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On The Road: Bruins @ Thrashers

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.
AP Summary

Boston 4 0 3-7
Atlanta 1 0 2-3

First Period-1, Boston, Stuart 2 (Krejci, Ryder), 3:31. 2, Boston, Yelle 4 (Nokelainen, Hunwick), 4:08. 3, Boston, Chara 6 (Kessel, Lucic), 8:41. 4, Boston, Ryder 8 (Bergeron, Savard), 11:56 (pp). 5, Atlanta, White 8 (Kovalchuk, Hainsey), 16:16 (pp).

Second Period-None.

Third Period-6, Boston, Kessel 18 (Wideman, Kobasew), 1:15 (pp). 7, Atlanta, Kovalchuk 11 (Valabik), 3:14. 8, Boston, Lucic 9 (Savard, Kessel), 7:19. 9, Boston, Stuart 3 (Krejci, Wheeler), 9:57. 10, Atlanta, Kozlov 13 (White, Kovalchuk), 13:00 (pp).

Shots on Goal-Boston 8-11-6-25. Atlanta 10-13-10-33.

Goalies-Boston, Thomas. Atlanta, Pavelec, Hedberg, Pavelec. A-15,818 (18,545). T-2:30.

1:57 - Hunwick with a blocked shot...I am heading for the locker room.  More later tonight and tomorrow.

5:56 - Thornton just took on Valabik (who is 6'7). That took courage. And Shawn hung in there even though the big Thrasher has the wingspan of a 747. Man. What a gutsy, gutsy fight for Thorts. Besides the matching fighting majors, Thornton gets an extra minor for roughing.

7:00 - Kozlov scores to make it 7-3. Nice pass by white.

8:10 - Thomas makes a beautiful sitting save on Kovalchuk.

8:34 - Kobasew in the box for tripping.

10:04 - Stuart scores again. But the Wheeler was the guy who made it happen. He got the puck in, kept it in and the puck ended up on Stuart's stick high, between the circles. With traffic, Stuart found the back of the net. It's 7-2. Boston.

NESN's Jack Edwards says Stuey's dad is in the house. Nice!

12:41 - Milan Lucic scored by pinballing the puck off Valabik as the youngster slid to stop a Lucic pass. Its 6-2, Boston. Hedberg had a melt-down afterward and broke his stick.

12:55 - Two good saves my Thomas. He holds on for the second one and gets the faceoff.

14:44 - Thornton hits the post and looks skyward. Hang in there Thorts! Just previous to that Stuart hit Boulton cleanly in the neutral zone.

15:57 - Save Thomas...

16:23 - White and Chara push and shove behind the goal.

16:46 - Valabik scores his first NHL goal. It's 5-2, Boston.

18:45 - Kessel picks up the garbage and makes it 5-1. Boston created some traffic and found the back of the net.

19:06 - Kessel hits the crossbar.

19:15 - Nice shot from Chara. But Hedberg saw it all the way.

20:00 - Start of the First.
0:00 - End of the Second. Ugh.

We're being nitpicky, here, but Boston has been out of sorts for much of the game. Yet, with a 4-1 lead it's pretty hard to be upset.

1:06 - Axelsson gets a shot from the slot on goal, Hedberg bobbles, but holds on.

2:20 - Kessel got hit pretty hared. Crabb got a five minute major boarding and game misconduct.

2:40 - Hunwick may have saved a goal by sticking with Hunwick all the way to just off Timmy's right post and pushes him off the puck. Good play.

6:!2 - Kobabsew in the box for cross checking. He got into it with Eric Perrin after Hedberg made a nice save on a would-be Bruins goal by Chuck.

6:47 - Thomas with a diving, tumbling and thrashing save on Atlanta's 21st shot.

7:10 - Icing Atlanta.

8:44 - Yelle and Thornton have had the two best Bruins chances this period. The latest, from Thorts, was a shot that had Hedberg holding his left post...

10:15 - Timmy with a glove save to calm down another Atlanta scoring opportunity. The score is still 4-1, but Atlanta has whatever momentum is availble in this contest.

10:57 - Boulton is in the middle of everything. Lucic takes him on...Milan gets in a couple but loses his blanace. Boulton gets the takedown, but none of the three fights have been very memorable.

12:04 - There is some pretty sloppy hockey occurring during this period, True Believers...

14:00 -  Timmy is the story thus far in this period. He already has eight saves.

15:40 - Thomas has had to be realy sharp for having a three-goal lead. Shots are 17-10

18:18 - Icing Atlanta. Neither injured Bruin will return, BTW.

18:48 - Wheeler puts a shot on Hedberg. He stops it and gets the "Mooooooose" call that he used to get with Manitoba.

19:41 - The Thrashers already tested Thomas.

20:00 - Start of the Second. More of the good. Less of the bad.
0:00 - End of the First. It was not the prettiest period, but at 4-1 we'll take it.

Someone should probably get Coach Julien some alka-seltzer...

Shots were 10-8, ATL. And hits were 8-5, ATL.

1:43 - Stuart tried to get Boulton to go again after the big wing hit Kessel pretty hard. No go, and Stuey got an unsportsmanlike penalty.

3:44 - Sloppy. Kovalchuk throws it at the net, after a failed Boston clear and Todd White put it away. It's 4-1, Boston.

4:33 - Kobasew is in the box.  Goalie interference.

5:01 - Nokelainen just went to the bench and went to the room after a heavy collision in the Atlanta end.

8:04 - Boston won the draw, the puck went to Ryder who put it over Hedberg's left shoulder. 4-0, Bruins. Shots are 9-5, B's.

8:12 - Hooking, Armstrong.

9:09 - Icing Atlanta.

10:09 - Chris Thorburn tried, and I emphasized tried, to fight Big Zee.

Zdeno overpowered him quickly and landed the only two punches of the bout before taking the Thrasher forward to the ice.

They both got five minutes each for fighting, although Thorburn should have probably gotten an instigator.

11:19 - Zdeno Chara just circled the net, dare I say Orr-like and put it past Pavelec, who gives way to Hedberg. 3-0, Boston. Shots are 8-4, Bruins.

12:41 - I just looked up -- shots are 8-2.

As Johnny Bucyk said, "Two goals, two shots. Good percentage."

15:52 - Yelle scores from Nokelainen and Hunwick. An outstanding start for the B's. It's 2-0, Boston.

16:27 -Thronton and Boulton are in a fight. A good throw down, but we'll call it a draw. The important thing here is that Atlanta did not garner any momentum.

16:29 - Stuart, trailing on a three-on-two puts one away for Boston.

17:22 - Ward limped off and went to the room.

17:39 - Tim just had to make his fourth save. He held on. The PA is playing The Cult...

19:19 - Timmy makes his first save. It is VERY quiet here.

19:51 - Atlanta wins the draw.

20:00 - Start of the First. Put the hammer down early, Boston.

Boston Starters:
Thornton, Yelle, Nokelainen, Chara, Hnidy, Thomas
Atlanta Starters:
Boulton, Slater, Crabb, Valabik, Havelid, Pavelec

Switching to time on the clock...

7:26 p.m.
Brotherly love?
Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reminds us of a possible reunion tonight:
The Thrashers called up Colin Stuart from Chicago...Stuart made a name for himself during an 18-game stint for the Thrashers last season, including his NHL debut on Dec. 29 -- also against Boston. He played that game against his brother Mark...a defenseman for the Bruins. Colin Stuart recorded his first NHL point on an assist in that game.

Colin was a scratch. JB

7:09 p.m.
A good guess on the lines...

Lucic - Savard - Kessel
Axelsson - Bergeron - Kobasew
Wheeler - Krejci - Ryder
Thornton - Yelle - Nokelainen
Hunwick - Wideman
Stuart - Hnidy
Chara - Ward

Sturm, Sobotka, Lashoff

6:59 p.m.
It's Thomas vs. Pavelec in goal tonight.

6:45 p.m.
Preame Notes...
Let's get warmed up for the game ourselves.

After the Bruins meet the Thrashers in Atlanta on Friday night, the two teams will fly directly to Boston for their game Saturday night at the TD Banknorth Garden. In their first meeting of the season on October 25, Boston claimed a 5-4 victory behind Milan Lucic's first career hat trick.

WHEELER OF FORTUNE: Bruins rookie Blake Wheeler ranks in the top five in multiple offensive categories among first-year players. He is tied for second in goals with 9, fifth in points with 15, first in plus/minus with +15, second in shooting percentage with 22.9%, and tied for first in game winning goals with 2. Drafted by Phoenix with the fifth overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Wheeler signed an entry-level deal with the Bruins as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2008.

Phil Kessel has extended his consecutive-games-with-a-point streak to 13 games entering Friday night's game against the Thrashers, tying Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin for the longest such streak on the season. Kessel currently owns the longest active streak in the NHL.

HIT MAN: Winger Milan Lucic currently leads the NHL in hits with 113, an average of over four per game. Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik and Washington's Alex Ovechkin are the only other players with over 100 hits this year, as they have 107 and 101 respectively.

Boston has won their last 10 contests on home ice. This win streak is their longest such stretch since an 11-game home win streak from December 5, 1982-January 29, 1983. Their last loss at home came on October 23 against Toronto.

The Bruins have 13 games slated in the month of December, nine of which are on the road. However, the Bruins have three home games in the next week with tilts against the Thrashers on Saturday the 13th, the Maple Leafs on Thursday the 18th , and the Hurricanes on Saturday the 20th.

  • The Bruins hold the top record in the Eastern Conference at 19-5-4 and 42 points.
  • They have the second-best road record overall in the league at 9-4-3 and 21 points.
  • The Bruins have the league's best home power play at 32.6% (16 goals on 49 advantages) and fifth best power play overall (23 goals on 101 advantages).
  • Marc Savard is tied for third in the NHL in assists with 24.
  • Phil Kessel is third in the NHL in goals with 17.
  • Milan Lucic leads the NHL in hits with 113.
  • Patrice Bergeron is third in the NHL in faceoff percentage for those skaters that have taken more than 300 draws this season with a 58.0 % success rate.
  • The Bruins have four players among the league's top 15 plus/minus ratings with Blake Wheeler and Savard are tied for fourth at +15, David Krejci tied for eighth at +14 and Matt Hunwick is tied for 12th at +13. Wheeler and Hunwick are ranked first and second respectively, among rookies in plus/minus.
  • Wheeler is also fifth in the overall rookie scoring race and is tied for second among league rookies in goals with 9-6=15 totals.
  • Tim Thomas owns the NHL's best goals against average at 1.90 and ranks second in save percentage at .940.
  • Manny Fernandez has the league's fifth-best goals against average at 2.08.
  • The Bruins as a team have the league's best goals against average at 2.03.
Look for notes and stats like the above -- and much more -- in every edition of the Bruins Week Ahead. Look for it every Friday or Saturday here on Thanks to the Bruins Communications Office for providing this, and so many other, valuable resources.  JB

6:36 p.m.
Oh baby! What had been a 14-minute drive from hotel to rink this morning was a 58-minute extravaganza which put the Bruins into the building at just shy of 6:00 p.m.

There was nothing to be done about it, either. It's doubtful that anyone could have predicted that the traffic here in Atlanta would be bumper-to-bumper on most of the highways and even some of the back roads so as to thoroughly gridlock us in place for the better part of an hour.

Thankfully bussie had a decent understanding of the greater Atlanta traffic pattern and got us through Olympic Park...only to have to wait for what must have been the longest train of all time to cut us off within eyesight of Philips Arena.

Anyway, the Bruins are here and are preparing for their 7:30 p.m. start.

3:43 p.m.
Matt Hunwick. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Mike Dembeck)
Another young player that the Bruins are high on is Matt Hunwick.

In fact, Coach Julien said that Hunwick is playing like a top four defenseman right now -- good thing, too. Because he's had to take over for two of the team's best in Andrew Ference and Aaron Ward.

Just don't count Hunwick amongst those who are getting into the hype.

"Obviously, we have our established guys who do make up the true top four," said the former Michigan Wolverine. "But right now, with two of those guys out, there are other guys who need to step up and, not necessarily fill those roles entirely, but help fill the void.

"And that's what I am trying to do right now."

But Hunwick will never deny that he is having fun playing in the NHL and being successful.

"I think being able to play, the more minutes you get the better you feel out there," he said with a smile. "And I think with the success that the team has been having recently, it's been a lot of fun."

However, Hunwick is not expecting to have much fun tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers.

"(Kovalchuk) is one of those guys who is so dangerous," he said. "You have to keep him to the outside and obviously when he has the puck he is really good, also have to watch when he doesn't have the puck.

"He finds the holes and gets the shot off so quick that if you don't have a stick on him there's a good chance it's going to go in the net.

"You need to be aware of when he has the puck and (be especially aware) when he doesn't," said Hunwick.

2:36 p.m.
P.J. Axelsson's Ornament
Bruins Ornament Auction...
During the Bruins home games on Saturday, December 13 and Thursday, December 18, ornaments decorated and autographed by Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, Tim Thomas, Blake Wheeler and the entire Boston Bruins 2008-09 roster and coaching staff will be available for fans to bid on during the Boston Bruins Foundation's annual "Bruins Ornament Silent Auction".

Each individual ornament was created by a different member of the Bruins, for a total of 25 one-of-a-kind ornaments up for bid.

All of the money raised from the auction will benefit the Boston Bruins Foundation. More...

1:37 p.m.
Vladimir Sobotka has a large following of admirers in the media and his name often comes up when anyone begins talking about the Bruins best young players.

Now, having him with the team, questions about when we might see Vladi in the lineup or if the time away from the Boston roster has left the young forward wondering about his place in the organization are inevitable.

"I think he understands (his role)," said  Coach Julien after morning skate. "And I think he knows that with the way the team is going, that in Providence he is (going to play every night).

"Players are not crazy about sitting and watching.

"And he's a young player with a bright future ahead of him and right now he really wants to play," he said.
According to Julien, Providence has been good for Sobotka.

"He's playing in every situation possible in Providence," continued Julien. "Right now it's about playing a lot (in the AHL) or being a healthy scratch (in the NHL).

"He'll get his opportunity."

However, Julien continued to praise the young forward.

"He plays a big man's game and is not afraid to go into corners and mix it up and that's what we like about him," he said. "Obviously, we've gotten bigger, size wise, but guys like him are still around because they play big."

Finally, Coach Julien spoke about a change in Vladimir's status -- he's gone from being an "emergency recall" to "recalled."

But the Bruins head coach said it was just a technicality.

"That's the only thing that's been changed and that's just a piece of paper," said Julien. "He's here right now and we're not sending him back today, for sure."

12:17 p.m.
In the most well attended optional practice of all time, Sturm, Axelsson, Chara and Wideman were the only men with a day off.

Tim Thomas was first off the ice and that should indicate that he will be in goal this evening.

Vladimir Sobotka's status has been switched from "emergency recall" to "recall" and he will not be sent home today.

More in a bit. JB

11:13 a.m.

After practice on Thursday, the name on everyone’s lips was Kovalchuk.

P.J. Axelsson agreed that if opponents take a shift off against the Atlanta Thrashers the puck’s “gonna end up in your net.”

“They make plays all over the ice. And they just don’t chip it in and go (after it), they actually try to beat you.

And that’s tough. If they come with you with a lot of speed…we’ve got to try and stop them (almost) in their end.”

Kovalchuk is a whole other issue and can change a game just like Ovechkin.

“They have unbelievable skating ability and unbelievable hands,” said P.J. “That’s a pretty good combination in this league and it’s pretty tough to contain him.

“We’ll have to do a good job.”

Tim Thomas, who is the odds on favorite to play in goal this evening, said that you “have to be very aware when he is on the ice and make sure (to know) where he’s at.

“Even in their zone and even when he’s not the one with the puck you have to be looking out.”

“And he’s got one of the hardest shots around and he doesn’t mind shooting…he’s right-handed and he sets himself up for the one-timer a lot, so you have to be aware of it,” he said.

Patrice Bergeron said that he thought that all of the Bruins were aware of Kovalchuk’s speed and his shot.

“He’s got that talent and he’s got that quick release and we have to be aware of that,” he said. “We have to respect that.

“But at the same time we have to play our game.

“We’ve talked about him a lot, as one of the top players in the league, and we need to just go out there and (counter) that,” he said.

Bruins head coach Claude Julien just sees another big threat.

“You can look at their record or you can look at what they’ve got and the potential that they have,” said Julien. “They’ve got some good players that can do some damage if you let them.

“So, it’s really about us.”
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