Game Day: Devils vs. Bruins
New Jersey is in Boston for a clash of Eastern Conference powerhouses.
Thursday, 10.29.2009 / 9:50 AM / Bish's Blog
By John Bishop - BostonBruins.com
The Bruins lines...
Join us for the in-game live blog, here, at 6:30 p.m.
Press Box Notes
Storylines: In their last outing in Ottawa on Saturday, the Black & Gold rallied from a 3-1 deficit with 1:28 remaining in the third period and earned an improbable 4-3 shootout victory over the Senators. Tonight, they return to action after a four-day layoff in between games.
“Practice time is never a bad thing at this time of year, but at the same time it would be nice to get on a bit of a roll here and get some consecutive games,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien earlier today. “We have had a lot of time off but I guess in a way it has been good because of the type of training camp we’ve had. We feel like right now that our game is slowly coming.”
The Bruins have obtained points in four of their last five games, with a 3-1-1 record during that span. For the season, the B’s have potted three-plus goals in seven of the 10 contests they have played.
Injured center Marc Savard still leads the way with four goals on the season, however Patrice Bergeron, Matt Hunwick, Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler are all tied for second on the squad with three markers.
New Jersey meanwhile enters the Garden unbeaten on the road, with a 5-0-0 record so far in 2009-10. Winger Zach Parise has been hot of late with 5-4-9 totals in the club’s last five games.
The Devils did recently lose two key players, as defenseman Paul Martin (forearm) and left wing Jay Pandolfo (shoulder) are both expected to miss 4-6 weeks after suffering injuries in their October 24 tilt against the Penguins.
“They are going to play stingy and they are going to make sure that no matter who they have in the lineup, they are going to be a tough team to play against,” said Julien after Wednesday’s practice. The Devils are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Sabres last night in New Jersey.
Rex Hits 1,500: Bruins forward Mark Recchi appeared in his 1,500th NHL game on Saturday, becoming just the 13th player to do so in league history.
Here are the other skaters on the all-time games played leaderboard within Recchi’s sights:
Rank/ Player/ Games Played
13. MARK RECCHI, (1,500)
12. Steve Yzerman, (1,514)
11. Brendan Shanahan, (1,524)
10. Johnny Bucyk, (1,540)
9. Alex Delvecchio, (1,549)
Tops on this list is Gordie Howe, who skated in 1,767 games over the course of his career.
Streaking: For the Bruins, defenseman Derek Morris has a three game assist/point streak in progress with 1-4-5 totals over that span.
For the Devils, forward Zach Parise has a four game assist streak and five game point streak in progress with 5-4-9 totals over that span, while forward Jamie Langenbrunner has an active three game assist streak and five game point streak with 1-5-6 totals.
Special Teams: The Bruins rank 27th in the NHL on the power play (15.0%) and 22nd on the PK (75.6%). The Devils rank 23rd on the PP (17.1%) and 13th on the PK (78.9%).
I asked some of the Bruins what they thought about tonight's big Eastern Conference matchup.
Specifically, is it too early to get into playoff mode against a possible postseason rival?
"I think it’s too early to think about it," said assistant captain Patrice Bergeron. "But at the same time with the standings it’s not too early to look at that and try and make sure we [work] to catch...all those teams.
"Obviously, we want to make the playoffs, so it starts by taking it a game at a time and taking it as a [new] challenge each-and-every game."
Patrice's linemate Michael Ryder agreed and said the B's need to look at the short run.
"The first part of the season, you just want to make sure you get off to a good start and like that didn’t happen for us," said Ryder. "[So now] we just take it [games-to-game] like that
"Usually the day of a game [the coaching staff will] get the team [ready] and size [the opponent] up .
"Really, we don’t think that far ahead..and we pretty much just take it in little game segments early in the year," he said.
Defenseman Andrew Ference explained that the Bruins need to keep their emotions under control, but keep their eyes on the teams ahead of them.
"It just seems like more now like it’s so tight and teams are so close," said Ference. "Every point is so valuable and you see when you get into March and into April and you start doing the math on how many you got to win or how far you’re behind.
"Obviously these games against other teams that are fighting for those same positions,they just get magnified through the whole year, so it’s not like we’re eyeballing playoffs this far out, but we are well aware of [the fact] that you get the same number of points now as you do in those games in March.
"That’s why good starts are so important. It’s a lot harder when you start trying to cram points in in March when you’re playing every other night."
We certainly won't see him tonight in the Garden...
Pandolfo, 34, has a goal and an assist in nine games and will miss significant action for the first time since he was sidelined for 28 games with a groin injury in 2007-08. That snapped his streak of consecutive games played at a career-high 307, fourth-longest in Devils history.
In Pandolfo's case, Lamoriello said it's impossible to pinpoint the length of recovery.
"I can tell you this from experience: it doesn't matter what anybody tells you," Lamoriello said. "Everybody's body is different. You have players that pop out, go back in, they play within five minutes. Other players, they pop out and it takes a long time because of just their body makeup or just the way they are. Everybody's body is different. Everybody's joints are different as far as what they can take."
No matter who is in net 200-feet away, Tim Thomas just doesn't care.
But it's not that he doesn't respect the other guy in goalie gear, it's just not something he can focus on if he wants to do his job to the best of his abilities.
"I don’t really pay attention to who’s at the other end of the ice," said Tim, this morning. "I never really have.
"Actually, the only times I’ve really done it [was] earlier in my career; in college or something. It’s messed me up more than anything so just focus on my game and I don’t ever personally go head to head with the other goalie."
He's got more pressing matters than who is stopping pucks in the other goal -- like, the guys who are shooting the pucks at him.
"I’m going against Zach Parise or Jamie Langenbrunner and Alex Ovechkin so those are the guys I’ve got to concentrate on," said Thomas.
"Well, you know the one thing that I noticed that they are very similar with both those goaltenders is their competitive edge," said Julien, who has coached both backstops.
"It’s amazing, you know, I was extremely impressed with Marty how everyday in practice he practiced hard and was having fun doing it," explained Julien. "Timmy is the same way; he doesn’t give up on pucks and practices hard.
"It goes to show you that it doesn’t matter -- if people talk about the butterfly [or] technique -- [because of] how solid they are and square to the puck.
"A lot of it comes back to do you compete hard enough and battle hard enough to stop the pucks and that’s what both those guys do. They have their own style and they do it extremely well."
Julien was queried as to Coach Julien's game plan against Brodeur.
"Well, let’s put it this way," said Julien. "He is one of the best goaltenders in history when you look at his record. You can look at different tactics, which I am certainly not going to start elaborating here.
"I think it’s more about respecting the fact that you face a good goaltender.
"If you are going to score the odd goal on him...[but] When the game is on the line you can put your money on him that he is going to come up big and that is what you have to understand," said the coach.
The basic premise agaist Martin? Shoot. A lot.
"For us it’s pretty simple, he can’t stop what he can’t see and you have to make sure that you throw pucks at the net, and you have to make sure that you have some net-front presence," said Julien. "If not, he is going to stop them all."
Tim Thomas left the ice first. It looks like he will make the start in goal against the Devils.
It looks like a well-attended optional skate this morning.
Marchand, Wheeler, Bitz, Begin, Bergeron, Paille, Sobotka, Krejci and Whitfield are the forwards.
Chara, Stuart, Hunwick, Morris, Ference, Wideman and Boychuk are on the ice for the defense.
Thomas and Rask are in the nets.
After a slow start, the B's bench boss thinks Thomas' game is rounding into its usual shape.
"Yeah, he’s getting better," said Julien. "When you look back at the first game he played he really looked uncomfortable to say the least, and we have seen that happen [at the start of a season] before.
"But he’s worked hard and the past few games that he has played have been much better."
Thomas looked like last year's Vezina Trophy-winner when he robbed the Senators on what looked like a sure goal in the Bruins last game.
"Obviously, when you look at the play he saved on [Ottawa's Daniel] Alfredsson, it’s almost like a typical Tim Thomas save we saw often last year," said Julien. "When you start seeing those things come out, that means he’s finding his game again."
Julien was asked if he saw that save and thought "Tim is back"?
"Yeah, it instills confidence, not only the coaching staff, but also in the players," agreed Julien. "Everybody else says, 'You know what? He’s finding his groove again.
"He’s Timmy getting closer to being Timmy again.'"
After a beat, Coach smiled and added, "And I don't mean that like Manny being Manny."