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Game Day: Thrashers vs. Bruins

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
6:37 p.m.

Boston's lines...

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6:23 p.m.
Well, the B's continue to get good news on the Olympic front, what with Marco Sturm being named to the German Olympic team and joining Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron in Vancouver.

Sturm hasn not yet talked about his being named, but caught up with Patrice at 4:45 p.m.

"Well I got a message," said Bergeron of how he found out. "I was on the ice when they called.

"Actually Kevin Lowe called and left a message saying that I was selected to be on the team and I was obviously very, very happy."

Bergeron was hoping for that call all his life.

"I knew it was today that they were announcing the team so when he said his name I was obviously I was expecting something like that," he said. But I waited to really hear what he had to say and when he said it, well, I was very, very happy.

"It was hard to believe today," he continued. "It was kind of overwhelming a bit, [but] my family is here for the New Year, so I’m happy to have them with me today and very honored, very happy, and it was a great feeling."

6:16 p.m.
Pregame Pressbox Notes...
STORYLINES: The Bruins continue their four-game Southeast Division swing when host the Thrashers for the second time in seven days. The Black & Gold defeated Atlanta 6-4 in Boston a week ago today and they split their two game Florida road trip after defeating the Panthers on Sunday but falling to the Lightning on Monday. Tonight will be their last tilt before Friday’s much anticipated Winter Classic, but B’s bench boss Claude Julien has tried not to look too far ahead.

Atlanta has lost five in a row and six out of seven, however goal scoring hasn’t been the problem as they have netted 25 goals in those seven contests. Ilya Kovalchuk enters tonight’s game red hot, with points in 10 straight. Kovalchuk is now one point shy of 600 for his career.

STURM, BERGERON, KREJCI, CHARA NAMED TO OLYMPIC ROSTERS: Patrice Bergeron will represent Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, while David Krejci (Czech Republic), Marco Sturm (Germany) and Zdeno Chara (Slovakia) were also named to the rosters of their respective countries. The US will announce their roster on January 1.

Black: Bob Beers, Andy Brickley, Lyndon Byers, Cleon Daskalakis, Gary Doak, Joel Finley, Mark Finley, Charlie Jacobs, Claude Julien, Neal McDonough, John McKenzie, Rick Middleton, Terry O’Reilly, Bob Sweeney, Don Sweeney, Kiefer Sutherland
Gold: Ken Casey, Ken Hodge, Bobby Farrelly, Pat LaFontaine, Denis Leary, Brian Leetch, Ken Linseman, Bob Miller, Jay Miller, Cam Neely, Brad Park, Tim Robbins, Dave Schultz, Rick Smith, Tom Songin, Tom Werner

BRUINS/THRASHERS CONNECTIONS: Marc Savard (196 points in 184 games) and Mark Recchi (40 points in 53 games) are both former Thrashers while Atlanta’s Marty Reasoner (8 points in 19 games) is a former Bruin.

SPECIAL TEAMS WATCH: The Bruins rank 20th in the NHL on the power play overall (17.4%) and 7th at home (22.4%). They rank 1st on the PK overall (87.5%) and 4th at home (88.2%). The Thrashers rank 6th on the PP overall (21.6%) and tied for 11th on the road (19.0%). They rank 19th on the PK overall (79.7%) and 8th on the road (84.0%).

4:04 p.m.
True to Bruins form, Zdeno Chara said that the Bruins are focusing on the Atlanta Thrashers today, and nothing else.

"Like [I've] said, it’s one game at a time and obviously tonight’s game is the most important game," said Chara. "We play Atlanta and we have to approach it that way

"We know we didn’t have our best game last game so we need to bounce back."

You can add the Olympics to the distraction list, too. But, as happy as Chara is to have been picked, he is trying to remain even-keeled about everyone.

"I mean that’s another month and a half away," he said. "For sure it’s a big event and I think we named the team yesterday so obviously it’s a big honor and I’m very proud to be able to represent my country, but that’s very far away."

Back to tonight's game.

"We all know that we didn’t have our best game against them last time," said the Bruins captain. "We made some mistakes that cost us goals, so we need to make sure that we really pay attention to every detail when we’re playing those guys."

And as far as the Bruins putting the puck into the net, Chara said the B's need to be better.

"I mean, we would like to, for sure, score more," he said. "Scoring three goals the last two games, it’s not...enough.

"At the same time, we [only] gave up three...but yeah we need to create [some] more to be able to get a lead and play more comfortable with the score."

3:44 p.m.
This morning, Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien was asked if he had the assignment to shadow B's Hockey Hall of Famer Cam Neely during Saturday's much-anticipated Legends Classic game.

With a laugh, Julien said, "I don't think so. Hopefully he doesn't come near me."

With all due respect to the B's hard-hitting legend, hopefully the Boston VP is the last thing Coach Julien will worry about this week.

And although Coach continues to be accomodating with all the questions about the Winter Classic, this season, many of his answers about the big game have begun with the phrase, "We focus on one game at a time."

However, over the last few seasons, when the previous two Winter Classic has come around, asked the the B's bench boss about his experience coaching outdoors -- in the first of the NHL's three big outdoor games -- while coaching the Montreal Canadiens.

Julien talked about Theodore's Toque.
"I did the Heritage Game, Montreal vs. Edmonton," said Coach Julien in 2008 of the NHL's initial forray outdoors in 2003. "It was pretty cold out there in Edmonton.

"But, I actually took layers off," he said. "Behind the bench they had those big (football style) where do you think I stood?

"But at one point I thought my pants were going to catch on fire and I had to slide over."

Julien said that in Edmonton there were issues with the extreme cold.

"The guys on the ice, they would go out there for 20-25 seconds," explained Julien. "They couldn't breathe because it was so cold.

"So, it was a game where I joked that I didn't have to worry about the long shifts."

Clearly, Julien wasn't joking about the issues confronting a hockey club outdoors, but the B's head coach he has always maintained that just being there is (usually) a once in a lifetime experience and that the Winter Classic is important for hockey.

"Our guys all enjoyed (it)," he said. "It's pretty unique.

"And it was a great experience and I really enjoyed it and the whole hoopla.

"I thought it was great for the game and, like in Buffalo, it really created an awareness...and that is great," he said.

And asked about the possibility of the game being in Boston, as remote as it seemed at the time, and Julien seemed excited.

"If it's not as cold (as Edmonton) it's a lot of fun even for the players," he said. "Remember Theodore? He put his touque on."

2:53 p.m.
Obviously, many of this morning's questions in the locker room centered around the Winter Classic. And try as he might, affable Bruins beat cop, Shawn Thornton, didn't escape those questions, either.

"It’s a hockey game first and foremost," said Thornton. "I know it’s Boston, people here love that stuff, and it’s kind of my job so you’re going to ask the question but I don’t think about it...ever, any game.

"I go out, focus on playing hockey and if that stuff happens it’s because something happened that needed to be addressed, not because I was thinking about it the morning of [the game].

"So [I’m] definitely not thinking of it three days before and I wont be thinking about it the morning of the game.

"I’m going out to play hockey. I’d rather score a goal than get in a fight, but obviously if something happens that needs to be addressed, then it will be addressed, but it’s definitely not my focus."

Speaking of goal scoring, Thornton was asked about the relative dearth of Bruins goals during the trip to Florida.

"I don’t know if it’s a slump," said the forward. "We had a couple in Florida. [It was] just last game.

"We had a few games, before that we were doing just fine."

And Thornton has no doubts the scoring touch will return.

"Everyone says it, it’s a cliché, but we've got to focus on details," he said. "We've got to pay attention to details and get the puck in and we've got to work and be hungry around the net and capitalize on our chances when we get them.

"And sometimes you got to tip your hat, sometimes the goalie plays [well] and sometimes we have to do a little more and I think last game we had to do a little bit more than we did and the game before and had to do a little more than we wanted, but we played a pretty good game."

2:14 p.m.
Will he play on Friday?
One of the first things that Coach Julien addressed during his pregame press conference was the status of Milan Lucic for the Winter Classic.

Sure, Lucic did practice during the Bruins lengthy morning skate, but the forward participated with several lines during the B's drills and did not seem to be skating regularly with those players presumed to have a spot on tonight's ice.

But the big question remained: Will Lucic play Friday?

"I can’t answer that right now," said Julien. "I don’t think he is ready to play, so basically I would say he is doubtful.

"I know that we are two days ahead...[but] right now there still are some concerns," continued the coach. "I [know] he is skating with us, but we are not having quality practices...[and] at the same time it is one of those things that’s going to get tougher and tougher to get those if you look at the schedule.

"We are playing four games in six nights as we get closer to the Olympics it’s [a game] every second night, so I think we are going to have to find solutions and ways to get things done without having that perfect scenario," he said.

Julien admitted that there is special significance to tomorrow's practice, and that physical play might not be the highest priority.

"Well, having been through this before the biggest thing you want to do as a team tomorrow is get used to the environment with the ice and everything else," said Julien, who coached in the Commonwealth Classic while with the Canadiens. "It won’t be so much about what you need to practice [as much as getting] used to the boards, get used to the ice.

"There is a difference, a big difference with playing outside.

"We don’t know what the weather is going to be like either, so I don’t think you should expect us working so much on systems and tactics. Just more on getting through a good practice and having a good feel of what we are going to be up against the next day," he said.

12:31 p.m.
What we know (and think)...
  • Patrice Bergeron will play for Canada in Vancouver.
  • David Krejci will play for the Czech Republic at the Olympics.
  • There seems to be little doubt that #17 will not be in the lineup tonight.
  • The Bruins left the ice en mass and while Rask left the ice first in line, that did not give a true indication of which goalie would be in goal. It seemed clear that Coach Julien was doing his best to leave some doubt as to his final roster for this evening.

    10:46 a.m.
    "Yes," Lucic is skating in the Bruins line drills. But "No" he is not on a steady line.

    10:39 a.m.
    Lucic has been joined by all of his teammates -- +12 forwards, 7 defensemen and 2 goalies.

    10:33 a.m.
    Check that, MIlan Lucic is on the ice early and some of his teammates are slowly beginning to join him.

    10:20 a.m.
    It's going to be a busy day, folks. We have Olympic team announcements, injury reports and the game versus the Thrashers to deal with -- not to mention all the stuff going on at Fenway and a certain big game on Friday.

    So keep it here. The latest from the Garden's rink is that nobody is skating early. Pregame skate begins at 10:30 a.m.

    Tuesday, December 29
    5:31 p.m. has the full roster and a breakdown of the Slovakian team here. We'll ask the Bruins captain about going to Vancouver after morning skate on Wednesday.

    5:17 p.m.
    It looks as if Zdeno Chara has been named to Slovakia's Olympic hockey team. He'll head to Vancouver in mid-February and will join Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus.

    Congratulations to Zee!

    5:00 p.m.
    Tuesday Ice Update...
    Dan Craig, NHL Facilities Operations Manager, checks out the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Refrigeration Truck
    The NHL's Don Renzulli and Dan Craig were back in front of the media on Tuesday afternoon.

    Asked about the weather for Friday, the pair seemed to have an optimistic view of how things might play out.

    "As of 12 noon today now we’re looking at maybe some light drizzle, temperature dropping," said Renzulli, NHL Senior Vice President of Events. "It’s kind of too early right now to decide what we’re going to do. We’ve got to finish out our build out phase [and] we’ll continue to monitor the weather.

    "We’re prepared for a number of different issues and when we get to Thursday we’ll make a call based on that current forecast, but right now it looks like we’ll be good to go to play the game."

    Craig, the NHL Facilities Operation Manager, said that the ice weathered a storm -- literally -- on Monday.

    "Wou noticed when you were here yesterday, we had a rainstorm coming through so we kind of had to wait until that one pushed through and then we did the logos last night and we were wrapped up on the logos by eight-nine o’clock last night and just built ice overtop," he said.

    "That’s what’s continuing today and we took both the Zambonis out there, took a dry run on them, trimmed up the ice really nice, and then throughout a couple hose floods and we’re ready to go."

    Safety, of course, is the most important factor in play.

    "It’s safe to say that fan and player’s safety is paramount so just like all of our 1,230 games, we wouldn’t ask fans to come out or put players… on the ice," added NHL VP of Communications and Player Relations, Jamey Horan.

    As far as any postponement decision, that will be decided by the weatherman.

    "If we think there’s a good chance we can get this game in, we’re going to do everything in our power to do that. If they’re calling for a foot and a half of snow, that’s a bit different, but I think that’s why three days out is kind of hard to make that decision," said Renzulli.

    "In a perfect situation we wouldn’t want to bring [fans] into the stadium if we can’t get the game in and we really have to think hard and look at the forecast to make that determination. It’s not like baseball where you can get in five and a half innings and it’s a full game.

    "We want to play three full periods and we’re going to do everything to make the decision based on that," he said.

    Horan pointed out that delays would not be new to the Winter Classic or to Fenway.

    "Obviously in Buffalo we had some delays when we got to dealing with the snow so there have been weather delays in this ball park before," he said.

    Icemaking is a tricky science, so Craig was queried as to his technique for dealing with the Mother Nature.

    "Well every weather system that’s come through has changed the preparation," said the NHL's Ice Man. "Two days ago it rained really hard all afternoon and it kind of backed off about three-three thirty and we were set solid by six.

    "So we know what this [ice making] truck can do and that’s without squeegying any water off. Just two and a half hours later it was rock solid.

    "Yesterday we had rain in the afternoon and within the hour we were all set."

    Both Dan and Don both said it was a team effort and that hard work is the order of the day.

    "I can honestly say that been a part of all components of this game now. I was slushing. I was shoveling. It’s really a team effort," said Renzulli. "We've got a great bunch of people and I think in any major event you’re going to have these issues, whether it’s a football stadium, a baseball stadium, it doesn’t matter.

    "We go in, we evaluate it, when you get on site and when things come up you deal with it. We have a great staff. It really makes the effort to go out and do the things they have to do regardless if it’s in their job description or not to make it happen."

    And long hours are definitely a requirement.

    "Last week we had two different nights where we had guys working around the clock," said Craig. "They don’t even blink.

    "[We have] confidence in our staff and because we know...when we do this event how great this event is."

    3:49 p.m.
    We're preparing an ice update, but being over at the ballpark had me thinking about my talk with Derek Sanderson before the First Skate at Fenway.

    You see, Sanderson was virtually my first interview for back during the 2006-07 season and I was thrilled to see that he has not changed one bit from the time I first met him (or even since the first time I saw him on TV).

    That day, Sanderson thought he might commandeer some skates and take over the ice at Fenway Park during the First Skate on December 18th.

    "I might give it a twirl," said Sanderson with a sly grin as he prepared for the trolley ride over to the park/rink. "But I don’t know.

    "I haven’t had skates on since I had my hips it has been a while."

    "How are these kids from Sommerville? They’ll be skating circles around me," he said.

    Although Sanderson didn't find any skates, and had to settle for spectator's view of the Winter Classic's opening event, 'The Turk' has always had a rather unique view of Bruins history.

    And whether it was on the ice or in the broadcast booth, the Bruins legend remains a major figure in Black & Gold lore. So it wasn't surprising when Sanderson took a look at the schedule of events for the Winter Classic and pronounced it unique in its own right and an important date in B's history.

    "It’s another page in the book," he said in his best TV38 voice. "It really went well in Edmonton I guess and I hear the one in Buffalo as well.

    "Now, people say this is the hardest ticket in town to get!"

    And with a combination of the beloved ballpark and Boston's Bruins, Sanderson thinks hockey fans around the world are in for a thrill.

    "Fenway Park is a treat so you mix the Bruins and the Red Sox and hockey and you get it all going together, now all we have to do is win," said Sanderson, who added that he never imagined that Fenway would be turned into an outdoor ice rink.

    "Never would have crossed one single solitary mind that you would be on ice in Fenway Park," he said. "When you get in a situation like Fenway Park and get a chance [to play], it’s memorable."

    "Whoever thought it up, great marketing. The fans are excited, people are excited, it’s a great opportunity for the National Hockey League to get a national audience, a huge audience, so I hope it’s a good game."

    For Sanderson, like his fellow Bruins alumni, there was an extra bonus to the hoopla -- getting reunited, even for a few minutes, with friends and former teammates.

    Sanderson, whose affiliation with the Bruins spans several decades, just had to figure out who to sit with on the bus.

    "I’m kind of torn between Bobby [Orr] and [those] guys and Gary Doak and Hodgey [Ken Hodge] and Johnny McKenzie.

    "And those are the guys I played with, but then I did the broadcast for 10 years with...guys [like] Neely and Donnie Sweeney and those guys.

    "So it’s good...[and] I’m thrilled."

    11:22 a.m.
    No practice for Boston this morning. So, I am heading over to Fenway for the ice update.

    10:30 a.m.
    Monday's Ice Update...
    (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Despite the uneven weather yesterday, the preparations for the 2010 Winter Classic continued in earnest.

    "Well, we’re closing in," said Don Renzulli, NHL’s Senior Vice President of Events from the press room at Fenway Park on Monday afternoon. "We have all the major components down on the field.

    "We have an audio system going in today. We have two video boards. One’s completely done. The other at center field is going in now. We have our scaffolding in on the field for our main stage. Our broadcast platforms, our logos behind the benches, our décor is in the process of going up.

    "Outside of the building is completely done and if you were out there you started to see the inside so we’re moving along pretty well right now," he said.

    And despite the warmer/rainy weather, the field is ready to host the big outdoor game on Friday.

    "Obviously we lost a lot of snow over the last couple days [from] the storm we had last weekend, so we’ll start to concentrate and watch the weather now as we go into the game day," said Renzulli, "and the spectator plaza got underway this morning...[when] we got here at 7a.m. The trucks were already lined up, a lot of tents were already up, so that’s underway and we’ll be ready to go on New Years Eve.

    "I think pretty much everything is in line and is on schedule from where we are."

    Weather predictions for Friday vary, but Dan Craig, the NHL’s Facilities Operations Manager and ice guru, said that it's all part of the game.

    "Well, it’s a waiting game," he said. "As you noticed last night, if anyone was watching the NBC football game, [they] saw Mike Millbury skating and then immediately afterward we cleaned up the ice and painted the white and worked through the night on the hockey ice markings.

    "We were going to do the logos but Mother Nature decided she wanted us to wait a little bit longer, so we’re kind of waiting out this little squal that’s coming through here.

    "The Weather is very unpredictable and we take our shot when we can, get our markings down, our logos down, and hopefully by 10 o’clock [Monday] all logos will be in, sealed up and then we’ll be ready for what comes next, which means gameday is right around the corner."

    Keeping the ice viable is a high priority.

    "It’s wet and yeah, we’re in good shape as of yet," said Craig. "We got solid rain [Sunday]. It took us probably an extra four hours to set it up last night.

    "We were just totally solid by six so we’re anticipating about the same thing today. Hopefully the rain will back off around, somewhere [Monday afternoon], and probably by six o’ will be frozen up solid."

    Safety remains the paramount concern.

    "Our number one focus is player safety and fan safety, patron safety coming in," said Craig. "That’s the number one and that’s what we look at.

    "That’s why we look at the weather, that’s why we try to figure out exactly what we’re going to be doing on the operations side making sure the ice is safe and what’s going to be happening on the people coming to the venue so we have meetings everyday.

    "In fact, we probably have three or four meetings everyday and weather is the number one topic and just read and react and see where we go."

    Look for another update on Tuesday afternoon.

    10:27 a.m.

    Boston Bruins left winger Marco Sturm (16), of Germany, celebrates with teammates Dennis Wideman (6, center) and Steve Begin (27) after scoring against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period of an NHL hockey game Monday, Dec. 28, 2009 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
    To borrow a phrase from NESN's Jack Edwards, it was a night of posts "ringing like Big Ben" and postgame Claude Julien talked about the Bruins frustrating, penalty marred, 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    "And we just kind of lost it," said Julien of the B's breakdown in the second stanza. "They just took the game over and the second period wasn’t good enough and dug ourselves a hole.

    "And [We] came back in the third and did our best but we weren’t going to get any help tonight, which was pretty obvious."

    Julien added, "We as coaches have to keep our players accountable and those are tough [ones] to swallow."

    Julien insisted that distractions were not the issue on Monday night.

    "No, no not at all," said the Bruins head coach. "No, it was just us not being engaged early on.

    "And then, ourselves going after the second period, we were down a couple of goals and we started playing with more emotion.

    "Then, all of a sudden...our best players really stepped it up and gave us a chance," he said.

    But whether it was goalposts or penalty calls, the B's were behind the eight ball all evening.

    "Again, a couple of posts, and we weren’t going to get any breaks anywhere tonight," added Julien. "It’s was as simple as that. Sometimes you got to make your own [luck]."

    Dyan Lebourdais contributed to this blog.
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