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Bruins-Hurricanes blog

Thursday, 05.14.2009 / 10:46 PM / Conference Semifinals: Boston vs. Carolina

By NHL.com Staff

Heading to OT
05.14.2009 10:46 p.m.

Boston's Milan Lucic saved Boston's season by scoring the tying with 6:19 gone in the third period.

Marc Savard was stationed behind the net with the puck and waited as Lucic bulled his way, unmarked, to the top of the crease before feeding the puck to the big winger, who then flicked the puck over the shoulder of Cam Ward to send the Garden crowd into delirium.

Lucic has three goals in the past five games and has been a thorn in Carolina's side throughout this series, using his size and speed to cause havoc in the offensive zone.

This is the second game of the series to go into overtime. Carolina won Game 3 on Jussi Jokinen's goal just 2:48 into the extra session to take a two-games-to-one lead in the series.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Carolina takes lead in second
05.14.2009 9:50 p.m.


Former Boston Bruin Sergei Samsonov has given Carolina the lead, 2-1, after two periods here in Game 7.

Samsonov stunned the Garden crowd at the 7:45 mark of the second when he converted a 2-on-2 rush with defenseman Joni Pitkanen by wristing home Pitkanen's cross-ice pass that eluded the hard-charging Steve Montador. Frantisek Kaberle, inserted into the lineup for Game 7, earned the secondary assist on the goal.

Carolina also killed three Boston power plays in the second period and has held Boston without a goal in four man-advantage situations.

Cam Ward has 19 saves, while Tim Thomas has countered with 15.

--Shawn P. Roarke

After first, tied 1-1
05.14.2009 8:55 p.m.

The first period was a period of ebbs and flows for both teams as they try to sort out the nerves and emotion that goes with a Game 7.

Boston opened the scoring at the 7:42 mark when Byron Bitz snapped home  a David Krejci pass to complete an impressive cycling play. Bitz started the procession by fighting off a pair of hits from Niclas Wallin to get the puck to Dennis Wideman at the point for the initial shot. Krejci collected the rebound and fed the puck to Bitz in the slot for Bitz's first playoff goal.

Carolina answered at the 13:59 mark as a penalty to P.J. Axelsson was just expiring. Dennis Seidenberg fired a shot from the point and Rod Brind'Amour was in position to screen -- and maybe tip -- the shot while flanked by Zdeno Chara and Aaron Ward. The goal was credited to Seidenberg, however.

Boston's Tim Thomas made nine saves, while Cam Ward answered with 10.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Kaberle's in
05.14.2009 8:04 p.m.

As expected, Frantisek Kaberle has been inserted into the lineup by Carolina for Game 7. He replaces Anton Babchuk, who played the first six games of this series. Kaberle, who scored the Cup-winning goal in 2006, last played in Game 5 of the first-round series.

Boston made no changes to its lineup and opened with the Patrice Bergeron line and defensemen Zdeno Chara and Aaron Ward matched up against Eric Staal, who had Ryan Whitney and Scott Walker on his wings. Walker, the villain here for his Game 5 punch to Ward's eye, is a new addition to that line, replacing Erik Cole.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Going Nutty
05.14.2009 7:32 p.m.

They just opened the Garden up to the fans a few minutes ago and they are playing an extended version of Nutty, the team's unofficial theme song that used to be used as an introduction to every Bruins' telecast when the games were aired on WSBK-38.

There is quite a juxtaposition of Boston sports going on at the moment. The Bruins are about to take the ice for pre-game warmups in a game that will either end their season or see them move to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics are playing in Game 6 of their second-round series, looking for a win to clinch a second-straight trip to the NBA's Eastern Conference Final and the Boston Red Sox are out on the West Coast playing the Anaheim Angels in a game that is in the 11th inning as I type.

We'll be back for more when the starting lineups are announced.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Secondary scoring
05.14.2009 4:45 p.m.

A quick glance at the Carolina Hurricanes stat sheet offers an alarming number -- 1.

That's the total number of goals scored by captain Rod Brind'Amour, trade-deadline acquisition Erik Cole and forward Tuomo Ruutu during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It would certainly benefit the Hurricanes if their secondary scoring got untracked beginning tonight in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Boston Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden. Eric Staal leads Carolina with 9 goals in the playoffs and Jussi Jokinen is second with 6.

"To be honest, it's been that way for a while," Cole told NHL.com. "Really, the longer it goes on, the easier it is to focus on the other things I can do well to make our team successful. For me, it's always been the case where if I'm doing the other things well, the opportunities come to me on the offensive side."

Cole, in fact, hasn't scored since March 14 in a 5-4 regular-season shootout loss to the Washington Capitals. Brind'Amour's last tally came April 7 in a victory over the New York Islanders and Ruutu has one goal in his last 15 games -- scoring in Game 7 against the New Jersey Devils on April 28.

--Mike G. Morreale

Kaberle in for Carolina?
05.13.2009  12:52 AM ET

Carolina coach Paul Maurice wasn't tipping his hand as far as lineup changes foir tonight's Game 7, but there is a prevailing sense that he will re-insert Frantisek Kaberle into the defensemen rotation.

Asked about twice after the morning skate, Maurice remained coy, saying only, "We'll see."

But, Kaberle, for his part, was a little more direct, suggesting during his conversation with our own Mike Morreale that he is playing in Game 7.

Such a move would make sense. Kaberle, who last played in Game 5 of the New Jersey series, is a player with a lot of big-game experience -- including scoring what proved to be the Cup-winning goal against Edmonton three springs ago.

Plus, Anton Babchuk has really struggled against Boston in this series, particularly in Game 6 where his misplay on a two-on-two rush led to Mark Recchi's game-opening goal. He also took a bad holding penalty later in that game.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Savard a go
05.13.2009  12:40 AM ET

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Marc Savard will be in the Boston lineup for tonight's Game 7.

Savard took part in Thursday's morning skate and looked to be 100 percent, despite missing the third period of Game 6 after a scary knee-on-knee collision with Carolina's Chad LaRose.

Savard did not make an appearance during the morning media availability, but Boston coach Claude Julien says he expects Savard to be a go for tonight.

"We'll have the same lineup tonight (as Game 6)," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "There shouldn't be any changes."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Good morning from the Garden
05.13.2009  10:25 AM ET

Mike Morreale and I have just arrived here at TD Banknorth Garden for the morning skates in preparation of tonight's Game 7.

There's a tension -- an anticipation -- that has been evident since Boston faced elimination in Game 5, but it is intensified now that both teams face elimination. Every player knows that this could be the last morning of their season and that is a sobering thought.

Although this must be somewhat old hat for the Hurricanes, who have played in four-straight Game 7s. It all started in the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals when Buffalo took Carolina to seven games. In the Final, as we all know, Carolina blew a three-game-to-one lead before beating Edmonton in Game 7. This season, it was a fight-back from three games to two against New Jersey last round before blowing two elimination opportunities in this series against Boston.

In its last five playoff series, Carolina is a pedestrian 4-6 in put-away games, a number that can not inspire much confidence. But, the confidence will come from the escape job the Hurricanes did against New Jersey, as well as the Cup-winning victory against Edmonton under eerily similar circumstances.

I'm on my way out to the Boston skate and will hopefully have an update soon on Marc Savard.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Back in Boston
05.13.2009  3:55 PM ET


This is my fifth trip to Boston in the past month. Could it by my last of this postseason? Game 7 on Thursday night will tell that tale.

It's amazing how much the city has changed just in the month I have been coming here. The trees are in bloom (and my allergies are as well), the Charles River is full of sailboats and the temperature is consistently at least 10 degrees warmer. Plus, I rarely get discombobulated now when I go off exploring this fantastic city.

There will be no exploring today, though, even if I have moved my hotel of choice from the usual Cambridge neighborhood to Copley Square. There was precious little sleep after Tuesday's awesome Game 6 to deal with the 9:30 a.m. flight up here and a nap will be in order before checking Game 7 of the Caps-Pens series as an appetizer for what I will witness in person at the TD Banknorth Garden on Thursday.

This city is ready for a Game 7, too. In fact it has been in a sporting frenzy for as long as I have been coming here this past month. Consider Tuesday night: the Bruins won a do-or-die Game 6, the Boston Celtics won Game 5 of their second-round series against the Orlando Magic and now hold a 3-2 series lead, a lead they have never blown in 32 instances, and the Boston Red Sox clutched victory out of the jaws of defeat against the Angels out on the West Coast and now hold a six-game lead on the hated Yankees and sit just 1-1/2 games behind Toronto for first in the AL East.

But, we only care about the hockey, right?

And there was a little bit of news today.

Boston's Claude Julien said that Marc Savard will play in Game 7. Savard missed all but two shifts of the third period in Game 6 after colliding with Chad LaRose in a knee-on-knee hit.

Julien said he ruled Savard out of the rest of the game because Boston had a solid lead and says there is no reason why Savard wouldn't play on Thursday. Savard, however, was not made available to the media. Boston needs Savard, who has come alive offensively in the past two games

NHL.com James Murphy was at the Boston availability this afternoon in Wilmington, Mass. And will file a more-detailed piece.

John Manasso, another NHL.com correspondent, stayed behind in Carolina to attend the Hurricanes' late-morning availability. Carolina coach Paul Maurice didn't reveal much about his plans for Game 7, but there is growing speculation that Carolina defensemen Anton Babchuk could be out, replaced by Frantisek Kaberle, one of the heroes in Carolina's run to the 2006 Stanley Cup title.

There also may be some changes up front for the Hurricanes, who have struggled to get their transition game going in the past two games.

Some of these decisions will be made at Thursday's morning skates at the TD Banknorth Garden. Of course, I will be there, reporting on all the details. I'm going to have help. Mike Morreale, who did a fine job covering the Chicago-Vancouver series, will be making an early-morning commute to join me for the morning skates.

We'll see you then.

--Shawn P. Roarke


Boston's Savard suffers knee injury
05.12.2009  11:57 PM ET

Boston's victory in Game 6 here Tuesday night may have forced a Game 7, but it also came with a price. Top center Marc Savard, a huge part of the Bruins' offense, as well as their penalty kill, was injured on his first shift of the third period.

It appeared that Savard suffered a right knee injury after colliding knee-on-knee with Chad LaRose just inside the Carolina zone. Savard had to be helped from the ice. He tried to return, but was not able to do so after a short shift later in the period.

Boston did not provide an official update, although Milan Lucic, one of Savard's linemates, said the following after Tuesday's win: "He's doing OK. He's a warrior and he'll battle back."

Boston coach Claude Julien told NESN in his post-game interview that Savard would play in Game 7.

I fly to Boston early tomorrow morning and will try to get an update by the afternoon. See you back in Boston!

--Shawn P. Roarke

Bruins win 4-2, force Game 7
05.12.2009  11:52 PM ET

Against the longest of odds, top-seeded Boston has fought all the way back to force a Game 7 against Carolina in the Eastern Conference Semifinals after trailing the series, 3-1.

Boston forced a winner-take-all Game 7 on Thursday night by gutting out a gritty 4-2 win Tuesday night at the RBC Center in Game 6.

Boston received goals from four different players -- and three different lines -- to win a second-straight elimination game.

Mark Recchi opened the scoring for the second-straight game, netting his third of the series just 2:01 into the game. Steve Montador made it 2-0 three minutes later.

After Matt Cullen made it 2-1 early in the second period, Marc Savard and Chuck Kobasew tacked on second-period goals.

Carolina dominated the third period territorially, but Boston goalie Tim Thomas was up to the task 12 of his 30 saves in the final period. The only shot he allowed to get past him in the third was a rebound put-back by Sergei Samsonov at the 7:20 mark that made it 4-2.

Carolina goalie Cam Ward allowed four goals against for the second-straight game, making just 15 saves.

Boston now will attempt to come back from a three-games-to-one deficit for the first time in franchise history Thursday when it plays Game 7 at the TD Banknorth Garden. 

--Shawn P. Roarke

Bruins 4-1 after two
05.12.2009  8:39 PM ET

Leading by just one goal after Matt Cullen had scored early in the second period, Milan Lucic changed the complexion of the game with a great individual effort. After a protracted battle of wills along the half wall to Cam Ward's left, Lucic found himself with the puck just inside the blue line.

Taking the puck to the center of the zone -- shaking off a stick check along the way, he bulled into the space between the circles before he spotted Mark Savard parked to the left of Ward. Savard slammed the pass home with a one-timer and boston suddenly had a two-goal lead again, 3-1.

Chuck Kobasew made it 4-1 with 1:57 left in the period, driving hard to the net to poke home a perfect pass from Patrice Bergeron, who had bounced off a weak check from Tuomo Ruutu and caught defenseman Joe Corvo in no man's land.

It hadn't take Carolina long to answer in the second period. Cullen did the honors just 2:49 into the period.

Carolina had the cycle going and Scott Walker fed Cullen coming out of the corner and driving across the crease. Boston's Tim Thomas tried to poke-check the puck of Cullen's stick, but did not get it far enough away from the forward. Cullen was able to collect the loose puck and fire a backhander that beat Thomas to the short-side post to close the gap to 2-1.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Bruins dominate first period again
05.12.2009  7:50 PM ET

For the second-straight game, Boston dominated the first period of a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Tuesday night, in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal at the RBC Center, Boston scored on two of its first five shots to take a 2-0 by the 5:04 mark. Boston also established a 2-0 lead in game 5, cruising to a series-saving 4-0 win.

Mark Recchi scored the game-opening goal at the 2:01 mark, easily tapping in a pass from Patrice Bergeron into an empty net. The net was empty because Carolina defenseman Anton Babchuk, trying to deny the pass, had slid into goalie Cam Ward to take him out of the play.

Three minutes later, Steve Montador slapped a shot past the screened Ward after Boston had seen its second line turn in a dominant shift. Byron Bitz twice won board battles to keep the cycle alive and was parked in front of Ward when Montador shot. David Krejci, meanwhile, made a deft touch pass to get a pass from Michael Ryder out to Montador.

Carolina recovered after those two knock-down goals, owning the last five minutes of the first period; but Boston goalie Tim Thomas was there to answer every shot, including a one-two attempt from Sergei Samsonov and Jussi Jokinen.

Zdeno Chara took a late holding penalty on Eric Staal after Carolina's top line had Boston pinned for a long stretch in its own end. The power-play will carry over for the first 90 seconds of the second period.

Thomas, who had a shutout last game, stopped all 11 shots in the first. Ward finished with seven saves.  

--Shawn P. Roarke

Ward will be in the lineup
05.12.2009  6:55PM ET

As expected, Aaron Ward is on the ice for warmups. He was the third Bruin on the ice.

Byron Bitz is also out there, as was Blake Wheeler. Bitz, though, got the nod for the third game running.

For Carolina, Ryan Bayda took the warmups and his two-game exodus with flu-like symptoms is finished.

Ward was the final Bruins player to leave the ice and he was booed by a small contingent of Carolina fans in the corner where the Bruins exit the ice.

Scott Walker, meanwhile, was loudly cheered when a video was shown of his morning interview, where he explained his actions from Game 5.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Ward will be in the lineup
05.12.2009   12:26 PM ET

Aaron Ward has been cleared to play in Game 6 Tuesday night.

Ward, on the receiving end of the controversial punch from Scott Walker in the waning minutes of Game 5, was sporting a nasty bruise under his left eye, but is otherwise fine to play, Ward said after the morning skate.

Ward said he was advised by doctors to wear a shield to protect the eye, but he has decided to forego that option.

I will have more details from my morning skate story in a little while.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Walker speaks
05.12.2009  11:37 AM ET

Scott Walker addressed his actions in Game 5 after Tuesday's morning skate before Game 6 here at the RBC Center.

Walker has been in the spotlight ever since his one-punch knockdown of Aaron Ward with 2:47 remaining in Boston's 4-0 victory in Game 5, an action that earned him 17-minutes in penalties, including an instigator.

Walker was not suspended after the League held a hearing with him Monday afternoon.

NHL.com's John Manasso will have the story on this in a little while, but Walker basically said that he thought he was in a fight with Ward and responded that way with his punch.

"I was trying to defend a teammate and it is an unfortunate thing to happen," Walker said.

Walker, who had no penalty minutes in these playoffs before the Game 5 incident, did not back off his belief that there was a fight about to happen and that he reacted accordingly.

"It's not something that I'm proud of, that's for sure," Walker said. "I'm not proud of it, but that is part of the game."

Coach Paul Maurice said he was happy with the League's decision not to bench Walker, but would not address it any further.

In other new from the skate, Maurice said that Joni Pitkanen missed the morning skate as a maintenance issue and there is no health problem. Pitkanen was the only regular not to skate.

Ryan Bayda, who missed the past two games with flu-like symptoms pronounced himself good to go, as well. Maurice also pronounced Bayda fit, but did not say whether he will be re-inserted into the lineup.

-- Shawn Roarke

Good morning from RBC Center
05.12.10:37 AM ET

I'm back at the RBC Center again -- I can almost find this place from my hotel with my eyes closed (something I suggest you don't try, by the way) -- as the Hurricanes are about to take the ice for their morning skate in preparation of Game 6.

Clearly, the big news from yesterday was the fact that Scott Walker was not suspended for Tuesday night's game. Walker, who drew an instigator penalty for one-punching Aaron Ward to the ice in the dying minutes of Boston's 4-0 win in Game 5, had his automatic suspension rescinded after an afternoon hearing with the League.

While Walker will play in Tuesday night's Game 6, it is still unclear whether Ward will dress.

The Bruins were still testing him to see if he suffered a fractured orbital bone as of Monday afternoon, but the defenseman did make the flight to Raleigh. Also, Boston has yet to call anybody up from Providence, which suggests that Ward will play. With both Matt Hunwick and Andrew Ference injured, Boston is not currently carrying an extra defenseman on its roster to replace Ward if he were too injured to play.

We might not find out for sure if Ward is playing until game time, but Julien will be asked about it after the morning skate. We'll have his answer as soon as possible.

I'll be back in a little while with a report from the Canes, who are skating first.

--Shawn P. Roarke


Back in Raleigh
05.11.2009 12:06 PM ET

Talk about a short turnaround. After four hours sleep, I found myself on my way to Logan Airport for my early-morning flight to Raleigh for Tuesday night's Game 6. Now, just minutes after landing, I am in the workroom at the RBC Center filing this report.

No complaints here, though, as there will be plenty of time to sleep once the Stanley Cup is presented to the final team left standing in this tournament come mid-June.

Because of a slight delay leaving Logan, I just missed the player availability, as well as coach Paul Maurice's presser. I will have some details on what was said a little later after listening to the Tape of the presser provided by the Hurricanes' PR staff.

Even without hearing the Canes say it, there is no question that now have a real series here with Boston forcing a Game 6. Win it and the Bruins force a winner-take-all Game 7, which would be an amazing feat, in and of itself, after falling in a three-games-to-one hole.

But, first there will be a very contentious Game 6 to be played. One of the complaints in the first five games of this series was the lack of snarl displayed in the first four games. At one point, Boston defenseman Aaron Ward, a former Hurricane, said Carolina was "a hard team to hate."

Well, that all changed in the final 21 minutes of Sunday's Game 4 when two ugly incidents ratcheted up the angst  to a combustible level.

The first incident, in the last minute of the second period, saw Boston captain Zdeno Chara lying on the ice, clutching his left leg after receiving an undetected slash from Carolina's Jussi Jokinen. Chara had to be helped off the ice, but he returned for the third period.

Jokinen, a Bruins killer in this series with clutch goals, pleaded innocence.

"I think you guys saw what happened," Jokinen said. "It was a little tap and he was laying there for five minutes and then he's out playing the next shift."

Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who had a front-row view for the incident, seeing it took place 15 feet to his right, says Jokinen is trotting out some revisionist history.

"My heart skipped a beat when he went down because I know he doesn't fake things ever," Thomas said. "He doesn't stay down unless he really got stung, you know?"

There was no question about the second incident, in which Carolina's Scott Walker KO'd Ward with one punch after jumping into a scrum between the Boston defenseman and Carolina's Matt Cullen with 2:47 remaining in the game and Boston leading 4-0.

Carolina coach Paul Maurice tried to brush off the incident when asked for his reaction, suggesting "Scott probably has sore knuckles."

The Bruins however were not quite as cavalier about the unprovoked attack, which has the Bruins worried that Ward suffered a broken orbital bone. Ward will be re-evaluated today.

"I thought the Walker incident was certainly something that he shouldn't be proud of because, obviously, the other guy is not ready to fight or willing to fight," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "Obviously something like that is not something that you want to see your player put in that position; he was trying to be disciplined. Walker decided to do something different to come in and help his teammate. Hopefully, people that are in charge will do their job and decide what they will do with it."

With that said, make no mistake that the Bruins are glad that some snarl has been introduced into this series. The Bruins are a big, physical team that seems to play its best when it is exacting a physical toll from its opponent -- just ask Montreal, the Bruins victim in a first-round sweep.

"It's going to be physical," Boston center Marc Savard said, talking of Game 6 and, hopefully Game 7. "That's our style and we like playing physical. If it stays lIke that, it will be good."

It should also be entertaining.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Bruins win, 4-0
05.10.2009 10:06 PM ET

The Boston Bruins needed a complete effort Sunday night in Game 5 to prolong this Eastern Conference Semifinal against upset-minded Carolina Hurricanes. And, that is exactly what they delivered, playing their best game of the series in taking a dominating 4-0 victory.

Phil Kessel scored a pair of goals and Mark Recchi, on the power play, and Milan Lucic added single tallies to force a Game 6 on Tuesday night in Raleigh, N.C.

Carolina still leads the series, 3-2; but Boston certainly put the series back in play with a dominating performance that saw Boston come out flying at the start and never take its foot off the gas pedal.. 

Boston goalie Tim Thomas wasn't tested often, facing just 18 shots, but he made the saves when called upon to earn his first shutout in nine games this postseason. Ward allowed four goals on 36 shots.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Bruins extend lead; Chara hurt
05.10.2009 9:16 PM ET


Boston had another dominant period in the second, adding another goal and out-shooting Carolina, 13-4.

But, the period ended on a sour note as Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara was hurt in the period's final minute. With 30 seconds remaining and Chara deep in the attacking zone after a pinch, the big defenseman was felled -- either by a slash from Jussi Jokinen or a strike of Niclas Wallin's skate -- and writhed in pain inside the right faceoff circle as the play went the other way.

Chara was helped off the ice and hobbled down the runway. His status for the third period is unknown.

Carolina's Erik Cole was injured on that same shift, crosschecked to the ice in the Carolina attacking zone as the play left the zone. He also hobbled to the dressing room before the period was complete.

Phil Kessel made the score 3-0 with just 4:48 gone in the second, wristing home a pass from Marc Savard on a rush into the zone. Chara provided some distraction as he barreled into the crease to occupy Cam Ward's attention, as well as tie up defenseman Tim Gleason.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Dominant first period for Boston
05.10.2009 8:24 PM ET

The Bruins said they needed a dominant first period and they turned one in, playing like thye top-seeeded team left in the tournament instead of the team that finds itself on the wrong end of three-games-to-one deficit to the upset-minded Carolina Hurricanes.

Boston dominated from the opening whistle, not allowing carolina a shot until the 11:04 mark of the period. Boston had eight shots by then. But, it took until the 15th minute before Boston got on the scoreboard.

Mark Recchi, on the power play, opened the scoring by deflecting a point shot from Zdeno Chara past Carolina goalie Cam Ward. At the 18:36 mark, Boston made it 2-0 when Phil Kessel slammed a perfect through-traffic pass from Marc Savard into the open half of the net.

That goal came after Carolina had an excellent chance to tie the game on the power play, but Thomas stopped Sergei Samsonov's one-timer and then made a mouth-dropping save as Joni Pitkanen ticketed the rebound for the uncovered short side. Thomas finished with seven saves.

Carolina coach Paul Maurice expected the Bruins to come out strong and it was the job of his team to weather the storm. They were unable to do that in the first period, but will try to take the momentum away in the second period. Don't forget, Carolina has been amazing about adjusting on the fly in these playoffs.

--Shawn P. Roarke

05.10.2009 7:35 PM ET



Wheeler out
05.10.2009 7:35 PM ET

Boston coach Claude Julien has altered his front 12 for the second-straight game.

This time, it is rookie Blake Wheeler that is the odd-man out, scratched in favor of Byron Bitz, who played in place of Shawn Thornton in Game 4.

It will be interesting to see how Julien deploys his forwards now. Most likely he will keep together his top line and his checking line. But, Bitz could see time on the second line with David Krejci and Michael Ryder, a role he saw time in during the waning minutes of Game 4.

Thornton, meanwhile, will go back to his customary energy role, playing with P.J. Axelsson and Stephane Yelle.

Carolina made no changes from Game 4. Tim Conboy is once again playing in place of Ryan Bayda, who is out with flu-like symptoms.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Quiet on Causeway Street
05.10.2009 5:43 PM ET

After a brief respite at the hotel -- best of the Deadliest Catch was on -- I'm back here at the Garden.

Things are pretty quiet right now. A few Boston players are whooping it up as they play keep-up with the soccer ball just outside the press room, but all else is quiet here at what is a very cold building right now.

It will warm up as the people file in for what could be the last game of the season for these Bruins. To a man, though, the Boston players said they believe the crowd will be behind them with the type of support they received in the first three home playoff games here -- the two games against Montreal and the 4-1 series-opening win against Carolina.

But, let's not forget that the same Garden faithful booed the Bruins off the ice as the seconds ticked down on a 3-0 loss in Game 2, the start of a three-game slide.

The mood of tonight's crowd is one of the questions that remain unanswered as we wait for the puck to drop in Game 5. Here are a few more:

--Mark Recchi appears healthy enough to go, but Claude Julien said he won't decide on his forwards until after the pre-game skate. Does that mean he is trying to get Byron Bitz in again? Will it be at the expense of Shawn Thornton again, as it was in Game 4 or will Blake Wheeler, who has struggled mightily this round, be the healthy scratch?

--Will Julien change his forward lines or his power-play units? Boston has just three goals in its past three games against Carolina and has just one power-play goal in the whole series.

--Can Tim Thomas steal a game for his team? He hasn't been bad in these playoffs by any means, but he has not stolen a game yet, either. His team, especially the defense, is encountering a crisis of confidence and Thomas could restore some good vibes with a dominant game.

--Will Carolina be caught looking ahead? The business as usual Canes don't seem like a lightly candidate for a letdown, but the situation screams that it is a possibility. Despite the predicament the Bruins are in, they have not been blown out in this series -- Carolina scored three third-period goals to take a 4-1 decision in Game 4 -- so even a slight decrease on the gas pedal could let Boston back in this series.

We won't know the answer to all of these questions until the game is well underway, but I can start answering them after the pre-game skate when Boston turns in its starting lineup. I'll check back then with that info.

--Shawn P. Roarke


Stirring the pot
05.10.2009 1:35 PM ET

Desperate times call for desperate measures, it seems.

Sunday morning, Claude Julien dipped into the universal bag of coaching tricks and started casting aspersions at the hurricanes, the team that happens to hold an unexpected three-games-to-one lead on his heavily favored Bruins entering Sunday night's Game 5.

Early in his Sunday morning presser, Julien accused Carolina of playing the trap -- as ugly an accusation as he could come up with, I guess -- to such great effect in taking control of the series. Then, he further the attack by suggesting it was hypocritical of Carolina Maurice to adopt such a cynical defensive system after railing against it during his tenure as the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"They played four guys back and they just wait for us in the neutral zone," Julien said. "That's something a little surprising from Paul because I know he used to complain about that last year when he was in Toronto -- us killing them with the trap. They've created a pretty tough situation for us getting pucks in, but we have to find a way to get pucks in and play more in their end."

The Hurricanes, by the way, haven't played the trap in this series.

In fact, it is their aggressive forecheck that has flustered the Bruins to the point of ineffectiveness. Carolina is not forcing Boston to turn the puck over in the neutral zone and then counter-attack -- which is the very foundation of the trap system -- but instead are pinning Boston its own end and not even allowing the Bruins to break out of their own zone with any recognizable form of a transition game plan.  

Perhaps, Julien was attempting to take some of the heat off his beleagured defense corps, which has had the most trouble dealing with Carolina's pressure. Or, perhaps, he thought he could get Paul Maurice off his game a little with the accusations.

If it was the latter, it did not work.

"I took exception to it (in Toronto) because we couldn't get through it," Maurice said with a chuckle. "It was very well played by Boston.

"We actually don't trap. There are worse things than the trap, by the way. They are more defensive schemes than the trap. We don't (trap) and (Julien) knows it."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Happy Mother's Day
05.10.2009 1:33 PM ET
Before we get into the business of discussing Game 5, I just wanted to take a moment to wish all the moms out there -- especially the hockey moms -- a Happy Mother's Day today.

That goes double for my wife, the mother to my two wonderful children -- Alex and Erin. It's hard being away from my wife on her day, but duty has called and made that impossible -- not for the first time either in my 15-year career in hockey, it should be noted. The fact that she so easily understands and tolerates my absence makes her even more special in my biased opinion.

It will have to be a belated celebration of Mother's Day in the Roarke household, I guess.

Today, though, is not only special because of Mother's day. It is the anniversary of one of hockey's greatest moments, as well.

Anybody remember Bobby Orr flying through the air after scoring the Cup-clinching goal against the St. Louis Blues at the old Boston Garden? Well, it happened on this very date 39 years ago.

It also, unfortunately, marked the last time that Boston has won the Stanley Cup, a drought that will officially enter its 40th season if Boston does not figure out a way to win Sunday's game 5 and stave off elimination for another 48 hours

--Shawn P. Roarke


Nothing brewing for Canes in Boston
05.09.2009 1:57 PM ET

The Carolina Hurricanes arrived in Boston around 2:30 p.m. this afternoon and had media availability at their downtown hotel an hour later.

Not much came out of that sparsely attended media availability, although the Hurricanes talked a good game about not having a letdown in game 5 after winning the past three games to take control of this series.

"I don't see if Boston wins the game tomorrow night that we suffered a letdown," said Paul Maurice, the Carolina coach. "I don't think that has anything to do with it. They are going to play their best game of the series and we are going to get to ours. Both teams feel there are areas they can get better at."

"If we were the one seed and they were the six seed and we had had the season they had, than maybe I would be worried about it. We've never, heading into this series, taken Boston lightly. We have a tremendous amount of respect for all the things they do. They can run through you and we know that, so we are nowhere near the end."

Boston, meanwhile, had an hour-long practice and there was a little news that came out of that session at Ristuccia Arena.

Veteran Mark Recchi did not take part in the practice session because he was, in the words of Boston coach Claude Julien, "banged up."

But, Julien said there is no reason why Recchi won't be able to come back and play in Sunday's Game 5. The news is not as good for defenseman Andrew Ference, who missed Friday's Game 4 with an undisclosed lower-body injury. He is listed day-to-day b y the club, but Julien was not at all confident that Ference will be back. The smooth, two-way defender did not practice Saturday.

That's all the news for today.

I'm going to watch a bit of the Red Sox game here in the hotel -- maybe catch a nap as well -- before heading out to watch the Penguins-Capitals game later tonight.

See you in the morning from the morning skates.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Back in Beantown
05.09.2009 1:57 PM ET

It took an obscenely early wakeup call and a slight delay at the airport, but I'm back in Boston. Our 9:30 a.m. flight out of Boston landed about noon, just late enough that a trip out to Wilmington to catch Boston's availability at Ristuccia Arena a non-starter.

Some of the media contingent, however, took earlier flights and made it out to Ristuccia to find that the Bruins were not only having availability, but also practicing in preparation for Sunday's Game 5.

According to Matt Kalman from The Bruins Blog, Mark Recchi and Andrew Ference did not take the ice for the Bruins. Blake Wheeler was playing in Recchi's place on the checking line in Saturday's practice, while Byron Bitz skated in Wheeler's traditional place on the second line.

Bitz was a surprise starter in Game 4, replacing Shawn Thornton on the fourth line. Bitz, a rookie, played very effectively Friday night in just his second appearance of the postseason. Bitz played for the suspended Milan Lucic in the first round.

The rugged rookie winger was so good in Game 4 that he was promoted to the second line -- replacing the struggling Wheeler -- late in the game.

"We just felt in using Byron, who has played well for us, he's strong along the boards and he can create some things offensively and you saw him do that," said Boston coach Claude Julien. "It was a decision we made. It had nothing to do with Shawn. We had to make some room for Bitzy and we felt that being in Shawn’s spot would give that line a little more offense.

"I thought he did a great job to the point where I gave him some shifts on the Krejci (line) because I liked his will to win battles along the boards."

A will to win battles is one of the many things missing from Boston's arsenal at the moment, and the club knows it has little time to find answers.

"What we have to here is win a hockey game," said Julien. "Whatever it takes, you've got to do it."

The Hurricanes are in a completely different frame of mind, leading three games to one. They will not practice Saturday after flying up this morning. They will have availability at their hotel in an hour or so.

I'm off to cover that and see if there is any news coming out of there. I will also try to follow developments from Bruins camp throughout the day.

I'll check in a little bit later.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Canes dominate third, win 4-1
05.08.2009 10:03 PM ET

A Carolina power surge has Boston's season on life support.

Jussi Jokinen scored a goal 2:52 into the third period -- Carolina's second of the night and third in the past two games -- to give the Hurricanes a 4-1 victory against Boston in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Carolina, the sixth seed, now owns a three-games-to-one advantage in this best-of-7 series. Boston, the top seed left in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is one win away from elimination.

Game 5 is Sunday night at TD Banknorth Center

Jokinen earned his third game-winner of these playoffs and second in as many games. He potted the overtime goal that gave Carolina a 3-2 victory in Wednesday's Game 3.

Sergei Samsonov and Eric Staal added insurance tallies later in third period.

The teams had traded power-play goals in the first two periods.

Carolina opened the scoring at the 4:54 mark of the first period, scoring on its first shot of the game as Staal banged a loose puck at Thomas and watched happily as the shot trickled between Thomas's blocker and body and into the net.

Staal has now scored in three-straight games, including power-play tallies in each of the past two contests. With his goal, he tied the franchise record for most playoff points with 39, a mark held by Ron Francis.

Boston had not allowed a man-advantage goal in the first six games of these playoffs.

In the second period, Boston answered with its first power-play goal of the series.

After sustained pressure, Mark Recchi corralled a loose puck to the right of Cam Ward and bulled his way into the slot. Instead of taking an in-tight shot, Recchi passed to Marc Savard, who was stationed just above the goal line to Ward's left. Savard ripped a shot at Ward that banged in off the goalie's leg pad and just inside the post to tie the game at 1-1.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Bruins fight back, 1-1 after two
05.08.2009 9:16 PM ET

Boston recovered from the early knockout punch delivered by Carolina, scoring its own power-play goal just 2:37 into the second period. Boston was put on the man advantage after Tuomo Ruutu took an offensive-zone hold against defenseman Shane Hnidy, who replaced Andrew Ference.

After sustained pressure, Mark Recchi corralled a loose puck to the right of Cam Ward and bulled his way into the slot. Instead of taking an in-tight shot, Recchi passed to Marc Savard, who was stationed just above the goal line to Ward's left. Savard ripped a shot at Ward that banged in off the goalie's leg pad and just inside the post to tie the game at 1-1.

It was just Boston's seventh shot of the game and marked the team's first power-play goal in this series and first on the road in these playoffs.

Aside from the goal, Boston just competed better -- and harder -- in a very chippy and methodical middle period. The Bruins held a 10-6 advantage in shots and also had more of the play in the attacking zone.
 
--Shawn P. Roarke

Carolina leads after first, 1-0
05.08.2009 8:19 PM ET

It was not the start Boston wanted to Friday night's game 4 at the RBC Center.

Desperate for something to feel good about, Boston found itself once again chasing the play after Carolina scored on the power play at the 4:54 mark of the first period, scoring on its first shot of the game.

With David Krejci in the box, serving a retaliatory roughing penalty, Eric Staal banged a loose puck at Thomas and watched happily as the shot trickled between Thomas's blocker and body and into the net. Staal has now scored in three straight games, including power-play tallies in each of the past two contests.

Boston had not allowed a man-advantage goal in the first six games of these playoffs.

With the goal, Staal is now tied with Ron Francis for the franchise lead in playoff points. Staal has 39 points in 36 postseason games, the same point total Francis accomplished in 62 games.

Carolina dominated much of the action, finishing with a12-4 advantage in shots after the first. In fact, Thomas was brilliant after allowing the goal to Staal. His counterpart, Cam Ward, did not have much work, although Boston did hit the post on two occasions.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Thornton out, Bitz in for B's
05.08.2009 7:29 PM ET

Boston coach Claude Julien made an unexpected chance to his lineup for Game 4.

Rugged forward Shawn Thornton was made a healthy scratch, replaced by Byron Bitz, who played in his first playoff game in the past round, replacing the suspended Milan Lucic. Bitz posted an assist in that game -- ironically on a Thornton goal -- and played a strong all-round game.

It is not clear where Bitz will play Friday night, but the assumption is that he will assume Thornton's fourth-line duties, joining Stephane Yelle and P.J. Axelsson.

As expected, Shane Hnidy was in for the injured Andrew Ference on the blue line.

For Carolina, both Tim Conboy and Patrick Dwyer took the pre-game skate. In the end, though, Paul Maurice decided to go with Conboy as the replacement for Ryan Bayda, who was ruled out after suffering flu-like symptoms.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Emotions in motion
05.08.2009 6:36 PM ET

Expect to see Boston really take it to Carolina physically in the first 10 minutes of Friday night's Game 4.

There has not been the mean edge to this series that percolated throughout the four-game sweep of Montreal. In fact, the post-whistle scrums and face washes have been almost absent throughout the first three games of this series.

But, the Bruins seem to feed off that angst and both Aaron Ward and Zdeno Chara -- two of Boston's biggest boppers -- said their team must bring some edge to the game and invest emotionally in what is going on around them.

"There has to be some level of emotional investment and that has to be in an us-or-them mentality," Ward said Friday morning.

"When we played teams like Montreal or the Rangers, we were more intense and more emotionally involved," Chara said. "We have to bring that same level."

Exerting some jam and pushing the envelop in the "grey" areas of the ice is one of the things the Bruins stressed Thursday in discussions about what must be done Friday. It will be interesting to see exactly how that desire manifests itself in Game 4.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Bayda out
05.08.2009 5:35 PM ET

It appears that Carolina forward Ryan Bayda is out for Game 4, suffering from flu-like symptoms.

Bayda, who has provided energy and more than a few scoring chances as the team's fourth-line left wing, has been one of the biggest surprises of Carolina's run so far. He had an assist on Carolina's loss in Game 1 of this series. He had two goals in the first round

He will be replaced by either Tim Conboy or Patrick Dwyer. Conboy has played in one game this postseason and is the more physical of the two players.

Dwyer has not appeared in the playoffs yet, but he had 40 points, including 24 goals, this season with Albany, Carolina's AHL affiliate. He also played in 13 regular-season games with the Canes, scoring one goal. He is the faster and more-skilled of the two players.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Off day a success for Bruins
05.08.2009 1:17 PM ET

The Bruins said Claude Julien's decision to give the team the day off was a good one.

Julien decided Thursday that his team would be excused from all hockey related activity. There would be no practice, no video sessions, no meetings. The players were free to do whatever they wanted to get themselves back into the right frame of mind to get back to peak mental form.

Friday morning, the players admitted it was a good -- and necessary -- break.

"I think yesterday was a good day," Chara said. "It was a good day to stay away from the rink, just relax and clear our minds; not worry about meetings or any stuff like that. Just clear our minds and get ready for today."

Aaron Ward, who lives in Raleigh during the offseason, took the day to spend with his family. He had not seen his children in more than three weeks.

"It's good for me, I'm a need-to-be-busy guy," Ward said.

Although Ward did admit that he would have welcomed practice Thursday.

"At 36, I'm like the Tin Man, I need a little oil in my joints," Ward told NHL.com. "I don't need the day off. I have plenty of days off in the summer. I just like to have that feel of playing hockey and not losing it. I want to get to the rink and get that bitter taste out of my mouth."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Off day musings
05.07.2009 2:20 PM ET

Well, it is the calm before the storm here in Raleigh now with Game 4 looming in a little more than 24 hours.

Neither team practiced Thursday in the wake of Carolina's 3-2 overtime victory in Game 3 on Wednesday night.

It's not surprising that Carolina did not practice as the Canes have been the better team for long stretches of the past two games. But, it was a little surprising that Boston did not take the ice after being outplayed thoroughly for most of Game 3.

But, Boston coach Claude Julien believes his team needed a mental-health day and he gave them one. He met with the media Thursday at the team hotel, but no players were available. In fact, there were not even meetings scheduled for Thursday. It was a complete off-day for the team.

How they respond to that declaration of faith from Julien will be interesting to see. After all, this is the first adversity Boston has faced in the playoffs. They had run off five-straight games before these back-to-back losses.

Now, Boston must find some answers. To a man, though, the Bruins believe the solution lies in more sustained effort; but it must be effort combined with intelligence.

Boston's task might be a little harder because both defenseman Andrew Ference and forward Blake Kessel were injured in Game 3. The club did not provide updates on either player, but it seems unlikely Ference will be back after missing the third period and overtime of Game 3.

Ference will be replaced by Shane Hnidy if he can't go. Hnidy played in three games in the Montreal series, replacing the injured Matt Hunwick.

Carolina escaped Game 3 without injuries and is licking its chops at the opportunity of going up 3-1 in this series.

We'll be back with all the news from Friday's morning skate.

Tonight, a bunch of the writers down here are planning to head out on the town and watch the early game while having a bite to eat. It's likely the last down time in this series -- the calm before the storm mentioned above.

See you tomorrow morning.

--Shawn P. Roarke

How fast things change in playoffs
05.07.2009 12:35 AM ET

It's amazing how fast momentum can shift in a playoff series. Boston lost Game 2 three days ago, but it was seen as nothing more than a blip. Now, after an overtime loss, here Wednesday night in Game 3, Boston's confidence is in tatters.

It was sobering to hear the Bruins talk after the game, describing how they were outworked by these feel-good Hurricanes. It was clear that Boston is facing a crisi of confidence after its first two losses of the postseason.

Goalie Tim Thomas has been very good for Boston in this series, but just not good enough. He had no chance on the winning goal. He says he never saw Sergei Samsonov's original shot through traffic and, as a result, was flailing at the put-back shot that Jussi Jokinen used to score the game-winning goal.

Afterward, Thomas said his team was being outworked and forced into uncharacteristic turnovers by the speed and tenacity of the Carolina players. Simply, the Canes were doing things Boston usually does, only better.

So, what is the solution?

"It has to be collectively fixed," Thomas said. "It will take every guy on this team. If you have any passengers, it won't work."

The Bruins will find out if they have passengers very early in Game 4 as Carolina puts all its energy into trying to break Boston's will and take a 3-1 lead in the series.

Boston will not skate on Thursday and the players will not be made available. Coach Claude Julien will meet with the media Thursday morning at the team hotel and I will be there to get the details.

Carolina, meanwhile, also will not skate. They will have a team availability at 11:30 at the RBC Center. NHL.com correspondent John Manasso will have all the details from that session.

We'll talk to you tomorrow.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Boston ties it, forces OT
05.05.2009 10:08 PM ET

Trailing 2-1 in the third period, and with Carolina carrying much of the play, the Bruins got back into the game thanks to the perseverance of defenseman Steve Montador and Boston's erstwhile checking unit.

Midway through the third, Montador saw his initial slapper denied by a sprawling Tuomo Ruutu, but he calmly collected the puck and fed Chuck Kobasew along the boards. Kobasew's shot on net then glanced off Mark Recchi -- who won the Stanley Cup with these 'Canes in 2006 -- and past Cam Ward to tie the game at 2-2.

Tim Thomas has been brilliant, making 36 saves in Game 3. Cam Ward has answered with 17 saves.

The Bruins were forced to play the third period with just five defensemen after Andrew Ference was injured in the second period and did not return after the intermission. The Bruins announced that Ference would not return.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Carolina responds
05.05.2009 9:21 PM ET

It took almost 37 minutes, but Carolina finally solved Boston's fortress-like defense in Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.

It took a marathon shift by the Eric Staal line in the 16th minute of the second period to get Boston on its heels. Michael Ryder finally took a penalty, running into Erik Cole as he chased the puck from one point to the other. On the ensuing power play, Staal -- after a short breather -- tied the game by stealing the puck of Steve Montador's stick as he tried to clear the zone with a slap shot. Staal then corralled the loose puck and beat a surprised Tim Thomas over his far shoulder.

That had the RBC Center rocking and Carolina fed off that energy, scoring the go-ahead goal just 69 seconds later. Phil Kessel fell down at center ice, spring a 3-on-2 in the other direction. Gritty Scott Walker made a sweet pass to Sergei Samsonov -- a former Bruin -- and his quick shot beat Thomas to the short side.

Thomas has 25 saves and cam Ward has countered with 14 saves.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Boston leads 1-0, after one
05.05.2009 8:20 PM ET

So much for Carolina goalie Cam Ward being in Boston's head.

After being shut out last game after a 36-save performance by Ward, the Bruins struck first in Wednesday's Game 3 at the RBC Center. Milan Lucic, scoring his first of these playoffs, grabbed a loose puck in the slot and beat Cam Ward's stick thrust to get the puck into the net.

Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason had blocked Dennis Wideman's shot from the point, but couldn't control the loose puck at his feet, allowing Lucic to get to it.

Ward finished the first period with seven saves, while Tim Thomas countered with 12 saves, including a beauty on Matt Cullen in the 13th minute.

Boston coach Claude Julien has broken up his top defensive pairing -- Zdeno Chara and Aaron Ward -- at times in the first period to have better coverage of Staal. Chara played a period-high 7:36 in the first period.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Tornado warning
05.03.2009 5:25 p.m.

For the second-straight day, Raleigh is under the treat of tornados.

The tornado warning first aired when I was driving back to my hotel from the morning skate and a tornado watch is in effect until 9 p.m. Wednesday night. There have been intermittent rain showers throughout the day, but, as of this minute, it is sunny and in the low-80s.

The threat of bad weather has not deterred the tailgaters that have become such a part of the Carolina Hurricanes game experience. They were already out in force when I pulled in to the arena parking lot at 4:45 p.m. with the smell of barbecues filling the air as you walked into the arena.

Speaking of barbecues, the Hurricanes put on one of the League's best pre-game spreads, featuring pulled pork as its centerpiece. It is a treat not to be missed and I will be taking part in it shortly.

We'll have some more updates before tonight's game 3, which starts at 7:30 p.m. and can be seen on Versus and TSN.

Shawn P. Roarke


Brotherly love
05.03.2009 1:19 p.m.

Carolina's Eric Staal could be on a collision course to play his brother, Jordan, in the next round of the playoffs. Jordan Staal plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are down two games to none in their best-of-7 series against Washington.

But, if the Penguins find a way to rally and out Washington and Carolina can beat Boston, the brothers would meet in an Eastern Conference Final matchup for the ages.

Neither has discussed that possibility with the other yet, though. There is simply too much hockey left to be played in this round for either brother to look ahead to what come to pass.

"I have not talked to him in a while," Eric Staal said Wednesday morning. "I'm just letting him do his thing in his series and he is doing the same for us. If they get it done and we get it done, I don't think we won't be talking too much next series either. They are in a fight and so are we."

Does that mean he doesn't care if the Penguins, last year's Eastern Conference champions, find their way back against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals? Not at all.

"I want them to win, no question," Eric Staal said. "I don't want them to win next round if we face them. It would be fun. They are playing a good team in Washington and we are playing a good team in Boston -- two good series."

A third Staal brother -- New York Ranger defenseman Marc Staal -- was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs when the Rangers lost to the Capitals in seven games.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Ready for a Hurricane
05.03.2009 12:59 p.m.

Boston defenseman Aaron Ward expects a hostile reception when his Bruins take the ice Wednesday night for Game 3 against the Carolina Hurricanes here at the RBC Center. He spent much of the morning explaining how loud this building will be Wednesday night -- especially in the game's first 10 minutes -- to members of the Boston media

Ward should know. He played for the Hurricanes for four years and was part of the 2006 team that won the Stanley Cup, the franchise's first. This building was as loud as any building in the NHL during that playoff run. Now, it is rocking again.

But, Ward says the Bruins won't be intimidated. It's just a matter of sticking to a game plan, drowning out as much as possible and playing through the remaining bedlam.

Boston coach Claude Julien has little doubt his team will be able to accomplish that goal. Let's not forget that Boston has played in Montreal in each of the past two postseasons, and there is not a more difficult place in the NHL to play than the Bell Centre -- especially if you are a Boston Bruin.

"I don't think there's any rink or building that doesn't have that atmosphere at this time," Julien said. "When you are down to eight teams, I think everybody in those cities are pretty excited and they are very supportive.

"We've dealt with it. When you've played in Montreal and played against a team that you have a pretty big (rivalry) against and you survive it, there's no reason we can't survive this one."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Morning skate tidbits
05.03.2009 11:51 a.m.
The Carolina Hurricanes have already finished their morning skate, with everyone taking the ice for some drills and a little bit of a shoot-around.

Now, the Bruins are on the RBC Center ice. Chuck Kobasew, who missed Tuesday's practice before the Bruins flew here in the late afternoon, is on the ice, taking part in drills.

But, three other Boston forwards -- Michael Ryder, P.J. Axelsson and Shawn Thornton -- are not taking part. All seven defensemen are on the ice for the skate.

We'll have some reaction from the dressing rooms in a little bit after Claude Julien gives his press briefing.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Welcome to Raleigh!
05.03.2009 3:45 p.m.

Happy Cinco de Mayo! And, welcome back to all the coverage you need from this series.

I took a quick 24-hour hiatus to drive home from Boston to New Jersey and visit with the family for the evening before flying to Raleigh Tuesday morning. I landed about 1:30 p.m., finding the same miserable rain that I thought I had left behind in the Garden State.

But, that has cleared up now and it looks pretty nice outside from the view from my downtown hotel. I may wander out a little later to find a Mexican restaurant to celebrate the hotel.

But, first let me update you on a little news. The Bruins practiced at their training facility Tuesday morning before flying here. Checking forward Chuck Kobasew missed that practice because he is fighting the flu, according to Boston coach Claude Julien.

His status will be updated Wednesday morning at the morning skate and NHl.com will be on hand to deliver that news ASAP.

NHL.com correspondent John Manasso has been in Carolina for the past two days and has filed pieces on Cam Ward once again finding his groove, as well as how Paul Maurice has put his stamp on this team.

NHL.com correspondent James Murphy was in Wilmington, Mass., on Monday and reported on how the Bruins are trying to move forward from Sunday's 3-0 loss in Game 2, the Bruins first loss of the postseason in six games.

We'll have all the details from Wednesday's morning skate. We'll see you then.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Carolina scores two in second
05.03.2009 9:23 p.m.

Paul Maurice said he wasn't worried about his team's ability to score goals and it sure seems he knows what he is talking about.

Carolina took its first lead of the series at the 2:30 mark of the second period when Joe Corvo pounced on a pass by Eric Staal that skittered through the slot before it was hammered past Tim Thomas.

It was Corvo's first goal of the playoffs and marked just the third time in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs that Boston trailed.

Five minutes later, at 7:32, Matt Cullen gave Carolina a 2-0 lead zwhen he scored a shorthanded goal, covering on a spectacular individual effort by Chad LaRose, who broke up a pass at the blue line, broke in alone on Tim Thomas, but hit hit the post with his shot, and then poked the puck out front for Cullen to slot home.

Carolina almost had a third goal with three seconds remaining, but his shot off the crossbar was ruled on the ice -- and confirmed by the situation room in Toronto -- to have never completely crossed the goal line.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Line juggling in scoreless first
05.03.2009 8:22 p.m.

Paul Maurice said he would switch things around to get his offense on track, and he did in the first period of Game 2.

But, it had no effect on the scoreboard, as the first period at the TD Banknorth Garden ended in a 0-0 tie.

Maurice moved top center Eric Staal throughout his lines. He started the game as the pivot for Whitney and LaRose, but then moved between Sergei Samsonov and Tuomu Ruutu. He even saw a shift with Chad LaRose and Ray Whitney.

The Bruins, however, stayed with Aaron Ward and Zdeno Chara on Staal, no matter what line he centered. Chara had two big hits on Staal in the defensive zone, clearly frustrating the big center.

Despite the lack of scoring, the first period was Carolina's best. They finished with 13 shots, compared to Boston's 8. Not only that, but they made bruins goalie Tim Thomas work as hard as he has had to so far in this series.

Julien went with the lines that finished Game 2, meaning Milan Lucic was on the first line, Blake Wheeler on the second and P.J. Axelsson on the fourth.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Kessel in
05.03.2009 7:33 p.m.

As expected, Phil Kessel is in the lineup for Boston for Sunday night's Game 2.

Kessel missed Saturday's practice with a swollen elbow, but he took part in Sunday's morning skate and showed no ill effects from the injury.

That means Byron Bitz and Shane Hnidy are Boston's healthy scratches for the second-straight game.

Carolina also went with the same lineup, but paul Maurice did change around his lines a bit, moving Erik Cole to the top line, replacing Chad LaRose. Maurice first made that move during the second period of Game 1 and liked some of what he saw from that reconfigured line.

He hinted he might move things around a bit during his briefing after Sunday's morning skate. Here is what he had to say:

"I haven't moved the lines around too much over the last 2-1/2 months, but we have gone into blocks where we did," he said. "I'm not concerned if we get into the game and move players around. I've talked to the players about that potentially happening and the indicators why that would happen, so it's not a shuffling of the deck on the bench in the middle of a game, sometimes that can cause some concern. There is nothing that will happen tonight that the players have not seen before and aren't prepared for."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Canes seek offense
05.03.2009 5:27 p.m.

Well, I'm back as promised. It's a little past 5 p.m. and the Garden is starting to come alive for Game 2 tonight. It's amazing how many big games this place has already held this spring, including Saturday night's Boston Celtics' game, a Game 7 against Chicago that was a raucous as this building can get.

It will be loud here again tonight, especially if the Bruins can get off to a fast start again like they did in Game 1 when Aaron Ward -- yes Aaron Ward, the scoring was changed well after the game was over -- scored on Boston's first shot in Friday's 4-1 win.

Carolina will try to defuse the crowd with some offensive fireworks of their own, but scoring against the Bruins has not been easy. In fact, for many of the Hurricanes, scoring in this postseason has not been easy. The team has just 18 goals in eight games, but 10 of those goals have come off the sticks of three players -- Eric Staal (5), Ryan Whitney (3) and Chad LaRose (2).

So, is Paul Maurice concerned about being too top-loaded offensively?

"I think we have to stop worrying about the balance offensively, I really think we do," was his response Saturday. "We have to worry about the final score only. It really doesn't matter who scores. It's offensive chances and how do we get more of those? It's a good question that I won't answer right now because our team's focus can't be on how to score more goals. That wasn't our problem.

And he doesn't want the pressure to score to get his team into a funk, pointing out that it scored eight goals in the two must-wins against New Jersey in the previous round..

"If we have players in that locker room that are continually searching for a goal as a fixer or the way to beat Boston, we are going to be in a little bit of trouble."

With that said, there's little doubt that Maurice would love to see players like Eric Cole, Matt Cullen, Rod Brind'Amour and Sergei Samsonov get on the goal-scoring bandwagon.

None of those players have scored yet in the postseason after combining for 96 goals in the regular season

--Shawn P. Roarke

Morning skates complete
05.03.2009 1:22 p.m.

Well, the pre-game preparations -- other than the naps -- are done here at the TD Banknorth Garden. Both teams skated Sunday morning at the Garden for the first time in this series, which made coverage a lot easier.

Boston went first and held an optional skate that featured just eight skaters and backup goalie Manny Fernandez. Fortunately for the Bruins, Phil Kessel was one of those eight skaters. Kessel missed Saturday's practice after suffering a swollen elbow in the aftermath of Game 1. All indications point to Kessel being in the lineup for Sunday's Game 2.

There is also a chance that the Bruins will stick with the reconfigured lines that finished the game, meaning Milan Lucic will see top-line duty with Marc Savard and Kessel and Blake Wheeler with see second-line time with David Krejci and Michael Ryder. P.J. Axelsson will drop to the fourth line.

For Carolina, it was an almost full morning skate as most every Hurricane took the ice for at least a few minutes.

The players spent their time on the ice yelling and laughing, looking little like a team that many say was completely outplayed in Friday's 4-1 loss in Game 1.

"The guys are loose and excited," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "That's the emotional level we want our team at for the morning skates. We want them excited about the game, we want them talking to each other and we want them having fun."

I'll check back in when before game time, but that is all for now. It's back to the hotel to pack for an early-Morning departure tomorrow and get some lunch before reporting back to the Garden at 5 p.m. or so. See you then.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Kessel skating
05.03.2009 10:54 a.m.

Boston forward Phil Kessel is one of eight Bruin skaters that took part in the morning skate. Kessel missed practice yesterday after suffering a swollen elbow in Friday's Game 1.

Kessel was taking shots and doing everything else at Sunday's morning skate at the TD Banknorth Garden. He was joined by Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, Byron Bitz, Aaron Ward, Mark Stuart, Steve Montador, and Shane Hnidy. Manny Fernandez was the only goalie on the ice.

--Shawn P. Roarke


Carolina Culture Club
05.02.2009 3:50 p.m.

Carolina coach Paul Maurice had an interesting take on his team's comeback ability so far in the first eight games of this postseason run.

Carolina fell into three separate holes in their first round series, but climbed out each time. Then, in a winner-take-all Game 7, Carolina scored two goals in the final 80 seconds to turn a 3-2 score line into an improbable 4-3 victory that assured this date with the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

And now that Boston has won Game 1, Carolina will have to claw its way back yet again to even up this best-of-7 series.

Saturday at the team's hotel, Maurice said his team's scrappiness is rooted in the mindset of the franchise, which has been an underdog for much of its existence.

"I think it goes back to the philosophy and culture of our organization," Maurice told NHL.com. "Making the playoffs is not a given for our team. We're not a (salary)-cap team, but we believe that getting to the playoffs makes you a Stanley Cup contender.

"It believes that now more than ever because it is probably Anaheim, Detroit and Carolina that are the only repeat contestants in that (Final) match over the last eight or nine years. We believe it won't be easy at any time -- you can win the Cup and miss the playoffs. Everyone understands it goes the other way, as well.

It's not a matter of let's wait until we believe we are contenders before we try to win. You can stay in the fight long enough and if we needed a near-term reminder of that, we can just go back to the last two minutes of Game 7 -- that regardless of where you are at, you're still in the fight."

So, expect Carolina to come out fighting in Sunday's Game 2. Clearly, they already know that they have a puncher's chance of winning any game.

Well, that's all for me today. Both teams are skating at the TD Banknorth Garden Sunday morning and I will be on hand with reports, including an update on the Phil Kessel situation. See you then.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Kessel has sore elbow
05.02.2009 1:56 p.m.

Boston coach Claude Julien just finished addressing the media and he said that Phil Kessel was held out of practice Saturday because he has a sore elbow. But, the coach said, Kessel will play in Game 2.

"He banged his elbow," Julien said. It's not a big deal, it’s just a little swollen this morning so we kept him off. He'll be 100 percent tomorrow."

It is believed Kessel injured the elbow after falling awkwardly in the corner after absorbing a hit from Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen in the second period. Kessel was seen in replays of the hit laying on the ice and grimacing in pain before getting up and rejoining the play.

--Shawn P. Roarke


Kessel not practicing
05.02.2009 1:06 p.m.

According to both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, Phil Kessel is not skating at today's practice, which ran about 30 minutes or so.

Kessel was shaken up in the second Period when he took a solid hit in the corner from Carolina's Joni Pitkanen while setting up Marc Savard's first goal, the game-winner in an eventual 4-1 victory.

Kessel continued playing in the game and even set up Savard's second goal at the 7:21 mark of the third period, taking another hit from Tim Gleason to leave a drop pass for Savard.

In all, Kessel played 15 minutes and 14 seconds in Friday night's Game 1, finishing with two assists and a plus-2 rating. 

In practice, he was replaced by Byron Bitz on the top line, joining Savard and Lucic. That won't be the case if Kessel can't go in Sunday's Game 2 as coach Claude Julien has several options at his disposal to add another offensive presence to that line.

We'll have more details as they come along.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Good night!

05.02.2009 12:33 a.m.

This bull gang at the TD Banknorth Garden is sure effective. I just finished my stories sitting up here in the press box and the Garden's changeover crew already has most of the parquet floor down for tomorrow's Game 7 between the Celtics and the Chicago Bulls.

The Bruins were just as effective in Game 1 against Carolina, showing little of the rust people expected. The game was tied 1-1 and then the Bruins pulled away with three goals to make the final 4-1. Two of those three goals were the result of turnovers caused by Boston's suffocating defense.

Now, both teams have 48 hours to prepare for Game 2.

Carolina knows it needs to get better and will meet tomorrow to discuss ways to do just that. They are not taking the ice because Paul Maurice, their coach, believes the Game 1 meltdowns were more mental than physical.

"Our problem wasn’t (with) our legs," Maurice said. "It was between our ears."

But, believe it or not, the Bruins also plan on working to get better on Saturday. They will skate at noon at their practice facility.

The first period, in terms of consistency, you can’t have that," said Aaron Ward, the Boston defenseman. "The further you go, they will make changes in their system, and adapt to what we’re doing. We can’t have periods of standing around including forwards and defensemen, we have to be accountable."

I'll have reports from both camps tomorrow. See you in the morning!

--Shawn P. Roarke

Bruins dominate second
05.01.2009 9:14 p.m.

After a middling first period, Boston really hits its stride in the second period, scoring the only two goals of the period to take a 3-1 lead in Game 1.

Marc Savard got the first at the 7:21 mark of the period, lofting a backhander of a juicy rebound past a sprawled Cam Ward. Phil Kessel's second effort to get off the shot set up the goal. And, with the primary assist, Kessel now has points in all five Boston playoff games.

Speaking of guys that have points in every game, Michael Ryder struck again at the 12:38 mark, scoring an unassisted goal for his second point of the night and ninth of the playoffs.  Ryder intercepted an ill-advised cross-ice pass from Tuomo Ruutu just outside the Carolina blue line and froze defenseman Denis Seidenberg with the hint of a pass to Blake Wheeler before snapping off a wrister over Cam Ward's left shoulder and just under the crossbar

Both teams switched up their lines in the second. Boston's Milan Lucic saw some first-shift time, with P.J. Axelsson moved to the fourth line. For Carolina, Paul Maurice played Eric Cole on the top line, replacing Chad Larose later in the period.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Tied after 1
05.01.2009 8:18 p.m.

So much for the letdown everyone feared would plague the Bruins in taking the ice for the first time in 10 days in Game 1 of the eastern Conference Semifinals against Carolina.

Boston scored on its first shot, an Aaron Ward slapper that made its way through a mass of bodies before it was deflected by David Krejci and took Carolina goalie Cam Ward by surprise just 94 seconds into the game. Michael Ryder received the secondary assist for making the pass to Ward and has now scored in all five of Boston's playoff games. He has 4 goals and 4 assists.

Carolina continued its penchant for late-period heroics, scoring the tying goal with 70 seconds remaining. Jussi Jokinen took a drop pass from Ryan Bayda and drilled a slapper that beat Tim Thomas to the 5-hole.

Boston went into a little lull after their goal, taking almost five minutes to get its next shot, but they also limited Carolina to mostly perimeter play, despite the fact that Carolina enjoyed a 10-8 advantage in shots.

Andrew Ference, playing in his first game after being out since April 12 with a lower-body injury, played more than 7 minutes in the first period, credited with blocking one shot.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Ference a go
05.01.2009 7:33 p.m.

As, expected, Andrew Ference is back in the lineup after missing the first-round series with a lower-body injury. He replaces Shane Hnidy, who stepped into the lineup and played strong after Matt Hunwick went down with a ruptured spleen the day before Game 2 of the first round series.

Both Ference and Hnidy took the pre-game skate, so there was no clear-cut decision until the starting lineups were announced just now. Byron Bitz and Hunwick are the other scratches.

Carolina went with the same 20 players that won Game 7 against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night, meaning that defenseman Frantisek Kaberle is once again a scratch. Carolina has decided to keep together the Eric Staal-Ray Whitney-Chad LaRose line, at least to start.

Boston coach Claude Julien has countered by starting his defensive line of Patrick Bergeron, Mark Recchi and Chuck Kobasew, as well as shutdown defensemen Zdeno Chara and Aaron Ward.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Chance encounters
05.01.2009 5:26 p.m.

I just arrived at the TD Banknorth Garden after a quick jaunt across the Charles River on the MTBA's Red Line and a transfer to the Green Line to get to North Station.

As I came up the escalator, the last of the Northeastern grads, some still in cap and gown, and others holding flowers, were walking away from the Garden. 

That means another quick changeover for the Garden bull gang, which has been doing yeomen's work for the past three weeks reconfiguring the building to suit the needs of the Bruins, the Celtics and other tenants here.

At 5:10 p.m., they were just pulling the last of the protective covering off the ice and lo and behold, there was Dan Craig, the NHL's ice doctor, monitoring the whole operation. In fact, he was standing in the same exact spot I found him back in Game 2 of the Montreal series, when the bull gang had to switch over the ice after an afternoon Celtics game that went into double-overtime.

Again, he was calm, cool and collected, suggesting that the ice will be in good condition. It certainly is cool enough in the building today, that's for sure.

The place is starting to come to life now. Media wasn't allowed in until 4:30 p.m., because of the Northeastern graduation, so it is a late-arriving crowd. When I arrived at 4:45 p.m. or so, NHL.com correspondent Bob Snow was already here, as were the Carolina writers. Pierre McGuire, who is doing the game for TSN (it is also on Versus and RIS), came in just a few minutes after me.

I'm going to do some homework on tonight's game, but I'll be back with the starting lineups when they are announced. About the only thing we are really waiting for is to see if Andrew Ference plays tonight after being out since April 12. Both the player and coach hinted it was a strong possibility at the morning skate earlier today. 

--Shawn P. Roarke

Carolina concerned about letdown
05.01.2009 2:14 p.m.


Everyone assumes that Carolina will have the advantage in Game 1 because they are just three days removed from a dramatic Game 7 victory against New Jersey in the last round, while Boston has been idle for 10 days.

But, Hurricane coach Paul Marice is not buying that storyline. In fact, he is concerned that his team may be overconfident after escaping a three-games-to-two hole in the series a 3-2 deficit with just 1:21 left in Game 7 at the Prudential Center.

"The real question is which way do (the players) need to go?" said Maurice. "Are they still up? Or are they too relaxed? I'm more concerned about getting them back up because of the emotion and excitement of that seven-game series and the tendency to take a deep breath and relax a little bit and only remember the good things. You don't remember how hard it was. How you felt when there were three minutes left (in Game 7). We're more worried about getting the legs back up and getting them ready for the battle."

But, that high-wire act of keeping your team on an even keel is one of the biggest challenges of the playoffs, so Maurice accepts it as part of a coach's lot in the postseason.

"We're expecting our team to be fresh," Maurice said. "We both have challenges. (Boston) played four games and sat a long time and we played an emotional seven-game series. Each team will handle what they have to deal with and do what they do on the ice."

--Shawn P. Roarke

We're ready
05.01.2009 11:55 a.m.

How ready are the Boston Bruins to start the second round of the playoffs? To say that they are champing at the bit would be an understatement.

Boston has been practicing and scrimmaging for nine days straight now. They are sick of seeing each other and can't wait to see some hostile faces across from them on the Garden ice tonight.

Perhaps that is why only nine skaters and goalies Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez took the option of skating this morning at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass. Forwards Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler, Chuck Kobasew and Byron Bitz, as well as defensemen Aaron Ward, Andrew Ference, Shane Hnidy, Dennis Wideman and Mark Stuart took part in the 30-minute skate.

Plus, the Bruins are tired of hearing question  about how rusty they will be when they take the Garden ice tonight, playing for the first time in 10 days

"There might be some of that, but we can't use it as an excuse," said Milan Lucic, Boston's rugged forward. "We need play our game and do what makes us successful. Early on, we just have to keep things simple and make sure we have good shifts and good support. Obviously, we haven't played in a long time. We haven't been at the Garden in two weeks here, so the crowd will be into it real early, so the crowd will be real into and we'll feed off them.

Boston last played at the Garden in Game 2 of the first-round series. They practice here at Ristuccia and skated here this morning, in part, because the garden ice was not available. Northeastern is holding its graduation there today.

For that reason, Carolina did not even have a morning skate. They are having player availability at their hotel right now and we should have some highlights of that soon.

-- Shawn Roarke

Talking about practice

04.29.2009 4:00 PM ET

Rust or rest is always an argument in the playoffs, and the Boston-Carolina series is going to help settle this age-old argument.

The Bruins easily dispatched the Canadiens in the first round in a four-game sweep and haven't played since last Wednesday and have resorted to scrimmages in practice to stay in game shape.

"I think it's important that we don't let ourselves slip too much and try and stay on top of our game and that the kind of the idea behind the scrimmage," Bruins coach Claude Julien told the Boston Globe. "A little bit of a scrimmage (will) put us into game-like situations as best we can, and then make sure that we stay on top of our game."

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron is getting antsy waiting for the second round to start and knows that Julien is just trying to keep his team focused.

"We've got to make sure we're staying sharp and (Julien) is making sure by making us skate hard and doing some scrimmages that we've got to work hard at," Bergeron told the Boston Globe. "He doesn't want us to just go out there and just make plays that you're not going to do in a game."

Conversely, the Hurricanes are coming off one of the most entertaining series in recent memory, when they upset the Devils by scoring two goals to overcome a one-goal deficit in the final 80 seconds of Game 7 in New Jersey.

The Hurricanes proved that they aren't about to give up, but could be a little battered heading into the second round and could desperately use some time to recoup, but they only get Wednesday and Thursday before Game 1 of this series starts.

-- Adam Schwartz

Quote of the Day

My focus is always just to play as well as I can and do my job, no matter where the faceoff is.

— New York Rangers forward Carl Hagelin on using his speed to his advantage
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