|Nathan Horton ready to face old ‘rivals’ with stakes raised||05.10.11 at 8:40 pm ET|
Back during the preseason, Nathan Horton, who had come to the Bruins after playing the first six years of his career in Florida, was gearing up for his first game against the Canadiens. Sure, it was an exhibition, but it was a big deal for a player who never felt he played in a major rivalry.
Yet it wasn’t his first rivalry, it was just his first major rivalry. In asking Peter Chiarelli about it for a story, the general manager said “the Florida-Tampa rivalry, when it was going, actually there were some good games.”
It was tough for it to be seen as a major rivalry for Horton given that the stakes weren’t nearly as high. In his last three years in Florida, neither team made the playoffs, or even finished better than third in the Southeast Division. Horton had identified the in-state battle as being the closest thing he had to preparation for Bruins-Habs, saying he had “a little rivalry with Tampa Bay in Florida, but not really.”
What a difference a year makes.
Last season, only three points separated the fourth-place Lightning from the last-place Panthers in the cellar of their division. A year later, Horton is finally up to face the Lightning, though it’s taken relocation for him and major changes to Tampa Bay’s organization and roster to make it possible.
With a new general manager in Steve Yzerman, a new coach in Guy Boucher and a revamped roster, the Lightning are ready to storm into Boston this weekend with the intention of grabbing a lead in the Eastern Conference finals. Horton, still in his first postseason, is looking for a different result, and when it comes to him facing the lightning, the stakes are finally high.
“It’s weird,” Horton said Tuesday. “I mean, I’ve played them so many times in my career from when I played [in Florida]. They’ve been great this year. They’ve changed a lot from when I was there. They’ve gotten a lot better. Different faces, a new coaching staff. They’re a real talented team, but it’s definitely weird to be playing them.”
For Horton, it’s simply a sign of what change can do. For a player who wanted out of Florida, he’s enjoyed every second (his smile would suggest he’s even enjoyed the struggles) of his time in Boston. Change has been good for him, and it’s been good for the Lightning.
“It changes so quickly,” Horton said. “It’s going to be fun to go back there, and hopefully we can win some games.”
In four games against Tampa Bay this year, Horton has three assists.
|Savard: I want to finish my career in Boston||09.08.09 at 2:01 pm ET|
Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara were the two building blocks for Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli when the hockey executive first came onto the scene in Boston, and the 32-year-old center — entering the final year of a four-year deal he signed on July 1, 2006 — said that he’s hoping to sign another deal allowing him to finish his hockey career in Boston.
Savard was the B’s leading scorer with 25 goals and 63 assists last season, and has blossomed into an All-Star player under coach Claude Julien. Entering the final year of his $5 million per year deal with a great deal of financial uncertainty in the NHL’s future, Savard isn’t bothered by the unknown and is simply focused on driving the B’s toward a Stanley Cup.
Savard said he’s fully recovered from the left knee injury suffered in the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes, and he skated “10 or 15 times” before hitting the practice ice with his teammates at Ristuccia Arena for the first time on Tuesday morning.
“It’s a great city and I’ve enjoyed my time here so far,” said Savard, from the Bruins Foundation’s annual golf tournament at The International in Bolton, MA. “It’s a place that I’d like to finish if the chance comes and I’m excited to get the season going. Things keep getting better and our team keeps getting better, so that only helps everybody when that happens. I want to stay here. This is a place I love. I love the people. I love the fans. This is where I want to be.
“I’m not worried about the contract at all. (Peter and I) have a good relationship. Ever since I came to Boston I’ve given everything I had and if things work out well — and I think they will — then I’m going to be here for a long, long time.”
Savard was also visibly peeved when asked about getting snubbed by Hockey Canada when team officials announced the lineup for their Olympic Team Orientation Camp this summer. The crafty centerman was conspicuously absent from an admittedly talented roster of players, and that’s not sitting well with the two-time All-Star. Savard said that he shared an agent, Larry Kelly, with Steve Yzerman, one of the hockey minds charged with constructing the Canadian National Team, and that private campaigning with the Team Canada Executive Director for an invitation didn’t quite work for the skilled B’s pivot.
Savard has instead decided to turn the first half of the 2009-10 hockey season into a resume tape for Team Canada to watch what they might be missing out in Vancover come February. Though he was on the driving range at the International and excited for a day of golf with his teammates, Savard couldn’t hide the sting of disappointment at being left off the squad.
“I was pretty upset about it,” said Savard, who then cast his head down toward the ground as he talked about it. “I feel that I had a chance to at least go to the camp. I didn’t really come out and say anything. I had a lot of calls for a couple weeks after that. It’s something I didn’t want to talk about. I was pretty mad about it. I’ve had to prove myself over and over again. I’m hoping to get off to a good start. I still haven’t counted myself out, so I guess that’s all that matters.
“I’m going to go out and do what I do…try to prove somebody else wrong. I’m worried about the Bruins and winning games. I didn’t really talk to anybody (behind the scenes) but my agent had Yzerman as a player and he did most of the talking. I don’t know what happened, but I have to just keep trying to prove them wrong and have a good start to the season.”