Game Day: Blackhawks vs. Bruins
Thursday, 01.07.2010 / 8:19 AM / Bish's Blog
By John Bishop - BostonBruins.com
Marc Savard Update...
Head coach Claude Julien, postgame: "Well, [Savard’s] going to get an MRI tomorrow. It’s a knee injury and the severity of it, we’ll know more once we get the MRI done tomorrow."
Join us for the live blog ----->
Milan Lucic is on the ice for warmups. Tim Thomas is in goal.
Pregame Pressbox Notes
The Bruins lost two key contributors to injury in their last two games. Patrice Bergeron – the team’s best and most consistent forward since the start of the season according to head coach Claude Julien – fractured his thumb in the second period of Monday’s game against the Rangers while d’man Andrew Ference sustained a groin injury in the second period of Tuesday’s game against Ottawa. Bergeron will miss the next two weeks with his ailment and Ference will miss six.
Rookie Adam McQuaid, who has played in three games this season for Boston since his recall on December 15, will take Ference’s place on the blueline this evening.
“Through injuries we still have managed to keep our heads above water and win more than we lose, which is a good sign,” said Julien. “The other part, I guess, which is more of an issue, we have to make sure we compete hard every night.”
The Black & Gold will need to compete hard tonight, as they face a Blackhawks club that is tied for the most wins in the league with 30 and the most points in the league with 63. They boast an impressive +50 goal differential, which is tops in the league. Winger Patrick Kane has tallied 49 points on the season – good for the sixth most in the league – and has been red hot of late, with points in his last nine.
“As far as I am concerned they are one of the better teams in the league right now,” said Julien of Chicago. “There is no doubt about that. They are playing with lots of confidence, they have good speed, they have good depth.”
Chicago is 11-2-0 in their last 13 games.
BRUINS/BLACKHAWKS CONNECTIONS: Shawn Thornton played five seasons in the Chicago organization, including 31 games in a Blackhawks uniform.
STREAKING: Four Blackhawks have four-plus game point streaks in progress entering tonight’s game. Patrick Kane has a nine-game point streak with 8-7=15 totals during that span, Kris Versteeg has a five-game point streak (2-4=6), while Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp each have four-game point streaks with 4-3=7 totals and 2-3=5 totals respectively.
SPECIAL TEAMS WATCH: The Bruins rank tied for 16th in the NHL on the power play overall (18.2%) and 7th at home (22.6%). They rank 1st on the PK overall (87.5%) and 2nd at home (89.0%). The Blackhawks rank 6th on the PP overall (20.8%) and third on the road (26.6%). They rank 2nd on the PK overall (87.2%) and 15th on the road (81.4%).
Okay, so tonight is the B's second game versus the B's and the Hawks (B's fell, 5-4, in a shootout on Dec. 18).
The Bruins are 259-234-79-3 against the Blackhawks and hold a 1,809-1,747 scoring edge.
Coach Julien spoke to the new look of his backline after the morning skate.
"Yeah, Andrew [Ference] is out for sure, obviously," said Julien. "McQuaid is the sixth D in there tonight."
Julien acknowledged the loss to the D, but pointed out that the Bruins have fought through injury issues before.
"We have been pretty fortunate because the guys that have been put in that situation this year -- Johnny Boychuk to start and now [Adam] McQuaid, have had great attitudes," the coach said. "Their work ethic is second to none.
"They work hard, they do what they’re told or asked of and they do it willingly
"By doing that they are ready when they are called upon."
McQuaid has played just three NHL games, but Julien seemed unconcerned.
"[Adam] is going to be called upon tonight and do the job and I’m sure he will be ready," said the B's bench boss. "He is a pretty simple defenseman.
"He is a physical, simple pass, defensive defenseman. He doesn’t do more than he has to as far as if he tries to do too much he gets himself in trouble.
"He knows that so he keeps his game simple."
Both the B's captain and the Black & Gold's Coach feel the same way about tonight's opponent from Chicago.
"They are probably the best team right now in the NHL," said Zdeno Chara. "[They have] a really good power play, really good PK, I mean [they give] every possible challenge for us we can probably have.
"We have to be sharp, that’s for sure."
"As far as I am concerned they are one of the better teams in the league, right now," said Claude Julien. "There is no doubt about that. They are playing with lots of confidence, they have good speed, they have good depth.
"From the goaltending out, they are pretty solid all around so I think it’s more about our team being able to make sure that we skate with these guys.
"When a team has that much skill, you have to be ready to battle and skate with these guys and that’s what we have to do tonight," he said.
"We haven’t talked today so nothing to tell you guys," said Lucic after morning skate. "Like I said, nothing new, nothing new to say today except that it feels better."
On Nov. 25, Lucic suffered a high-ankle sprain during a Bruins win at Minnesota and doctors estimated that he would be out four to six weeks.
That prognosis left a glimmer of hope that he would be back in time for the Winter Classic. However -- and to Number-17’s (and the rest of New England’s) dismay -- he was unable to play in the Classic or any games since, despite his starting to practice with the team.
“I mean, [Thursday] maybe…maybe Saturday, maybe Wednesday, so I think one of those three games most likely I’ll make my debut back for the second time in the lineup,” he said yesterday. “It all depends on how I feel tomorrow morning and whatnot and we’ll see how it goes there.”
On Thursday, head coach Claude Julien echoed Lucic’s confidence.
“He’s getting that much closer,” said Julien. “I think right now he’s feeling better and it’s just a matter of getting the green light from the medical staff and the doctors.”
Today, however, Julien still hadn't gotten the go ahead from the medical staff and, as of this morning, the B's had not made a final decision as to Lucic's availability for tonight.
"Until I get clearance from the medical people, we can’t use him," said Julien. "He is feeling better and looking better so we will, hopefully, make the decision soon.
"We could certainly use him."
Despite the current delay, Lucic has come a long way. On Thursday he said at practice that his ankle “held up real good, there were no tweaks, no setbacks at that, so it feels good right now and—you know—it can only go up from here.”
On Friday morning, the big winger said, "It feels good and you know, like I said, the road ahead of me is getting shorter everyday so I’m just trying to stay positive and trying to gain more confidence everyday here."
Goaltender Tim Thomas was the first off the ice after today’s morning skate.
That generally indicates he will be between the pipes for the B’s as they face the 30-10-3 Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden tonight.
The last time the two teams met, the Bruins fell to the Hawks 4-5 in a game that was decided in a shootout with Thomas in the net. Thomas is 5-1-0 in his last 6 games, with a .921 save percentage so far this season. In his career against Chicago, he is 4-0-1.
|Ottawa Senators' Chris Kelly, left, gets pushed to the ice by Boston Bruins' Adam McQuaid during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Ottawa on Monday, Dec. 21, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)|
Young Adam McQuaid will surely be called upon to continue his good play as he fills in for Andrew Ference -- particularly against the high-flying Chicago Blackhawks.
It will be a tall task for all the B's defensemen, in fact. As Chicago is tied for first in the NHL with 63 points thanks to a league best 30 wins.
"You know, their D supports the attack very well," said Julien of CHI. "We can’t get guys caught down low, we got to make sure our feet our moving also, we can’t be standing still in the neutral zone.
"And there have been some games where we have been caught standing still and guys are just blowing by you with the puck so well in the back end that you got to make sure that your feet our moving and come back hard with heads on a swivel.
"They’ve got a lot of talent," he said.
And it's not just Toews and Kane.
"You’ve got to be at your best and you’ve got to make sure that you have puck focus because they’ve got some guys out there moving around, and they’re very active in the offensive zone, even the D’s going in and cycling what they would with their forwards," explained Julien. "They’ve got what you call a high cycle.
"Campbell [a defenseman] loves to do those plays everywhere he’s been so we’ve just got to be careful that we don’t get caught flatfooted. And the best way to beat a team like that is you play with the puck as much as you can most of the night."
Samantha Wood contributed to Thursday's blog.
Wednesday, January 6
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference will miss six weeks with a groin injury.
|Boston Bruins right wing Blake Wheeler, center, clears the between Chicago Blackhawks right wing Kris Versteeg, left, and right wing Dustin Byfuglien during the first period of their NHL hockey game Friday, Dec. 18, 2009, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)|
"I mean, just getting good breaks, and things like that, That's just part of the game," he said. "You go for a little while without really having much puck luck, then, all of a sudden everything starts going in."
Last night, Wheeler scored twice and, similar to Bergeron, there was a clear look of relief on the young forward's face as he prepared to end his hockey day.
"You just have to stick with it and keep the faith and pretty soon things start going in for you," said Wheeler.
Like his coach, however, Wheeler did not seem satisfied.
"I think for myself, and the team as a whole, you have to bring the intensity of that last game," he said. "And I think, as a group, to a man, everyone bought into the game last game because we knew that we needed to and that's what we need to bring every night."
Thanks to a broken thumb, Patrice Bergeron will be in a splint for 10-days.
"And then they'll reevaluate what is going on," said the forward before he took the ice to skate around 1 p.m.
Clearly, the news could have been much worse.
"Relieved," was how Bergeron described his feelings. "I didn't know what to expect.
"And the doctor gave me some good news and I was pretty happy.
"It's never good to be injured or off the ice, but at least in that case it was good news," he said.
As I write, Begeron is on the ice working out and using a stick (with his good hand).
"It's sore," said Patrice before he hit the ice. "But it's not that bad."
One of the media members jokingly asked the center if he was "blaming" defenseman Dennis Wideman for the shot that struck and broke his thumb, Bergeron laughed and said, "No, I should have gotten out of the way, we probably would've scored there."
Stuart, Lucic, McQuaid, Rask and Bergeron will skate in the next few minutes.
They did, but the B's head coach wasn't as thrilled as you might imagine.
"[That was] probably more of what we have been looking for from our team," said Julien. "I thought we had a good battle tonight and something that we’ve been looking for from out team there for a while.
"So, hopefully we can build on that and not go back to our old ways the next game.”
The "Old Ways" is a euphemism for a less than 60-minute effort by his club.
"“Well, you know you just hope that guys can understand that when you put a little bit of emotion, when you put a lot of work into your game you get rewarded like we did tonight," he said. "You get a good solid effort, you get some goals and you know at the end of the night you feel good about yourself and about your game and that’s what we have got to do every night.
"We haven’t been as hard to play against...since the beginning of the year. We have to build that and we have to start playing a little bit more like we did tonight.”
Blake Wheeler (2 goals, 1 assist) was one of the players the press pointed out as having a decent game.
"“Well he wasn’t the only one," said Julien. "I think we had two or three guys there just banging away and that’s kind of what you have to do in the league sometimes, score what they call dirty goals.
"You got to get your nose dirty and you got to stay in the battle and we did that early and got a pretty good lead.”
And the play of Miroslav Satan was another bonus.
Satan, who was not expected to play for 7-10 days, did not look out of place.
"He looked good, actually," he said. "[Particularly] for a guy who hasn’t played at all this year and whose only had two practices with our hockey club.
"He made some nice plays as you probably witnessed and still you know for a guy who is timing isn’t supposed to be where it should be I thought he handled it well.”
"You realize the consequences [and] that it could have been a lot worse," said Julien. "I think losing him for four to six weeks would be pretty devastating for our team at this stage.
"But hopefully things go well and he’s back sooner.”
If the Bruins play games like they did in Ottawa, it could be a quick two weeks.
"Whenever you lose what we consider our best player so far this year for any amount of time, a game, two games, or two weeks it’s a big loss," he said. "But you know if our players handled themselves like they did tonight and they all show up and battle hard we’ll get through it.
"We’ve done it before this isn’t the first time we’ve been put through the test like many other teams for that matter.
"It’s part of the game today and this is why you got to play a good team game,” he said.
The B's are back in Boston this afternoon and will hold a short, not very populated, practice.
Samantha Wood contributed to Wednesday's blog.