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Columbus vs. Boston

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
Chuck, Tim, and Tuukka with their friend Emily.

9:39 p.m.
Hello all. Just got into the the Garden.

Yesterday was a busy day for the Bruins organization. The team was split into several groups to play Santa and deliver toys and goodies to hospitals around the city.

So, I accompanied Chuck & Krissy Kobasew, their friend Terry, Tuukka Rask, and Tim & Melissa Thomas to the pediatrics unit of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital (located in the Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary) where Spaulding staffers Suzanne, Tim, Deb, McKenzie et al helped the B's spread some sunshine, Black & Gold style.

About Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital:
Founded in 1971 as the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Network is one of the largest rehabilitation facilities in the U.S., providing comprehensive rehabilitation treatment.
Their network includes:

•    196-bed main hospital
•    Over 60 physicians on staff
•    6 specialized inpatient programs in rehabilitation
•    4,000 inpatient admissions annually
•    8 outpatient centers throughout Massachusetts
•    More than 200 physical, occupational, speech-language and recreational therapists
•    140,000 annual outpatient visits

But beyond the stats: Basically, Spaulding is an amazing help to children who need to work their way back to being a kid after illness or injury.

"It's really nice when these things happen," said Suzanne Showstack gesturing towards the B's and the patients. "It gives the kids a chance to step away (from their issue).

"These kids are here for 30 to 60 days.

"And most have come from an acute care setting," she said.

Acute Care = Mass General, Beth Israel, Brigham and Womens, etc + Surgery or Chemo Therapy, Radiation, etc.

"Then they come here to do rehab," said Suzanne. "It's work for them."

But that work brings hope.

"(Here) they get a sense that there is (a road) to recovery," she said.

The Bruins looked as if they gave the children they encountered at least a little distraction on that long, hard highway.

"This (visit) absolutely helps," added Suzanne. "The second that there is an announcement that the Bruins are coming (there is excitement) and afterward they'll be talking about nothing but this.

"It's really an opportunity, not only for the patients, but for the families as well, to sit back and smile."

And what could be better therapy than that?

For a bit of heartwarming, click here for a photo gallery.
12:10 p.m.
In what might have been the relaxed Boston Bruins locker room that i have ever been in, Our Boys prepared for their tilt with the Columbus Blue Jackets with nearly every weapon in the arsenal. Besides Patrice Bergeron, all of Boson's available personnel were present in a surprisingly up-tempo pregame skate.

Passing drills were the theme of the morning session with the loudest chirping coming from the top line. Marc Savard and his veteran colleagues know that good teams never lose two games in a row -- and are virtually unbeatable at home.

"That's been our forte this year," said Savard, "Playing well after a loss."

Truly. But tonight is far, far from a gimmie.

"These guys have a good hockey team," emphasized Savvy. "The worst thing we could do would be to take this team lightly -- they are starting to play great.

"And they kind've got a bit of us in them."

Those words were echoed by head coach Claude Julien.

"Our two teams are pretty identical," said Julien. "Low expectations at the beginning of the year and maybe, a surprise for some people.

"They are as good as we are.

"(The Blue Jackets) are well structured, have a great goaltender -- it should make for an interesting match up tonight," he said.
Claude Julien introduced a team-defense system that has transformed the Bruins.
3:56 p.m.
Back in town.

Boy. What a difference two days makes. On Thursday had I tried to get back home to Central Mass. I would have been watching the game from a friendly establishment off of Route 20 (The Halfway Cafe, perhaps?).

Today, pregame skate, lunch, drive back -- all in three hours. Amazing!

But the snow is coming late tonight (post game), so I am pretty glad that there is no game tomorrow.

As for tonight's game, Super-intern Helin Siris collected some quotes from Coach Julien's press scrum from this morning and I am going to pass them along:

On re-establishing home ice…
"We’ve come back here last couple of times, playing our third game in four nights with a fresh team waiting here for us so certainly didn’t put ourselves in a great spot by losing those two games.  Obviously, we’d like to rectify that tonight with a solid effort and a big win."

On re-establishing physical edge…
"Well, basically, it’s re-establishing our game.  We’ve had success on the road; we’ve shown parts of that; we’ve shown parts of a lot of things.  But, right now, it’s just making sure we have a solid effort tonight.  It’s about playing a gritty game and making sure we win the game."

On playing a team outside the conference…
"I think every game’s important now.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s in your conference or out of conference.  When you look at the standings, those games all become important and if you want to stay or move up from where we are, it’s important that we keep winning hockey games."

On Columbus Blue Jacket Forward Rick Nash…
"There’s a lot of everything there.  There’s size, there’s skill, there’s speed, there’s a scoring touch.  It’s just one of those guys that if you don’t respect before the game, he’ll make you respect him after the game.  So, we’re well aware of him."

On the development of Bruins Defenseman Mark Stuart…
"He was one of those guys battling for a spot at training camp and once he made the decision and gave him some ice and let him improve, basically, at his own rate, earn more ice time. Right now he’s turning into a pretty solid defenseman.  We’re extremely happy with his improvement, probably beyond what we expected him to be at this time of year.  We knew he was going to be a good defenseman, but I think he’s improved at a faster rate than we had predicted."
Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic fights with New Jersey Devils right wing David Clarkson in the first period of their hockey game in Boston, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
4:22 p.m.
Count Milan Lucic amongst those who applauded Hockey Canada, not only for returning Brad Marchand to their junior team roster for the upcoming worlds, but also for making the pesky forward an assistant captain of the club.

"He competes hard," said Lucic, who should know that having played alongside him at Development Camp and Training Camp. "He wants to win and he goes out there and shows that he wants to win.

"And he is going to play hard for that team and do everything he can to make sure they come out with a gold."

A keen observer might catch a bit of jealousy on the face of Mr. Lucic, who himself was captain of Team Canada during last summer's Canada/Russia Super Series. Although, admittedly, wearing the Black & Gold everyday has trumped any other desire for the Neelyesque forward.

"They have a very good team...some real confidence going in," he said, but added," Obviously it would have been neat to play in the World Juniors.

"I talked to (GM) Peter Chiarelli about it and we were both on the same page.

"We felt that I would be better off staying here and working on my game (with Boston)...I wish them the best of luck and hopefully they come back with some big victories."
6:30 p.m.
Our Boys just hit the ice with Alex Auld in the lead.

From this morning's pregame skate I estimate that tonight's lineup will look thusly:
Ference-Chara (sg) Auld
Alberts-Wideman (bg) Rask
Stuart-Ward Go Bruins!
6:55 p.m.
Nothing extra going on, friends. See you in the running recap. Go Bruins!
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