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Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference and Blake Wheeler contribute to early Bruins lead 12.18.10 at 7:44 pm ET
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Goals from Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference (you read that second one right), and Blake Wheeler have the Bruins leading the Capitals, 3-0, after a period of play.

On a 2-on-2, Wheeler attracted the attention of both Washington defenders and dropped the puck off to Bergeron, who beat Michal Neuvirth at 3:27 for his sixth goal of the season. Ference then scored his first goal in 99 games by sending one past Neuvirth from the point.

Bergeron returned the favor in setting up Wheeler’s eighth of the season, and suddenly that second line is looking awfully good of late.

Following the Ference goal. Matt Bradley tried to swing the momentum in Washington’s favor by dropping the gloves with Adam McQuaid. Unfortunately for Bradley, the Garden only got louder as McQuaid unequivocally pummeled the Capitals winger.

Tim Thomas saw only five shots, stopping them all.

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Post-morning skate odds and ends at 12:07 pm ET
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Tim Thomas was first off the ice for the Bruins following their morning skate, an indication that he’ll be in net when the B’s face the Capitals tonight. In three starts against the Capitals this season, Thomas is 2-0-0 with five goals allowed and a shutout. He was pulled from the team’s 5-3 loss on Nov. 5 after allowing three goals through two periods.

The Capitals aren’t exactly jonesing to face the early Vezina favorite in Thomas. Coach Bruce Boudreau said Saturday that “you just have to play really perfect hockey to beat [the Bruins] and then you have to play more perfect hockey to beat Thomas.

- If you’re surprised by how many minutes Steven Kampfer has been getting, you’re not along. Asked if he expected to play as much as he has, Kampfer honestly replied, “Uh, no. I definitely didn’t think I’d be getting that many, but I’m just trying to play well, trying to play simple and help the team get a couple of wins here.”

Kampfer said patience has been the biggest thing he’s picked up at the NHL level, which is quite interesting and a good explanation as to why he’s handled the callup and the minutes so well. Young players often try to counter the quick pace of the NHL game by hurrying things more than they need to, but it hasn’t seemed to be the case with Kampfer — at least not much.

- Claude Julien knows the Capitals have been winless over their last seven, but he’s worried about his own guys, who have gone three without a W. Julien addressed the slump by saying “we’ve got to show some determination and resilience.”

- The Capitals have been followed by HBO cameras for the NHL 24/7 show that’s sweeping the nation. Have to admit I haven’t been able to see it (or this season of Eastbound and Down) due to my lack of owning HBO, but the hockey world has been going nuts over this show. One of the draws of the show is the prolific use of a four-letter word beginning in “F” by Boudreau.

“That goes on in every dressing room, in every team, in every sport at this level,” Boudreau said, noting that the team is so comfortable with having the camera around that it has become “second nature.”

Boudreau is by no means taking pride in the language aspect of it, but he said such talk “just comes out of your mouth when you’re mad,” adding, “my mom talked to me about it, so I’ll be OK.”

- Stay tuned for what came of an interesting chat with Tyler Seguin about Christmas, being a healthy scratch, and once again having something in common with Steven Stamkos. More to come later.

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Bruins at Canadiens preview 12.16.10 at 4:57 pm ET
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The Bruins are in Montreal Thursday to take on the Canadiens for the second time this season. They were handed a 3-1 loss on Nov. 11 at the Garden in a game started by Tuukka Rask, but it appears Thursday will feature a dream matchup between two of the league’s best goalies.

The Bruins will try to limit the celebrations Brian Gionta, P.K. Subban and the Canadiens Thursday. (AP)

Tim Thomas, who will man the pipes for the Bruins, is first in nearly every statistical category. He’s tops in save percentage (.954), goals against average (1.51) and is tied with Henrik Lundqvist with five shutouts. Carey Price, meanwhile, is tied with Jimmy Howard with 17 wins, the most in the NHL.

WHERE IT’S AT

- The Habs are 11-5-2 at home, most recently dropping a 5-3 decision to the to Flyers at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night.

- After the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Sabres in Buffalo on Wednesday, the team is now 9-4-1 on the road. The Bruins are 2-2-1 in their last five road contests.

NOTABLE NUMBERS

- Zdeno Chara had the Bruins’ lone goal the last time the B’s played the Habs. He hasn’t scored in the 16 games since, though he came close when he rang a shot off the post Wednesday in Buffalo.

With his four goals, Chara is on pace to pick up 11 this season. He scored seven goals last season after picking up a career-high 19 in 2008-09.

- After a slow start to the season, Habs captain and former Boston College standout Brian Gionta is tied for the team lead with 10 goals this season. He had eight shots on goal and scored one the Canadiens’ three goals in their loss to the Flyers on Wednesday.

- The Bruins lead the NHL is goals against (1.9 per game) while the Canadiens (2.1) are second in the league. If you’re a fan of goaltending duels, this is about as good as it gets.

STORYLINES GOING IN

- The Habs have struggled of late, as they’ve lost three in a row. Only the Islanders’ at six games have a longer current losing streak.

- This is a matchup of the top two teams in the Northeast division, as the Canadiens have 38 points to the Bruins’ 36. With a victory, the B’s can tie the Habs for the division lead despite having played two less games.

- Tyler Seguin could be handed his second consecutive healthy scratch and third straight game missed if he spends Thursday night in the press box with Doug Jarvis. It’s worth noting that Steven Stamkos was also a healthy scratch as a rookie and responded pretty well.

Habs defenseman P.K. Subban also missed three games as a healthy scratch this season. Bruins fans might remember him for scoring the first goal of the Nov. 3 game (and his career) by notching a power play tally against Tuukka Rask.

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Bruins at Sabres preview 12.15.10 at 12:14 am ET
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The Bruins will take on the Sabres for the third time this season as the two teams face off in Buffalo on Wednesday night. The Bruins have points in their last six games (4-0-2) and have taken both of their meetings with the Sabres. Their most recent win over Buffalo came last Tuesday when Mark Recchi tipped a Dennis Seidenberg shot past Ryan Miller to give the B’s a 3-2 win in overtime.

Tuukka Rask was first off the ice for the Bruins, an indication he’ll be between the pipes come game time.

WHERE IT’S AT

Tim Thomas has won both of his starts against the Sabres this season. (AP)

- The Sabres are a sub-.500 hockey team (12-14-4) because of their struggles at home. Nine of their 14 losses this season have come in Buffalo, as they’ve posted a 6-9-1 record at HSBC Arena. They are 3-3-0 in their last six home games.

- The Bruins remain a more dangerous team when playing away from TD Garden. They’ve posted a 9-3-1 road record. They took a shootout loss to the Maple Leafs in their last road game.

NOTABLE NUMBERS

- Fighting majors aside, the Bruins have been avoiding the penalty box as of late. They had just one penalty in both Saturday’s game and last Tuesday’s Buffalo game, both of which contests went into overtime. The B’s are 15th in the league in penalty minutes per game (12.9), though that is helped by their 26 majors, a number that puts them fifth in the league despite tying seven teams for playing the least amount of games.

- Milan Lucic is on pace for 44 goals. Does anybody truly see him as a 40-goal-scorer? Variables such as empty netters and a couple softies have been on his side thus far, so while he may eventually slow down, he still figures the finish the season as the team’s top goal-scorer if he remains healthy.

- David Krejci has three points (all assists) against the Sabres this year. He’s only had three points against one other club, and he knocked that out in one game when he scored two goals and tallied an assist in the team’s 8-1 win over the Lightning. Krejci is also on a three-game point steak that began with his two assists last Saturday against the Sabres.

- Marc Savard and Tyler Seguin have combined for just two points — an assist apiece — since Savard made his return to the lineup on Dec. 2. One would have to assume the two will get going and that Seguin will eventually be big asset for Savard, but it simply hasn’t happened yet.

Savard’s ice time has generally been anywhere from 13:15 to 16:26, and he’s averaged 15:01 per night.

- Here’s a totally useless and hardly telling stat from the good ol’ WEEI.com stat truck: The Bruins have won the first game of a three-in-four stretch every time this year. In those games, they’ve grabbed wins in Buffalo (5-2 on Nov. 3), Pittsburgh (7-4 on Nov. 10), New York (3-2 over the Rangers on Nov. 17), and Philadelphia (3-0 on Dec. 1).

STORYLINES GOING IN

- Tim Thomas has started and won both of the team’s games against the Sabres thus far. It’s quite remarkable that Tuukka Rask is on pace for just 26 starts this season, but he’ll get his first crack at the Sabres Wednesday.

- Miller was dealing with a groin injury when the Bruins beat up on Jhonas Enroth and Patrick Lalime on Nov. 3, but he manned the pipes last Tuesday vs. the B’s. It wasn’t his best showing, as he allowed a bit of a softie to Lucic — letting a shot from a tough angle just sneak between his leg and the left post.

Miller is coming off a rough loss to the Penguins on Saturday. He allowed four goals on just 23 shots.

- It is up in the air whether the B’s will dress Tyler Seguin or Daniel Paille. Seguin didn’t play Saturday with what the team called flu-like symptoms, and Paille played well. Claude Julien told reporters that it would be a game-time decision.

- Adam McQuaid, who could have been badly injured on Jody Shelley‘s cheap shot Saturday, is also fine. Both players practiced Tuesday.

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Mike Milbury on D&H: B’s should consider trading Tim Thomas 12.08.10 at 12:56 pm ET
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Mike Milbury

NESN and NBC Sports hockey analyst Mike Milbury made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday to talk about the Bruins and the NHL. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Asked about the aborted Marco Sturm trade, Milbury speculated that the Kings must not have been aware of Sturm’s injury situation when they apparently agreed to the deal. “Why would you trade for a guy that’s still six weeks from being ready and pay him for that long a time when he’s making, what, $3 1/2 [million], $4 million, whatever he’s making?” Milbury said. “It didn’t make any sense to me at the time that they were picking him up them, unless the compensation was impacted by Los Angeles’ pickup of the money.

“I just think the ball got dropped on Sturm’s ability to come back and play, and that’s going to hold it up. I still think it’s a possibility, but all bets are off for now, anyway.”

Milbury noted that he has a positive opinion of Sturm. “I think he’s a solid player,” he said. “He’s sort of a ‘tweener, second and third line, for me. On a great team, he’s a wonderful third-line player. But he can certainly play up to the second line. I don’t think he’s a top-three forward on any really good team, but a very useful guy who can play in all sorts of situations. Nice to have his versatility. A little bit prone to injury, but it’s a tough sport.”

Touching on the Bruins’ goalie situation, Milbury continued to push for Tuukka Rask to get more of a chance, while acknowledging how well Tim Thomas has played. “[Thomas has] been spectacular,” Milbury said. “The numbers are what they are. The save percentage, astounding. The goals-against, astounding. The win-loss record, everything’s wonderful. He’s still, what is he, 37 [actually 36]? The future is now for Thomas, and I mean right now.

“I think Tuukka Rask is going to be a wonderful goaltender. I’m worried for the first time that he may be impacted psychologically over this thing, as down to earth as he is. There are a lot of people out there that wonder what they could get if they traded Tim Thomas. Now, wouldn’t that be gutsy? But it’s a thought. But it would be really hard to do right now.

“Tim Thomas is not going to be this good three years from now. That’s just the biological clock speaking. Yeah, he’s the No.1 guy now, you can’t deny it. It’s a wonderful story for Tim Thomas. And I think the Bruins count their blessings that they have a guy of the caliber of Tuukka Rask sitting on the bench. I worry for him that he gets discouraged at some point. That would really be a crime. Because 10 years from now, when he’s in his early 30s and his prime — he’s not even close to his prime right now, and he had a spectacular season last year.

“It is what it is, and I can understand it. But there’s a part of me that says, particularly in the salary cap world, can you afford to do that? Can you afford to have two primo assets in that position, and should they think about trading one? And the only one that they could possibly trade, for me, is Thomas. I know right now that’s sacrilegious speaking.”

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Tim Thomas is already thinking Stanley Cup playoffs at 11:55 am ET
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The veterans on the Bruins who have been around the block a few times realize that Tuesday night’s 3-2 overtime win against Buffalo was just another win in December. But they also realize that it’s significant for one very important reason.

When you get to April and May and the Stanley Cup playoffs, there are no shootouts and you need to find a way to win overtime games. Another satisfying aspect of this early-December win was the fact the Bruins trailed 2-1 against Ryan Miller – one of the best goalies in the sport – with less than seven minutes remaining in regulation. So before winning in overtime the Bruins had to force the extra period.

The Bruins took advantage of a turnover in front of the Buffalo net and Nathan Horton scored his second goal in as many games to tie the game, 2-2. Again, just like April and May, teams with Cup aspirations need to find a way to just force overtime when you’re down a goal.

“I mean just to come back being down two to one in the third period, but then to finish it off that’s the key because I mean if… theoretically every game that you play in is a Stanley Cup run there are no shootouts in the Stanley Cup playoffs, you need to find a way to win that in overtime,” Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said. “So that’s what we did tonight and that’s a good thing.”

And you need your goalie to make big saves in overtime – just like Thomas did on Derek Roy on the doorstep just 40 seconds into the overtime. And in the Stanley Cup playoffs, you get bizarre circumstances – like scoring the winning goal, only to have play continue for about a minute before a stoppage and video review confirmed Mark Recchi‘s game-winning deflection off Dennis Seidenberg‘s blast from the high slot.

“I don’t know if I have ever been a part of a game like that,” Thomas said. “I’ve seen it on TV and stuff a couple times and actually by the time we actually got a whistle I’d forgotten about that goal. So, when I happened to glance up, I didn’t get to see if the puck went in on the replay but the crowd was happy, so I just started celebrating hoping that the crowd was right.”

Claude Julien knows Tuesday was important for another reason – his team won a game in overtime, with the help of offensive-minded defensemen Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara on the power play.

“It’s been tough for us, I think, in that area. Number one, as you saw, we used three forwards and one D to try to get some more offense on that five-minute overtime, four-on-four,” Julien said. “Most of our offense has been coming from up front. At the same time, we haven’t been very good in shootouts. We don’t have a very good percentage as a group, so I guess, for the time being, you try to adjust and try and put the odds on your side. We went that way and ended up on the power play and were able to score.”

Recchi added final perspective on the significance of the December win.

“It’s important,” Recchi said. “We’d like not to get [to overtime], but if we do get there then you’ve got to be good and you’ve got to be sharp. We use our bench very well, so guys are pretty fresh when it comes and we don’t have over-tired people. It’s good. Timmy [Thomas] came off a big save and then we were able to capitalize on the power play.”

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Sabres at Bruins preview 12.07.10 at 12:45 pm ET
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After falling to the Maple Leafs in a shootout on Saturday night, the Bruins are back at TD Garden, where they will face the Sabres. The B’s had no trouble handling handling Lindy Ruff’s squad in Buffalo on Nov. 3, scoring five goals against a backup cocktail of Jhonas Enroth and Patrick Lalime.

AP

The groin injury that kept Ryan Miller out of that contest is a thing of the past, and the reigning Vezina winner is on fire. He’s coming off back-to-back shutouts, including a 1-0 shootout victory Saturday in Ottawa.

The Bruins held an optional morning skate on Tuesday. Tim Thomas and Mark Recchi were the only two to miss it, but given that Thomas is on a hot streak of his own (three goals allowed on 119 shots over the last three games), one would think he’d be between the pipes.

WHERE IT’S AT

- The Bruins are 5-5-2 in home games and are 5-4-2 in games played at TD Garden. They throttled the Lightning to the tune of an 8-1 victory last Thursday, their most recent home contest.

- Like the Bruins, the Sabres are a much better road team than they are a home team. They’ve compiled a 6-5-2 record away from Buffalo, while their 5-8-1 home record has a lot to do with why they’re currently fourth in the Northeast with 25 points.

NOTABLE NUMBERS

- Thomas continues to lead the NHL in the three major goaltending statistics. His .956 save percentage, 1.46 goals against average, and five shutouts are tops in the league.

- Former Bruin Steve Montador is tied for second in the league with a plus-16. In 13 games for the Bruins in 2008-09, Montador a plus-3 and had two points. He added three more points and was a plus-5 in 11 playoff games.

- The Sabres are just about as bad offensively this year as the Bruins were last year. The B’s averaged a league-worst 2.39 goals per game last season, while Buffalo currently averages 2.4 a night, which is 25th in the league.

STORYLINES GOING IN

- Nathan Horton has shown signs of picking it up as of late, getting points in each of the last two games, including his first goal in 10 games Saturday. The sharpshooting winger still has just two points in his last eight games after registering 18 in the 17 prior.

- This will be the Bruins’ first game since sending Jordan Caron to Providence. Caron had been a healthy scratch in the last two games due to the return of Marc Savard, so geting the 20-year-old playing time is clearly in everyone’s best interest.

“It’s never an easy decision because the guy has been here since the beginning of the year,” Claude Julien told reporters after the morning skate. “At the same time, he’s a young player. I mean, David Krejci went back and forth and I don’t think that it hurt his career, except that it probably helped him, so I think those decisions are always made with the right intentions. Management wants to see him play and at this stage of his career, he can be brought up and down as much as we want, so I don’t think it’s an issue there because there’s no, he doesn’t have to clear waivers or anything like that. We just want to see him progress and he’s going to progress by playing.”

- Julien went into the logic behind Michael Ryder moving to the left wing, and it’s all about the utilization of Tyler Seguin with center Marc Savard.

“With [Seguin's] speed and using Savvy as a left hand shot, it’s a lot easier for him to pass to the right side. But we just kind of made that decision and all three guys are comfortable with that.”

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