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Game Day: Wild vs. Bruins

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
0:00 - Boston falls, 1-0.

22.0 - Ryder's turn to give it a try. Glove save Backstrom.

37.0 - Backstrom gloves down a late shot from the Bruins and holds on for the draw. The B's take their timeout.

1:15 - Fernandez is out of the net.

1:37 - Minnesota clears the zone.

2:11 - Kessel just missed the net on a shot just off to the right of the goal.

3:10 - On a play salvaged by a Wideman dive to keep the puck in the offensive zone, Krejci takes a shot and is turned aside by Backstrom.

4:55 - A sloppy offsides by Minnesota...

5:24 - Manny just stops a shot that trickled through his crease. He flicked out his right pad like a pinball flipper and got the puck out of the blue.

7:46 - Icing Boston.

8:28 - A shot by Hnidy gets lost in front and St. Pierre gets a chance to tie it up. Backstrom keeps the net clean.

12:19 - Koivu is in the box for hooking. Finally a break for Boston here in the third.

Boston is 0/1 on the PP.

13:37 - Savard almost did it. After St. Pierre stole the puck and skated into the Minnesota zone, shorthanded, he passed to Savvy who did a spinarama and put the puck on goal. Backstrom was there, again.

15:19 - Lashoff to the box for holding the stick. He got a hold of former Boston College standout Krys Kolanos twig.

16:43 - Owen Nolan and Lucic got tangled up in the Boston end in the far corner. Both go to the box for roughing. It's four-on-four.

16:47 - Backstrom stops three consecutive shots from the Yelle line.

18:25 - "...because he's a hockey player." Hnidy is back, with a shield.

19:56 - Boston controls the draw and restarts their first PP of the game.

20:00 - Start of the Third.
0:00 - End of the Second. A late flurry for the B's, but no goal.

Boston will be on the power play to start the third.

9.0 - Minny's Bouchard is in the box after sending the puck out of play.

15.0 - Ryder hits the post.

2:38 - A mad scramble in front of the Minnesota bench by the Krejci line comes the closest to denting twine, but Backstrom comes up big, again. Shots are 20-14, Minny.

4:42 - Backstrom calms down a B's latest flurry. Only two shots, but certainly several more near misses.

6:20 - This time it is St. Pierre who puts it into Backstrom's pads. Shots are 18-10, Minnesota.

8:34 - Two more nice chances for Chara, who jumped into the play and looked to have made Backstrom make a couple of nifty point blank saves. The second one, in particular, was a beauty, with the Wild goalie flashing the right pad to kick the puck out of the way.

10:35 - Wheeler makes Backstrom work for a save. He shot from outside the top of the circle to the Minnesota goalie's left.

12:31 - With Brunet stationed at the top of his crease, Zidlicky firest the puck past Fernandez. It's 1-0, Minnesota.

13:40 - Lucic goes to the box. Holding. Luch did not like the call and slammed his stick down in protest.

14:45 - Fernandez smothers the Wild's latest bid in the form of a slap shot from the point by Johnsson. It was Manny's 14th save.

16:25 - Another save by Fernandez. Again, through a screen.

16:32 - Hooking Hunwick.

16:37 - Bruins defenseman Shane Hnidy just blocked a shot with his face. He left the ice under his own power, but ran down the runway in some obvious discomfort.

17:54 - More of the same by Fernandez. Shots are now 10-6, Minny.

18:56 - Another nice stop by Manny, this time he was falling and and stopped the puck through traffic.

19:42 - Nice early stop by Fernandez. But Yelle goes to the box for hooking.

20:00 - Start of the Second.
0:00 - End of the First. Not exactly a masterpiece. But, overall, a better first session for Boston.

Don Sweeney's twin sons, Jarrod and Tyler, are part of the young players entertaining the crowd in the three minutes of fame.

Proud papa bear Sweeney is right on the glass cheering on his cubs...

1:18 - A nice quick shot by Ryder off the hash marks in the slot makes Backstrom make a good right pad save to keep the score, 0-0.

1:57 - Neither team is getting anything of substance going in the offensive end.

4:33 - Slow game...

7:12 - Stuart just cleaned out Bouchard. Nice, clean check.

9:30 - Kobasew is in the box for interference. Shots are still 4-3, B's.

9:45 - The crowd is getting antsy...

12:21 - A couple of players knocked the Minnesota net off its moorings...

14:10 - Wheeler toasted Zidlicky for a nice scoring chance. Backstrom needed to make two more saves.

14:46 - Fernandez gloves down the Wild's third shot for a stoppage. The two teams are slowly feeling their way through the opening minutes.

15:20 - Miettinen makes Minnesota's first bid a little scary, but Manny kicked it wide.

17:30 - Boston has test Backstrom already, with two tough point blank shots. He made both saves, but the Bruins kept gathering the puck for subsequent tries at the net.

19:15 - Icing Minny.

19:58 - Boston wins the draw.

20:00 - Start of the First Period. It looks like another big crowd is filing in...

Waaaaaaaait a minute. Nokelainen is on the ice. Confirmed, Sobotka is out. Noke is in.

Boston Starters: Chara, Stuart, Lucic, Yelle, Kobasew, Fernandez
Minnesota Starters: Burns, Schultz, Koivu, Brunette, Bouchard, Backstrom

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

6:49 p.m.
A little food for thought...
This morning, Coach Julien spoke about the importance of a good start and scoring the first goal.

"I think every team that starts a game wants to get an early lead and get control," said Julien. "But, and I’ve said that all along… the good thing about our hockey club is our record is extremely positive even when other teams score first.

"It certainly doesn’t put us in a situation where we haven’t been able to rebound, but nonetheless I think for every team, every game, we talk about that and getting an early lead and taking control of the game.

"I think that’s an area that we will hopefully get better at -- starting tonight."

6:40 p.m.
Here are the lines...
Axelsson - Savard - Kessel
Lucic - Yelle - Kobasew
Wheeler - Krejci - Ryder
Sobotka Nokelainen - St. Pierre - Thornton
Chara - Stuart
Hunwick - Wideman
Lashoff - Hnidy

Nokelainen, Ference, Ward

6:30 p.m.
It's Manny Fernandez vs. Niklas Backstrom in goal tonight. No sign of Aaron Ward.

However, Petteri Nokelainen is on the ice.

6:16 p.m.
Press Box Notes
Saturday afternoon’s loss to Buffalo snapped a 14-game home winning streak and 10-game overall winning streak for the Bruins. The team owns a 14-2-1 record on home ice this season overall.

Other stories...
  • Goaltender Manny Fernandez is 9-0-0 at the TD Banknorth Garden this year.
  • The Bruins are 0-4-0 lifetime against the Wild on home ice and 1-6-0 overall. The Wild defeated the Bruins earlier this season in Minnesota on October 11, 4-3, behind two goals from Eric Belanger and one apiece from Marc-Andre Bergeron and Antti Miettinen.
  • Marc Savard has a five game assist/point streak with 2-7-9 totals over that span.
  • Today’s matchup is game three of a six-game homestand for Boston, with the Bruins holding a 1-1-0 record thus far. The Bruins have 13 games in January, 10 of which are at home.
  • Four Bruins own the top four plus/minus ratings in the NHL, as Dennis Wideman and Marc Savard are tied for the league lead with a +25 rating, Blake Wheeler is third with a +22 and David Krejci is fourth with a +21.
  • Including tonight, the Wild will play their next two games against Eastern Conference opponents (at Boston and at Philadelphia). The club is 9-1-1 against teams from the East on the year, and is 5-0-0 since losing to Montreal, 2-1 on October 30.

5:54 p.m.
I forgot to mention...

I ran into Gerry Cheevers at the Boston Bruins Wives' Carnival and he, perhaps the best of Boston's goalies in the modern era, said that he had been watching Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez this season.

"It's great watching these two guys," he said. "I love them.

"I saw both of them [on Sunday] and it's a nice, friendly competition and I think it's making each [of them] play better.

"So it's an inward competition, but it's a good one it's for the good of the team and you can see the results," said Cheevers.

Mr. Cheevers said that he thinks that the Bruins having the best defense is helping their offense.

"I think they are tops in the league in goals-against," he said. "I think that is also reflected in the fact that they are among the tops in the league for goals-for.

"If you don't have goaltending like they've been getting, then you are not going to be at the tops of the league in goals for because [that good defense] gives you more confidence to be a little more aggressive offensively."

4:24 p.m.
Boston Bruins' Martin St. Pierre, right, fires a third-period goal past Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008. The Bruins won 5-2. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Speaking of St. Pierre, yesterday the young forward was asked about Coach Julien's "intensity" during the club's practice on Tuesday.

"I think it's just a matter of guys getting a little too comfortable," said the center. "He's trying to keep us on the edge.

"Like everyone says, it's one thing to be in first place, but the hardest part is to stay in first place.

"All the teams are below you and when teams...look up in the standings, they always want [to beat] the first place teams," said St. Pierre.

This morning, Julien reitterated those concerns.

"[Opponents] come out so strong against us now because they want to get that early jump and I think this is where we have to be able to respond," said the B's coach. "We have been on the other side of the coin and we know what it feels like and we know how we got motivated when we played the top teams in the conferences.

"I think we remember that and we probably know now how it feels to be other the other side of it

"Teams have really been coming out hard at us and I think that helps us improve as a team [because] it keeps us on our toes all the can’t have a mediocre game anymore because teams are gunning for you," he said.

St. Pierre explained that Coach Julien just wanted the B's to reexamine their games.

"It's just a state of mind," he said. "It's about keeping our focus.

"I think we had a few areas in our forecheck and neutral zone play that we had to sharpen up.

"He's [also] trying to prove a point -- we have a good team coming in with we are going to concentrate, not so much on the other team, but to focus on [our game] and improve as the year goes on," he said.

3:37 p.m.

Boychuk, St. Pierre are AHL All-Stars
Both Selected to Canadian Team for AHL All-Star Classic 

Providence, RI – The Providence Bruins, in their 17th season in the American Hockey League, announced that defenseman Johnny Boychuk and center Martin St. Pierre have been named to the Canadian team for the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Charter Communications. The event, set for January 25-26 at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts, features the top young talent in the AHL competing in the Skills Competition and the 2009 AHL All-Star Game. The game, scheduled for at 7 p.m. on January 26, will be televised nationally in the United States and Canada...

Boychuk, 24, has been named a starter on the blue-line for the Canadian team, along with Derek Joslin of the Worcester Sharks. The all-star nod is the first for the fifth-year pro, who leads all AHL defensemen with a career-high 33 points in 37 contests. He is third overall in scoring for Providence. Boychuk’s nine goals rank tied for first among league blue-liners and his 24 assists are good for second. He also leads all defensemen with 112 shots and he is second with six power play goals. In addition, Boychuk paces the entire league with 22 power play points, including 16 power play assists, tied for fourth place...

St. Pierre, 25, earns his fourth straight AHL All-Star selection after starting for the Canadian team in each of the last two seasons. He will serve as a reserve for the 2009 edition. A fifth-year pro, St. Pierre ranks 15th in the AHL and second on Providence with 35 points in 30 games. His 10 goals are tied for second on the P-Bruins while he paces Providence with 25 assists. St. Pierre also leads the P-Bruins with 10 multiple-point games and he has produced three point-streaks of at least four games, including an 11-point (2g, 9a), six-game run in November. His performance earned him the P-Bruins’ November Player of the Month award after totaling 16 points, including 12 assists, over 14 games...

PlanetUSA AHL All-Star team rosters are scheduled to be released on Wednesday afternoon.

2:54 p.m.
Boston Bruins' Milan Lucic (17) bumps chests goalie Manny Fernandez after the Bruins defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 in a hockey game in Boston, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Because the Minnesota Wild are in town, and no matter if he is the starter or not, Bruins goalie Manny Fernandez is a big topic of conversation.

Coach Julien continued to praise his veteran backstop and the Thomas/Fernandez goalie tandem as a whole.

"Well, last year was a wash for him," said Julien. "He was never 100 percent and it was just one of those things where he needed surgery.

"This year he came in and when you haven’t played in almost a year and a takes a while to find your game. So we started him off slowly," he said.

Which was just fine for everyone involved -- after all, Tim Thomas was an all-star game participant last year and has often carried the load during his time as a Bruin.

"We put him in games here and there and Tim (Thomas) was taking the majority of the games early on," explained Julien. "Then once we saw that he was feeling pretty comfortable and pretty good and then playing some solid games, we started using him a lot more, but he’s been outstanding.

"There is no ifs or buts our goaltending this year has been one of the key points. We have been able to use both guys which has allowed them to stay fresh and when you are fresh, obviously you compete better. So those two guys have been great together and very supportive as well of each other."

Julien also spoke about the Wild, themselves, and how they may have changed since the Bruins last saw them -- particularly since Marion Gaborik has only played in six games this season and none since December 23rd.

"I don’t think you can really pinpoint it at one player," said Julien of the Wild. "I think you look at their team; they are a lot like us. We play a certain way and it doesn’t really matter who’s in the lineup.

"We don’t change our game plan and neither do they. They have good speed, they’re a hard working team and as I mentioned yesterday, they take away your space pretty quickly if you don’t move the puck quick. You run out of space fairly quickly and they create turnovers.

"Obviously, they are going to tell you they’re lacking a good goal scorer and rightfully so [in Marian Gaborik]. Offensively this guy [Gaborik] is an excellent player, but nonetheless watching them play the last few games I think they found their groove again," he said.

So, even though Minnesota is 4-4-2 in their last ten, they remain very dangerous.

"They are very skilled," said David Krejci. "And they work very hard.

"You can see that, just by watching their last two or three games.

"They won their last game against Colorado, 2-0, so they are on a good roll and we have to be ready," he said.

Julien indicated that the Bruins need to pay attention to their own game.

"I think it's just the matter of limiting mistakes," said the Bruins head coach. "The way they close gaps on you quickly and they put you in positions where sometimes players will panic.

"I think it’s important not to create turnovers and make strong plays and you've got to be willing to grind it out with them. [Minnesota's] got speed, their penalty kill is excellent and they are always a threat on the power play as well.

"You know there are a lot of good things going good for them [and] their goaltending has been outstanding as well, so this should be a good showdown," he said.

Can't wait for 7:00 p.m.

12:24 p.m.

There’s just not much to say about this morning’s skate.

All of the Bruins, besides P.J. Axelsson, Stephane Yelle, Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference and Shane Hnidy, skated and were joined by assistant coaches Dough Houda, Craig Ramsay and Geoff Ward.

Manny Fernandez was the first goaltender off the ice, but that has not been a reliable indication of who will be in goal on at least two occasions.

Fernandez, who played for the Wild previous to being traded to Boston, did not speak to the media.

Aaron Ward looked to be feeling fine and said he would wait for word for Claude as to his status tonight.

The only concrete indication as to lineups pertained to Ference, who had said he would be out on his morning call-in to WFNX’s “The Sandbox.” Coach Julien confirmed the same during his press scrum.

“Obviously, we feel pretty good [about our team],” said Julien of his Bruins. “It’s been a fun year so far and I think that little set back will bring some attention back to our game [plan] as well.

“As much as you hate losing, sometimes those things are going to happen and may hold rewards, in your favor, down the road.”

Julien said that he had noticed the extra attention the Bruins are getting off the ice and that the fans’ expectations of consistency were good to hear.

“That’s nice,” he said. “I think that’s how our players felt after the game, too. They weren’t very happy with that loss and I thought that was a good sign.

“They guys were disappointed – ticked off – to say the least and that’s a good.

“We don’t like to lose and hopefully we’ll show that tonight,” said Julien.

January 5th
3:47 p.m.

When necessary, Coach Julien can turn up the volume.
“Can you guys hear me from up here?” asked Claude Julien of the assembled media when he was queried about Monday’s practice.

Chuckles followed, because the volume of Julien’s voice had filled the normally sedate confines of the Ristuccia bandbox and everyone in the press box had heard an earful.

“That’s not a good sign,” said Julien with a laugh, before entering an explanation.

Julien had clearly chosen to send a not so subtle message to his players.

 “We had to touch up our forecheck a little bit,” he said. “[Against] Buffalo and even before that, we had started talking about that part of our game.

"[Opponents] have been bypassing us fairly easily.

“I thought we had to get that thing back to where we wanted it to be, because it’s been a little bit slack and a little bit loose, and we wanted to tighten it up a little bit,” he said.

Nobody is overlooking the Bruins these days, so the Bruins need to be more focused and sharp in order to combat their opponents raised level of play.

“It’s just probably what you see every year,” said Julien. “In this league, after Christmas and New Years everyone seems to tighten up.

“Games seem to mean a lot more because teams are looking at the schedule and what’s left and the amount of games that they have to win.

“For some reason, they don’t seem to be paying as much attention to that at the beginning of the year, but no doubt it’s going to tighten up and it has [tightened up]…and a team like Buffalo, battling for some of those playoff spots that are open right now, just have a little bit more desperation,” he said.

Julien said that he has been on both sides of that equation.

“We know what it was like to face those kind of teams,” said Julien. “And right now, in the position we are in…we’ve been getting a lot of compliments from around the league.

“So, obviously, our credibility has moved up another notch and it’s up to us to be able to adjust to those kind of challenges,” he said.

Parity in the league makes those kinds of juxtapositions possible.

“Once teams figure themselves out, they get a little bit of consistency,” said Julien. “And I don’t care if it’s the first place team against a last place team – there’s not going to be that t big o f a difference.”

3:05 p.m.
Injury update...
Coach Julien began his post practice presser by talking about injuries.

"I think Marco is scheduled to have surgery," said Julien. "The details I don't know, but I know he's scheduled to have surgery in the next few days.

"And I guess when he has surgery, we'll probably know more about what needed to be done and the length of his absence."

How about Patrice Bergeron?

"Patrice continues to do better everyday," said Julien. "We're keeping our fingers crossed that it continues to go that way."

The B's bench boss said he had run into Bergeron.

"He's feeling better and every day I talk to him it seems to be going to the positive side," added Julien. "I'm just a little cautious, because sometimes there are setbacks and we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves."

And what about Andrew Ference?

"Andrew, again, was on the ice today with us," said the coach. "We'll still continue to make him a day-to-day [type of] situation."

Ference skated off the ice early, but his early exit was just precautionary.

"He's still day-to-day, and was put through some battle drills so we'll see how he feels tomorrow," said Julien.

The best news was about Aaron Ward.

"Aaron's doing a lot better," said the Bruins head coach. "It was a mild Charlie horse and his range of motion today was pretty good.

"He's going to skate tomorrow morning and we'll see how he does."

11:33 a.m.
The team is in the middle of some serious open ice battle drills...

10:52 a.m.
We're here at the Ristuccia Memorial. No new faces, but we are missing Aaron Ward.

Coach Julien seems pretty agitated with his club and can be heard imploring his players to  -- in not so many words -- redouble their efforts. The volume of Coach's entreaties is quite loud.

9:36 a.m.

Boston Bruins' Marc Savard is congratulated by teammate P.J. Axelsson (11), of Sweden, after scoring during the third period of a 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in a hockey game in Boston, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Boston returns to practice this morning after spending most of yesterday raising money for the fight against Cystic Fibrosis through the 19th Annual Boston Bruins Wives’ Carnival.

Clearly, it was a worthwhile day for the Bruins, who all had a part in making this year’s carnival a success.

But today the B’s are looking to lay the groundwork for some more success on the ice, as well.

The Minnesota Wild come into the TD Banknorth Garden on Tuesday night and one of the things that may be on the collective mind of the Black & Gold is capitalizing on scoring opportunities.

“It’s going to happen like that,” said Milan Lucic on Saturday of some of the club's missed chances . “It is not always going to go our way and it is not always going to find the back of the net.

“It is a long season and in the course of the season things like that are going to happen. I think we had three or four empty net or back door opportunities and we didn’t capitalize.”

His teammate Marc Savard had similar sentiments and joked that maybe a higher power was involved.

“Lately, every tic-tac-toe has gone in the net, and every empty net [opportunity] like that one there,” he said. “Usually even if I fan on it, it would jump up into the air, hit [Ryan] Miller in the head and go in.

“[Saturday] I guess the guy upstairs had enough, he said, ‘enough, that is enough breaks.’

“It was tough but we need to move on here and try to start something else,” he said.
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