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B's Notebook, 3.20.08: Montreal vs. Boston

by Angela Stefano / Boston Bruins
Thoughts from the Net

After this morning’s pre-game skate at the TD Banknorth Garden, Tim Thomas got the third degree from the large number of media on hand. Obviously, they focused on tonight’s game against the Habs, but the B’s netminder, as well as the rest of the team, is trying something new: they’re facing tonight like it’s just any other game.

“We’ve never really played ‘our game’ against them this year,” said Thomas, “so I think that’s why we’re trying to approach it like we would any other team.”

The Bruins know they’re in a tight playoff race, and in the “every team for themselves” atmosphere that’s developed, they can’t rely on anyone else to win or lose so that they stay in the top eight.

“It’s even more important for us to hold up our end of the deal right now,” Thomas explained.  “It’s in our hands.  Nobody else is helping us out.  I think they’re worried about helping themselves out, so we’ve got to help ourselves out.”

And while winning their first game all season against Montreal tonight would be sweet for the Black & Gold, the two points – not the revenge – would be the best part.

“If you don’t make the playoffs, you don’t have to worry about who you’re going to play,” said Timmy.  “There’s too many factors there, so I think it’s more important to just get the two points than it is to prove anything to Montreal.”

…And from the Bench
Head coach Claude Julien, too, was trying to live in the moment in regards to tonight’s match-up.

“The one thing I’ve learned is that there’s no sense dwelling about the past.  It’s about what’s ahead of you,” he said.   “Right now we’ve got a game to play and a game to win, and that’s what we should be focusing on.  What’s happened in the past is history now, and you’ve got to be able to turn the page.”

Coach gave the Canadiens their due, however, crediting skilled players and some luck in staying healthy with aiding them to the top of the standings.

“We keep asking ourselves where we would be had our team been a lot healthier, but that’s part of the game, and you learn to deal with those situations,” said Coach.  “But for [Montreal], being healthy and having that kind of skill, there’s no doubt that they’re where they should be right now.”

When it came to a strategy for the night, Coach Julien was brief.

“We’ll play our game,” was all he would say. 

“We’ll leave it at that.”

Injury Report
All four injured players – Andrew Alberts, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and Manny Fernandez – joined their teammates on the ice for practice this morning.  The first three ran through drills and took shots with everyone else, while Fernandez spent some time in goal blocking slapshots.

Chara, of course, is closest to returning, but the coaches were tight-lipped on the subject, saying only that the decision of whether or not to put the captain in tonight’s game would be made shortly.

“He just got off the ice,” said Coach Julien, “and we’ll probably know more by game time.”

The head coach called Big Zee a “big part of our team success” and “an important factor,” but added that, even if he returns tonight, the rest of the team still has a job to do.

“We need 20 guys to do the job tonight, and one guy isn’t going to be a savior,” he said.  “But when you’ve got a guy like that coming back in the lineup, it’s great for everybody.”

Additionally, Fernandez has been fully cleared, but Coach Julien warned that this does not mean he’s ready to jump into the game tonight – or soon.

“He’s ready to participate in full practices, [and] there are no restrictions,” said Coach.  “But he’s a guy who hasn’t played since the beginning of the year.”

But the further the B’s go, the more likely it is that Manny could return.

“I think he’s ready to go hard, and hopefully we might be getting into a position where we might be able to use him.

“Right now, our saving grace is we’ve got two goaltenders who are playing extremely well, and we’ve got a third one here who will hopefully shortly be in that same position.”

At the end of interviews, Bergeron spoke to the media himself – in both English and French.

“I’ve waited four and a half months to have a chance to [practice with the team], so it’s a great feeling,” he said, adding that practicing with everyone is fun, but being able to help out in a game would be better.

Patrice said he knows, however, that he can’t rush the healing process.

“I’m just going to take it step by step,” he said.  “The next step right now is to gain some weight…and also to build my muscles, get my game shape and my timing back, and then it’s going to be contact drills.”

The time away, Bergeron said, has made him realize how much he loves his job.

“When you have 82 games in a season, you have fun, and it’s a great sport, but you don’t appreciate it as much, and you don’t say thanks enough,” he said.  “Now that I’ve been away from it, I get a chance to realize that it’s my passion, and I’m thankful for every second, every minute I’m on the ice.”

To top off the good news, Bergeron, as of this morning, is making this weekend’s road trip to Montreal with the team.

“I don’t know if I’ve still got my seat on the plane,” he joked.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Just a fun note…

Groups of kids sometimes get to check out a pre-game skate, but this morning’s small gathering got a special treat.

While the players were signing autographs as they left the ice, Andrew Ference hoisted his stick up to one little boy, whose face turned to an expression of complete awe.

It might be a little too big for him to play with -- yet, but that’s certainly a cool memento.

And Another Thing…
Those attending tonight’s game should be sure to get to their seats by 7 p.m., as Glen Murray will be honored in a pre-game ceremony.

Sunday’s game against the Washington Capitals marked Muzz’s 1,000 career NHL game, and the team and league plan to honor this milestone.
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