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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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He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.

— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers