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Bear Essentials: February 6th

by John Bishop & Angela Stefano / Boston Bruins
4:09 p.m.

Aaron Ward, Michael Ryder and Chuck Kobasew were missing from practice.

"[Ward's] just a little under the weather, so he got a day off today.  No injury.  It’s more of a flu bug," said Julien. "[Chuck] Kobasew got a maintenance day and should be playing tomorrow.

"[Michael] Ryder, he’s going to be fine tomorrow, as far as we’ve been told’s just making sure that with that cut near the eye, we just made sure that everything was OK."

Julien spoke about Manny Fernandez and his progress.

"He’s feeling good, and...physically, he’s 100%," said Julien. "I think we made the right decision by [when] we gave him a chance to heal.

"It’s just a matter of spotting him in the situation when we feel he’s ready."

With Milan Lucic, who did return to the ice, Julien was noncommittal.

"Every day there’s decisions to make," said Julien. "He says [his foot] felt pretty good, and we’re going to come in tomorrow morning and evaluate the situation."

Why so cautious?

"Because you know what happens, everything’s OK today, and tomorrow we get surprises," said Julien. "There’s also been a flu bug going around the we’re being extra cautious right now.

3:59 p.m.
One of those one-in-a-million chances presented itself to Shawn Thornton during Wednesday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers – or, rather, it hit him squarely in the head.

“It was quick,” said Thornton of the “bad luck” puck that strayed from the ice and resulted in the stitches he currently sports across his forehead.  “I think somebody tried to dump it in, and it went off a skate or a stick, and I was on the bench, and it hit me.”

The incident happened with less than a minute left in the game, but, being a hockey player, Thornton got the stitches and was back on the ice for Thursday night’s game.

“He’s a pretty tough guy,” said linemate Byron Bitz.  “He’s got to wear a visor right now, and guys are kind of making fun of him for it, but it’s really good to see.”

Fortunately, Thornton’s luck on the ice has been much better.  He’s got a career-high five goals and has two goals in his last six games, including the game-winner in the February 1 game against Montreal. 

That game, he also recorded an assist, giving him his career high for points in a game.

“I guess, just the line’s been working hard,” Thornton said.  “We’ve been getting pucks on net, and more have gone in lately.  That’s really the only difference from earlier – they weren’t going in.”

Bitz, who has credited Thornton as a sort of mentor in his short time in the NHL, praised the left winger for how easy he is to play with.

“I know where he’s going to be, I know where he’s going, and he’s going to get in there on the forecheck,” Bitz said.  “I just read off of him.”

But being backed up by a veteran NHL-er and a skilled rookie makes it all the easier, said Thornton.

“Yelle…he’s got two cups, he knows when to do the right things,” he said, “and I think Bitzy’s doing well, coming in, and his personality, even off the ice, is pretty mature.”

3:51 p.m.
Milan Lucic was back on the ice this afternoon, but the shot heard round the Hub, a.k.a. Aaron Ward's slapshot, which struck Luch's foot in Philly, was still big news.

"I didn't get it with my stick, and it hit me," he said. "Stuff like that happens all the time, so you just have to be mentally strong and battle through it."

Lucic did so on Wednesday and finished the game, but on Thursday he was forced to sit.

"It's made a lot of progress between yesterday morning and yesterday night," said Lucic. "It's feeling pretty good right now.

"When you get a hard shot like that anywhere there's not much you can do about it."

Asked what he was thinking when he realized he was hurt, Lucic was frank.

"Obviously I wasn't too happy about it when it happened, but, you're looking at the positives, like today, getting the good news that nothing's broken down there," he said. "These kind of things happen to teams every year.

"You have to face adversity, and you have to face your teammates going down.

"I think one good thing that happened last year, with guys going down, was that guys like me,
Krejci, and other guys, we had to step up, try to elevate your game," he said.

Morning Update...

The Bruins wake up this morning owning a 14-point lead on the rest of the Eastern Conference, thanks to their sloppily-exciting-come-from-behind-sort-of victory over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night in Ontario.

“Yeah, very fortunate,” said a smiling P.J. Axelsson to NESN’s Naoko Funayama postgame. “We didn’t deserve to win this game – we weren’t good enough today.

“We had a lot of luck on our side today, and we’ve got to come out and play better Saturday if we want to win.”

Bruins head coach Claude Julien explained it best.

“Well, I think as the game progressed, we seemed to run out of gas,” said the coach to NESN. “We didn’t have that jump that we normally have, and they had a lot of jump -- they seemed to have a lot of energy -- and we just couldn’t match it there for the longest time.

“I think we squeaked in a good win here, and we’ll take the two points and take it for what it’s worth, but we certainly didn’t have that jump that we’d like to have.”

The shootout became the most nerve-wracking part of the evening, but Tim Thomas and Axelsson came through.

“The longer it went, my head started going down the bench, and wondering where it would stop, but Timmy stood tall, obviously, and all we needed was the one goal, and Axie gave us it,” said Julien.

Boston will practice today at noon. It’s an open practice at the TD Banknorth Garden.
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