TAMPA BAY, FL - As the Bruins head into a match-up with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night, the rotation of seven defensemen on the Bruins has seen Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton and Adam McQuaid as healthy scratches so far this season.
McQuaid was the scratch on Thursday against the Florida Panthers, with Hamilton getting back into the lineup after a two-game layoff. It was the first game with Hamilton, Bartkowski and Torey Krug all in the lineup together.
"You saw that against the Rangers, those young guys came in and skated well, but yet where we suffer a little bit is defensively," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said following the B's practice in Tampa on Friday.
"And when you have a guy like Adam McQuaid who is pretty solid defensively, those guys aren’t as good as he is on the defensive side of it. So it’s a situation where you kind of weigh the pros and cons and you make those decisions as you go game by game."
"There’s a good chance [Adam will] be back in the lineup [Saturday night] as well. So he’s a veteran, I know it’s a little tougher for veterans, but we got some good young players and we can’t just go and pull those guys out because you’re going to be pulling the same guys out all the time."
Prior to the season, and amidst the B's first six games, Julien has stressed that choosing which blueliner to sit out does not often comes as a result of play; it's mostly based on "rust" and keeping everyone fresh.
"Certain guys have to sit out yet it has nothing to do with their game more than it has something to do with the numbers," he said. "So we’ve been clear with our players about that."
"As much as they don’t like it, and I don’t blame them for it, it’s just the situations that’s there and you have to move on here and it’s so important that they stay on top of their game and stay focused and when they get a chance to go in, continue to play well."
As we move forward in the season, the decisions will continue for each game.
"It doesn’t get easier and the thing is, probably the biggest challenge for a coach is that you don’t want to have to explain every time something happens," said Julien of the conversations with the healthy scratches.
"I think it’s pretty clear to everybody that we’re moving guys around to keep everybody sharp and I’m not going to tell a guy ‘you’re not playing tonight’ and sit down for 15 minutes to start explaining myself."
"They know what the situation is and that’s what you do. So I think it doesn’t get any easier but you have to think about it every game – what’s the best situation for this game or the next game and you make those decisions."
Julien also has to exercise patience with the rotation, as the trio of Hamilton, Krug and Bartkowski continues to grow into their full-time NHL player roles.
"You’ve got some young D’s in your lineup – you have three of them that are in basically their first full year and we need some better sticks out there and sticks on pucks," said Julien, of improvements to make in the lapse defensive coverage over the past two games, despite the 3-2 win over the Panthers on Thursday.
"Some of those [Florida] scoring chances were coming from maybe a little bit of a combination of both better sticks and some youth there. So the only way we’re going to get better is by letting them play and helping them through those kind of corrections."
TAMPA BAY, FL - For seven games now, Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien has had 12 forwards available. Now, heading into the match-up with the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night, he has 13.
With Carl Soderberg cleared to play, the bench boss has to make a decision up front for the first time this season.
"I haven't told anybody anything yet. That's why they don't know, and I haven't made that decision yet," Julien told reporters following pregame skate, when asked if Soderberg would be suiting up in his first game action of 2013-14.
He last played in the final preseason game on September 27 in Saskatoon, when he suffered his ankle injury.
Jordan Caron had a maintenance day Friday and did not practice with the team, but was back on the ice during an optional pregame skate this morning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Julien said Friday that "he's fine" and "ready to go."
The decision is not necessarily between those two forwards, but any way it turns out, it's a difficult process.
"It's pretty obvious that it's not an easy decision," said Julien. "But again, I've got to make those decisions come game-time."
TAMPA BAY, FL - After missing all of the Bruins' first six games of the season, it appears that Carl Soderberg may get his opportunity in the lineup on Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Following practice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Friday afternoon, Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said that Soderberg has been cleared to play.
Friday marked his third straight day taking full contact with the team. He's been out of game action since suffering an ankle injury in the B's final preseason game on September 27 in Saskatoon.
"Carl is ready to go," Julien said following practice. "He’s been cleared so there’s a possibility there."
"I know it’s kind of a question if we feel that he’s going to be in tomorrow; there’s a good chance he will be. He’s been cleared so now it’s up to me to make that decision."
SUNRISE, FL - The end result earned the Bruins two points on Thursday night in a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers and former Boston goaltender Tim Thomas.
Reilly Smith added the late finish with just 58.7 on the clock, after a quick 2-0 start for the B's in the first period, thanks to Daniel Paille beating Thomas short side off a defense to offense rush, and Dougie Hamilton firing in his first goal of the season on the power play.
"We stressed that before the game," said Smith. "Just getting the first goal because that hasn’t happened the last couple of games. So it was big, it definitely gave us a little boost and energy to start."
His goal came against the Panthers' top line of 2013 Calder Cup winner Jonathan Huberdeau, Scott Gomez and Kris Versteeg.
SUNRISE, FL - Boston had a quick start, and a swift finish, as Reilly Smith scored his first as a Bruin with just 58.7 seconds left in the third period to lift the Black & Gold to a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on Thursday night.
After a Patrice Bergeron faceoff win, Johnny Boychuk kept the puck in the zone, sending it along the blueline to Torey Krug at the right point who fired it in deep. Smith first tried to set up Bergeron in front, before making his way around Tim Thomas' net and backhanding in a loose puck that trickled in.
"Yeah it got close at the end there; we didn’t want that [comeback] happen. It’s a great feeling being able to score and help the team out and get the win," Smith said postgame, of his first in the spoked-B.
"And then we started maybe letting up a bit and probably got away from our game as well and started getting a little cute and gave them an opportunity to get back into the game," said Head Coach Claude Julien.
SUNRISE, FL - The Bruins will be facing off against the Florida Panthers and former Boston goaltender Tim Thomas tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET at the BB&T Center. That is, in case you hadn't heard.
When the B's held their pregame skate this morning, Tuukka Rask was first off the ice, indicating he'll likely be the starter tonight for the Black & Gold.
The Thomas vs. Rask and the Bruins match-up may be sending the hockey world - and New England - abuzz, but what's really at stake for the Bruins against this Atlantic Division squad, is the two points.
"We still have a game to play, we still have a game to win. So we did turn the page on that," said Head Coach Claude Julien following morning skate. "And today, we move on."
With Coach keeping his focus, those in the spoked-B - who are 3-2-0 on the season and lost their last game, 3-2, to Detroit on Monday - are keeping that mindset as well.
SUNRISE, FL - With the Bruins preparing to face off against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, it appears that Tim Thomas will be between the pipes.
The Panthers announced via their Twitter feed on Wednesday, just as the B's finished up practice at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, that the former B's goaltender "will play against his previous club" on Thursday.
Thomas had been out with a groin injury since October 8 against Philadelphia and did not make a recent road trip with the Panthers to Nashville, but his progress appears to be on track for him to play tomorrow night.
Though confirmation from Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien on his starting goaltender won't come until after morning skate on Thursday, we can expect to see Tuukka Rask starting in goal, making what years ago would have been an unlikely reunion at opposing ends all but inevitable.
SUNRISE, FL - The Bruins traveled to Florida Wednesday morning for a two-game road trip against the Panthers on Thursday night and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.
It marked his first full contact practice since injuring his ankle on September 27 in the third period of the Bruins' final preseason game in Saskatoon. The pain and swelling around his ankle is gone.
Following the skate, Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said that Soderberg was probably a game or two away from being available for game action.
"I think we're getting close to that," said Julien, who would like to try and get him back in the lineup when it gets to that point.
"I think it's important that we get players in. He had a really good camp and it's unfortunate he got hurt then. When the time comes, I'm going to have to make that decision. And if I can't take anybody out, I can't but I certainly would like to get him in there if I could."
BostonBruins.com - You'll often hear Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien say phrases like "Tuukka's been Tuukka" and "Bergy was Bergy" to gathered reporters, like he did amidst the start to the season, with Tuukka Rask being his sharp self and Patrice Bergeron appearing to have not missed a beat.
The remarks come because of the expectations placed on those in the Black & Gold, knowing what defines these B's personalities and how that translates onto the ice.
And right now, Coach is likely looking forward to the next postgame press conference when he can say "that's the Brad Marchand the we know."
"Brad competed harder tonight and seemed to be a little bit better for me," Julien told the press, following the Bruins' 3-2 loss to Detroit on October 14, which marked Marchand's second straight game playing on the third line with Chris Kelly and Jordan Caron.
Marchand fired four shots on goal, including two right at the start, and was pegged to fill in for Milan Lucic for a shift late in the game when the left winger's skate needed a repair.
And when it's on, it's on.
So, right now, the inches separating the right winger from his first goal as a Bruin feel more like feet.
"I had some great looks tonight, I’ve had great looks for a few games," Iginla said following the Bruins' 3-2 loss to Detroit on Monday afternoon. He's recorded 19 shots on goal through his first five games in the spoked-B. He has one assist, but no G's on the stat sheet. Against the Wings, he fired 11 attempts.
None more lethal than when he readied for the one-timer from the left circle.
During a 5-on-3 just five minutes into the third period, with the Bruins trailing 3-1 and maintaining possession in the offensive zone, Iginla was at the ready.