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Bruins Notebook: Here Come the Habs

by Angela Stefano / Boston Bruins
Bruins Notebook 3.18.07

Here come the Habs...

Thursday is the first game of a home-and-home series with the rival Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins will travel to Montreal on Saturday to play at the Bell Centre in their final game against the Habs during the regular season.

Boston has not faced the Canadiens since 8-2 loss in Montreal on January 22.

“We had a couple of games in the middle [of the season] where we lost that were close games,” he said, “and we were a lot better than we were in Montreal [in January].”

So what exactly is it that has given the Black & Gold when they face le Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge?

“I think when I look back at the games, we’ve given them more goals than they’ve earned,” said Julien.  “I think that’s probably the thing that’s frustrating the most – the type of mistakes we’ve made against them.”

But Coach, as well as the team, believes that they can handle Montreal, and they’re ready to prove so in the next two games.

“It hasn’t been necessarily that they play us a certain type of way that we just can’t fight back against,” said Coach Julien.  “I think we have a pretty good idea of what we have to do.”

Words of Praise
Some reporters asked specifically about certain players during Coach Julien’s press conference, to which he responded with kind words.

For instance, 19-year old Milan Lucic has been establishing a powerful presence with his fights, but Coach urged the media to look past that one factor to see an improving player.

“For me, the ‘enforcer’ role is something that has been secondary,” said Julien.  “He’s probably one of our best players at getting pucks out along the boards in our own end, where he was probably one of the weakest at the beginning of the year.”

Still, other teams know when Luch is out there, he said, and that physicality has helped the Bruins as a whole.

“No doubt I think we all enjoy or respect the fact that he’s a tough combatant when it comes to facing up to the music,” he added.

Marc Savard, too, received much praise from the B’s head coach.

“Last game [against the Washington Capitals] I thought was one of his better games lately, as far as some of the things he did defensively and covering up and back checking and second efforts,” said Julien, who added that Savvy’s efforts against Alexander Ovechkin helped the team into overtime.

“By [playing defensively], we’re keeping games tight,” said Coach, “so he’s really done a good job that way.”

Movin’ On Up
The March 9 game against the New York Rangers marked defenseman Matt Lashoff’s 10th game this season with the Bruins.

“He’s just shown more and more confidence every time he’s come up,” said Coach Julien.  “He’s still a young player, and he still has a long career ahead of him.”

Lashoff has played 53 games with the Providence Bruins this year but was called up on an “emergency basis” on March 8.

Earlier this season, he was assigned to the NHL Bruins for nine games, returning to the AHL on January 11.

Coach said he felt that playing on the P-Bruins helped the young d-man improve his game.

“When he’s come up, he’s played better, and obviously his confidence level is getting there too.  He is a better player, especially than he was at training camp,” he said.

“[There] struggled defensively, he was getting caught out of position and he was getting beat one-on one.

"We’re seeing a lot less of that now.”

Coach Julien has lots of experience with the AHL style of hockey, having played in the AHL for several seasons and coached the Hamilton Bulldogs – then Edmonton and Montreal’s AHL affiliate – for over two campaigns.

“When you’re down at the American League level, everybody deals with [being re-assigned] differently,” he said.  “You have guys that come down and say, “You know what, I’m going to work my tail off, and the next time I’m called up, I’m really going to be ready for that second chance, and it was really great to get that opportunity.

“And other guys come down, and they’re a little down from being sent down,” continued Julien, “and the job of the coach down there is to spin things into a positive situation so that they can get their game back as quickly as possible.”

But, he said, once you get to the NHL, there’s still room for improvement.

“When you get to this level, and you want a guy to get better, I always say add something to your game, but don’t take anything away from it,” said Coach of his philosophy.

Injury Report
While the majority of the team spent their Tuesday practice time off-ice, injured players Andrew Alberts, Patrice Bergeron, and Zdeno Chara took to the ice, accompanied by coaches, goalie Tim Thomas, and no-longer-injured goalie Manny Fernandez.

Chara, who has been sidelined with an “upper torso injury,” stayed on the ice for over an hour and looked happy to be able to play, seemingly, without restriction.

Coach Julien said the B’s captain is day-to-day.

“He is getting better,” Julien said.  “Time heals.”

Fernandez, too, has been improving and, after being restricted from using the butterfly position for a while, is back to full strength.

"There are no restrictions or restraints on his part,” said Coach Julien, which leaves him with the tough job of deciding if Fernandez should play a game or not.

“We’ve got two goaltenders that are playing extremely well,” he said, and, in such a tight playoff race, disturbing the team’s chemistry could be risky.

However, “if the situation was right, say we had more or less clinched [a playoff spot], we probably would look at it differently,” Coach said, “but right now, we have to look at what the importance of this run is all about.”

Finally, Alberts and Bergeron stayed on the rink even longer than Chara and Fernandez, and practiced for about an hour and a half.  They both took shots on both goaltenders and, after the other three players had left the ice, they skated on their own and did some stretching.
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