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Game Day: Devils vs. Bruins

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
John Bishop is the beat writer for He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room.
3:49 - Devils win. Langenbrunner scores after Boston is unable to clear the puck from in front of Thomas. Boston gets a point, but it certainly has a sour taste.

5:00 - Start of OT. Four-on-four play.
0:00 - We are going to OT.

16.2 -  Thomas had to make two saves and cover.

1:45 - What a play by Brian Gionta. The former Eagle put it in front of the net and the puck went off Elias and by Thomas. The play should stand and make the score 3-3.

Another ugly goal.

3:10 - Boston is keeping it deep...

6:30 - Wideman scores! He made it look simple after he put it through a Devils defender and Milan Lucic and found the net. Boston is now in the lead, 3-2!

7:18 - Bergeron wrist shot, save Clemmensen and the puck goes into the stands.

8:31 - B's on the PP. Interference on Rupp. Boston is 0/3 on the man advantage.

8:33 - Thomas with a glove save and then he hold's on.

12:49 - That one was kind of pretty! Luch went straight to the net, hit the post (?) and the puck ended up bouncing between two B's behind the net until it came out front and Savvy put it by Clemmensen. Assists to Kessel and Lucic. We're all tied up. 2-2.

14:10 - Icing Boston.

14:53 - Nice hit by Hunwick on Clarkson.

16:23 - Clemmensen has to make a tough kick save...

17:41 - This is a mess. Chuck Kobasew hit the post on a wraparound and then it looked like the puck got pushed into the net and that Clemmensen made a good show of "keeping" it out.

Replays seem to indicate the opposite.

It's a goal! It's 2-1, NJD, with plenty of time. Give the goal to Chuck, even though it looks like it went in off a Devils defender.

A very ugly goal, ladies and gentlemen!

18:45 - Zajac hit the post.

18:52 - Lucic with very good effort down low...

20:00 - Start of the Third. We have a sold out game here tonight. 17,565. Thank you fans!
0:00 - The life really went out of the building (and this writer) after that second goal. Boston had some chances afterward, but nothing very compelling.

Clearly, Boston needs to create some more opportunites for a "messy goal" by creating some havoc in front of Clemmensen, who is obviously seeing a lot of the puck.

Timmy, on the other hand, has had to scramble quite often and that has led to NJ's two "ugly" goals.

6:21 - Another big save, but the puck wasn't cleared and Parise bounced it off Thomas and into the goal. It's 2-0, New Jersey.

6:34 - Whoa. A weird bounce near the goal put Thomas is a very bad spot and he had to scramble to make a save (or saves).

7:59 - Kessel slashed Bryce Salvador and is in the box for two-minutes.

8:47 - Chara's shot got tipped on the way in but got progressively slower and Clemmensen scooped it.

10:33 - Savard just got slammed to the ice by Bobby Holik. Holik is in the box for holding. Boston is on the PP for the third time.

11:28 - Icing New Jersey.

13:46 - A good, hard, low shot from the point by Bergeron. Lucic just missed on a swipe at the puck in front.

14:35 - Gionta for hooking. Boston's second power play.

15:29 - Some rough stuff in front of the New Jersey goal...just shoving.

16:34 - Shots are now 14-13, Boston. New Jersey has come out of the gate on fire.

17:48 - New Jersey is spending a lot of time in Boston's end.

18:32 - Beautiful save by Thomas...

20:00 - The Second Period.
0:00 - The score wasn't indicative of the work that Boston put into the first session, but nevertheless, it's 1-0, NJD. Everyone on the B's wants that shortie back, but good work by the Krejci and Savard lines nearly put the B's on the board several times.

Nothing to change, just hit the net.

38.1 - Chara put a wrister on Clemmensen from the blueline. The Devils keeper held on.

2:10 - Kessel had a nice shot off good work by Lucic and Savard. Shots are now 13-8, Boston.

4:59 - A flubbed Bruins shot on the power play led to a partial breakaway and a goal by the Devils.  It's 1-0, New Jersey. Give the shorthanded goal to Langenbrunner with a helper to Zajac.

6:41 - Tough non-call by the officials, as Wheeler is taken out and falls into the New Jersey goal.

6:58 - Brendan Shanahan goes to the box for New Jersey. Boston's first PP. The penalty was for hooking.

7:08 - Boston has been able to put some more pressure on NJ. Shots are 7-6, Boston.

8:50 - Lucic with a big, big hit on Oduya...

11:01 - Wheeler slipped the check by two Devils and then went into the zone, got the puck and put two good chances on the New Jersey goal. Very close. Good solid work by Wheeler.

12:17 - Tough shot by Ward on Clemmensen who had to make a nice save.

13:37 - The Bruins are having trouble getting any sort of sustained, organized attack over the NJD blueline.

15:21 - Boston get's a good shot on Clemmensen throught traffic. Shots are 4-2, New Jersey.

16:22 - Hunwick and Zubrus get into each other's faces...

16:57 - Tough one for Shawn Thornton, who lost his footing early, got up and gave as much as he got and then got a takedown.

18:39 - Chara throws a big hit into Langenbrunner.

19:47 - New Jersey won the draw...

20:00 - Start of the First Period. First goal may win this one. Shoot early, shoot often...

New Jersey: White, Zubrus, Gionta, Elias, Mottau, Clemmensen
Boston: Hunwick, Wideman, Wheeler, Krejci, Ryder, Thomas

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

6:39 p.m.
The lines...
Lucic - Savard - Kessel
Axelsson - Bergeron - Kobasew
Wheeler - Krejci - Ryder
Thornton - Yelle - Bitz
Chara - Ward
Ference - Wideman
Stuart - Hunwick

Hnidy, Nokelainen, Fernandez

6:29  p.m.
It's Tim Thomas vs. Scott Clemmensen.

6:04 p.m.
Press Box Notes
Phil Kessel is expected to return to the Bruins lineup after missing the last six games with mononucleosis. The last game he played in was on January 10 against Carolina. He was placed on injured reserve with mono on January 12.

Other stories...
  • Including their game on Tuesday night against second place Washington, the combined record of the Bruins opponents through February 13 is 247-130-50. This stretch of nine games includes matchups against Western Conference leading San Jose and Eastern Conference foes Washington (2nd overall in the East), New Jersey twice (3rd in the East), New York Rangers (4th in the East), Montreal (5th in the East), Philadelphia twice (6th in the East) and Ottawa (13th in the East).
  • Marc Savard has a five game point streak in progress with 3-2-5 totals while Zdeno Chara has a four game point streak with 2-3-5 totals.
  • The Bruins are wearing their Reebok Third Jersey Systems for the ninth of 16 times this season. The club has compiled a 6-1-1 record when wearing the thirds.
  • Tonight’s matchup is expected to feature two of the top goaltenders statistically in the NHL, as well as two of the top goalscorers. Bruins goalie Tim Thomas ranks third in Goals Against Average (2.08), first in Save Percentage (.934), and sixth in wins (21) while Devils goalie Scott Clemmensen ranks sixth in Goals Against Average (2.25), eighth in Save Percentage (.923) and seventh in wins (20). Bruins forward Phil Kessel ranks seventh in the NHL with 24 goals scored while Devils forward Zach Parise ranks fourth overall with 28.
  • For the Devils, Patrik Elias and Zach Parise each have four game point streaks in progress, with 2-3-5 totals and 3-3-6 totals respectively.
  • After defeating the Senators in Ottawa, the Devils have now won a season-high six games in a row and a season-high five straight on the road. Their last loss both overall and on the road came on January 11 during a 4-3 defeat at Anaheim.
  • Winchester, MA native Alicia Sacramone will participate in the ceremonial puck drop before the Bruins/Rangers game at the TD Banknorth Garden on Saturday, January 31 at 1:00 p.m. ET. Sacramone, who helped lead Team USA to the Silver Medal in gymnastics at the 2008 Summer Olympics, will join the team captains at center ice for the dropping of the puck and a photo following the national anthem.

4:54 p.m.
Bitz vs. Brashear
I've been remiss in not mentioning the gutsy performance of Byron Bitz on Tuesday night.

Generally, your first NHL fight does not come against the likes of Don Brashear, but Bitzy's did and he he survived to tell the tale.

"We have liked him a lot since training camp," said Julien after the game on Tuesday. "He is a young player that is getting more experience at the professional level.

"Since he has been here he has been extremely strong against the boards, using his body to protect pucks.  He does all the little things well.

"He fought a pretty big guy...and I thought he handled himself extremely well.  He is earning some valuable points here and I just hope that he keeps it up," he said.

Bitz, perhaps a little shocked at the number of media who wanted to talk to him postgame, was pretty concise in his statements.

"I think I did all right," said Bitz. "He's pretty strong, he got me inside, and it was tough to maneuver around.

"But, you know, I was pretty happy with how I did."

How did the whole thing start?

"I just went to hit him, and I got my elbow up a little high, and he didn't like that, so that's how it started," he said. "Obviously, I wasn't going to back down, and if that gives our team a life, all the better."

Bitz didn't have time to be nervous.

"I was just trying to be calm and do what I had to do," he said. "When it was over, Thorty [Shawn Thornton] skated by the bench and was pretty happy, so then it kind of clicked in what just happened."

Thornton was very pleased with his young protege.

"He did a heck of a job," said Thornton. "That's one of the top three tough guys in the
league he just took on, and he did a great job.

"It shows a lot about his character. I know the guys love having him in the room, love having him on the team and I loved playing with him when I was playing with him for those few games.

"I can't say enough about that kid," said the B's usual beat cop.

The feeling is mutual, and indicative of the type of chemistry the Bruins have on their bench.

"Shawn Thornton has taken me under his wing," said Bitz. "He's a guy who really had to
work his way up here, and he know what it's like to get called up – you know, you're living in a hotel – and he has me over for dinner.

"He really understands what a guy like me goes through.  He's been great...and the rest of the guys have been really great, too."

Bitz seems to "get it" and Thornton's praise is representative of the feelings throughout the room.

"I don't think anyone on this team wants to let each other down, so I think when a guy like that steps up, the proper way to respond would be to put some energy [into your own game]," said Thornton. "I think the guys did a good job of that."

4:14 p.m.

New Jersey Devils goalie Scott Clemmensen watches the rebound after making a save during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Fred Chartrand)
Although the return of Phil Kessel took up much of Coach Julien's time with the press this morning, he did take some time to talk about the all-important matchup with the Bruins Eastern Conference foes from New Jersey.

"I don’t think they’ve ever changed that much, their style of plays remains the same," said Julien, a one-time Devils head coach. "They’re extremely deep.

"They have four lines up...that can probably play against any line.

"They’ve also got solid D play, and their goaltending’s been great," he said.

Future Hockey Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur has been out since November, but former Boston College standout Scott Clemmensen has stemmed the tide between the pipes.

"Even with Marty out, Scott Clemmensen has played extremely well for them and they’ve had good support from [Kevin] Weekes," said Julien. "So I don’t think there are too many weaknesses on that team."

One media member mentioned this being a test for the Devils.

"We also look at this as a test," said Julien. "They can talk about us, but they can also talk about them as well.

"They’ve won seven in a row and they’ve played extremely well and as I mentioned earlier they’re extremely deep.

"This will be a good challenge," he said.

Another reporter noted the Devils size up the middle -- a formidible obstacle for Boston.

"I think our team has taken pride in the fact that they’ve we’ve tried to make it bigger, with [Byron] Bitz and [Milan] Lucic to name a few," said Julien. "We’re definitely trying to get a little bigger.

"Obviously the Devils are certainly built on that this year, not just in the middle, there’s [Dainius] Zubrus and [Bobby] Holik and [Mike] Rupp.

"So, it’s going to be a good game -- it was in New Jersey and I don’t why it shouldn’t be tonight."

11:43 a.m.
In other news...
Boston Bruins right wing Michael Ryder (73) reacts during the third period against the Atlanta Thrashers after scoring the go-ahead goal, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008, during an NHL hockey game at Philips Arena in Atlanta. The Bruins won 2-1. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)
Michael Ryder should also return to the lineup this evening.

"Most likely, he should be back in the lineup as well," said Julien. "He had a good day yesterday. and he's still feeling much better today.

"So we anticipate having him in as well."

Tim Thomas will be in goal tonight.

"Timmy is going to be in nets, obviously," said Julien, but even with three games in four days, the Bruins head coach indicated that he has not made up his mind as to Tuukka Rask getting a start this week.

"And some point we may have to acknowledge [the workload]," said Julien. "But to be honest I haven't looked that far ahead."

"I'll make those decisions as we move on, here."

Petteri Nokelainen, who missed practice yesterday, is a game time decision.

"He's okay," said Julien. "He's on the ice, today, and we'll make a decision, as far as our lineup is concerned, either today or tonight."

The line of Milan Lucic - Marc Savard - Phil Kessel may return tonight.

"More than likely you're going to see those lines," said Julien. "I don't think we are going to make a ton of changes.

"But you know me -- starting one way is one thing, but it may not end that way."

11:01 a.m.
Kessel will play...
Bruins head coach Claude Julien has announced that Phil Kessel will return to the Bruins lineup this evening.

Kessel, who has 24 goals and 17 assists for 41 points in 42 games missed the last six games with mono.

"He get's the green light tonight," said Julien. "He'll be in the lineup.

"We had a good practice yesterday and worked with him one-on-one.

"Hopefully [he's] ready to go."

10:38 a.m.
It's an optional:
Bitz, Nokelainen, Wheeler, Ryder and Kessel are in white (forwards) and Ward, Hunwick, Stuart, Ference and Hnidy are in black (defense).

Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask are in goal (black jerseys).

Coach Houda and Coach Ramsay are in charge.

10:01 a.m.
Kessel to Return?

Boston Bruins right wing Chuck Kobasew, center, is congratulated by teammates Dennis Wideman, Phil Kessel (81), and Marc Savard after scoring a goal against the Ottawa Senators during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Thursday Jan. 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In the way of happy news, the appearance of forwards Phil Kessel and Michael Ryder at yesterday’s practice in Wilmington represented yet another ray of hope for the once depleted Boston Bruins squad.

Ryder returned, participated in the whole practice, and said he felt much better after dealing with flu-like symptoms.

Kessel, who often wore a large smile as he worked through his drills, looked very sharp during the main session of practice and afterward, when he worked closely with the B's coaching staff.

“[Tuesday] we got some news that he’d been cleared, so hopefully after today and tomorrow morning’s skate, he should be able to come back,” said Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien.

And right now, it sounds as if the only thing that might keep Kessel out of the lineup is his own game-readiness.

“When you haven’t done much in the last couple of weeks, it’s more about timing, and that’s what we tried to do at the end of practice,” continued Julien, referring to the time Phil spent with Coach Ward after the main session. “We worked a little bit on his stickhandling skills and handling the puck to see if we can help him get his timing back.”

Kessel said that he was up to the task, whenever it might happen.

"I feel good," said the forward. "It was nice to get back at it.

"I’ve been working out for the last, probably week or so, just trying to get back in it.

I’m fine, I’m back.  I got my test done yesterday, and they didn’t see anything, so I’m clear," said Kessel.

Again, he was wearing a huge smile as he spoke with reporters, and the often quiet Kessel was downright talkative.

"I’m pretty happy about it," he said.  "I didn’t feel very good for a while, and I just wasn’t feeling myself, but I’m glad to be back."

Kessel said that the hardest part of the illness was watching the games.

"I hate watching," he said. "It’s hard when you want to be out there trying to help your team. 

"The boys did a great job."

As far as tonight goes, we'll know in a couple of hours.

"I want to play, but we’ll see what [Coach Julien] says," said Kessel, who agreed that the only problem might be timing. "But hopefully I get back with Savvy [Marc Savard] and get back at it.

All of the Bruins are "back at it" at 10:30 a.m.
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