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Game Day: Bruins @ Wild

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
6:26 p.m. (in St. Paul)

Dennis Wideman was another veteran Bruins who said that the Black & Gold have to keep pushing for "W" tonight.

"Obviously when it’s time to play the game we’ve got to be focused and intense no matter if we’ve won four in a row or five in a row or if we’ve lost four in a row," said Wideman. "When you’re winning it’s a lot more fun coming to the rink for practices and stuff like that so I think the guys are having a little bit more fun, but we still have to know when to flick the switch and make sure you’re ready to play the game."

What's been the difference lately, Dennis?

"I think we’re probably executing the system better and we’ve had the same system for the last three years so the guys in here no how to play it and I think we’re just working harder, winning more battles and we’re executing chips and getting pucks in behind the D a lot better recently," said Wideman. "I mean earlier in the year we weren’t putting it together.

"There were games where we were scoring a lot but there was no D and then there were games we played great D but didn’t do anything offensively.

"I think recently, even before we started winning three games, we were starting to get closer and things were coming together and I think now we’re playing well," he said.

Much like Coach Julien and Zdeno Chara, Wideman said that the B's still have room to improve.

"Our power play can obviously be quite a bit better, we scored two or three game last game on it, but on a consistent basis our power play has to be a lot better," said Dennis. "As far as five-on-five I think we’re playing well, but I think there’s still special teams can be better."

2:55 p.m.
Chara. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Earlier this afternoon, Zdeno Chara said that this evening's contest between his Boston Bruins and the Minnesota Wild is important to the Black & Gold.

"We set a goal before this four-game road trip and obviously we won three games, but we want to win this game," he said.

Chara indicated that his club has brought more to the table in the last couple of weeks and hoped to give themselves some real proof of those improvements by finishing this current road swing on a high note.

"I think that especially our emotion in the game and energy and desperation have improved a lot and we’ve been playing with all those aspects in the game and it shows," he said. "We’ve been playing much better."

And,  like many of his teammates and his coach, Chara believes that the issues the Bruins faced -- and overcame -- during the opening days of the 2009-10 should, in the long run, make the Bruins a better team.

"Every time you’re facing different [issues], either due to injuries or not winning games or whatever that is, you need to battle through it and keep it positive and really stick with it," said the captian. "Work hard and eventually it’s going to happen for you and it seems like we are on the right track right now.

"It doesn’t mean that we have all those struggles...behind us, but we just need to make sure we always keep on top of our game and stay on top of ourselves, too.

"It's Just one of those little things can make a difference and we don’t want to take it easy just because we won three games in a row."

I took the oportunity to ask Zdeno how he was feeling.

"I feel good," he said. "As long as the team is winning, everybody is feeling good, and you can see everybody is much happier.

"The mood in the locker room is very positive so yeah it’s going to be exciting again."

As you might expect, Chara believes that the team's attitude directly impacts their play. So, the B's current locker room atmostphere makes a clear difference in terms of the product on the ice.

"Yeah of course," said Chara. "I mean you can see the guys are having fun either practicing or playing games and it’s so important that you win games and put some streaks together because then all of a sudden you see that it's also not just the mood, but [the team's] confidence itself is just rising and everybody’s playing with that much more security and belief in their game."

2:42 p.m.
Plenty of gameday video is up, here.

1:51 p.m.
Tim's Better, buuuuut...
Tuukka Rask will be in goal tonight against the Minnesota Wild.

"He’s better," said Coach Julien of Tim Thomas during his pregame media availability. "[Buf if you're] asking whether he’s going or not, he’s not going to go tonight.

"I had a chat with him afterward, and I think there’s a possibility for next game, but tonight I think we’ll go with Tuukka again."

And Tuukka hasn't been too bad, thank you very much.

"The thing is that we all realize that Timmy’s our number one," said Julien. "But you also realize that you’ve got a, as we’ve often mentioned, a 1-A [and a] 1-B or however you want to look at it.

"I don’t think the team feels any less confident with one or the other because I think they really feel the same way we do. That is that [goaltending is a] position of strength, and we have two reliable guys that are capable of making a difference in a game and that’s fun to have."

Julien said that Rask's attitude has been commendable.

"I feel him wanting to step up for his teammates," said Julien. "He doesn’t want to let them down.

"Just listening to his comments and everything else: 'We’ve been losing some games we should be winning, so I want to make a difference and help this team win some games.' He’s really in there for his teammates.

"And we’re showing confidence in him because he’s given us reason to and his play has certainly made our...goaltending even stronger than we could have even anticipated," he said.

11:26 a.m.
I'm heading into the bowl to watch practice. I'll tweet the goalie info, etc.

11:01 a.m. (in St. Paul)
Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, of Finland, left, makes a glove save with Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, of Slovakia, protecting the crease during the third period of the NHL hockey game in Buffalo, N.Y., Friday, Nov. 20, 2009. Boston won 2-1 in overtime. (AP Photo/Don Heupel)
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has garnered a lot of praise for his play in the place of Tim Thomas, but don't expect him to change anything about the way he goes about his business.

"Focus on every puck, every game, just like you do every day," said Rask of his mantra. "That brings the consistency in your game and that’s what everybody wants, and that’s what you want to try to find in your game."

Rask said he tries to remain level-headed in his approach.

"It’s all about a day-to-day [consistency]," he said. "You have to know where you stand in the team and, right now, I’m playing games and it’s great.

"But you know Timmy [Thomas will] play...when he gets back and plays those games that I’ve been playing.

"So, I've just got to...know my place in the team. It’s just all about not getting too excited or not feeling too comfortable," said Rask.

Tuukka, who tends to sound as if he has ice-water in his veins, also admitted that he is having the time of his life.

"Yeah, I’ve had fun all year," he said. "This is something I’ve been waiting two years down in Providence for...and I've just got to enjoy it everyday."

Rask said the coaching staff and his teammates have helped him through his rookie season -- particularly goalie coach Bob Essensa.

"Obviously, if you make mistakes or something like that [the coaching staff] let you know...but mostly it’s just goalie Bob who talks to me and I talk to him," said Tuukka. "We go through things and see what needs to be done and what’s good in my game.

"So far it’s been pretty good."

Some might even say very good. But Rask isn't satisfied. He's just doing what he's supposed to do -- stop pucks.

"If you show you’re confident, and they’re confident in you, then you got to give them back something," said Tuukka of Boston's giving him a chance to shine. "You want to play good and win games.

"That’s what it’s all about in this league. You’ve got to win."

9:01 a.m.
Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic (17) takes the puck from Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Zach Bogosian (4) during the third period of their NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009, in Atlanta. Boston won 4-3. (AP Photo/John Amis)
The Bruins have morning skate in little over two hours and as we speak are enjoying a team breakfast at the hotel.

Yesterday, before he left the Xcel Energy Center (or simply, "The X") I asked Milan Lucic what he had done to stay ready for his comeback.

Since re-entering the lineup on November 19, Lucic has two goals and has been a major contributor to the B's three game winning streak.

"I think the big thing was we did a lot of conditioning and skating and all that type of stuff to make sure that I was at the best I could be, so when I came back that wasn’t an issue," said Lucic. "That’s helped me get back in the feel of things.

"I’ve been able to move my feet a lot quicker and get up ice quicker and all that type of stuff."

And on top of the training staff's regimen, just being able to play has been a huge motivating factor.

"I’m just happy to be back," said Milan as he cracked one of his patented grins. "There's the excitement of being back and having fun out there again and I think that’s what really gets you going and gets you in the game more than anything."

But as his injury heals, Lucic will have to keep his wits about him.

"Definitely," said Lucic, who ignored at least one attempt by the Blues to get him into a fight. "It’s easy to go and get all crazy, go wild and do whatever you want, but there’s a high risk of re-hurting yourself.

"So for me it’s just being smart," he continued. "For me, there’s no reason [to fight on Monday]. I mean, I was just out there making clean hits and doing what I do.

"So it’s not going to change the way I play at all."

Tuesday, November 24
6:02 p.m.
As promised, lots of videos are going up on

Not too much on Tim
This afternoon after practice, Coach Julien had no definitive update on Tim Thomas.

"It’s always a possibility [that he could start on Wednesday]," said Julien. "But as I’ve mentioned he’s is day to day and some days I talk to him and he’s doing much better and after practice today he didn’t feel quite as good.

"That could change tomorrow, as well, so we’ll stick with that day-to-day situation because that’s basically what it is."

Considering the Bruins present situation, however, it really doesn't seem necessary to fret about much.

Julien was pleased about the B's win streak, but is not satisfied, either.

"I think to get a four-game winning streak is nice, especially on the road [having] tough buildings to go into," said the B's bench boss. "But at the same time we’re looking a little bit further than that and what it means for us as far as moving up in the standings and getting our team back to what we wanted it to be at the beginning of the year.

"We kind of had a slow start here, so we’re trying to make up some ground.

"Getting on a streak will certainly help us get there," he said.

A bit on Bitz
One of the nicest things about last night's 4-2 victory over the Blues was the play of Byron Bitz.

Byron, called "Bitzycat" by his teammates, did not seem out of place on Marc Savard's wing during the center's return to the club from injury. That was fine with everyone in Black & Gold as Bitz is a very popular player in Boston's locker room.

"Yah, and I think for all the right reasons," said Julien of Bitz. "Those guys...see different personalities and he’s a pretty humble individual and really respectful towards everybody and he is a team first kind of guy.

"So, whatever you want to do with him, whether you want to put him on a checking line, fourth line, top line, he’ll just go out there and do his job and be modest about it.

"That’s how I think you earn respect from your teammates," said Julien.

Byron has maintained that "aww shucks" attitude since he was called up to the Bruins last year.

"He doesn’t need to gloat," said Julien. "I think his work speaks for itself and everybody that’s going to watch him play knows he’s been playing some decent hockey."

Boston is scheduled for morning skate on Thursday at 11:30 a.m.

1:52 p.m.
It looks like things are winding down.

However, bostonbruinsTV's producer Jon Gotlib and I were pretty busy this afternoon. So, pretty soon you should see plenty more from Minnesota.

Off to the locker room...

1:35 p.m.
The Bruins are about halfway through this afternoon's practice. There are 13 forwards, 7 defensemen and 2 goalies on the ice -- or the full traveling roster.

12:52 a.m.
When in Rome...
I had hoped to do a little more of this during the first half of the season, but I was finally able to sit down at a local eatery for my own version of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives."

Today we hit Mickey's Diner in St. Paul, Minnesota.

First of all, to hit any reasonably priced working man's food in the high rent districts that usually house our team hotel is amazing, but to run into one by accident is another dimension all together.

Mickey's Diner, like many diners, was designed to look like a railway dining car, and was made elsewhere and transported by flatbed. It has an art deco look and was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1983.

You won't be shocked to hear this, but they don't take reservations and the house rules read thusly:
No Smoking.
No Checks.
No Take Out.

And they have free parking while you eat.

A bonus, Mickey's has been prominently featured in numerous television shows and movies; everything from the Mighty Ducks to Easy Rider. explains:
Mickey's Diner has been featured on the Food Network series Unwrapped, Roker on the Road, Rachel Rays' Tasty Travels, and Alton Browns' Feasting on Asphalt. Mickey's has appeared in The Smithsonian, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Easy Rider, Playboy and Elle magazines. Mickey's Dining Car has been replicated as a collectible by Department 56, The Danbury Mint and Saks Fifth Avenue. The Mighty Ducks I, II, III, Jingle All the Way and A Prairie Home Companion movies contain scenes that were shot on location at Mickey's.

It's been around for 70-years (24/7/365) and counting, and it shows, frankly. But the grub was hot and good and the waitstaff was friendly and I got out of there by shelling out just over 10-dollars for two eggs over easy, lots of toast, bacon, hashbrowns and a bottomless cup of coffee.

Beyond all of that, it reminds me of places that my dad and my grandpa and my friends have frequented for as long as I have been alive.

Long story short, it made me feel at home while I am nowhere near home. And, sometimes, that is as good as it gets.

Besides all of that, now I have "another" reason to re-watch the Mighty Ducks.

11:23 a.m.

Blake Wheeler looked pretty happy following the Bruins 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues.

And why not?

The big forward had the Bruins second goal of the night and just a few hours later would be back home in Minnesota preparing to play in front of friends and family on Wednesday evening against the Wild.

Not to mention that Blake's Bruins had just won their third game in a row and have grabbed points in eight of their last nine games.

But as far as the win over the Blues was concerned, Blake pointed to the return of Marc Savard as one catalyst for what turned out to be the B's third win in a row.

Savard may not have had any points, but the return of #91 marked the return of the depth that put the Bruins over the top so often in 2008-09.

"It's huge having Marc back," he said. "It just gives us tremendous depth at our center position."

And how! When Vladimir Sobotka is your healthy scratch and Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are not necessarily your top line centers, things are looking good for your hockey club.

"We have four really great centers and having that high scoring...guy like Savvy in there it's just adds a different dimension to our team," continued Wheeler. "It kind of gives all four lines a little more breathing room because they just key off the line that is playing the best that night, they have to respect all four lines.

"So, having him in there is definitely going to pay dividends -- it did tonight and it's only a matter of time before he starts working his magic."

Wheeler has worked some magic of his own during his time in the NHL (where he has a 27-30-57 line and a plus-35 in 104 games), but early in 2009-2010, things just haven't come easly for the smooth skating winger.

At the beginning of last season Wheels was whispered to be a surefire candidate for the Calder Trophy. His numbers dropped off slightly in the second half, and he saw time in the pressbox as the season waned.

To his credit, however, Wheeler came back to the Bruins bigger and stronger having gained 15-pounds of muscle over the summer. But as the season got into gear, some scratched their heads wondering when Wheeler would regain his previous form.

However, Bruins head coach Claude Julien never wavered in his public support for Wheeler during the first 20-games of the season and insisted that Blake's lack of production came from a simple lack of confidence.

Thankfully for Coach Julien and fans in the Hub of Hockey, the doubters have recently gotten their answer, and  the big University of Minnesota product has a 2-2-4 line in his last five games.

Clearly, it was a very confident Wheeler who addressed the media postgame on Monday and talked about the Bruins regaining their form.

"You want to keep this ship going in the right direction," said Wheeler of the Bruins (and perhaps speaking of his own season, as well?). "For the guys who were here last year, we know what it's like to get on a hot streak and I think the feeling is starting to get really good in our locker room.

"The confidence level is definitely rising with each game, so we just want to keep doing whatever it takes to keep this momentum going."

And when you have momentum going, it certainly helps to have your Wheels on track, too.
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