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Practice Update 2/11: Marchand, Merlot Return; Coach Receives Honor

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

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BOSTON, MA - Following the 3-1 win in Buffalo last night - and having earned an 8-1-1 record for their best 10-game start in team history - the Bruins held practice today at TD Garden in preparation to host to the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

Four skaters were missing from the ice, as Tyler Seguin took a maintenance day, while the B's announced that Jamie Tardif had been assigned to the AHL's Providence Bruins and Lane MacDermid was joining Providence on a conditioning loan. Aaron Johnson was also absent from practice, and B's General Manager Peter Chiarelli addressed his situation this afternoon.

"This morning we intended to send Aaron to Providence on a conditioning loan," said Chiarelli. "After Aaron headed there this morning, we were informed by the league that we were unable to complete the transaction because we had already used one conditioning assignment for Aaron when he was not injured."

"As a result, Aaron missed the team's practice today at the Garden. He will be back with the Bruins on Tuesday."

In the absence of Seguin on the ice, the line rushes today saw the top line reunited with David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, while Rich Peverley joined Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in the gold jerseys, and Chris Kelly centered Chris Bourque and Jay Pandolfo in the third line grey. The Merlot Line stayed put, with Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille, and the six defensive mainstays were all on the ice (with seventh defenseman Johnson absent).

Marchand Hitting Stride

Last night in Buffalo, Marchand talked about how great it felt to make an impact with a goal in his first game back, and he revisited the B's win today after practice.

"Awesome," he said, on being back out on the ice in game situations, after missing nearly week following a collision into the boards in Toronto on February 2. "It’s always tough when you have to sit out and watch the team play. It just felt great to get back out and play with the team again."

"It’s tough having a week off and missing a couple of days, but [the trainers] always do a great job of making sure you work hard when you’re not playing. I definitely had to do that."

"It’s different every time. You go through points in the year where things go right, and then you go through others where things don’t click as well.," Marchand added, on his early success this season, leading the team with six goals through 10 games. "You could go nine or 10 games without a goal, and then go five games with five goals. It’s just how things go. I’ve gotten pretty lucky playing with great players. I don’t do a whole lot out there—it’s more of the guys I’m playing with."

Merlot Line Reunited in Buffalo

Thornton and Paille both joined Marchand in returning to the lineup against Buffalo and were excited to be healthy and together again on the Merlot Line with their center, Gregory Campbell, though both admitted they could be better, having not played a game since January 31 against the Sabres.

"I could've been better. I think the timing was a little bit off - I felt much better today out on the ice, and hopefully much better tomorrow," said Thornton, on getting his game-form back and demanding more from himself in order to contribute to the team's success.

"It's good to be back out there. Me and Piesy have been skating together all week with Pando [Jay Pandolfo]. We were itching to get back in the lineup, so it's good to see him flying around and having fun out there, too."

"Really good, a lot better than I expected - I wasn’t sure what was going to happen," Thornton's linemate, Danny Paille, said on his own play in the first game back from catching a stick up high near his eye from Sabre Tyler Meyers. "Throughout the whole game I felt really good, kept my shifts as short as I could. We got caught out there one time, but for the most part I was satisfied, with not just my game, but the whole team played awesome."

"I just have to try to get as many shots on net as I can, and put them in as much as I can," said Paille, who fired three shots on goal in the 3-1 win over his hometown Sabres in 9:39 of ice time, including 1:12 on the penalty kill. "It’s just going to be that kind of year for me, as well. I like contributing in different types of ways every game. It’s been good and I want to keep that up."

Familiarity Breeding Hot Start

For Shawn Thornton, being back in the lineup means not only joining his linemates on the ice, but also the rest of the B's core squad that has been together since the Cup run in 2011.

"I've said it all along, I think the fact that our team has been together for the last three years probably helps," Thornton said, on the team's strong start to the season. "A lot of the learning and feeling each other out at the start of the season, we really didn't have any of that because we know each other so well."

"I think with a shortened training camp and no preseason games, we were in a pretty good situation with the amount of guys returning," reiterated Chris Kelly, when asked about the familiarity of the B's roster being one of the ingredients to the 8-1-1 record. "I think one new additional forward and a couple of new defensemen. But, for the most part, the team was set for a few years. Obviously, that's shown."

Broadway Back in Boston

With the shortened 48-game season against only Eastern Conference opponents, the B's are already facing the New York Rangers for the third time in just 11 games. Going up against teams multiple times in such short proximity has led to playoff-type atmospheres at times with every point on the line, especially against a Rangers' team that the B's are 1-0-1 against this season, first defeating them in the season opener 3-1 and then dropping a 4-3 overtime decision in New York.

"I think we always have good games against the Rangers - they're playoff-type games," said center Chris Kelly. "They play the game the right way. They work hard, they're up and down the ice, they're a big, physical team, and so are we. I think it's great games to play. The atmosphere is always great, and hopefully we continue to play well against them."

That same approach was felt by forward Rich Peverley, who added that "they're always intense games" against the Blueshirts.

"Tomorrow the game against the Rangers is going to be that type of atmosphere," Paille agreed. "There’s a lot of expectation with that group, they have a lot to prove. They look like they’re finding their stride. It’s going to be tough, I definitely expect a playoff-type mentality."

Coach Julien Receives Honor

Earlier today, the Professional Hockey Players' Association announced that Coach Julien has been selected as the 2013 recipient of the PHPA Curt Leichner Distinguished Member Award.

The award, named in honor of former PHPA Executive Director, Curt Leichner, is presented annually to a member of the hockey community who has made significant contributions towards the advancement of professional minor league hockey, and has continued to diligently serve the sport. 

Coach Julien played 12 seasons of professional hockey from 1980-1992 prior to his coaching accolades. During the 1986-87 season with Fredericton Express, he was elected as the team's Player Representative, before his vision and leadership earned him the position of President of the PHPA's Player Executive Committee, where he spearheaded several initiatives to advance player education and rights.

“Being recognized by the Professional Hockey Players’ Association and receiving this award is a tremendous honor and one I am truly thankful for,” said Julien.  “Our collective goal at the PHPA was to improve the relationships between all parties involved in the game of hockey.  I am proud that the vision we had for the Association became a reality and that many of the ideas and major initiatives we worked on helped advance relations between the leagues, management, and players."

Coach Julien will be presented with the award during the offseason, joining previous recipients like Doug Messier, Don Cherry, Ron MacLean and Darcy Regier.

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