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Getting ready for a HUGE game without BIG Z

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins had the following humorous assessment of the injury keeping Zdeno Chara out of tonight’s contest with the Senators: When you’re the size of Zdeno Chara, the simple "upper" or "lower" body ailment does not apply -- you need to add a "middle" category.

Ha ha. Funny. But Bruins staffers, players and fans are not laughing.

Sens roll call does a terrific job with game-day updates in their Ice Chips section and says that Ottawa’s lines tonight will look like this:

Heatley - Kelly - Alfredsson
Schaefer - Comrie - Neil
Eaves - McAmmond - Schubert
Hamel - (Hennessy) - McGrattan

Redden - Meszaros
Volchenkov - Phillips
Corvo - Preissing


TSN is also reporting that Antoine Vermette skated by himself before practice today but will not play Tuesday against Boston and that they anicipate that Josh Hennessy will be recalled.

A Buffalo’s writer’s take on the division
Tim Graham, Buffalo News and sports reporter, had a great notes column on the eighth. He had some thoughts on the highly competitive Northeast Division and wrote:

The Buffalo Sabres are the lone NHL club with 30 wins. They are one of two teams with single-digit regulation losses. Their record is so persuasive the next closest team in the Eastern Conference standings is seven points back and has played one more game.

In the robust Northeast Division, however, they have been pedestrian.
Saturday night’s 4-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs kept the Sabres from slipping to .500 in divisional play. They’re 8-6 with one overtime loss.

"When you play against teams that are battling for a spot in the division and even in the conference, no doubt, those are big nights," said Sabres goalie Martin Biron, who made 32 saves in the Air Canada Centre. "They’re fun games, but they’re definitely high stakes."

The Northeast has been the most competitive division in league thus far. Through the weekend, each of the five teams had a winning record (Toronto was below the watermark counting overtime and shootout losses). The Boston Bruins had the lowest point total with 43 - no other division had all teams above 38 points - even though the Bruins had played the fewest games in the league.

The Ottawa Senators have owned the Sabres, beating them four times in five tries. The Montreal Canadiens have played some taut games against the Sabres, beating them once in regulation, once in overtime and losing twice in shootouts.

"Our division is pretty tight, and there’s a high level of hockey being played," Biron said. "I think we should be excited we’re in such a strong division because in the end it’s only going to make us stronger."

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Sun had a pretty interesting note on their page today. Don Brennan writes:

…nothing the Senators have done against the Bruins in 2006-07 has worked. Ottawa’s has lost all three meetings, by scores of 2-1, 4-3 and 7-2.

The common dominator in each has been the brilliance of Boston goalie Tim Thomas. Not only has he stopped 95 of the 101 shots the Senators have fired his way this season, but he has extended a trend that began when he broke into the league. In seven games, Thomas has lost only once in regulation time against Ottawa, with a GAA of 2.12.

"He seems to have our number," said Kelly. "We just have to get more pucks at him and get some more traffic in front of him."

Said Murray: "Thomas has been really good against us, but I don’t think it’s magic at all. It just comes down to work and determination."

It’s good to see that Tim-Mania has spread north -- and there are continued rumblings as to Tim being a possibility for the NHL All-Star game. Stay tuned.

Around the Hub
Congrats to Billerica’s Amanda Mahoney. I just stumbled over the fact that on January 3rd, she scored FIVE goals to lead Billerica High past Marblehead, 6-2, at the Hallenborg Pavilion.

Sign her up, Peter!

More later…
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