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Olympic hockey: Group A breakdown 02.16.10 at 11:05 am ET
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The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics hockey tournament starts at 3 p.m. (ET) on Tuesday at Canada Hockey Place with Team USA taking on Switzerland to begin the Group A preliminary round robin. Throughout the day, we will present short bios of the teams in each group, starting with Group A, where the United States and Canada continue a long international rivalry.

Note: After the preliminary round, each of the 12 teams will be ranked on the basis of points. The top four teams advance to the quarterfinals, with the remaining teams playing to advance.

Schedule (All times ET)

Feb. 16 — USA vs. Switzerland, 3 p.m.

Feb. 16 — Canada vs. Norway, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 18 — USA vs. Norway, 3 p.m.

Feb. 18 — Canada vs. Switzerland, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 20 — Norway vs. Switzerland, 3 p.m.

Feb. 21 — Canada vs. USA, 7:40 p.m.

United States

Captain — Jamie Langenbrunner

Assistant captains — Zach Parise, Dustin Brown, Ryan Suter, Brian Rafalski

Goaltenders — Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick

Players to Watch — Phil Kessel, Chris Drury, Patrick Kane

Bruins on the roster — Thomas

Breakdown — Team USA’s strength is between the pipes. The Sabres’ Miller is likely to get most of the starts for the Americans, but any one of the three goaltenders can get hot and carry the team into the medal round. Drury was a standout at Boston University, where he helped the Terriers to a national championship in 1995. This will be his third Olympic games. Kane and Kessel could give the team some offensive pop, but to stand up to the likes of Russia and Canada the Americans will have to be able to keep pucks out of the net. Team USA definitely has talent, but it may not be enough to propel it to its first gold medal since the 1980 Miracle on Ice, the only other time Team USA took first aside from the 1960 Forgotten Miracle.

Canada

Captain — Scott Niedermayer

Assistants — Sidney Crosby, Jerome Iginla, Chris Pronger

Goaltenders – Marc-Andre Fleury, Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur

Players to Watch — Whom not to watch? With such a star-packed team there are plenty of names to keep an eye on, but look out for Blackhawks young forward Jonathan Toews.

Bruins on the roster — Patrice Bergeron

Breakdown — The pressure is on the Canadians to win this tournament going away. It is their sport, their country and their gold medal to lose. With Crosby, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley likely to head up the top line and stout defensemen including Pronger on the blue line, it is an NHL general manager’s dream. Add in Luongo and the timeless Brodeur, and Canada has plus players and depth at every position. Look for Bergeron to man center on the third line and play against opposing teams’ top lines as a defensive forward.

Switzerland

Captain — Mark Streit

Goaltenders — Jonas Hiller, Martin Gerber, Tobias Stephan

Players to Watch — Streit and Hiller are the NHL stalwarts, but some young talent at the minor league level includes Yannick Weber of the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs (Canadiens), Andres Ambuhl of the AHL Hartford Wolfpack (Rangers) and Luca Sbisa of the WHL Portland Winterhawks (Ducks).

Breakdown — Gerber and Hiller are the strength of Team Switzerland and Streit is a strong captain for the team, but overall the talent is spread too thin to compete with the North Americans. A quarterfinals run would be an outside possibility.

Norway

Captain — TBD

Goaltenders — Pal Grotnes, Andre Lysenstoen, Ruben Smith.

Who to Watch – Ole-Kristian Tollefson, Patrick Thoresen, Tommy Jakobsen.

Breakdown — Tollefson and Thoresen are the only two players that have any NHL experience and neither are currently in the league. Tollefson has had the most success as the 65th pick of the 2002 draft by the Blue Jackets. He is with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Red Wings system. Tollefson and Thorensen are two of only five Norwegian players to ever lace up in the league. Thorensen played with the Oilers and Flyers and now is with Salat Yulaev of the KHL. Jakobsen is the old bear of the team with 131 international appearances. Do not expect much from Norway. The last time it qualified for the Olympics was 1994, and its highest finish in the tournament was eighth in 1972.

Read More: Canada, Norway, Patrice Bergeron, Switzerland
Hot goaltenders contribute to B’s woes 02.02.10 at 11:29 pm ET
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Boston has not seen its hockey team have a stretch this bad since the days when Vic Stasiuk used to lace up his skates at the old Garden in 1956 when the Bruins had a stretch where they went 0-8-0.

With an 0-6-2 record in its last eight games, this season’s Bruins have not seen a win since beating the Western Conference leaders from San Jose  on Jan. 14. It would have been odd to see the Bruins sandwich seven losses in a row with wins against both conference leaders, but it was not to be in a 3-1 loss to the Capitals on Tuesday.

Everybody knows what the problem is. There’s no hiding what ails these bears — they cannot score. Through the past eight contests, the Bruins have 12 goals, or 1.5 per game. After a stretch where the team simply did not play well, the Bruins have had decent efforts and good scoring chances in the past few contests and have run into some pretty good goaltending along the way. Why can’t the Bruins score? It is kind of a chicken or egg type of question.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jose Theodore, Tim Thomas,
Bruins ready to bounce back against Buffalo 01.28.10 at 1:44 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — After a week of practice to get healthy and screw their heads on straight, the Bruins will travel to Buffalo on Friday to take on the Northeast Division leading Sabres. It is an interesting challenge for Boston as the Buffalo is 15 points ahead of the Bruins in the standings but has been in a bit of a funk for the last week, going 1-3-1 in its last five games. The Sabres did snap a three game skid by beating the Devils 2-1 in a shootout on Wednesday night in New Jersey and remain a very dangerous team in the Eastern Conference.

“They are a pretty good team, they are playing well,” coach Claude Julien said. “I saw them play yesterday against New Jersey. They are playing with lots of confidence, they got great goaltender which keeps them in the game. They gave up 40 shots last night and only gave up a goal. We are already challenged a little bit in the goal scoring department so we are going to have to work just that much harder to get past this guy.”

The Sabres goaltender is Ryan Miller who is expected to be the starting net-minder for Team USA in the Vancouver Olympics and is second in the NHL with a 2.06 goals-against average. As Julien said, with the Bruins scoring woes, it will indeed be a challenge. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Buffalo Sabres, Marc Savard, Marco Sturm, Tim Thomas
Bruins lose another to Senators 01.23.10 at 3:55 pm ET
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Summary — The Senators completed a sweeps week against the Bruins with another victory at TD Garden, 2-1 over in this Saturday’s matinee. Daniel Alfredsson scored Ottawa’s first goal and Jason Spezza had the game winner in the second period. Tim Thomas took his second loss of the week at the hands of the Senators though he played better than Monday when he was pulled from the game in favor or Tuukka Rask.

Daniel Paille scored the Bruins only goal in the second period with a blast from the left wing over Elliot’s glove shoulder to tie the game. The goal was the forward’s seventh of the season.

The Bruins have not won a game in the Garden during the entire month of January (they did when at Fenway) and continue to struggle to score goals without Marc Savard and Marco Sturm. Byron Bitz and Steve Begin also missed the game. None of the four will travel to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes tomorrow night as the Bruins will not have ice time before the game.

Boston is now six points behind Ottawa for second place in the Northeast Division.

Three Stars

Brian Elliott — Ottawa’s goalie was solid in stopping 32 of shots and his team outscored the Bruins 7-2 on the week.

Daniel Alfredsson — In two games this week, Alfredsson has outscored the Bruins 4-2 and been a general menace in the TD Garden. The wingman has six goals and four assists for Ottawa in his last 12 games since coming back from an injury.

Daniel Paille — The wingman skated hard and provided the only spark of offense for the Bruins in another frustrating offensive performance.

Turning Point

For the second game in a row the play hinged not on a goal that was scored, but one that was not. After killing an Ottawa penalty it looked like the Bruins had taken a 2-1 lead late in the second period when Mark Recchi crashed the net and appeared to knock the puck past Brian Elliot. The play was reviewed and determined that Recchi kicked the puck (which ricocheted of Elliot’s skate). About a minute later Spezza scored the go-ahead goal and the Senators did not look back.

Key Play

Jason Spezza was questionable coming into Saturday’s game and the Bruins probably wish that he had delayed his comeback from injury for at least another day. He scored the game winner at 16:39 in the second period and the goal took away any momentum the Bruins had mustered. Spezza was fed in the center of the offensive zone from Alex Kovalev and let out a wily wrist shot that Thomas was able to see and follow, but could not corale.

Read More: Daniel Alfredsson, Daniel Paille, Tim Thomas,
Bruins shoot down Sharks 01.15.10 at 1:25 am ET
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Summary – Zdeno Chara blasted a slap shot past Evgeni Nabokov in the fourth round of a shootout, lifting the Bruins to a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday (recap). Tim Thomas made 41 saves and stopped all four San Jose shooters in the shootout to help the B’s secure the victory and end a three-game losing streak. Daniel Paille scored in the second period to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead before Joe Thornton answered with a goal later in the second to draw San Jose even.

Three Stars

Tim Thomas – A rock-steady, 41-save performance by Thomas helped the Bruins pick up a big win.

Zdeno Chara – The captain went with his best mode of attack, an overpowering slap shot to score the only goal of the shootout.

Daniel Paille – With the Bruins lineup becoming more depleted by the day, the steady forward raised his game, scoring one goal and creating several other chances.

Turning Point

After a scoreless opening period, Shawn Thornton intercepted a Doug Murray clearing pass near the San Jose blue line and quickly moved the puck to Paille, whose shot ultimately deflected off the skate of Dan Boyle and into the net to give the Bruins the lead in a game in which they needed a competitive showing.

Key Play

With Dany Heatley in a position to secure the win for San Jose with the third shot in the shootout, Thomas stayed with Heatley’s back hand shot, snaring it with his glove. Chara then sent his blast past Nabokov.

Read More: Daniel Paille, dany heatley, San Jose Sharks, Shawn Thornton
Thomas explains the ‘Hartnell incident’ 01.01.10 at 9:57 pm ET
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He wasn’t particularly proud of it but Tim Thomas attempted to explain himself after his Bruins teammates took the goat horns off his head.

Before Mark Recchi tied the game with just over two minutes left in regulation, the moment a lot of fans were going to take from the game was Thomas taking his frustrations out on Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell while Danny Syvret was taking a slap shot into the space Thomas just vacated.

Five minutes into the second period, Thomas had seen enough from Hartnell. He had taken a shot on him while he was on the ice and vulnerable just moments earlier and Hartnell was camped out in front of the net to Thomas’s right.

Thomas explained himself after the game.

Read More: Bruins, Tim Thomas,
Thomas returns for B’s 11.28.09 at 6:56 pm ET
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Tim Thomas returns tonight for the Bruins after missing the last six games with a minor undisclosed injury. The Bruins take on the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden.

The B’s have earned 9 of a possible 10 points in their last five games to tie Ottawa for first in the Northeast Division with 29 points.

Read More: Boston Bruins, NHL, Senators, Tim Thomas
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