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Game Day: Capitals vs. Bruins

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
6:42 p.m.

Vladimir Sobotka and Byron bitz will be the scratches. The lines can be found, here.

Click in the box to the right to join us in the live blog.

6:29 p.m.
Tim Thomas and Jose Theodore led their teams out of the locker rooms.

4:40 p.m.
Pregame Pressbox Notes...
Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart underwent successful surgery to repair a broken pinky finger on his left hand on Monday. He is expected to miss four weeks. The surgery was performed by Dr. Matthew Leibman at Massachusetts General Hospital on Monday, February 1. Stuart sustained the injury on Saturday, January 30 during the team’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. Adam McQuaid will take Stuart’s spot in the lineup tonight.

“I like the fact that he has been physical,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien of McQuaid after today’s morning skate.  “I like the fact that he has played tough and has stood up for his teammates when he had to.”

Bench Hardware: The last two Jack Adams Award winners will be coaching head to head tonight, as Boston’s Claude Julien won the Jack Adams last year while Washington’s Bruce Boudreau took home the honors in 2007-08. Voted on by members of the NHL’s Broadcasters Association, the Jack Adams Award is given annually to the head coach “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.”

Unlucky 7: The Bruins have lost their last seven games at 0-5-2. They have not lost eight straight games since they went 0-8-0 from December 22, 1955 – January 12, 1956, which is the second longest losing streak in team history. The longest losing streak in team history is 11, from December 8, 1924 – February 17, 1925.

Caps Notebook: Washington is coming off a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday…The Caps have won 10 straight games, matching a franchise record, and are 13-1-0 in their last 14…During their 10-game win streak they have outscored their opponents 47-21…Alex Ovechkin has 8-12-20 totals during the streak…Alexander Semin has a nine game point streak in progress with 6-10-16 totals during this span…Goaltender Jose Theodore has won seven straight games…The Capitals lead the Eastern Conference by 8 points and the Southeast Division by 23 points…Mike Green, who leads all NHL blueliners in points with 52, will not play tonight as he is serving game two of a three game suspension for an elbow-to-the-head during their game against Florida on January 29.

B's/Caps Connections: Mike Knuble played for the Bruins for five seasons from 1999-2004 (307 GP, 69-76-145 totals). Shaone Morrisonn was originally drafted by the Bruins in the first round (19th overall) of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft and played 41 games for Boston before being traded to Washington in the Sergei Gonchar deal. Defenseman Brian Pothier is from New Bedford, MA while defenseman Tom Poti is from Worcester, MA and attended Boston University from 1996-98. Jason Chimera played for Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien with the Hamilton Bulldogs from 1999-2002, while Jose Theodore played under Julien as member of the Montreal Canadiens. Theodore was a teammate of current Bruins Steve Begin and Michael Ryder. Bruins Scout Tom McVie coached the Capitals from 1975-79 and compiled a 73-163-48 record. Tomas Fleischmann and David Krejci will both play for the Czech Republic in Vancouver.

Special Teams Watch: The Bruins are tied for 17th in the NHL on the power play overall (17.7%) and 6th at home (21.8%). They rank 3rd on the PK overall (86.4%) and 5th at home (87.2%). The Capitals rank 1st on the PP overall (26.3%) and 3rd on the road (26.8%). They are tied for 19th on the PK overall (80.5%) and 27th on the road (74.1%).

4:15 p.m.
Jose Theodore #60 of the Washington Capitals
Mike Vogel, the senior writer at reports:
Jose Theodore held the Bruins to one goal in a 4-1 win on opening night here in Beantown, back on Oct. 1. He won three games in October, three in November and three in December. But he caught fire in January, going 8-1 with a 2.28 GAA and a .930 save pct.

Theodore is currently riding a personal seven-game winning streak, matching his personal best. He had a seven-game run late in the 2001-02 season with Montreal, the season he won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP.

Versus the Bruins during the regular season, Theodore, who is a safe bet to be in goal when the B's and Caps clash tonight, is a modest 11-12-3 vs. Boston, with a 2.49 GAA and .918 save percentage.

But don't let that fool you.

Claude Julien, who coached Theodore in Montreal, knows Jose very well -- he was behind the bench when the former Hab took the Northeast Division champion Bruins down in the first round of the playoffs back in 2004.

"Well, he is a competitor," said Julien of his former goalie. "Even when he got traded out of Montreal, going to Colorado, if I was a betting man I would have said he is going to prove everybody wrong.

"He has always been a competitor that way and that is what made him great in the past and that is probably what got him back on track.

"The way he is rebounding right now shows the quality of his character," he said.

2:02 p.m.
During his post-skate media briefing, Coach Julien talked about the task ahead of the Bruins.

"Well, we don’t get to pick our opponents unfortunately," said Julien of the East-leading Caps. "You have to take what comes by and they have been playing...well and confident.

"They’ve got a lot of skill on that hockey club, so we’ve got a challenge, but, again, this is something that we don’t control but feel good enough as a team right now to face that challenge," he said.

Thanks to a couple of good efforts, moral is high.

"It is," said Julien. "I think in order to get out of these things you have to [stay positive].

"From coaching staff to the players, and everybody surrounding the team, there is only one way to get out of this and that is by sticking together."

But don't go expecting the Bruins to focus on ending the Capitals winning streak -- the B's are turning their focus inward.

"The only motivation we have is winning a hockey game here," said the B's head coach. "I don’t think we need to try and find more than that.

"That should be motivation enough for us.

"I think that is what I am trying to say here guys, let’s keep it simple.  Let’s go out there to play the game and play to win and hopefully get the result," he said.

12:21 p.m.
Tim Thomas was the first goalie to leave the ice this morning and should be in goal when the Bruins take on the Washington Capitals tonight.

In regards to the B's recent losing skid, after morning skate Thomas said that the pressure can mount, but that players need to keep it in check.

"You can't help but have the pressure build on you...the further it goes," said the veteran goalie. "But probably the way out of it is to not feel that pressure and just be able to shut it off and play.

"But obviously it's not the easiest thing to do."

I asked Tim if pride was on the line for the most veteran Bruins -- perhaps even more so than those players who have recently entered the Black & Gold locker room.

"No, we win as a team and we lose as a team," said Thomas. "I don't think it is any different for me than it is for anyone else."

Ten game winning streak in tow, the Caps are in the building for their morning skate and Thomas was asked if playing against the Eastern Conference leaders held the same allure as it might have when the Bruins were fighting for the top spot.

"If you can go out against the hottest team in the league...the highest scoring team in the league and have success, then you know you did a good job and are heading in the right direction," he said.

By the way, lifetime against the Caps, Thomas is 9-3-2 with a 2.58 goals against, a .918 save percentage and a shutout.

9:46 a.m.

There's a scene in The Natural when Pop (Wilford Brimley) asks Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) if his bat (Wonderboy) is the problem causing a prolonged dry spell at the plate.

Hobbs/Redford retorted, "Whatever's wrong isn't the bat."

Yesterday, as the sportswriters in Boston asked about the issues confronting the Bruins, head coach Claude Julien made it clear that whatever is wrong with the B's isn't the system.

"We haven’t changed our system at all this year, except to try and improve with our forecheck a little bit more," said Julien emphatically. "So last year we were second in the league in scoring. This year we’re not.

"It’s not because we said, ‘Hey, we scored too much last year, let’s pull back here.’

"We’re trying to do the same thing. Our D’s are supposed to support the attack, which they do on a lot of occasions. Our finish just isn’t there. Our scoring chances last year were going in more than they are this year...This year they’re not. That’s the biggest difference. So we can over analyze this all we want, it is what it is," he said.

Clearly, the system worked wonders last year. So Julien isn't going to throw out his heretofore proven methods for making the Bruins "harder to play against."

"People can talk about the system and say we’re a defensive-minded team, but we’re out-chancing, we’re out-shooting on a lot of occasions and we send our fourth guy, our D, up on the attack," he said. "So I don’t know what part of our game is so defensive.

"We’re not finishing," continued Julien. "If we can start scoring goals on those opportunities, we’d get different results.

"So that’s why I have to stay on top of these guys here and make sure we don’t get too down on ourselves and keep encouraging them to try and finish better and get those results which would change our team drastically."

In the interim, the denizens of the Hub of Hockey are looking for lightning bolt patches and asking, "Where's the lady in white when you need her?"

Hopefully Glenn Close and the squadron insignias show up before the Caps do...JB
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