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Posted On Friday, 04.27.2012 / 2:25 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bergeron admits he had oblique injury

BOSTON – Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron told reporters Friday that he played most of the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with a strained or torn oblique muscle.

There has been no MRI yet and Bergeron probably will not require surgery.

The veteran said the injury occurred in Game 3 and a twist he made in the second period of Game 5 made it worse. Although his ice time didn't decrease in Games 6 and 7, Bergeron was limited in what he could do to try to prevent the Bruins from losing to Washington.

"Obviously faceoffs. I've done two of them and it was because I had no other choice, they were big faceoffs and we had no other centers on the ice," Bergeron, who won both of those late-game draws, said. "But I really couldn't do it, honestly. It was really painful. I couldn't reach out. Everything you do with reaching out, try to battle with being strong on the stick, I couldn't really do that. I couldn't get full speed. It's your core, so it's pretty much everything, so everything was affected by it."

The Bruins were not done with all their medical examinations as of Friday afternoon. Bruins forward Tyler Seguin might require surgery on a knuckle on his left hand. Forward Nathan Horton and defenseman Adam McQuaid, both of whom are dealing with concussions, are expected to make full recoveries, according to general manager Peter Chiarelli.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 12:56 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Projected Game 7 lineup for Capitals

BOSTON -- Jeff Schultz has watched the past three games for the Washington Capitals, but he expects to be back in the lineup for Game 7 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Wednesday night at TD Garden against the Boston Bruins.

John Erskine replaced Schultz in the lineup for Games 4, 5 and 6, but Schultz skated with Dennis Wideman on Washington's third defense pairing in practice Tuesday, and Erskine stayed on the ice for extra work Wednesday morning.

"It will be great," Schultz said. "It was tough watching, but [Erskine] did a great job after not playing for a long time. Now is it is key for me to come back and fill in for him. It is just a matter of going out there and playing. It isn't about worrying about mistakes or playing time -- just go out there and play and do what you do best and do your job."

Alexander Semin did not take part in the morning skate, but coach Dale Hunter said it was optional and he is fine to play. The Capitals are not expected to make any other changes to the lineup.

Here's how the Capitals should look Wednesday night:

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Matt Hendricks
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 12:54 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Caron prepared as last-minute addition to lineup

BOSTON -- Sometimes players perform better when they're surprised.

That's what Boston Bruins forward Jordan Caron found out Sunday, when he learned after warmup that he would be in the lineup for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington.

Caron, who hadn't played since April 7 in the Bruins' regular-season finale, made his NHL playoff debut in Boston's 4-3 overtime win. Luckily, over the course of his first full season in the NHL, he's gotten used to going long stretches where he's had to stay sharp even when he wasn't going to play.

"I think it's just a lot of it is mental. I think you just need to prepare even if you don't know if you're playing a lot. You've just got to be ready to jump in and do your job," Caron said Wednesday after the Bruins' morning skate.

Caron probably won't find out about his status for Game 7 until after warmup again. Caron and veteran forward Shawn Thornton, who was the healthy scratch in Game 6, rotated in on Boston's fourth line with Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell during line drills at TD Garden.

In Game 6, Caron's ice time was limited to 4:56 and he and his linemates finished the afternoon with a minus-1 rating. But he threw a big hit that created a scoring chance for Campbell, and during his sporadic playing time he looked like the solid two-way player he was during his 48 games in the regular season. He finished the season with seven goals and 15 points, while skating time on pretty much all of Boston's four lines.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said he spoke with Caron before the start of the series about being on-call.

"Well we talked to him before the series started, because I thought if anything, he was a real good player for us in that last stretch of the regular season. And it was tough to take him out but we went with some experienced guys, first and foremost," Julien said. "The one thing that we said to him -- we said you've got to stay ready because there's going to come a point where we're going to need you, and obviously we did last game."

While Julien would not disclose the reason he made a lineup change up front for the first time in the series, it's widely believed that Boston did not know how much it would get out of an injured Patrice Bergeron. Caron's skill set and versatility made him a better option for the Bruins if they needed someone to play up in the lineup.

The 21-year-old Caron impressed one of his veteran linemates.

"He did really good," Paille said. "Coming in there, stepping in for playing for Bergy possibly as well, I thought he did a good job. Other than getting scored against, I thought we created some opportunities early on. But he did good for his first game."

Once again, Caron will be ready should Julien have the equipment staff hang a No. 38 stall in the rookie's stall for Game 7.

"I think you just got to stay composed and take it as another game. Of course it's different, but you've got to forget about it, jump out there and be confident," Caron said. "I don't know if I'm going to be playing, but if I am I just got to stay calm and do my job."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 10:52 AM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Projected Game 7 lineup for Bruins

BOSTON -- Bruins center Patrice Bergeron took the morning skate with his teammates Wednesday and skated in his usual lineup spot between wingers Brad Marchand and Rich Peverley, as the team prepared for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Capitals at TD Garden.

Bergeron did not practice Tuesday due to an undisclosed injury he's been battling through since the second period of Game 5 last Saturday. He played in the Bruins' win in Game 6 Sunday, but was off with the rest of his team Monday and then didn't hit the ice Tuesday. After practice Tuesday, Bruins coach Claude Julien said he had no concerns about Bergeron missing a game.

When asked if Bergeron would play in Game 7, Julien said: "Yes, I think so."

It's believed Bergeron's injury is of an upper-body nature because he was only able to take one faceoff in Game 6.

The rest of the Bruins' lines were the same as well. Julien will make a game-time decision between veteran Shawn Thornton and rookie Jordan Caron for the 12th forward position. Caron skated in Thornton's place in Game 6.

Here's the Bruins' projected lineup:

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Brian Rolston
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton/Jordan Caron

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk
Greg Zanon - Mike Mottau

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 1:02 AM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Game 7 could be last for Caps' Knuble

ARLINGTON, Va. – It remains to be seen whether Washington Capitals forward Mike Knuble will return to the NHL for a 17th season of professional hockey. Knuble becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1- three days before he turns 40 -- and he's coming off his least productive season since the 2001-02 campaign.

Mike Knuble
Right Wing - WSH
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 1
SOG: 1 | +/-: 1
After eight straight 20-goal seasons, Knuble was held to six goals and 18 points in 72 games this season. He also missed 10 games as a healthy scratch and finished with a career-worst minus-15 rating.

Knuble is expected to skate on Washington's fourth line Wednesday when the Capitals face the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). Game 7 will in fact be Game 1,098 in Knuble's career (regular-season and Stanley Cup Playoffs combined). Should the Bruins win, it may also be his last.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 5:33 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Hunter enjoys 'one game takes all' situation

ARLINGTON, Va. -- It has been 24 years since Dale Hunter scored one of the biggest goals in Washington Capitals history -- a Game 7 overtime winner against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1988 Patrick Division Semifinals.

The win against the Flyers came in the first of four Game 7s Hunter would play for the Caps, but the only one in which he left a winner.

Wednesday at TD Garden, Hunter will seek his second career Game 7 win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and his first as an NHL coach, when the Caps meet the Boston Bruins in the deciding game of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"As a player, I enjoyed them. It was fun. One game takes all," Hunter said. "As a player, you prepare yourself the same way, get ready for the game. And as a coach, you can't get too hyper. You've got to know who's on the ice and who's not. It changes from coach to player, but it’s exciting to be in a Game 7 like this and playing the Boston Bruins."

Hunter coached in five Game 7s with the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights (posting a 2-3 record), but his coaching counterpart for Boston, Claude Julien, has been behind an NHL bench for seven Game 7s (4-3 record).

"As a coach, you've got to prepare the guys and then they have to go out and execute," he said. "As a player, you've got to prepare yourself to be ready to play and do the right things. Don't get too high, don't get too low. Just go out and keep it the same."

Like their coach, five current Capitals have also played in four Game 7s with Washington only to come up short three times.

Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and Mike Green will all be appearing in their fifth Game 7 in as many years. This will be their first Game 7 on the road and their first without former coach Bruce Boudreau.

"The only difference is I think we play better defensively this year than previous years," Backstrom said. "It's a good challenge for us to be going to Boston and playing a Game 7 there against the Stanley Cup champions. I think everybody's prepared and we know what's coming."
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 4:49 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Capitals rested, ready for Game 7

ARLINGTON, Va. – After winning Game 4 of their 2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at Montreal’s Bell Centre, the Washington Capitals boarded the team’s charter flight for what was supposed to be a routine trip back to Washington’s Dulles Airport. 

But as the fate of the Presidents’ Trophy winners was about to grow cloudy against Jaroslav Halak and the Montreal Canadiens, the sky before them grew increasingly foggy.

The fog forced the Caps’ flight to detour twice before eventually landing in Baltimore. By the time customs officials processed the team, it was nearing four in the morning. Some players wouldn’t arrive home until close to 6 a.m.

It turned out the Capitals themselves would become a little foggy in the days ahead -- a tired bunch left scratching their heads, wondering how they could beat Halak and the Canadiens.

One day after their early morning landing, the Caps lost 2-1 in Game 5 on home ice. Captain Alex Ovechkin was on the ice for both goals, and both came from an area of the ice he is expected to defend.

Five days later, the Caps became the first No. 1 seed to blow a 3-1 first-round series lead as the Canadiens beat Washington 2-1 in Game 7.

Two years later, things seemed a whole lot clearer for the Capitals as they prepared Tuesday morning for their first Game 7 since that loss to Montreal.

As the Caps flew to Boston on Tuesday – on a sunny afternoon -- they did so as a rested (two days between Games 6 and 7) and energized group with the experience of multiple Game 7 disappointments and a better understanding of what it takes to win.

“I think it’s a lot different,” said Jason Chimera, who was also part of the 2010 team. “I think it’s a different team. We’re playing the way you have to play in the playoffs and that makes this year different. In other series the past few years we were trading chances, but this year we’ve kept them in check pretty good.”

The Capitals are preparing for their fifth Game 7 in as many years, having gone 1-3 in the previous four. But this is the first Game 7 with Dale Hunter as coach, and he has the Capitals buying into his system and playing a responsible brand of hockey that could be better suited for the postseason.

“When it comes playoff time, you've got to play playoff style hockey,” Hunter said. “That's hard hockey, grinding it out. Limit your turnovers and you've got to go to the net hard. Goals are scored around the blue paint, and that's where you want to score.”

Added Mike Knuble: “In the past when our offense went away or it was a struggle to score goals it was like ‘Now what?’ You’re thinking a little bit ‘Now what are we going to do?’… But this year has just been a little more conservative and a defense-first approach. In the past it was always that we were the team that was going to try and out-score you. We’ve tried to change it around.”
 
Seven current Caps have been with the team for each of Washington’s last four Game 7s, including Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, Mike Green, John Erskine and Jeff Schultz.
The Caps beat the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, but lost in Game 7 one round later against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps also lost in Game 7 of the first round in 2008 against the Philadelphia Flyers and again in 2010 against Montreal.

“Mentally, right now, we are getting better and better all the time. This is the most important thing,” said captain Alex Ovechkin who has two goals and four points in four career Game 7s. “When you play against a Stanley Cup champion in Game 7, you have to [be] clear mentally and you have to be fresh… I think everybody right now is focusing, and everybody knows what exactly they have to do.”

For the Capitals that means sticking to a simple game plan and limiting mistakes. In a Game 6 loss Sunday to Boston, Washington turnovers led to the Bruins’ third and fourth goals in their 4-3 overtime win.

“We definitely don't want to be in a track meet with these guys,” Laich said. “We want to keep the game tight and keep pucks to the outside and chip and chase. It makes their D-men go back and get it… It almost becomes just a game of mistakes. The team that makes the least is probably going to win.”

The Capitals may not have as much playoff experience as the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins, but they don’t seem overwhelmed by the moment either. The Caps have embraced the role of the road underdog- a recent development for a team that hosted its last four Game 7s- and have bought into a system that could be the difference between a Game 7 win or another playoff disappointment.

“Guys are comfortable and confident and that’s what you want going into Game 7,” Knuble said. “You look around the room and know that everybody’s going to be in this game and everybody’s going to show up."


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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Marchand knows what it takes to win a Game 7

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- When the stakes were their highest last June for Game 7, Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand came through to make sure his team was the one that raised the Stanley Cup in Vancouver.

Marchand, then a rookie, scored two goals in the final game of the Stanley Cup Final, as the Bruins won the third Game 7 of their historic run. So if anyone knows how to prepare for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington on Wednesday, it's Marchand.

"You just realize and continue to tell yourself that you're fighting for the Stanley Cup and that last effort. And you just leave it all on the ice," Marchand said after an hour-long practice at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday. "It's the same as [Wednesday]. It's either do or die, so we have to prepare the same way and realize that if we want another opportunity we have to win tomorrow."

After scoring 28 goals during his second NHL regular season, Marchand has been uncharacteristically quiet offensively through six games against the Capitals with just one goal and one assist. After he scored that goal and fired five shots on net in Game 5 on Saturday, he landed just two shots on goaltender Braden Holtby in a point-less effort Sunday in Game 6.

"I didn't have a ton offensively, but it was still a decent game. It really doesn't matter now. We won and that's all that matters," he said.

Marchand is one of a handful of Bruins who've played in multiple Game 7s but never lost. He's going to have to produce more like he did against Vancouver than he has against the Capitals to make sure that streak of success continues.




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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 11:20 AM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bergeron not on ice as Bruins practice

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron did not practice Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena, where the team prepared for Wednesday's Game 7 against the Washington Capitals in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Asked if he had any concerns Bergeron would not play in Game 7, Bruins coach Claude Julien replied, "None at all."

Bergeron was banged up in Game 5 last Saturday. He played Sunday in Game 6, but was limited to just one third-period faceoff after he finished second in the NHL in faceoff percentage during the regular season.

The Bruins did not practice Monday and Bergeron did not reveal what was ailing him during a media scrum to discuss his selection as a finalist for the Selke Trophy. In six games of this series, Bergeron has totaled two assists and an even plus/minus rating. In Game 6, he recorded an assist in 19:41 of ice time.

In six career Game 7s, Bergeron has recorded two goals and three points.

Bergeron was the only Bruins regular missing from practice.

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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 4:08 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Last year's Game 7 success no guarantee for Bruins

BOSTON -- With a roster made up of mostly players who went 3-0 in Game 7 situations en route to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship, the Boston Bruins should be teeming with confidence heading into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington Wednesday.

"Last year's last year. I think we quickly realized that in October, when we went 3-7," center Chris Kelly said Monday. "In the same breath, it's nice to have played in Game 7s before to have that to reflect upon and look back on, but this is a whole new year and a whole new challenge, and one of those things that we're all looking forward to."

The Bruins did not skate Monday at TD Garden on the first of two off days before the series finale. The time off should give the Bruins opportunity to rest, especially center Patrice Bergeron, who's battling an upper-body injury that prevented him from taking more than one faceoff in Boston’s season-saving Game 6 victory Sunday.

The time off could also be an opportunity to drum up a whole bunch of emotions. But center Gregory Campbell says that last season taught him the correct approach to take when it comes to Game 7.

"I think for Game 7s, what I've learned so far in my short playoff career, is that it's got to be a balance," Campbell said. "You've got to be ready. Game 7s are usually most intense games because everything's on the line. But I think you've got to control your emotions and you have to walk that line where you're ready to go, your energy and enthusiasm is high, but you can make plays under pressure. Obviously it's a pressure-packed situation and it's usually the team that can make those plays and perform under pressure is the team that wins."


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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 2:14 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Julien explains decision to sit Thornton in Game 6

BOSTON -- Prior to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Sunday, Bruins coach Claude Julien had to make a difficult decision about his lineup.

He hadn't changed any of his forwards through the first five games, but for Game 6 against Washington he opted to insert rookie Jordan Caron and sit out veteran Shawn Thornton.

"Well, it certainly wasn't related to play. It was related to a decision I had to make just before the game," Julien said Monday during his team's first off day prior to Game 7 on Wednesday. "Those are -- [it's] hard for me to give you that reason right now because it would probably open up a can of worms, so I'm going to leave it at that. It's certainly not because of Thornton's play; it's because of necessity."

It's assumed that Julien's "can of worms" refers to the injury Patrice Bergeron played through. The Bruins veteran center was second in the NHL in faceoff percentage during the regular season, but he only took one draw in Game 6. It's assumed Bergeron is battling through an upper-body injury from Game 6.

Based on the nature of the injury, Julien probably didn't know how much Bergeron would be able to give the Bruins in Game 6 and needed someone of Caron's skill set in the lineup instead of Thornton.

"He's a competitor and he's a really valuable player to our team. I know he handled the situation well, but I'm sure it's killing him to not be able to play," said Gregory Campbell, Thornton's frequent linemate. "We'll see what happens Wednesday. He's always ready."



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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 3:34 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bruins make lineup changes for Game 6

The Boston Bruins made two changes to their lineup as they try to stave off elimination in Game 6 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center.

Defenseman Joe Corvo, who missed part of Game 5 after an apparent injury, was replaced by Mike Mottau, and fourth-line forward Shawn Thornton was scratched in favor of Jordan Caron. This is the series debut for both Mottau, who was acquired at the trade deadline from the New York Islanders, and the rookie Caron.

Caron played 23 games for the Bruins last season and 48 in the 2011-12 campaign, but he is making his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut Sunday afternoon.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 3:04 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Projected lineups for Game 5

BOSTON – The Boston Bruins skated with the same lines during the warmup before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday at TD Garden against Washington as they skated in practice Friday.
               
The new-look lines included a new union between left winger Daniel Paille, center Patrice Bergeron and Rich Peverley. Based on share of the Bruins’ offense (seven goals) through the first four games of the series, that trio could be considered Boston’s top line because it has accounted for three of the goals (two by Peverley, one by Paille).
               
Normally a fourth-line energy player on a unit with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton, Paille said before the game he didn’t want to change much in his game even though he was going to play on a more offense-minded unit.
               
“For me I think I’ve got to kind of stay the same way, especially in the playoffs here,” he said. “I find in the past I tried to change a little too much and kind of got off my game. So it’s best that I stay with what I’m doing best right now and keep that up.”
               
With Nicklas Backstrom back from his one-game suspension, Mathieu Perreault looks to be the healthy scratch for the Capitals. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth is back from injury and backing up starter Braden Holtby.
               
Here are the projected lineups for the two teams:

BRUINS

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

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk
Greg Zanon - Joe Corvo

Tim Thomas
Anton Khudobin

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Joel Ward

John Erskine - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
John Carlson - Karl Alzner

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 3:24 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Julien shakes up all four lines at Bruins practice

BOSTON -- Typically patient with his lines combinations, Bruins coach Claude Julien seemingly has seen enough of his offense through four games to decide it's time for a major revamp.

During a 30-minute practice at TD Garden on Friday to prepare for Saturday's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington, Julien shook up all four of his lines, led by Brian Rolston moving to right wing next to Milan Lucic and David Krejci. The other lines featured Patrice Bergeron centering Daniel Paille and Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly centering Benoit Pouliot and Tyler Seguin, and Gregory Campbell skating between Brad Marchand and Shawn Thornton. Spare forward Jordan Caron rotated in on the Kelly line.

"Making line changes, that's a part of trying to find solutions and it's as simple as that," said Julien, whose team has scored just seven goals and is tied in the series at 2-2. "You've got to mix up guys who are not getting the results that we'd like to. So, you're trying to make changes that will maybe spark that part of our game."

Defensively, the Bruins have been as sound as the Capitals, who also have scored just seven goals. Only San Jose and Vancouver, two teams in unenviable 1-3 deficits in their series, have scored that few goals.

Last year, only injuries caused Julien to shuffle his lines even when the Bruins were struggling and fell into 0-2 series holes against Montreal and Vancouver. Nonetheless, most of the players said they weren't surprised at the changes, which may not even carry over into Game 5.

"I think maybe you try to jump start a little bit more offensive opportunities with certain guys. I think that's all that was," Kelly said. "I think the defensive part of the game has been good from everyone. By no means is this a scare tactic or a panic tactic ... I think it's just Claude weighing his options. He has lots of options in this locker room."

Peverley said: "It never hurts to have a little change, especially if we're not scoring goals. And we're not scoring enough, so we've done it earlier in the year and it worked. We won a couple games, so why not change?"


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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 12:40 AM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Ovechkin sits for most of third period

WASHINGTON -- Braden Holtby was the star Thursday night for the Washington Capitals, stopping 44 of 45 shots in a 2-1 victory against the Boston Bruins to even their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at two games each.

One guy who was surprisingly missing for much of the third period as the Capitals tried to hold off the Bruins was captain Alex Ovechkin, who played only 1:58 in the period. Ovechkin took four shifts in the period, but played only 54 seconds in final 17:20 and only 15 seconds in the final 14:00.

Ovechkin played 15:03 in the first two periods -- more than all of Washington's skaters save for Mike Green, who was on ice for 15:25 through 40 minutes. The Capitals' captain took a 64-second shift that ended 2:40 into the third, then his final three shifts lasted 39, two and 13 seconds.

He spoke to the media after the game, and no injury was mentioned by Ovechkin nor coach Dale Hunter. The two-second shift happened because he came on the ice during play and then the puck went into the netting two seconds later. Hunter went with a different line for the ensuing faceoff. The same thing happened on his final shift -- a stoppage in play led Hunter to choose other players for the faceoff.

Former coach Bruce Boudreau often played Ovechkin in the final minute of games when the Capitals were leading, and Boudreau often said he trusted his captain to play in those situations. Boudreau actually benched Ovechkin for one shift near the end of a game earlier this season when Washington was trailing by a goal and it became a national story in the United States and Canada for multiple days.

Ovechkin wasn't the only star player on the team to not play much in the third period. Green played only 3:24 in the final 20 minutes, while Alexander Semin logged only 3:03. But every Washington skater saw at least three minutes of ice time -- except for Ovechkin.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 2:54 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bruins' power play struggling again in playoffs

WASHINGTON -- The Boston Bruins showed last spring that they can win the Stanley Cup with a mediocre power play. The Bruins' power play went 10-for-88 in 25 Stanley Cup Playoff games, including 0-for-21 in their seven-game first round series win against the Montreal Canadiens.

Three games into their 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals, the Bruins are following a similar script with a power play that has gone 0-for-11.

"We've had 10 scoring chances, I think, since the beginning of the series, but we haven't capitalized," Bruins coach Claude Julien said ahead of Game 4 Thursday at Verizon Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"You've heard me say that before, the finish seems to be a bit of a struggle right now. Sometimes [it's about] pouncing on those loose pucks and getting a little bit better in the finishing area, so those are things we're going to continue to work on."

The Bruins' power play finished 15th in the regular-season, and it remains the only power-play unit this postseason still searching for its first goal. Since March 22, Boston's power play is 2-for-32 in 16 games.

"We definitely want to score on the power play, but if you don’t score at least create some momentum and create some chances, and I think we started to do that last game," center David Krejci said. "Then the next shift you go for five-on-five, you at least have the momentum. We worked on it [ahead of Game 4] and hopefully our PP is going to be better and hopefully we'll get some goals."

Added Patrice Bergeron: "I think it's about us creating some openings for each other and talking on the ice and taking what's being given to us and not forcing plays. We have to keep things simple, I think too often you're trying to make the perfect play, but it's not always how it works."
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 2:42 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Erskine excited to be back in the lineup

ARLINGTON, Va. -- John Erskine has played a total of eight minutes and 31 seconds of NHL hockey since Jan. 31, so he’s probably more than a little excited to get back in the lineup for the Washington Capitals for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday against the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Given Erskine’s disposition when he’s on the ice, it is exactly what the Capitals are looking for. Neither Erskine nor coach Dale Hunter would confirm it Thursday morning, but all signs point to the rugged defenseman replacing Jeff Schultz next to Dennis Wideman on the team’s third defensive pairing against the Bruins.

“If I do play [Thursday], I think I just have to go out and play a simple game and not try to do much and let come the game to me. Don’t be lunging at people and stuff like that,” Erskine said after the team’s morning skate. “Playoffs are an exciting period, but yeah, it is a lot of ... having not played in a couple months, I’ll be going.”

Added Hunter: “We just want him there because he plays the body. After the whistles, I think they’re going to clamp down on and we don’t want no penalties. We want to play through the whistle and skate away. We’ll play hockey between the whistles. We just want him there to finish more hits on Boston.”

Erskine was last in the lineup Feb. 12, and before that it was Jan. 31. He’s spent much of this season as a healthy scratch after it started late for him because of offseason shoulder surgery. He missed the final 27 games of the regular season, first as a healthy scratch and then near the end of the season with a lower-body injury.

A season after playing in a career-best 73 games and establishing himself as a consistent top-six defenseman for the Capitals, he played only 28 games in 2011-12, his lowest total since joining the organization before the 2006-07 season.

Despite not playing for so long, Erskine said he isn’t worried about his conditioning.

“I’ve been bag skating for two months now, so I think I’ll be good like that,” he said. “Whenever you get thrown into a game, though, it is a different kind of conditioning. It will take me a few shifts to get going. ... I’m not going to change my game -- my game is to play physical, play tough in front of the net and just play a simple game.”

The physical play, both between the whistles and after them, ramped up significantly in Game 3 of this series. Boston was credited with 58 hits, and the Bruins baited the Capitals into more jostling after goalies made saves and before faceoffs.

Those are the areas where Erskine can provide the Capitals with an extra bit of snarl. He is also a willing combatant, should one of Boston’s tough guys, like Milan Lucic or Shawn Thornton, be interested in a round of fisticuffs.

“He’s physical and a tough guy to play against,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said of Erskine. “He’s got that heavy, heavy shot when he can let it go from the point. It is tough for goalies to handle. He’s just one of those guys that you really like having in your lineup.”

Added Erskine: “I’ve been like that since Game 1. It is definitely my style of game -- physical and with the ruggedness of the series.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 12:49 PM

By Corey Masisak and Ben Raby -  NHL.com /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Projected Game 4 lineups

WASHINGTON -- The Boston Bruins will stick with the same lineup that helped them win Game 3 when they take the ice at Verizon Center on Thursday for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

On the Capitals' side, the suspension to Nicklas Backstrom means Mike Knuble gets a sweater for the first time in the series and coach Dale Hunter shuffled his lines around. Expect to see a lot of the Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer line against Boston's top forwards.

John Erskine is expected to also make his series debut in place of Jeff Schultz. Dennis Wideman and Schultz have been on the ice for all four of Boston's goals at five-on-five in the series. Erskine hasn't played since Feb. 12 and only once since Jan. 31. Hunter said Michal Neuvirth, out with an injury, is not ready to back up Braden Holtby.

Here's how the lineups project:

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

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk
Greg Zanon - Joe Corvo

Tim Thomas
Anton Khudobin

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
John Erskine - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Dany Sabourin
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 2:26 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Seidenberg relishing physical matchup with Ovechkin

WASHINGTON -- Chris Kelly has been the recipient of a Dennis Seidenberg body blow, and he's quite happy to be wearing the same uniform as the stout defenseman.

Seidenberg has been a physical, positionally sound player for his entire career, but spending last season next to Boston captain Zdeno Chara on the Bruins' top defense pairing as they bruised and battered their way to a Stanley Cup earned the German defenseman plenty of recognition and praise.

He's back next to Chara again at the start of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and his titanic collisions with Washington's Alex Ovechkin in this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series have been epic.

"It doesn't feel great, actually," Kelly said with a chuckle. "I remember him hitting me when he was on Carolina in the corner. It was just a great hit and I ended up on the ice. He’s just a big, strong guy who plays physical, plays honest. I think he’s exactly what the NHL wants in a big, strong defenseman.

"They are too big strong men going at it and being physical. Like I have said before, there is no added slashing or yapping -- it is two big guys battling hard."

Boston coach Claude Julien has done all that he can to make sure Chara is on the ice against Ovechkin, but more often than not it is Seidenberg who ends up engaged in one-on-one battles with the Washington captain because he plays on the right side against the left wing.

Ovechkin leads the League with 17 hits this postseason, while Seidenberg isn't far behind with 12. Many of those have been on each other, and a few of them have been highlight-reel quality.

"It's a tough battle. He's a very thick guy," Seidenberg said. "But it's fun. It's playoff hockey. You play a little harder, and that's what it's all about."

While Chara stands out for his genetics, Seidenberg absorbs and delivers contact like he was crafted from 210 pounds of granite. That Ovechkin has been able to knock him off his feet a couple of times is a significant achievement -- even for one of the League's most ferocious hitters. 

Seidenberg complements brute strength with the ability to skate and position himself well against oncoming attackers. Ovechkin has not found a lot of open ice in this series when Seidenberg is in his vicinity.

"Certain guys get certain assignments during the playoffs and for the last couple years him and [Chara] obviously get matched up against top guys," Boston defenseman Andrew Ference said. "I think he does an extremely good job of being consistent against his matchup. It is not once in a while where he is on top of them -- he is really tough to shake throughout the entire game, and for that matter the entire series. Obviously he has a lot of pride in having that assignment against top guys. Put that with talent and he's a good player as it is. He's just got what it takes. I think he really relishes that role."

Added coach Claude Julien: "He's a guy that has always been good in the playoffs, even before he came to us. He's a big-game player. He's been known as a big-game player, and he continues to show that. Zdeno is as good as you'll get as a defenseman, but when it comes to playoff time, 'Seids' isn't that far behind him, if at all. He's been a real good player for us, a real force, physical, he's loving these kind of challenges and he thrives on it. You need those kinds of players to succeed."
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 12:38 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Kelly: Lucic was an angry baby

The battle between Bruins forward Milan Lucic and Washington defenseman Karl Alzner has been captivating to watch throughout the first three games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between Boston and Washington.

Monday night, it came to head during a goal-mouth scrum in which Lucic tussled with Matt Hendricks and Alzner. When the participants were separated, Alzner rubbed his eye with his fist, suggesting that Lucic was a crybaby.

Lucic, who took three roughing penalties in Game 3 and was serving a double minor for roughing when the winning goal was scored in the 4-3 victory on Monday that gave Boston a two-games-to-one lead in the series, laughed off the suggestion.

But, Chris Kelly was all too happy to come to the defense of the team's most physical forward with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure, according to a tweet from CSNNE's Joe Haggery (@HackswithHaggs).

"I dont think he ever cried," Kelly told CSNNE's Joe Haggery. "I don't think he cried as a baby. He came out an angry baby. He came out w/an attitude."
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 3:52 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bruins find offense stymied by Holtby, Capitals

WASHINGTON -- The NHL's second-highest scoring team during the regular season is finding out that scoring against the Washington Capitals is not as easy as it used to be.

As the Capitals and Boston Bruins prepare for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC), the Caps are a confident bunch embracing coach Dale Hunter's system.

The Bruins are searching for ways not only to beat goalie Braden Holtby, but also to get pucks past any Washington players throwing their bodies in front of oncoming rubber.

Holtby has turned aside 72 of 74 shots for a .973 save percentage, while his teammates have combined to block 49 others.

"Every team in the playoffs comes out of their comfort zone and they know what they have to do extra," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It's not surprising. It's just that the commitment is there and they've got a good commitment as far as [shot blocking] is concerned right now. [The] New York [Rangers are] probably the team that we can identify as the team blocking the most shots [in the regular season], but now everyone is jumping on board with that."

Washington's commitment to defense has the Bruins on the verge of their lowest three-game offensive output of the year. Only once during the regular season did the Bruins score fewer than five goals combined in any three-game stretch (Boston was held to four goals in three games from Dec. 5-8).

Through two games against the Capitals, the Bruins have been held to just two goals. None of Boston's top-six forwards have found the back of the net.

"They definitely surprised us," said Boston's No. 1 center, David Krejci. "We all know that they're a great team offensively, but they showed us in the last two games that they can also play really good hockey defensively. So we were looking at those last two games, working on a few things, and we hope that it works tonight."
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 12:30 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Projected Game 3 lineups

Here are the projected lineups for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Monday night between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals at Verizon Center:

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

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk
Greg Zanon - Joe Corvo

Tim Thomas
Anton Khudobin

Injured goaltender Tuukka Rask was on the ice for the morning skate and put in some extra work, but coach Claude Julien said he is not ready to return. Jordan Caron and Mike Mottau will be healthy scratches, while injured defenseman Adam McQuaid did not travel to Washington with the team.

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Mathieu Perreault
Keith Aucoin - Matt Hendricks - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Dany Sabourin

Both injured goalies, Michal Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun, were on the ice after the morning skate was over. Mike Knuble, Cody Eakin, Jeff Halpern, Dmitry Orlov and John Erskine will be healthy scratches.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 6:44 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Rask will travel with Bruins to Washington

BOSTON – After playing nearly eight periods of hockey over the course of two of the last three days, the Boston Bruins held a team meeting and did some off-ice work instead of practicing on the ice as a group Sunday.

The only players who took the ice at TD Garden were backup goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin, along with healthy scratches Mike Mottau and Jordan Caron.

Rask, who is still working on getting up to full strength after injuring his groin in early March, will travel with the Bruins to Washington, where the Bruins will play Game 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals this week against the Capitals. The series is tied 1-1.

Rask was scratched for the first two games of the series and Khudobin dressed as Tim Thomas' backup.

Defenseman Adam McQuaid, who has been out since April 5 with an upper-body injury, will not travel with the team.

"He's going to stay here and continue to get treatment," Julien said about McQuaid. "You know, right now he's not ready to go on the ice. So he's going to continue treatment, and when he's ready to start working out with the team, we'll bring him with us."
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 6:41 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bruins hope to regain home-ice advantage

BOSTON – The Boston Bruins missed an opportunity to put a stranglehold on their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with Washington by dropping a double-overtime thriller in Game 2 Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.

But they know from their own experience and by looking at the rest of the League that a split in the first two games is a fortunate circumstance. Last year they lost the first two games at home to Montreal in the first round, and Pittsburgh and Vancouver dug themselves that same hole this season. Home teams struggled during the first week of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Yeah, I think everybody so far has lost home-ice advantage, but that doesn't mean you can't regain it. You get two more games to go there and regain that so it's, hopefully it's temporary for us anyways," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after his team held a meeting an off-ice workout at TD Garden on Sunday. "The other part is, that's parity in this League. When you look at the number of wins the top team has versus the eighth-place team, regulation wins, there's not that big of a difference. So I think people have to understand that it's a lot close than (No.) 1 against (No.) 8, as far as the gap's concerned. There's not that big of a difference."

Boston forward Brad Marchand believes that when it comes down to it, the venue has little impact on the events between the two teams.

"Even if you play at home, it's the same game on the ice. It really comes down to who wants it more and who has more heart and desire out on the ice," Marchand said. "Home-ice advantage just means you're in front of your home crowd, but really it's up to the guys in the room and that's really what it all comes down to. It's the same game on the ice."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:32 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Caps need more from Ovechkin, linemates

BOSTON – After he was limited to just one shot on goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Boston on Thursday, Washington star forward Alexander Ovechkin’s task in the second game is to find more room to work against the Bruins’ defense pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.
               
If Ovechkin is looking for a little relief from his coach manipulating the matchups, Dale Hunter doesn’t sound like a man who plans to back away from allowing that marquee showdown to continue through Game 2 on Saturday and beyond.
               
“You can mix around lines, but pretty much even strength it was an even battle both ways through the whole thing,” Hunter said in reference to the Bruins’ 1-0 win in Game 1. “Until an overtime goal, it was pretty much even at even strength. Power-play time, they did have some more scoring chances because they had more power -play time. But as far as even strength, it was pretty even out there.”
               
The Capitals know that Ovechkin can’t beat the Bruins on his own, so his linemates are going to try to find way to aid the sniper’s cause.
               
“There’s things we can do. We know that he’s going to be keyed on, especially [by] Chara. He’s going to try to come across the ice a lot and pinch Alex,” center Brooks Laich said. “We can try to talk to him, we can try and get our bodies in the way. But when we get the puck, we have to skate. If we move the puck quick before they’re able to adjust their defense, whether it’s from the wing to the middle to the other wing or diagonal all the way, there’s some things we’re going to have to try to do.”
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:28 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bruins look to improve power play in Game 2

BOSTON – An ineffective power play was maybe the only thing standing between the Boston Bruins and an easier road to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship.
               
Boston improved against Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final, but still finished the 2011 postseason just 10-for-88. Against Washington in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday, the Bruins’ power play was 0-for-4, a reminder of the 0-for-21 Boston compiled in last year’s first round against Montreal.
               
Rich Peverley had maybe the best two scoring chances during the Bruins’ man-advantages, and they both came on the same sequence. He sees room for improvement heading into Game 2 at TD Garden on Saturday.
               
“We definitely had chances, but I think quality chances, Grade-A chances, we definitely have to improve on,” Peverley said a couple hours before puck drop. “We’ve got to have a net-front presence, and if he’s [goaltender Braden Holtby] coming out and challenging, we’ve got to have a guy in his face.”
               
The Bruins re-aligned their power-play units just before the start of the playoffs, with Peverley being paired at the points with Dennis Seidenberg in one group, and Zdeno Chara and Joe Corvo on the other group’s points. Brian Rolston, who spent a lot of time on the point after he was acquired from the New York Islanders, moved up front with David Krejci and Brian Rolston, while the line of Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand stayed together as a power-play group.
               
Chara thinks Boston’s problems stem from a tendency to be too picky about their plays.
               
“I think that a lot of times we try to always make an extra play, an extra pass. Sometimes we overlook those simple shots. So maybe simplify a little bit,” the Bruins captain said.
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 3:09 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Holtby penalty a message about crease tresspassing

BOSTON – Somewhat lost in Braden Holtby’s 29-save performance in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut Thursday was the roughing penalty the rookie goaltender was called for against Boston center Chris Kelly.
               
Holtby and the Washington Capitals killed the penalty but when on to lose the game, 1-0, on a Kelly overtime goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at TD Garden. However, the message Holtby sent about not trespassing on his territory might be beneficial as the series that continues Saturday goes on.
               
“That’s my game. That’s where I like to [be]. It’s my crease,” said Holtby, who conceded he shouldn’t have taken the penalty. “I don’t really like to let anyone in there because I want to fight as hard as I can to find the puck and to make saves.”
               
Holtby’s always been a feisty goaltender, according to coach Dale Hunter. And that the penalty occurred in the same crease Boston goaltender Tim Thomas decked Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin in the Stanley Cup Final last year was not lost on the 22-year-old netminder.
               
“It was funny actually, when I was at home [last June], my buddies and stuff were saying that that was a play that I would make,” Holtby said. “So it’s good to see and it’s a good competitive game out there.”
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 2:48 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Caps prove commitment to blocking shots

BOSTON – The stiches above Marcus Johansson’s left cheek tell only part of the story.
               
The Washington Capitals were credited with 22 blocked shots in their 1-0 overtime loss to Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday night. And the notches in Johansson’s face were the result of one of his two big blocks.
               
“You just try to stay in the shooting lane, and sometimes you have bad luck, and the puck came high a couple times,” Johansson said after the Capitals practiced at TD Garden on Friday in preparation for Game 2 on Saturday. “But right now it’s just a matter of blocking a shot and it’s not that bad. It hurts a little but it’s OK.”
               
Washington was ninth in the League in total blocked shots during the regular season. But the commitment to risking life and limb was part of an overall defensive improvement that pushed the Capitals into the playoffs in the last week of the regular season.
               
“We’ve been sacrificing a lot down the stretch here,” Caps coach Dale Hunter said. “We blocked a lot of shots. We know it hurts and stuff, but the guys are doing it to save some of the shots on net. It’s a sacrifice by the guys.”
               
Roman Hamrlik led the Caps with five blocked shots, while Troy Brouwer recorded four.
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:52 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

No weak links for Bruins in title defense



BOSTON – Andrew Ference obviously has another role besides second-pair defenseman for the Boston Bruins.
               
He’s also the team’s “designated shopper” and one of the caretakers of the team’s excellent chemistry.
               
It was Ference’s eBay shopping that produced last year’s atrocious-looking Bruins jacket that the team handed out to the player of the game after every postseason win en route to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship. This year, Ference went to a local hardware store and purchased a 2-pound metal chain.
               
“Earlier in the year we talked about, when things weren’t going so great – a lot of teams probably could say it – but we have our success when everybody’s going and doing their role, so we had talked about not being a weak link and having a lot of pride,” Ference said after the Bruins practiced at TD Garden Friday. “Our guys kind of thrive on that. You know we have a lot of proud guys in this room. So it’s just kind of from that and being goofy. Not necessarily trying replicate the jacket but it’s kind of a fun thing to do after games.”
               
Chris Kelly, who scored the overtime winner in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington Thursday, was the first winner of the chain. Kelly will be responsible for awarding it to the winner after Boston’s next victory. Game 2 of the series is Saturday at the Garden.

The chain also has a padlock on it with a Bruins spoked-B logo that Ference engraved himself with a kit in five minutes. The plan is to put a notch in the lock after every playoff win. Last season, as the playoff run went longer and longer, the jacket took on added meaning – first with Nathan Horton returning while injured to award it to Rich Peverley, and then with the Bruins giving it to the retiring Mark Recchi as a parting gift after the championship run.
               
Regardless of how the Bruins fare this postseason, the chain will be another representation of the Bruins’ unity and ability to not take things too seriously.
               
“It’s not like you want to put too much significance on fun things like that. They’re fun, kind of goofy things to do,” Ference said. “But in the bigger picture, it’s like one of those ingredients that goes into having a good environment to work in. It doesn’t matter if it’s hockey or business, I mean employees that have fun and enjoy goofing around and don’t take themselves so seriously, I think we found a lot of success in that. Even with our success last year, I think that we’d like to think that we take some pride in remaining somewhat true to our roots and kind of what’s the sport’s all about. I think that once you lose that, you kind of lose the soul of what hockey is pretty proud of.”
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 11:58 AM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Krejci misses practice, expects to play Saturday



David Krejci did not skate Friday at practice for the Boston Bruins, one day after being knocked to the ice by a pane of glass at TD Garden during the team's postgame celebration.

After a Friday morning practice at TD Garden, Bruins GM Peter ChiarellI said that Krejci was day-to-day. His status for Game 2 is unknown. Krejci, in brief comments to the media Friday, said he has a sore neck, but expects to play.

"I feel good...I've got a little sore neck but other than that I'm good," Krejci said, according to Bruins.com.

Krejci and the rest of the Bruins were celebrating Chris Kelly's goal 78 seconds into overtime to give the Bruins a 1-0 win and 1-0 lead in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals when a pane of glass fell and hit Krejci.

The force of the blow knocked him to the ice, but Krejci did skate away from the incident after a teammate pushed the pane of glass, which did not shatter, off of him. Krejci centers Boston's top line, but the Bruins went with normal wing Rich Peverley between Milan Lucic and newcomer to the group Jordan Caron during practice Friday.

"He's fine. ... He was a little bit stiff around the neck area this morning. He was scheduled to skate and I talked to the trainer and together we came to terms that it was better if he stayed off and feel even better tomorrow,” coach Claude Julien said. "But he was scheduled to go on and he’s scheduled to play [Saturday]."
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:51 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Seguin ready for increased role in this postseason

BOSTON – An afterthought in terms of the Boston Bruins’ lineup a year ago, forward Tyler Seguin is heading into his second Stanley Cup Playoffs as a focal point.
               
As an NHL sophomore, Seguin led the Bruins in goals (29) and points (67) during the 2011-12 regular season. Still, the 20-year-old has some of the feelings of a less-important player.
               
“It’s still kind of like even during the pregame skate there, I’m still thinking my head ‘maybe I won’t even play tonight; maybe I’ll get scratched.’ Just from last year and obviously it was a year ago but it really doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. It’s nice to be in different shoes this time around,” Seguin said Thursday after the Bruins’ morning skate at TD Garden in preparation for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington.
               
Seguin admitted he slept better Wednesday night than he did last year on the eve of the postseason. And he’s better prepared to contribute this season after playing a small part – three goals in two games of the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa Bay – of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship drive.
               
“It’s almost a night-and-day difference from going into the playoffs last year to going into the playoff this year,” he said. “It’s just the whole ride that we went on and seeing everything that I saw both on the ice and off the ice, it just makes me a lot more comfortable and a lot more confident.”

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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:08 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Time has come for Holtby's postseason debut

BOSTON – All the days of hype are through and it’s time for Braden Holtby to face the reality.
               
The Washington Capitals rookie goaltender is going to be the starter in net for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday night.
               
After playing in six of the nine games he dressed for during Washington’s late-season push for a playoff spot, Holtby is trying to just keep everything about his preparation consistent prior to his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut.
               
“Not much, I’m just trying to go about my usual ways. If you start changing things up, you get too wrapped up in everything. I just want to go have fun,” said Holtby after his team’s morning skate.
               
Coach Dale Hunter said there’s not much he can say to Holtby to prepare the 22-year-old.
               
“He’s been kind of in the fire for the last two or three weeks here playing some tough games. So you know he’s a confident kid and you know he can’t wait to play,” Hunter said.
               
Center Jay Beagle didn’t skate, but according to Hunter it was an optional skate. Injured goaltender Michal Neuvirth was on the ice but he doesn’t figure to dress.

Here is the Capitals’ projected lineup:

Alexander Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Marcus Johansson
Keith Aucoin - Mathieu Perreault - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Dany Sabourin

If Beagle doesn't play, expect veteran Mike Knuble to earn a sweater in his place.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:04 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bruins' Boychuk expected to play, but not McQuaid

BOSTON – Although Bruins coach Claude Julien said Thursday morning he would dress 22 skaters for his team’s pregame warmup and then make his lineup decisions, all signs have pointed toward the return of Johnny Boychuk to Boston’s lineup against Washington for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at TD Garden.
               
Boychuk skated on a pair with Andrew Ference during the morning skate, after he practiced three consecutive days in preparation for the playoffs. The veteran blueliner has been out since he sprained his knee in a game April 3.
               
While Boychuk should be back, Adam McQuaid remains out with an upper-body injury. That leaves Greg Zanon and Joe Corvo as Boston’s third pair. Julien is certain the Bruins can overcome McQuaid’s absence.
               
“I feel very confident. Everyone that we have here is very capable of playing ... they’ve all done a great job, so if anything I feel extremely confident," Julien said. "I think [general manager] Peter [Chiarelli] did a great job of solidifying that position for us, because it’s position that we needed to solidify and the two guys he brought on in – you look at Zanon and [Mike] Mottau have both played extremely well for us in the games that they’ve played.”
               
Julien will also have a decision to make up front because the Bruins have 13 healthy forwards. Based on practices, that choice seems to be between Daniel Paille and Jordan Caron.
               
Tuukka Rask stayed on the ice after his teammates vacated the area, so it appears he won’t be ready to back up Tim Thomas. Anton Khudobin will dress as the backup.
               
Here’s the Bruins’ projected lineup:

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

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk
Greg Zanon - Joe Corvo

Tim Thomas
Anton Khudobin
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 4:37 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Boston perfect spot for Aucoin to make playoff debut

ARLINGTON Va. -- Washington Capitals forward Keith Aucoin was a high school sophomore when he realized a dream that was shared by most hockey players growing up in the Boston area.

With Boston Garden only months from closing, Aucoin and his teammates from Chelmsford High School took celebratory laps around the legendary rink as the 1995 Division I Massachusetts state champions.

"That place was pretty cool," said Aucoin, a native of Waltham, Mass. "I was watching a lot of games there when I was younger and it was a lot different experience going there than it is to the [TD] Garden now, but both are fun places to play."

Seventeen years after that memorable night at Boston Garden, Aucoin is set to experience another lifelong dream when he makes his NHL Stanley Cup Playoff debut Thursday when the Capitals face the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC). It just happens to be at TD Garden against the team he grew up watching.

"It's exciting," Aucoin said of facing the Bruins. "Obviously a lot of family and friends. … I've been getting a lot of calls and text messages. I told everyone to get their own tickets -- they're too expensive. But it's awesome. Obviously growing up a Bruins fan and growing up the goal is to win the Stanley Cup and now [to have] the chance to beat them to get to that goal -- it's going to be a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to getting it going."

It's hard to blame Aucoin if he's chomping at the bit to get Game 1 started. The 33-year-old entered the 2011-12 season having played 75 NHL games spread over six seasons and two organizations. However, he's played 88 games alone in the American Hockey League playoffs.

"It's my first time," Aucoin said of the NHL playoffs. "My last chance was with the [Carolina] Hurricanes [in 2008]. We lost the last game of the year [against Florida] and then Washington beat Florida the next night to make the playoffs and knock us out. So it's my first experience and I'm really looking forward to it. Obviously it makes it a little more special playing Boston."

At 5-foot-8 and 171 pounds, Aucoin went undrafted after four years at Norwich University and began his professional career in 2001 with the now-defunct Broome County Icemen of the United Hockey League.

Since then, Aucoin has spent the better part of the last decade developing into one of the AHL’s all-time greats. He's No. 15th all-time in scoring in AHL history with 777 points in 673 games, a two-time Calder Cup winner with the Hershey Bears and a six-time postseason all-star.

But success in the NHL has been hard to come by for Aucoin, who now has 11 goals and 37 points in 102 NHL games with the Hurricanes and Capitals.

Finding the appropriate role for the offensive-minded Aucoin in the NHL has been a challenge. While he has seen time late this season playing alongside Alex Ovechkin and on the Caps' No.1 power-play unit, Aucoin is expected to begin the playoffs on the fourth line, with Mathieu Perreault and Joel Ward. It's a role Aucoin is ready to embrace.

"I think whenever you play in the playoffs, the game gets a little quicker and it's a lot more physical, but other than that, it's the same type of game," Aucoin said. "You just have to go out there and play your systems and play the way you're capable of playing. Obviously it gets a little more physical, but at the same time I like the physical play, so I'm going to go out there and be a little more physical myself."
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 1:27 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Peverley to start series on Krejci's line

WILMINGTON, Mass. – The announcement Wednesday that forward Nathan Horton would not be returning to the Boston Bruins during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs due to post-concussion symptoms means the Bruins will start the playoffs with Rich Peverley as the team's first-line right wing.

Since returning from a 19-game absence March 25 due to a knee sprain, Peverley had been rotating with Tyler Seguin at Horton's old spot alongside left wing Milan Lucic and center David Krejci. Through three days of practice, including Wednesday's workout here at Ristuccia Arena, Peverley consistently was on Krejci's right. He's expected to start in that position for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington Thursday at TD Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Peverley had two goals and four points in the final eight games of the regular season as he tried to get back to feeling like himself before the playoffs. He said it took five or six games, but now he's at full strength.

"I feel like the last two games of the season I really felt like I was skating a lot better. My timing feels good. I feel 100 percent," said Peverley, who finished the season with 11 goals and 42 points in 57 games.

Krejci's confident his chemistry, which has been so strong with Lucic for two seasons now, can continue to improve with Peverley.

"When [Horton's] on my line, it's more like two power forwards and one set-up man," said Krejci. "Now with [Peverley] there it's kind of like two set-up men and one power forward. So, you know, me and him [Peverley], we've got to realize that if one guy has the puck on his stick, the other guy's got to become a power forward. That's what we've got to do and I think that's going to be the key to score goals for our line."
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 12:46 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bruins optimistic on Boychuk's Game 1 availability

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The Boston Bruins' defense corps might be close to whole when they host Washington Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) at TD Garden for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

Johnny Boychuk practiced Wednesday for the third straight day in his attempt to return from a knee injury that occurred April 3 in a collision with Pittsburgh's Arron Asham. Boychuk missed Boston's last two regular-season games.

"Obviously, we have an opportunity maybe to make a decision [Thursday]," Bruins coach Claude Julien said following the workout here at Ristuccia Arena. "Again, specifying opportunity, not a 100-percenter. But he's feeling fairly good, so we want to remain optimistic with him."

Boychuk started the week a bit ahead of schedule, as he wasn't supposed to take part in battle drills on his first day on the ice Monday. However, he competed in those drills and emerged unscathed.

The news wasn't as positive for fellow defenseman Adam McQuaid, who left Boston's April 5 game with an upper-body injury and then missed the regular-season finale. He has yet to skate since then and Julien said McQuaid would be out for Game 1.

Goaltender Tuukka Rask, who has been out since March 3 with an abdominal/groin injury, practiced for a third straight day Wednesday. He started taking shots Monday. Julien said that as of Wednesday afternoon he didn't expect to have Rask dress against the Capitals, but that could change Thursday.

If Rask can't back up Tim Thomas, Anton Khudobin will be the Bruins' No. 2 goaltender.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 10:53 AM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bruins' Horton shut down for postseason

Boston forward Nathan Horton will not make a dramatic comeback in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins announced Wednesday that Horton will miss the entire postseason as he deals with a concussion suffered Jan. 22.

Horton has not played since that game against the Flyers and has missed 36 games.

He played in a career-low 46 games this season and registered 32 points and 54 penalty minutes.

During last year's Stanley Cup Playoff run, he tallied three game-winning goals, including the winners in the Game 7 victories against Montreal on April 27, 2011 and Tampa Bay on May 27, 2011. He finished the postseason appearing in 21 of the team's 25 playoff games with eight goals, nine assists and 35 penalty minutes. He missed the final four games of the Stanley Cup Final due to a severe concussion sustained in Game 3.

He was acquired by the Bruins along with Gregory Campbell from the Florida Panthers on June 22, 2010 in exchange for defenseman Dennis Wideman and two draft picks (first round 2010, third round 2011).

In 548 career NHL games with Boston and Florida, Horton has 185 goals, 195 assists for 380 points and 521 penalty minutes.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 4:32 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Ovechkin-Chara matchup a major storyline

ARLINGTON Va. -- Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich recalled this week one of his very first experiences at his first NHL training camp in 2002.

Laich was 19 years old at the time and the Ottawa Senators prospect was undergoing the standard conditioning tests that greet all hockey players every fall.

"It was a fitness test," Laich said. "I did 225 [pounds] on the bench six times as a 19-year-old, and I was happy as a pig in [slop] that I did it."

But Laich's giddiness was short-lived. Moments later, Laich watched as his Senators teammate -- 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara -- began his fitness test.

"And he came in and put on 315 [pounds] and started warming up and was basically just carrying on a conversation while doing it," Laich recalled. "And then I think later on he was squatting five-something and they told him just to rack it -- 'Don't worry about it. We know you have leg power.' And then I think he actually broke the VO2 bike that year, if I'm correct."

Nearly 10 years have passed since Laich's first encounter with Chara, but the Boston Bruins' captain remains among the game's most physically imposing players.

"He's just a specimen," Laich said. "He's head and shoulders -- physically as far as strength and everything -- above everybody in the League."

Laich and the Capitals should see plenty of Chara when they begin their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Thursday night in Boston.

Laich is expected to center Washington's No. 1 line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer and with the Bruins owning the last change in Games 1 and 2, Chara will likely be matched against Ovechkin as much as possible.

"Everybody knows he's tough, strong," Ovechkin said. "He's big and we have to use his side -- I think we have small forwards [who are] faster than him and we're just going to use it."

Ovechkin has 10 goals and 25 points in 21 career games against Boston with Chara in the lineup, but the two have never met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Ovechkin has said that Chara and Hal Gill are among the defensemen who have given him the toughest challenges throughout his career. Ovechkin faced the 6-foot-7 Gill twice in the playoffs -- in 2009 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and in 2010 against the Montreal Canadiens -- and lost both series in seven games.

"Hal Gill and Chara have two pretty good things in common right? They have a long reach and you have to take a long way around those guys," Bruins coach Claude Julien said in Washington earlier this season.

"As far as Zdeno is concerned, he loves the challenge, he's got the size, he's got the reach and he's got the strength. Ovechkin is a pretty strong player, he's got good speed and somehow you have to make him go around you -- the long way -- in order to get some goals."

Capitals coach Dale Hunter is a notorious line-matcher, but home or away he'll be hard pressed to keep Ovechkin away from the 2008-09 Norris Trophy winner.

"I think over the years they've been playing against each other, so I think they know each other," Hunter said. "And it’s just that you have to work as a line. It's not Ovi against Chara -- it's the line against the Boston Bruins. Not just Chara, either."

If Ovechkin is in fact lined up alongside Laich and Brouwer, Brouwer could provide a physical presence that Ovechkin has not always had when going up against Chara. Creating space, Brouwer says, is the key.

"You can finish him, you can dump it in his corner and you can try to isolate him away from the puck as much as you can, but he's probably going to be on the ice whenever Ovi is, and that's a pretty daunting task for both players," Brouwer said. "They're both good players, they both need to find room out there, and I think it's going to be a real good battle in this series."

Added Ovechkin: "It's going to be nice. It's not going to be just against me and Chara. It's going to be Boston versus Washington, and of course our personalities are going to be out there, but the most important thing is how is the team going to respond to what's going to happen out there."

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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 5:16 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bergeron praises strides made by sophomore Seguin

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron isn't at all surprised with the sudden success of linemate Tyler Seguin.

Seguin this season became the youngest player ever to the lead the Bruins in scoring when he connected for 29 goals and 67 points in 2011-12. He won honors at 20 years, two months and seven days.

Ironically, he passed Bergeron, who led the club in points at 20 years, eight months and 22 days. In 2005-06, Bergeron had 31 goals and 73 points in 81 matches.

"He gained a lot of experience in his first year, winning a Stanley Cup," Bergeron said. "That's experience you really can't buy, and I think it helped him heading into this year. He gained a lot of confidence over the summer and from the run we had. The kid is getting better and better, and he accomplished a lot this year. He's a big part of our team and big part of our offense, and he wants to get better. He wants to learn, so that's important."

Seguin scored 11 goals and 22 points in 74 games as a rookie in 2010-11.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Capitals, Bruins set for Game 1 Thursday

The Bruins will open up their quest for a second-consecutive Stanley Cup championship Thursday when they host the seventh-seeded Washington Capitals at TD Garden.

Boston and Washington will drop the puck at 7:30 ET. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBC Sports Network in the U.S. and CBC in Canada.
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Quote of the Day

It's really exciting. I'm pretty sure that when I play my first game I'm going to be emotional. To be back on the ice playing a game, being in game situations, with all the routines and rituals I do before games and during the game, I feel like I'm going to be emotional. I'm going to be really happy.

— Montreal Canadiens forward Tim Bozon on playing for the first time since his life-threaning illness