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Game Day: Bruins @ Penguins

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins

Boston 0 3 2-5

Pittsburgh 1 1 0-2

First Period-1, Pittsburgh, Sykora 13 (Fedotenko, Jeffrey), 17:00.

Second Period-2, Boston, Chara 7 (Axelsson, Wideman), 4:46 (pp). 3, Boston, Savard 12 (Krejci, Wideman), 9:30 (pp). 4, Pittsburgh, Dupuis 9 (Crosby), 15:13. 5, Boston, Kessel 23 (Savard), 16:43.

Third Period-6, Boston, St. Pierre 1 (Savard), 5:28 (sh). 7, Boston, Wideman 8 (Chara, Axelsson), 9:38.

Shots on Goal-Boston 16-14-10-40. Pittsburgh 10-11-13-34.

Goalies-Boston, T.Thomas. Pittsburgh, Fleury. A-17,132 (16,940). T-2:24

0:00 - Boston wins 5-2. I have to catch the bus!

1:11 - Thoams robs Satan. Tim's contribution might be lost in the firepower, but he had a good game.

3:03 - Lucic just crushed some guy named Wallace.  A good fight, but Luch just smoked him. Somehow the PP's get a PP. That was Lucic's sixth of the season.

3:57 - Kobasew with a late powerplay bid, some how had it go straight up off Fleury's glove and out of play.

5:26 - Staal with a shorthanded shot that Thomas handles...

5:37 - Sykora in the box for hooking.

6:33 - Timmy had to make a couple of routine saves. Pittsburgh looks deflated.

10:22 - It's 5-2. Wideman buries a puck from the blueline. Perfect shot. It's 5-2. It wasn't on the power play, but it was just a few seconds after the man advantage ended. NESN reports that is Wideman's first three-point night with the Bruins.

12:20 - Fleury stops another couple of shots.

12:29 - Boston is back on the power play. Goliogoski gets the hooking call for slowing up Kessel. The Pens are lucky, because another day that is a penalty shot. It looked as if Phil had a clear line to the goal and was being stopped by the lumber.

14:32 - Martin St. Pierre scores a shorthanded goal off a terrific defensive formation. St. Pierre was in a great position to take a pass and beat Fleury cleanly. Gorgeous. It's 4-2. That was Marty's first goal of the season, his first with the B's and first NHL SHG.

17:56 - Hnidy in the box for inference.

16:42 - Timmy turns the trick to stop a shorthanded bid by the Penguins. He stopped the puck with his right pad and kept the B's in the lead.

17:11 - Wheeler gets a one-on-one with the goalie, but is stoned by Fleury.

18:32 - Cooke caught St. Pierre in the face and Bruins will be back on the PP.

20:00 - Start of the Third. I just heard the B's coming out of the locker room and they were pumped!
0:00 - A late flurry is stopped by Fleury and score remains 3-2, Boston. Shots are 30-21 in favor of the Bruins. A good session for the B's who were dominating for much of the stanza.

1:59 - Malkin in the box for interference. I think Boston is two for five on the PP.

2:04 - A little keystone cops routine behind the Bruins goal has Tim diving for the puck to get a faceoff.

3:17 - More hard work from Kessel and Savard who forechecked and kept shooting until it went in. Savard finally found Kess off a rebound and the younger forward tapped it into a yawning net. It's 3-2, Boston.

3:55 - TV Timeout. Boston leads in shots, 22-21.

4:47 - A bit of a defensive breakdown leaves Pascal Dupuis with an open shot. He took the pass from Crosby, tattooed it and found the B's net. It's 2-2.

6:43 - Crosby with a shot from beyond the circle to Thomas' left. Tim hangs on for the draw.

7:23 - This time Timmy stops Malkin. Very nice.

10:30 - Savard scores. Again, the pass is the thing. Krejci passed from left to right and found Savard alone off the left post of the Pittsburgh goal. But Savvy had to fit the puck between Fleury's left shoulder and the joint of the crossbar and post. He did and it's 2-0 Boston and it's nearly a silent building here in Pitt.

11:04 - Malkin goes to the box for hooking. He slowed Krejci down on the right side as the Bruins began a breakout. Remember it's a four-on-three power play.

11:45 - Thomas with his own game-saver. He stopped Crosby with his right pad to keep the game tied at 1.

12:03 - Kessel got into it with Maxime Talbot, who elbowed the younger forward in the head. Both men got penalties for roughing and the temperature just went up in here...

12:56 - The B's Savard line created a bit of havoc down behind the Penguin net. Orpik almost had another penalty for holding up Savvy, but the B's got another shot away and Fleury held on.

Jordan Staal is the youngest player ever to play 200 NHL games...

15:14 - Chara scores. A gorgeous goal created mostly by P.J. Axelsson who threw a turnaround pass from the near boards, through a couple of bodies, to Chara, who was waiting by the wide open back door. Fleury had no chance. It's 1-1.

15:36 - Orpik held up Lucic behind the Pittsburgh goal and got an interference call. Boston's third PP.

16:39 - Icing Pittsburgh. The Bruins are the team with more energy. And they have really taken the life out of the 17.132 people in the sold out Igloo. But they have to score...

18:53 - Boston is pressing early and Kessel puts his fourth shot of the night into Fleury's chest.

20:00 - Start of the Second. Hold the line, more shots on Fleury.
0:00 - It was a good PK for Boston and not a horrible period. But one screwy play put them behind the Penguins, 1-0, going into the break. Boston leads in shots, 16-10. Fleury was definitely the difference in the first.

Pittsburgh outhit Boston, 9-6. Chara and Ward each had two for the B's and Scuderi had two for the Pens.

2:10 - Wheeler took Orpik down -- sort've -- and gets a penalty. Slashing. Pittsburgh's first PP.

3:00 - A weird goal for Pitt. Thomas made the original save, then one with his head (?) and then Sykora scored into a basically open net. It's 1-0, Pitt.

3:23 - Pittsburgh icing.

4:56 - Despite not scoring, a good power play for Boston, who got plenty of shots on the Pitt goal and now lead in shots 15-5.

7:21 - Sykora volleyballed the puck out of play and gets a delay of game penalty.

9:31 - Right now, Fleury is the difference in the game. He has 11 saves, including two in succession versus Wideman and Krejci.

9:54 - Dude. They just ripped on Blades via the jumbotron. Not cool.

10:39 - I missed this when it happened, but Penguins TV showed St. Pierre popping Malkin and sending him flying...

11:49 - This time it's Fleury who robs a forward, Yelle, who had a pretty good chance at a fairly open net. It may not have counted though -- Yelle had to catch it, put it down, and then tap at it. But he may not have gotten a stick on it.

12:47 - Kessel hits the post.

13:31 - Thomas stops Cooke on a shorthanded breakaway. Yeesh.

14:46 - Some hard work by the Bruins -- namely Blake Wheeler -- pays off. Eaton is in the box for hooking and Boston is on the PP for the first time. Shots are 3-2, B's.

17:41 - Icing Pitt.

17:59 - Two saves for Thomas, who bailed out the B's when they got in each others way.

18:55 - Phil Kessel gets things moving with a hard shot on Fleury, who gloved it down for the faceoff.

19:06 - Icing Boston. The Bruins came out a little tentatively.

19:56 - Yelle won the faceoff and the B's got the puck deep.

20:00 - Start of the First Period. This place is packed and loud!

These guys (the Pens) are going to come out flying, but look for Lucic to do the same.

Boston Starters:
Lucic, Yelle, Kobasew, Wideman, Hunwick, Thomas
Pittsburgh Starters: Gill, Dupuis, Whitney, Satan, Crosby, Fleury

Let's switch to time on the clock...

7:13 p.m.
On the line change...
Claude Julien spoke about his moving some players around.

"It's just a matter of shaking up the lines," he said after morning skate. "We're trying to get them going in the right direction again. "

"I hear things about Lucic, it's really not Lucic -- it's the whole line that's responsible.

"The same thing with moving Axie out of there, too. The line needs to be better. Obviously, as individuals, they need to get their game going again...and as I line I think we'll get some better production and some better play out of them," he said.

7:08 p.m.
Here are the lines...
Axelsson - Savard - Kessel
Lucic - Yelle - Kobasew
Wheeler - Krejci - Ryder
Sobotka - St. Pierre - Thornton
Chara - Ward
Hunwick - Wideman
Stuart - Hnidy

Nokelainen, Lashoff

6:18 p.m.
My view...
Dinner has been had, the ushers are getting ready and the Bruins are in the building.

There's going to be a hockey game tonight, folks, and there is quite a buzz in and around the building. It's a student night, so there were black and gold clad kids ringing one side of Mellon Arena (who booed when the Bruins bus went by).

I am in the catbird seat height above rink side, with a God's eye view of the Zamboni doing its last cleanup before the warmups.

As they are the top team in the Eastern Conference and several points ahead of their nearest competitor, as far as the Black & Gold are concerned, this is a chance to pit themselves against the East's playoff champs from 2007-08 and maybe prove once again that they are a genuine force to be reckoned with.

There will be a change in how the Bruins lines look tonight and we'll report that as soon as the B's start line drills a little later. Pittsburgh is supposedly changing things up as well, and Pens are said to be skating seven defensemen (including the formerly injured Hal Gill) and will have to sit a forward.

Now, as I am sitting in the dome of the Mellon Arena, some words about this building -- I love it! The architecture might be out of early Vatican II, but it is really cool in its spare design.

Did you know the roof opens? I didn't until today.

Why does it open? I am not sure.

But hey, every seat looks to be great and the press box is pretty nice, too. The ceiling is actually like that of a cathedral and with the lights peeking out of the precipice, you could strain yourself to see a resemblance to large stars in the sky -- particularly with the dome being mostly unlit.

On the way over, I saw the big hole that they've dug for the new arena, and I silently said to myself that I hope to get another look at this old barn -- the oldest in the NHL -- one more time before it croaks.

I wonder if Mario is around?

3:52 p.m.
Who are these guys?
This morning, the Pittsburgh’s media, who saw the Penguins go to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, were trying to figure out what to make of the upstarts from Boston.

And, without seeing them on a consistent basis, asked Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien if he had changed his defensive philosophies and perhaps give some insight into the B's turnaround in the goal and wins columns.

“I think that’s reputation that other people give you,” said Julien of the Black & Gold's former reputation of '"trapping" their way through the league. “You don’t give yourself that reputation [but]  I’m okay with that.

“I’ve always said that good defense leads to good offense and I still believe in that. So, our team continues to play well defensively. And, with the talent that we have this year, we are a lot better offensively.

“We retrieve the puck and we go on the attack and we manage to score more goals. That’s been nice to see. Obviously, we have good support from our D on the rushes a little more than we did last year,” he said.

Julien said that, overall, not much has changed in terms of how he teaches and coaches the game.

“It’s like anything else, you need to make small adjustments with the personnel we have,” he said. “To say that we’ve ‘opened up’ a lot more wouldn’t be the case.

“We create a lot more and obviously we’ve got a lot more depth, offensively, than we had last year due to injuries and due to youth and everything else, so it’s been different that way and it’s served us well, so far.”

Bruins 2.0
Yesterday’s practice could be seen as a ctrl – alt – delete (or zapping the p ram for you old school Mac addicts) for the club and Coach Julien was asked what he expected from his Bruins tonight.

“We’ve gotten a little loose, lately,” said Julien. “And that’s the thing that we keep talking about – making better decisions and not being so loose.

“[We’ve] got confidence and if you’ve got a certain amount of skill you can get away with it for a while, but eventually it catches up and when it does it takes you a lot longer to find your groove again.

“So, we’re trying to keep our guys on their toes and really try and continue to make them compete and be accountable no matter what the final score or the win column shows. It’s a matter of assessing ourselves more on the type of game we’ve played and the effort that was given and the number of mistakes compared to other games,” he said.

That way the Bruins can work out whatever foibles they might have, before crunch time arrives later this season.

1:11 p.m.
Carolina Hurricanes' Tuomo Ruutu (15), of Finland, fires a shot at Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (30) with Bruins Dennis Wideman (6) and Matt Hunwick (48) nearby during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Bruins won 4-2. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
Defenseman Matt Hunwick has a good sense of humor.

Asked if there were any differences between the two goaltenders, Hunwick said no and added, "As long as I am not scoring on them in or around the net I think we'll be okay."

That sarcastic quip was in reference to a goal that ticked off Hunwick's own stick and past Manny Fernandez in the Atlanta game. However, the young defenseman was not being funny when he spoke in serious tones about the Bruins two netminders.

"They've been outstanding this year," said Hunwick. "There's not much difference between the two.

"Their numbers are phenomenal...and they've won us a lot of games, especially lately, when we've felt like we aren't playing our best -- they are always there to make the big saves.

"It's been great having them there."

Hunwick feels as if the defensive corps and the goaltending tandem are in sync.

"At times we help them out, and at times they're there to bail us out, so it's going really well so far," he explained. "Both have done really well stopping the first shot and their rebound control has been really good.

"As defensemen we would like to keep the forwards to the outside and let them shoot from the angles. Our goaltenders have done a great job as far as making that first save and putting the rebounds in places where their guys can't get them."

Optional skate...
Fernandez and Thomas were joined by Hunwick, Ward, St. Pierre, Yelle, Lucic, Stuart, Krejci, Nokelainen, Wideman, Wheeler, Lashoff, Kobasew and Kessel for a short optional pregame skate.

12:04 p.m.
Tim Thomas left the ice first. Look for him in goal tonight.

11:17 a.m.
A decent guess at Pitt's lines...
Fedotenko - Malkin - Sykora
Dupuis - Crosby - Satan
Cooke - Staal - Talbot
Bissonnette - Jeffrey - Wallace
Eaton - Whitney
Orpik - Scuderi
Goligoski - Boucher

BTW: Hal Gill was also on the ice, so that could throw the whole thing off in terms of his placement or if the Pens go with seven "D".

10:19 a.m.
I am in the bowels of "The Igloo" and the Bruins will go on the ice around 11:30 a.m. The Penguins should be on the ice in a few minutes.

Injury update...
Nokelainen (Photo: Alan Sullivan)
With Aaron Ward back in the lineup, the Bruins are carrying one extra defenseman.

Petteri Nokelainen represents the Bruins extra forward right now. He practiced with the Bruins energy line on Monday.

"He's doing better," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien yesterday afternoon. "He was a little bit more involved in the drills and obviously we'll continue to work on his conditioning.

"He's inching closer to the next level, which is full contact. Right now, he's involved in some scrums without taking heavy obviously, things in his situation are going well."

There was no new news on Patrice Bergeron.

"Same old, same old. It's a day-to-day [situation]," said Julien. "They are checking up on him day-to-day.

"His headaches are always better as we move on, but they are still there.

"He is feeling better and is [improving] at a better pace or rate than the first time it happened -- it's not even comparable -- but the headaches are still there but are 'minimizing' everyday and hopefully they'll disappear."

On the Road...

Where are we?
Pittsburgh, PA. (National Geographic)
Known as “The City of Bridges,” Pittsburgh sits on a triangle of land where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers form the Ohio River.  As such, the city has 446 bridges and, because the city is rather hilly, 712 sets of stairs for pedestrian use, according to Wikipedia.

Pittsburgh was named in honor of British statesman Sir William Pitt in 1758 but pronounced “Pittsburra” (like “Edinburgh”) until April 22, 1794, when the pronunciation was changed.  The city was also spelled “Pittsburg” during the late 1800s, but a citizen campaign brought the “h” back to the end of the city’s name in 1911. 

Home to Andy Warhol, Pittsburgh has a museum for its famous artistic son, but also a more unique tribute: a downtown parking garage, instead of numbering its floors, codes them by famous Warhol paintings.

Where are we playing?
Mellon Arena opened in 1961 as Civic Arena, hosting its first show – the Ice Capades – on September 19 of that year, according to the arena’s website.

The arena’s roof is the largest retractable, stainless steel dome roof in the world.  It has no interior support, is made of 2,950 tons of Pittsburgh steel, and can open or close in only two minutes.

Pittsburgh Penguins fans outside the Mellon Arena. (AP Photo)
The arena was originally built for use by the Civic Light Opera and became home to the Penguins in 1967.  It was renamed in December 1999 after Pittsburgh-based Mellon Financial.

Mellon Arena is nicknamed “The Igloo” and is is the oldest arena in the NHL.  Next season is scheduled to be its last, as the CONSOL Energy Center, being built across the street from Mellon Arena, will take its place for the 2010-2011 season, and Mellon Arena will be demolished.

Mellon Arena has hosted performers like Frank Sinatra and The Grateful Dead.  The Beatles performed there on September 14, 1964, and Elvis Presley took the stage on June 25, 1973.

Who are we playing?

The Pittsburgh Penguins were founded during the NHL’s first expansion in 1967.  Last year’s Eastern Conference champions, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in the 1990-1991 and 1991-1992 seasons.  They were also division champions in 1992-1993, 1993-1994, 1995-1996, and 1997-1998.

Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, right, and player Sidney Crosby smile together as the team announces Crosby will be the team captain and where the "C" on his jersey in Pittsburgh, Thursday, May 31, 2007. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Currently home of young favorite Sidney Crosby, the Penguins were the team to draft Mario Lemieux in the 1984 Entry Draft.  When the team declared bankruptcy in 1998, Lemieux offered to buy the Penguins with salary money they owed him, and, on September 3, 1999, Lemieux became majority owner of his old team, the first former player ever to do so.  He returned to the ice in 2000, becoming the first player-owner in the NHL.

The Penguins chose their logo – a penguin in front of a gold triangle – to represent the “Golden Triangle” of downtown Pittsburgh, according to Wikipedia.  The team’s colors of black and gold are shared by all three major sports franchises in the city – the NFL Steelers and MLB Pirates being the other two – and have become “unofficial colors” for the city.  Police and fire departments use them, and they are the main colors of the city’s flag and seal – and some downtown fire hydrants.
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