 at 12:40 pm ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien worked his team through an energetic practice this morning at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, with the emphasis being on how to handle success… namely don’t get cute when you have the lead.
The Bruins led after one period Monday night, 3-0, but allowed Tampa Bay to make a charge at them, closing to within 4-3 with 19.0 seconds remaining before P.J. Axelsson salted the game away with an empty netter.
Some other morsels from Tuesday morning’s skate.
X-rays on Stephane Yelle’s ribs were negative after he collided with linesman Mark Shewchyk on Monday night.
Aaron Ward skated at center ice while the team worked on drills. But don’t expect him to rush back to action for Wednesday in Washington. “If I were a betting man, I’d say ‘no’ (to playing),” Ward said.
Marco Sturm is making progress and is getting closer to a return from concussion-like symptoms.
All three made the trip to Washington and are considered day-to-day by coach Julien. “All encouraging news,” Juilen said.
The 19-4-4 Bruins play the Capitals on Wednesday in Washington and the Thrashers in Atlanta on Friday before returning home for a date with Atlanta on Saturday at the Garden.
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