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Posted On Tuesday, 11.01.2011 / 1:32 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Senators say they won't overlook Stanley Cup champs

BOSTON -- Although they're riding a six-game winning streak into tonight's game against the Bruins at TD Garden, the Ottawa Senators know this might be their stiffest test yet.

Of their six victories, only one came against a team that qualified for the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. And the 7-5-0 Senators this season are just 1-3-0 against last spring's playoff participants.

So Ottawa isn't looking at tonight's game as if it's against a 3-7-0 also-ran.

"It's a benchmark game for sure," said center Jason Spezza after his team's morning skate. "They're, we think, one of the best teams in the East. I don't care what the standings say, they're Stanley Cup champions and have some great players and three deep lines and six real good defensemen and one of the best goalies in the League. So this isn't a team you take lightly. This is an arena that's hard to come in to play in. They clog things up and make it hard on you. And for us we just have to make sure we're on the top of our game tonight or else, they'll make it a long night for you."

Coach Paul MacLean is confident his team is aware of the challenge ahead.

"We shouldn't have to remind them of that because we are playing the Stanley Cup champs and as soon as you walk into the building or you look at anything, the press notes and the banners, it all says Stanley Cup champions, and that's very well deserved," MacLean said. "No matter what their record is, they're still the Stanley Cup champions and we know we're going to get a good game. We know that we have to be at our best to have an opportunity to win this game."

With Kaspars Daugavins re-assigned to the Binghamton (AHL) farm club after Sunday's win at Toronto, Erik Condra skated in his place on the third line during the morning skate. Zenon Konopka should dress and skate on the fourth line after he was a healthy scratch against the Maple Leafs.

Here's the Senators' projected lineup:

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Colin Greening
Nick Foligno - Stephane Da Costa - Bobby Butler
Erik Condra - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
Zenon Konopka - Jesse Winchester - Nikita Filatov

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - David Rundblad

Craig Anderson was given the night off in Toronto, so he figures to be back between the pipes. He had played in the prior six Senators games.


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Posted On Tuesday, 11.01.2011 / 1:28 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bruins searching for the right combos on defense

BOSTON -- At the start of Saturday night's loss at Montreal, the Bruins made their first major shake-up of their defensive pairs since the start of the season.

By the end of the game, coach Claude Julien and his staff had jumbled the Bruins' blueliners again.

Zdeno Chara started out the night playing with Dennis Seidenberg, but finished next to Joe Corvo. Corvo had begun the night with Adam McQuaid, who was paired with Andrew Ference for most of the second half. Johnny Boychuk went from playing with Ference to skating next to Seidenberg from the second period on.

Such is life on a 3-7-0 team that's searching for any type of spark to turn its season around.

"It kind of gives you a sense that maybe they're still trying to search for the right combination," Corvo said after Boston's optional morning skate at TD Garden in preparation for tonight's game against Ottawa. "And also, it kind of gives you a sense that maybe they're not that happy with the pairings or they don't feel like they're the right situations for guys. I would say until things start to go well, we put some wins together and some guys have played with the same guys, then you'll see more solidified pairings."

The Bruins went awhile last season without set pairs. And when they needed to turn things around in the playoffs, they made one switch (led by the pairing of Chara and Seidenberg), which they stuck with until they hoisted the Stanley Cup.

Boychuk says it's a conquerable challenge dealing with changed-up pairs.

"Everybody's just playing with everybody. It hasn't been too bad, chemistry-wise," he said. "We know that we can play with each other. You just make sure, who you're playing with … if you're playing with different guys, different guys have different tendencies and you've just to make sure you remember who you're playing with."

Only a few Bruins skated this morning, but here's what their lineup should look like:

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Jordan Caron - Chris Kelly - Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Joe Corvo
Dennis Seidenberg - Johnny Boychuk
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Tim Thomas should get the start after Tuukka Rask played Saturday night in Montreal.

 
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Posted On Thursday, 10.27.2011 / 7:08 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Thomas to start in goal for Bruins

BOSTON -- Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas led his team onto the ice for pregame warmups at TD Garden, indicating he will be the starting goaltender against the Montreal Canadiens tonight.

This will be Thomas' third straight start. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner is 3-3-0 with a 2.16 goals-against average this season.

Carey Price, a winner last night at home against Philadelphia, gets the start as expected for the Canadiens.
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Posted On Thursday, 10.27.2011 / 1:01 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Pouliot looks forward to facing Canadiens

BOSTON – Forward Benoit Pouliot’s only three-point game of the 2010-11 season while he was with Montreal was against his former team, the Minnesota Wild.

So maybe Thursday night against the Canadiens will be the game Pouliot breaks out as a member of the Boston Bruins.

“I think everyone would agree with that,” said Pouliot when asked about the having extra motivation against a former team after the Bruins’ morning skate at TD Garden. “You face your old team, you obviously want to prove ‘Hey, you didn’t want to keep me, I’ll show you.’ But … it pumps you up even more, I think. Obviously it’s going to be my first game against Montreal, we have plenty of them all year long, so I see this as just a little boost at the same time. Just play the same way I’ve been playing and rack up the points.”

Unfortunately for Pouliot and the Bruins, the way he’s been playing hasn’t led to racking up points. He has yet to hit the score sheet in any form through eight games in black and gold. Assuming he’s in the lineup Thursday night, he’ll skate next to center David Krejci and right winger Nathan Horton.

Despite the lack of production, Pouliot, the No. 4 pick by Minnesota in 2005, says that Boston has been a better fit for him than Montreal.

“It’s just a matter of knowing what you do right or wrong, not hiding it – let the guy know and he’ll work on it,” said Pouliot while obviously comparing Bruins head coach Claude Julien to Montreal coach Jacques Martin. “And it’s something that Claude’s been good to me so far. He’s been talking to me. The assistant coaches talk to me all the time, video and stuff. For me personally, I just have to show up and work hard, be consistent every night. And I think in practice and in games, so far things have been going well. Maybe not the points, but everything else for me was to work hard, so it’s good so far. We’ve just got to start winning games and things will be OK.”



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Posted On Thursday, 10.27.2011 / 12:34 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Pacioretty faces Bruins for first time since injury

BOSTON -- After beating Philadelphia, 5-1, last night in Montreal, the Canadiens did not hold a morning skate in preparation for their evening matchup with the Boston Bruins tonight at TD Garden.

Health permitting, this will be the first time Montreal forward Max Pacioretty and Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara have been on the ice together since the incident last March, when Chara hit Pacioretty into the stanchion between the benches at the Bell Centre. Pacioretty suffered a fractured vertebrae and concussion, but has recovered and now leads the Canadiens with 9 points (4 goals). He scored twice against the Flyers.

After practice Wednesday, Chara responded to a question about being on the ice with Pacioretty by just saying "I'm looking forward to playing the game."

Pacioretty's early-season success means the Bruins will have to keep an eye on him for the right reasons.

"I can tell you honestly, the one thing we're happy about -- and that would be for anybody else -- is that he's healthy," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "As a player in the League, you don't want to see somebody end his career on an unfortunate accident. But what you want to see is a player come back and be healthy. As far as that's concerned, he's healthy, we've turned the page and now it's time to move on."

Bruins forward Benoit Pouliot was on the other side last season when the Chara hit on Pacioretty occurred. He doesn't expect anything extracurricular to unfold tonight.

"I'm sure Z, it's not something he wanted to do, obviously. It was a vulnerable position for 'Patch' and he got hurt. It's unfortunate that that happened, but I think it's in the past and we didn't really talk about it," Pouliot said. "I don't think it's something that … maybe the fans and them are anticipating something, but we're just playing our game. Big Z is Big Z; he's been awesome. So I don't think it's going to be a big deal."

Here are the lines and D pairs that finished the victory over the Flyers last night and are expected to face the Bruins:

Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta
Michael Cammalleri - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Travis Moen - Lars Eller - Andrei Kostitsyn
Mathieu Darche - Petteri Nokelainen - Mike Blunden

Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Yannick Weber - Jaroslav Spacek

Carey Price is expected to start in goal.


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Posted On Thursday, 10.27.2011 / 12:22 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Peverley, Horton could swap spots on Bruins' lines

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins, who went through a major shake-up of their top three forward lines last week, should have a slight tweak to that alignment tonight when they host the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden.

During their morning skate, the Bruins went with the same alignment coach Claude Julien used in practice Wednesday, with Rich Peverley and Nathan Horton swapping their right-wing spots. So here's what the lineup would look like:

Milan Lucic - Chris Kelly - Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

In five games this season, Krejci has just one point (a goal). Horton has posted 2-2-4 totals in eight games, so there's hope that reuniting the center and the winger who clicked so well last season will get both going. The onus might be on Krejci, the playmaker, to get Horton going. But Krejci looks at it as more a mutually beneficial situation.

"Right now, I'm not going the way I want myself," said Krejci, who's only three games into his return from a core injury. "So it's good to have him on my line because we've done it before. Once one guy was down, the other guy helped him out. So hopefully we can build each other up and get back to our form."

On defense, Adam McQuaid has been cleared to play for the first time since suffering a neck injury in Carolina on Oct. 12. Julien said he would most likely play, which would make Steven Kampfer a healthy scratch. While Kampfer was hurt, fellow second-year pro Matt Bartkowski was holding down that sixth defense spot.

"Obviously his experience, when you compare him to the other two guys," said Julien about what McQuaid brings to the table. "He's a very physical player, great at winning battles in the corners. And when he's on top of his game, he makes a good first pass, keeps his game simple but very effective. And that's what Adam's brought to this team and that's why Adam was a big part of us winning last year because he brought that night in and night out."

Here's what the D pairs would look like :

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

While Tuukka Rask was the first goaltender off the ice, the Bruins as a team exited after the morning skate in a single file all at once. So we won't know if the Bruins are going with Rask or Tim Thomas until the pregame warm-up. Based on the current pattern, it would be Rask's turn because he has played every third game so far.



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Posted On Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 2:26 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Boston’s McQuaid skates, return uncertain

BOSTON – When he crashed into the end boards in Chicago a week ago, Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid could not imagine what was in store for him.
   
Although he appeared to avoid a concussion, doctors haven't been able to pinpoint exactly what's wrong with him, so McQuaid's injury has been treated like a concussion. For the most part, it's been classified as a neck injury.

He started practicing with the team early in the week, but was then pulled out for a couple days.
   
The optional skate at TD Garden this morning in preparation for the Bruins' game with the San Jose Sharks was his second straight day back on the ice.
   
"I'm actually feeling really good. So it's been a bit of a process to get back to where I'm at right now. I'm feeling good and we'll see from here, I'm not really sure for tonight or anything like that," said McQuaid after he stayed on the ice a little longer than the rest of his teammates.
   
Coach Claude Julien said that McQuaid's status was still up in the air as of this morning. Once McQuaid gets medical clearance, the coach can then reconsider inserting him back in the lineup.

For now, second-year defenseman Steven Kampfer is filling that spot as the team's No. 6 defenseman. And McQuaid's frustrating start to the season, which started with an illness that scratched him from the Bruins' first game, continues.

"That's the thing that there's been a few different things – being sick before this – so we're not really sure what's causing what, so we had to rule out different things," said McQuaid about the frustration. "So that's probably slowed things down a little bit as far as not knowing it's this so we can treat exactly this. But I'm feeling good now and moving forward."
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Posted On Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 2:22 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Boston's Kampfer happy with season debut

BOSTON – Bruins defenseman Steven Kampfer came out of his regular-season debut with no issues Thursday night against Toronto.

The second-year rearguard had missed the Bruins' first six games with a knee injury that occurred during the preseason. In the win against the Maple Leafs, he logged 12:28 of ice time and recorded an assist.

"It's a nice feeling when you come off an injury and you can ease into a game like that and start feeling a little bit better," said Kampfer after the Bruins' morning skate today in preparation for tonight's game with San Jose at TD Garden. "It's been something that's gotten better every day, so I look forward to tonight."

In the third period, Kampfer and his knee passed the ultimate test – a big hit, partially leg-on-leg, at the blue line on the forecheck by Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul.

"I didn't really think anything of it," Kampfer said. "I think I was more admiring my pass and it was a good hit by him. There was nothing else in that. I was admiring my pass and I shouldn't be. And he got the better of me on that hit, so good for him."
 
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Posted On Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 1:01 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Thornton happy for Boston after Cup win

BOSTON – Joe Thornton is back in Boston to face the Bruins.

The perennial All-Star has been back many times since he was dealt to San Jose in November 2005, but this time things are a little different because for the first time in 39 years the Bruins are the defending Stanley Cup champions.

"I enjoy it. I still have quite a few friends here and we usually get to stay the night, so it's nice," said Thornton about being back where he was drafted in 1997 and played his first seven NHL seasons. "I always love coming back. It's a great sports town and I have a lot of fond memories here."

Although most of the names and faces in black and gold have changed since Thornton's days on Causeway Street, he said he still keeps in touch with the training staff. And once he and the Sharks were knocked out of the playoffs by Vancouver in the Western Conference Final, Thornton said he backed the Eastern Conference representative while watching the Stanley Cup Final.

"I was actually cheering for them in the finals. You know after losing to Chicago [in 2010] and Chicago hoisting it up, and it would've been hard seeing Vancouver hoisting it," Thornton said. "So I was cheering for them and I've still got a lot of friends over there. So I was happy for them."

Thornton reached 1,000 NHL games played Friday night in New Jersey, and also scored his first goal against the Devils. Although he's a veteran, it wasn't that long ago that he was a teenager who was projected to be the player that would bring the Cup back to Boston. However, he says he never reflected on Boston's triumph that way.

"It's so long ago, you're just so consumed with what you've got to do in San Jose, there's no ‘what ifs,'" he said.
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Posted On Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 12:20 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sharks hope for more momentum after snapping skid

BOSTON – Despite getting in late after winning a shootout in New Jersey last night, the San Jose Sharks showed up at TD Garden this morning for an optional skate.

Some players took the ice, while others opted for an off-ice workout. To a man, however, the players were all in a better frame of mind since the Sharks snapped a three-game losing streak.
   
"A win makes you feel a little better than a loss. It doesn't matter how you get it, where you get it," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan, whose team takes on the Boston Bruins tonight. "Guys feel a little bit better about themselves. The fact that we were able to stick with it an come back is rewarding as well. But the task ahead of us just gets tougher tonight. We know, obviously, how strong this team is, how well they play at home and we'll have our hands full."
   
The Sharks' win against the Devils came with a cost, as forward Torrey Mitchell was injured in the first period. McLellan ruled the winger out for tonight with an upper-body injury. Andrew Desjardins, a healthy scratch in New Jersey, is the top candidate to fill Mitchell's spot.
   
The Sharks might also feature a change on defense, as Justin Braun was recalled from the Worcester (AHL) farm club.
   
"There are a couple of D-men who have struggled in our opinion the first two games. And we'll give [Braun] an opportunity to win a job," said McLellan, who also noted that Braun was cut after a strong training camp because of the Sharks' depth not his performance.

Here is the Sharks' projected lineup:

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryan Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
Andrew Desjardins - Michal Handzus - Benn Ferriero
Jamie McGinn - Andrew Murray - Brad Winchester

Douglas Murray - Dan Boyle
Marc-Edourard Vlasic - Brent Burns
Colin White/Justin Demers - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss
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