Game Day: Thrashers vs. Bruins
Wednesday, 12.23.2009 / 9:05 AM ET / Bish's Blog
By John Bishop - BostonBruins.com
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Storylines: The Bruins have enjoyed recent success against the Thrashers, having won the last seven meetings between the two clubs. Both teams are jockeying for position in the Eastern Conference with the NHL holiday break approaching, as the Bruins are currently in fifth place in the conference with 41 points while Atlanta is sixth with 40 points. Both teams have played 35 games.
The Bruins continue to battle injury woes, especially on their blueline. Derek Morris is expected to miss his third game in a row (undisclosed) and Mark Stuart is on IR with a broken sternum. Dennis Wideman missed the first two games of the club’s recent three-game road trip (undisclosed) before returning to the lineup in the Bruins last outing on Monday in Ottawa. In that contest, Wideman logged a season high 28:55 of ice time. He is expected to play tonight.
Despite setting a franchise record by firing 50 shots on goal, Atlanta fell 4-3 in overtime to the Canadiens on Monday in their last game. They are once again led by sniper Ilya Kovalchuk who has potted 20 goals on the year, which is the seventh most in the league. Kovalchuk has a season-high seven game point streak in progress.
Ference & Fam to visit Pine Street Inn: On Christmas Eve morning, Thursday, December 24, from 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, his wife Krista and 4-year-old daughter, Ava will decorate holiday cookies at the Pine Street Inn (444 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA 02118). Founded in 1969, Pine Street is now the largest provider of emergency shelter, transitional services, and housing for homeless men and women in New England.
Milestones: Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien will be coaching his 200th game behind the Bruins bench tonight (111-59-29 with Boston), while Vladimir Sobotka will be playing in his 100th career NHL/Bruins game.
Connections: Marc Savard (196 points in 184 games) and Mark Recchi (40 points in 53 games) are both former Thrashers while Atlanta’s Marty Reasoner (8 points in 19 games) is a former Bruin.
Streaking: Four Thrashers have four-game or more streaks in progress entering tonight’s game. Ilya Kovalchuk has a seven game point streak, (4-6-10), Tobias Enstrom has a six game point/assist streak (0-9-0), Nik Antropov has a four game goal/point streak (5-1-6) and Pavel Kubina has a four game point/assist streak (1-5-6).
Speacial Teams Watch: The Bruins rank 26th in the NHL on the power play overall (16.4%) and 13th at home (19.7%). They rank tied for 1st on the PK overall (87.1%) and 4th at home (87.5%). The Thrashers rank 5th on the PP overall (22.9%) and tied for 9th on the road (21.8%). They rank 14th on the PK overall 81.5%) and 1st on the road (88.1%).
|Atlanta Thrashers center Rich Peverley, second from right, is congratulated by right wing Maxim Afinogenov (61), of Russia, left wing Slava Kozlov (13), of Russia, and left wing Ilya Kovalchuk (17), of Russia, after scoring the winning goal in a penalty shootout against the Florida Panthers during an NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009. The Thrashers won 2-1 in the shootout. (|
"He has always been good player in this league, an elite player," he said. "His speed his skill level and obviously his shot, which he is well known for is always a threat in every game. So, everywhere he goes I’m sure that teams obviously pay special attention to that.
"And I’m sure that he is one of those guys every time he plays a team he sees that there is pretty close coverage on him.
"You can’t give him space and you can’t give him time because he is too dangerous," he said.
The Thrashers are a pretty dangerous team as a whole.
"Well, they are definitely an offensive threat...and from their tactical offensive zone plays are a threat all the time," said Julien. "They have three real good lines there that can be a threat all the time and their fourth line is still a good line that grinds it out.
"At the same time they have become better defensively, they have become more stingy, they don’t give you as much as they use to. Those glaring mistakes that used to cost them games are not there anymore."
Coach Julien pointed at his former teammate John Anderson, Atlanta's head coach, as a reason for Thrasher turnaround.
"Well, at one point you build a team game and that is what they have done," said Julien. "John [Anderson, Head Coach] has done a great job of building a team game and they seem to be on the same page and they seem to be playing that way and that is what it is all about.
"At one point maybe they were a little bit… more about individual play and about star players, and now it is a little more about team play and a better team game.
"but they still have the skill and talent in their line up."
On Tuesday afternoon, Zdeno Chara participated in a conference call to discuss the Winter Classic.
From look of the transcript, the famously serious B's blueliner sounded downright psyched to participate in the NHL's big show on January 1st -- or at least as psyched as the calm, cool and collected B's all-star ever sounds.
"Well, I think everybody is really excited, especially the fans and the whole organization," said Chara. "It's basically, for most of us, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I'm sure it's going to be great."
The Bruins and Flyers has been legendary for its intensity throughout the decades and Chara was asked if the Winter Classic might feature some classic fisticuffs -- the first for an NHL outdoor matchup.
"I don't know. It could be. It all depends on how the game goes," said Chara. "For sure, both teams are well known for their physical play and just we'll see how the game goes."
Would players shy away from an overy physical game because of the high profile nature of the game?
"I don't know. It's totally up to the players and obviously, like I said, you know, in different situations, the teams react differently," he said. "I think that we all have to realize, it is an important game. I think it's a big event; everybody is going to be watching it, but at the same time, you are playing for two points.
|Defenceman Zdeno Chara, of the Boston Bruins, takes a shot during the Hardest Shot contest at the NHL All-Star Superskills competition in Montreal on Saturday Jan. 24, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Paul Chiasson)|
"Yeah, it's coming closer and closer, that's for sure," he said. "But personally what I do, I'm just looking at the next game, what is ahead of us and which at this time it's [Wednesday] game against Atlanta.
"I'm not thinking about the January 1 game yet."
In terms of his own preparations, Chara used about his own experiences playing outdoors as a child as a baseline.
"Well, I think when I was a kid and playing outdoors, it's totally different," said the Bruins captain. "You just cruise around and you had a lot of fun with your neighborhood buddies.
"It was totally relaxed, and this is more business-wise."
Like many of the Bruins, Chara understands the hightened intensity of the entire experience -- from the antique historic venue, to the crowd, to the temperatures -- and realizes that he must endeavor to keep his own routine simple.
"For sure, it's going to be way more intense. With a 30,000, 40,000 audience, it's going to be a totally different atmosphere," said Chara. "But I'm going to prepare the same way I prepare for every game."
And Big Zee can't really get more intense than that. Can he?
Congrats to "Nye" who just won Marc Savard's showcase on CBS's "The Price is Right."
We'll see him here in Boston on practice day -- Dec. 31st -- at Fenway Park! He also won a Honda, Winter Classic Gear and all expense paid trip to Boston for the big game.
The Bruins optional morning skate is over.
Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk, Matt Hunwick, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask, Steve Begin, Vladimir Sobotka, Daniel Paille, Byron Bitz, Patrice Bergeron, Michael Ryder, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Shawn Thornton and Mark Recchi all skated. I think I saw everyone else in the locker room.
Tim Thomas was the first goalie off the ice and should get the start vs. the Thrashers.
Look for the Boston Bruins Marc Savard on the Price Is Right at 11:00 a.m. on CBS!
Marc will be part of the Showcase Showdown...
To my knowledge, the last time a Bruin (or at least a future Bruin) was on the gameshow was when Ted Donato appeared while he was with the Harvard Crimson.
That particular clip is legendary in Harvard hockey circles.
FYI: Milan Lucic is back on the ice before the regular practice.
Bourque excited for Winter Classic
"Since this whole Winter Classic has started, and I think it’s maybe five years in now, you’ve always thought of Fenway as the place if it ever would come to Boston that would be the perfect place and it’s really great that it’s happened and it’s going to happen and to have an opportunity to skate out there will be a lot of fun," said The Captain, who joined several generations of Bruins, from Milt Schmidt to Milan Lucic at last Friday's "First Skate at Fenway."
"I think we all, especially the alumni, I think we all grew up skating outdoors," said Bourque. "Especially for me, growing up in Montreal, we had skating rinks every couple of miles so we always have our fondest memories as kids growing up playing outside with our buddies and just meeting up there everyday.
"So whenever I have an opportunity to skate outdoors with my kids or in something like this it’s going to be very special. It brings back a lot of memories."
So does he wish that a Black & Gold #77 would make an appearance on January 1st?
"No. No. The mind might say yes and you know what you want to do, but the body just doesn’t follow as well any more," he said. "But I still skate, I go out there a couple times a week during winter once golf season ends, put back the skates on and go out and do okay.
"But to play at that level, I’m going to be turning 49 in a couple of weeks and there’s no turning the page going back that way."
For now, Bourque's greatest enjoyment comes from watching his Sons Chris and Ryan play.
I asked the Hockey Hall of Famer if he gets nervous watching his kids play.
"I’m in the game, but I don’t get nervous," said Bourque.
"I love watching the boys play," continued Bourque. "It’s a lot of fun. My youngest, Ryan, was drafted by the Rangers this past summer and he’s up in Quebec City playing for Patrick Roy (and the Junior Hockey Remparts)
"And Chris really had a nice stint in the NHL this year with Pittsburgh and he’s back in Washington now, so watching them play and doing it for the right reasons because they have a passion for hockey is a blast for me," he said.
And as far as Fenway goes, one of Boston's best will be pleased to have the opportunity to see hockey from a different perspective.
"Well I walked around...before the boards and everything was up and it will be fun to see it today with the boards and the ice in," he said. "Looking around and walking around there the other day, was just, you could just picture a full stadium and people in the Monster Seats and people all over.
"It’s going to be a lot of fun."
|Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic (17) takes the puck from Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Zach Bogosian (4) during the third period of their NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009, in Atlanta. Boston won 4-3. (AP Photo/John Amis)|
"It is in question for sure, but obviously...it’s just something we need to take day-by-day and see where it goes," said Lucic. "Hopefully it progresses better everyday."
"I think right around that time I should be scheduled to be back in the lineup," said Lucic. "But again, until I’m 100% and pain-free, that’s when it’s my time to get back in the lineup."
In the meantime, how is everything going?
"Not bad," said Lucic. "It was obviously nice to get back on the ice the last two days and feeling better everyday.
"It’s on schedule. This is an injury that you have to take day by day and see how it feels from here on in."
And as far as continuing his progress, Lucic understands that there is still a ways to go.
"Even little things, like say you get your toe caught just walking around and you feel a jolt of pain going through it, and you don’t realize how bad of an injury this is until you actually get it," he said. "I didn’t really believe everyone when they told me it’s going to take as long as it does to heal because after around four or five days, it was feeling great.
"But it just goes to show that it does take that long, so it is a real tough injury. And it’s real tough on you mentally because it’s one of those things where you’re feeling great and it’s just one thing and you’re right back to square one.
"I think that was the hardest part to get over at the start. All the guys were right when they told me, it is a tough injury to get over, that’s for sure," he said.
So what's next, Luch?
|Lucic. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)|
"Like I said, there’s not much more I can do other than kind of skate laps and as I progress day by day, obviously things will go up a notch everyday here."
Lucic said that the hockey moves will take time coming back to his repitoire.
"It’s not that bad skating in a straight line and weaving in and out," said Lucic. "But it’s that stopping and starting and those types of things.
"It’s funny, it’s those things that you don’t really think about that you did and those are the stuff that hurts you, when you get your foot caught in the ice in just even a little rut.
"But like I said, right now we’re just trying to be cautious and go out and take precautions where I’m not tweaking it too bad, and just trying to strengthen it everyday," he said.
In the meantime, his hand injury has had time to heal and Lucic has started to work on his stickwork.
"Today we kind of ended with some passing and stick handling," he said. "I haven’t stick handled in a while, and to be honest my forearms are a little sore after a few reps out there.
"But just doing those types of things, a few stick handling drills and passing and shooting and those types of things, I think that’s another thing that you have to do more and more as it comes back."
The mental game is still in play, however.
"I’ve never spent so much time at a doctor’s officer other than this year. Obviously the doctors are great guys and they’re great people, but as athletes, you kind of want to stay away from them more than anything," said Lucic.
"You have to try your best to stay positive and you have to realize that you are injured and you have to take the time to let it heal and I think that’s what I’ve come to through with this injury," continued the forward. "I’ve been trying to stay positive.
"Obviously it’s not fun sitting out and watching every game. You want to be out there helping your teammates, but it’s just the way life goes sometimes and it’s not been the most fun season for me right now.
"But I guess everything happens for a reason."
And maybe that reason will be that #17 will be healthy and healed for the stretch run.
The Bruins are beginning to arrive for morning skate. They'll be on the ice at 10:30 a.m.
Tuesday, December 22
|Boston Bruins' Dennis Wideman, left, celebrates with goalie Tim Thomas after the Bruins beat the Ottawa Senators 4-3 in a shootout in an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)|
"You can be hopeful, but those high ankle injuries are injuries that are very unpredictable," said Julien. "I’ve seen a lot of them throughout my career as a player and even as a coach and just when you think you turn a corner you can have a setback.
"So, we’re being cautious I guess in assessing that."
Could Lucic play in the Winter Classic?
"Ten days from now...a lot of people are hoping that [Lucic plays] the Classic," said Julien. "It is a possibility, but that’s assuming there are no setbacks and everything goes well, but we don’t know that."
Defenseman Dennis Wideman (28:55 on the ice, 28 shifts, a +2 and three blocked shots) returned to the ice on Monday, and made an immediate impact.
"He’s a top tier defenseman so you certainly upgrade your back end [when he plays]," said Julien. "I thought he played pretty well and logged a lot of ice time.
"It’s good to have him back."
As far as the day-to-day squad, Julien assured the press that the three B's are suffering from "just minor kinks."
"Yeah it’s maintenance," said Julien. "[Sobotka] took that shot yesterday and just a little swollen right now and our trainers deemed it was just a little better to give him another day, but he’ll be fine tomorrow."
"Ryder’s same thing," he said. "He’s just maintenance today. He’ll be good tomorrow."
Morris, well, he might take a little longer.
"He’s still day-to-day and he actually is doing better so hopefully he’s going to start progressing and we’ll see him on the ice soon," said the coach.
What about Wednesday's game.
"Tomorrow he’s not going to play."
I'm a little late getting back from practice, and in the interim B's have made a roster move:
Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has assigned defenseman Andy Wozniewski to the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League).
On the Boston Bruins’ recent three game road trip, the 29-year-old Wozniewski played in the first two games against Chicago and Toronto and was a healthy scratch in the third game in Ottawa. His appearance against the Blackhawks marked Wozniewski’s first game in a Bruins uniform. Wozniewski had skated in 29 games for the P-Bruins and recorded 6-17-23 totals before his December 15th recall to Boston.
Click here for the full release.
Three players are missing from practice: Derek Morris, Michael Ryder and Vladimir Sobotka.
Good news -- Milan Lucic skated (he said for the second time) today before practice.
Hopefully that might elicit an update from Coach Julien after practice. Lucic is NOT practicing during the regular session, BTW.
The Bruins are wearing their Winter Classic pants. They are brown with a white stripe with a another gold stripe down the sides. The helmets are also brown (or are they calling it "chocolate"?) with a Winter Classic spoked-B on either side.
Back in Massachusetts
|Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron, right, celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators with teammate Byron Bitz during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Ottawa on Monday, Dec. 21, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)|
But chances are good that the smiles will not linger as the Bruins look to head into the holiday break (the NHL does not play or practice on Dec. 24th or 25th) with a winning streak.
Thankfully, Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm both notched goals to break the Bruins scoreless streak and Tim Thomas blanked the Senators for his 10th straight win against Ottawa -- all of which gives the Bruins momentum going into Thursday's tilt with Atlanta.
"We knew we weren’t quite there yet," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien, postgame. "There’s some things that we weren’t doing.
"And when you don’t score much or you haven’t won in a while there’s always a little bit of fear that sets in."
However, that fear has subsided enough for the Bruins so that Julien was able to look on the bright side and enjoy the B's 2-0 win over the Senators.
"When you win this game it gives you three out of six points and anytime you’re .500 on the road, it’s still not bad, one more win would have been better," said Julien. "But it’s a great way to redeem ourselves because we could have come home with just one out of six.
"And three out of six is a big difference..."
BTW: Mark Recchi played in is 1,525th game and now ranks 10th on the all time list...Adam McQuaid and Steve Begin led the Bruins with four hits apiece and Johnny Boychuk led the club with four blocked shots...Michael Ryder was tops with five shots...Begin and former teammate Alex Kovalev tussled late in the game. Begin and Kovalev were both assessed roughing and slashing minors.