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A Big Day...

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
7:02 p.m.

A great day...
Clearly, the other shoe has dropped. Milan Lucic, now an important and integral cog in Peter Chiarelli's blueprint, will be a member of the Boston Bruins for at least three more seasons.

You can hear the cheers from Hartford to Bangor and from Provincetown to Stockbridge.

The reasons for signing the power forward are simple: Lucic's style is a throwback to the glory days of the Boston Bruins organization and fits perfectly into Chiarelli's edict of "being harder to play against."

The reception for Milan in cities around North America (most obviously Montreal) proves that he, and his hands, shoulders and fists, have indeed made Chiarelli's second year mandate of a tougher Boston Bruins a distinct reality.

Since signing with the B's, Lucic has been on the record as saying he loves Boston. Anyone who has met the young man knows that he loves playing for the Boston Bruins and certainly loves wearing Black & Gold. Furthermore, there is no doubt in my mind that Lucic has wanted to become and remain a Bruin since the first time he drove a duck boat on his first trip to Boston during Development Camp '06.

Like many of his predecessors in Black & Gold, Lucic's heart and desire enhance his skill set and physical gifts. Not only does Milan possess the tools inherent in a champion, but his work ethic, ream first attitude and integrity not only make him a better hockey player, they also make the players around him better.

It's clear that other young players like Blake Wheeler and Byron Bitz looked to Lucic's example when they skated onto the ice at the TD Garden for the first time. They understood that Milan's ability to change a game with his physical play as well as his hockey skills are the benchmark for success while wearing Black & Gold.

They, and anyone else wearing a spoked-B, also understand that Lucic has their back. Period.

Today is a big day for the Boston Bruins. The signing of Milan Lucic, coupled with the signing of David Krejci earlier this year, have enabled the Bruins to keep their momentum moving forward and, perhaps, has set up another opportunity for Boston's beloved Luch to pilot a duck boat in the future.

3:31 p.m.
Duck Hunt?

During his post practice press briefing, Claude Julien was asked about Thursday's opponents, the Anaheim Ducks.

“Yeah, you know Randy [Carlyle's] pretty [methodic], actually he’s really methodic, about line matching, which you’ll probably end up seeing," said Julien of the Ducks's head coach. "No matter what, he’s going to put whatever line he wants against ours."

How do the B's match up against the Ducks?

“We like to use all four of our lines and roll through those, and I think it’s served us better," said Julien. "But as far as their style of play, it’s a lot like ours, very aggressive forechecking and they play hard in the neutral zone, they force you to dump pucks in and you can’t make the pretty plays in the neutral zone."

In any case, the Ducks will come to play.

“I know Randy has been very demanding of his players and it’s paid off for him -- he’s won himself a Stanley Cup,” he said.

Tim's in tune...
Bruins goalie Tim Thomas has gone all the way for Boston thus far, and it would not shock anyone if he just kept going.

Saturday's game was a marked improvement for the Bruins and Thomas, who, like many of his teammates, was not Satisfied with Thursday's results.

"Totally, night and day," said Thomas of the team's turnaround on Saturday, postgame. "The first 10 minutes the other night, the first game, we came out and we played like we played for 60 minutes tonight.

"The rest of the game the other night, I don’t know, it just was a bad home opener. We kind of looked at [Saturday] as a redo."

Couch Julien spoke about Thomas on Tuesday.

“I thought he was really, really good in Montreal, he was really good in Ottawa and those were two road games," said Julien. "Sometimes you get back at home and [try] to do too much.

"No matter what, Timmy will find his game and he’ll find his comfort zone and again. I don’t think that’s unusual for people that have seen him for a number of years now, it’s a little bit of the way he starts.

"[Against Carolina] he had basically about 12 or 13 shots with the first period, that’s not easy on a goaltender to stay into it and stay focused. So he’s done a good job and I know that he’ll get better as we move on here," he said.

11:43 a.m.
Practice is winding down. Heading to the locker room...

11:14 a.m.
In contrast to many of the earlier practices this season, yesterday and today the Bruins are very loose.  A good sign, I think.

10:52 a.m.
NESN Record

Saturday's NESN broadcast set a ratings record on Saturday with a 3.9 HH rating in the Boston DMA. The 3.9 was also the hight average household rating recorded in Boston's DMA during the game's 7:00 - 10:00 p.m. window -- besting all other broadcasts and cable networks.

"Bruins fans have picked up right where they left off after a record setting 2008-09 season," said NESN president and CEO, Sean McGrail in a statement. "We are delighted to start the season with another strong rating, demonstrating that Bruins fans are excited that hockey is back in season here in Boston."

According to a NESN press release, NESN's Bruins pre-game show "WB Mason Bruins Faceoff LIVE" also reached a major milestone on Saturday. The season-opening edition generated a 1.1 HH rating and was seen in 28,000 homes, more than any Bruins pre-game show in 2008-09.

10:26 a.m.
Milan Lucic is on the ice.

10:23 a.m.
Marc Savard is first on the ice.

10:13 a.m.
A Character Guy Talks About a Character Guy

There was plenty of talk about two of the B's character guys after yesterday's practice.

I asked Byron Bitz to talk a little about his linemate and good friend.

"I think Thortie gets a lot of respect in this room," said Byron Bitz. "I don't know if he gets the respects he deserves (outside)."

Bitz, like the rest of us knows that Thornton can be having the greatest "hockey" day of his life, and might have to interrupt it to drop the gloves with one of the league's heavyweights if need be.

"Everyone in here knows that Thortie would step in front of a bus for any of us," said Bitz with a shake of the head. "There's other guys [who would do] that too, and when you have teammates like that it makes a big difference," he said.

The inference here is that Thornton is one of the major reasons why the B's have such a tight knit, functional locker room.

"I've been in a few [rooms] over the years and as far as pro hockey goes, I don't know if you see this type of group that often," said Bitz. "It's the same as last year, guys will do whatever it takes for each other'

It looked like the Bruins had all of those things in mind last Saturday.

"I think we've put the right foot forward the other night with how we played," said Bitz. "We just need to keep going like that.

"It's habits. When you get good habits, you do it in practice. You do it during a game and we had a really good practice before that and we ended up coming out and playing really well. So it's one of those things where you can almost tell before the puck drops how we're going to  play."

Another Character
One of the reasons that Claude Julien and the Bruins were happy to have Steve Begin is that they knew exactly how the NHL veteran would play whenever he hit the ice.

"I think right now he's off to a good start," said Julien of Begin's beginning as a Bruin. "He's a hard working guy who will give that to you game in and game out.

"He's up there, i think, with three assists in two games and I don't think we should expect him to lead us in scoring, but, definitely what he's done in the last couple of games is usually what you get out of him."

Describing Begin, Julien described a human cannon ball.

"He's in your face, he makes things happen," said the Bruins head coach. "He puts the D's on their heels, because they know he is going to play through them all the time.

"So, this is kind of what we were looking for. A centerman on the fourth line with lots of energy and so far he's given us that in two games.

"But we have 80 games left and you have to be able to sustain that for 80 and I think if he is healthy he'll do that for us," said Julien.

Where for art thou Luch?
Speaking of healthy, there was a collective groan across New England (and a few cheers from up north) when it was learned that Milan Lucic was not at practice.

Fear not, True Believers -- Luch is just fine.

"I'll be very honest here, it's not hockey related," said Julien after practice on Monday. "He'll be back [Tuesday]."
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