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Pregame Notebook: Game 4 vs. Vancouver

by Hannah Becker / Boston Bruins
BOSTON – The Bruins picked up a convincing 8-1 win in Monday night’s Game 3, but Boston’s work isn’t done yet as they still find themselves with a 2-1 series deficit. The B's will look to even things out tonight as they take on the Canucks in Game 4.

Tonight’s showdown is sure to bring the best out of both teams. The Bruins still have something to prove after going down 2-0 in the series, and Vancouver is looking to get back on the right track after the embarrassing 8-1 loss.

On the wake of the Bruins announcement of Nathan Horton’s concussion and the NHL’s announcement of the resulting suspension to Aaron Rome, the team’s emotions will be at a peak level and staying disciplined is sure to be a key factor.

Special teams played a huge role in Game 3. The Bruins scored two power play goals and two shorthanded goals, while the Canucks weren’t able to generate any special teams momentum.

All the factors will collide tonight in what is sure to be a rocking TD Garden.

Horton out with severe concussion

Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced yesterday that Bruins forward Nathan Horton will miss the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a severe concussion.

Boston Bruins' Nathan Horton celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third period of Game 7 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference final series in Boston, Friday, May 27, 2011. The Bruins won 1-0 advancing to the finals or the first time in more than two decades. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
“His health is really important,” said B’s assistant captain Patrice Bergeron.

“I want him to do better, get better.  We're all thinking about him.”

Horton suffered the injury just over five minutes into the first period of Monday night’s Game 3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Horton was on the receiving end of an Aaron Rome check that sent him to the ice, where the medical staff came to his assistance and took him off the ice on a stretcher. 

After the play Rome was assessed a five-minute major for interference in addition to a 10-minute game misconduct penalty. Yesterday, the League announced that Rome has been suspended for four games, making him ineligible to play in the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“It  was  the League's decision. We'll go with it. Losing  a  player like Horty is a big loss.  He's been unbelievable for us. A lot of key goals.  He's an unbelievable teammate,” forward Shawn Thornton said.

“It's  not going to be easy, but guys are going to have to step up and
do  more  now, everybody in the lineup, and everybody that has been playing
is going to have to step up.”

The 26-year-old Horton is tied for second on the Bruins in playoff scoring with 17 points on eight goals and nine assists. He tallied three game-winning goals this postseason, including the winners in both Game 7’s the Bruins have played this year, against Montreal on April 27 and against Tampa Bay on May 27. Horton finished his first year as a Bruin with 26-27-53 totals during the regular season. 

“Nathan has been huge for us. He's a big part of the reason we're here. He's a tough guy to replace,” B’s forward Chris Kelly said.

A fan favorite for his shot and his smile, Horton was acquired by the Bruins along with Gregory Campbell from the Florida Panthers on June 22, 2010 in exchange for defenseman Dennis Wideman and two draft picks (first round 2010, third round 2011).

Bruins penalty kill on point
When the power play wasn’t working, at least the Bruins had the penalty kill to fall back on. And now that the power play has seemed to find a bit of a groove, the penalty kill hasn’t relaxed at all.

Boston Bruins center Chris Kelly (23) collides with Vancouver Canucks left wing Mason Raymond (21) in the first period during Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals,Monday, June 6, 2011, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Throughout the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final, the B’s have managed to stifle the potent Canucks penalty kill. The Canucks are just 1-22 on the power play in the first three games. Then you have to take into account the two shorthanded goals, the B’s managed in Game 3, and there is no disputing Boston’s special teams success.

“I think we're playing as a unit out there. We're hopefully taking away their time and space, obviously not giving them too many great opportunities,” Kelly said.

“But at the end of the day, that's our job as penalty killers, is to go out there and kill that penalty off.”

Entering this series, the Bruins were the underdogs, especially in the special teams category. Like football, special teams play a key role in almost all games. It’s rare you get a penalty free match-up like the Bruins and Lightning did in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

While the B’s power play struggled and the Tampa Bay power play exploded in Game 6 of that series, the B’s knew they would have to sort through their issues if they were to beat the Canucks.

Boston did that and more. Evidenced by the play of the penalty kill units throughout the entire Stanley Cup Final thus far and the emergence of the power play in Monday night’s Game 3, the Bruins have been able to gain momentum during and in the moments following a special situation.

“That can go both ways. There's been times that our power-play has gone out, had four  or five shots in the two minutes, hasn't gone in. But it's given us momentum for shifts after that,” said Kelly.

“It goes  the  other way with killing a penalty. If you go out there and do a great job, don't give them momentum, it goes the other way.”

Canucks react to Rome’s suspension
While the loss of one of the B’s most productive forwards is a considerably happening in the world of news, it’s only half of the story. 

Vancouver Canucks left wing Daniel Sedin, of Sweden, answers questions for the media during a news conference for the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals, Tuesday, June 7, 2011, in Boston. The Canucks lead the Boston Bruins 2-1 in the best-of-seven games series. Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday in Boston. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Also resulting from the play that sent Horton to the hospital was a four game suspension to the Canucks’ Rome.

A solid defenseman for Vancouver, Rome skates on the third pairing and contributes valuable ice time. In Game 2, Rome was on the ice for 17:59 and managed a shot on B’s goaltender Tim Thomas.  In Game 3, Rome spent only 1:29 on the ice before he was sent to the dressing room with a game misconduct penalty after the hit on Horton.

“I probably viewed it like most of you did. I thought it was a late hit. I thought that the body was contacted. But I also thought that the head was hit.  It caused a serious injury to Nathan Horton. So the key components are: the late hit, which I had it close to a second late,” said NHL Vice-President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy.

“We have our own formula at NHL Hockey Operations for determining late hits, and it was late.  We saw the seriousness of the injury with Nathan on the ice last night. That's basically what we deliberated on.  We tried to compare it with some of the other ones in the past. But it stands alone.  It's why we made the ruling. “

The Canucks players don’t agree with the ruling. Led by captain Henrik Sedin and twin brother Daniel, Vancouver went on the defensive today, stating they don’t agree with the NHL’s ruling.

“We totally disagree,” Daniel Sedin said.

“We support Rome. He's a hard-working guy.  He has no intention to hurt anyone out there.”

After the events of the past three days, which include Alexandre Burrows allegedly biting Patrice Bergeron (for which there was no further discipline from the NHL), the resulting taunting and ten game misconduct penalties handed out during Monday’s Game 3 (half of which were given to Canucks), the Vancouver squad that traveled across the continent to take on the Bruins have been painted as quite the villains.

With the hit on Horton only highlighting the chirpiness of the series, Henrik Sedin is focusing only on what he can do to help his teammates from within.

“If people on the outside say what they want to say, that's fine,” he said. “Aaron  has  been  a  big  part  of this team.  He's an honest player.”

As for Rome and how he’s dealing with the news of his suspension, Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault said he wasn’t taking the news well.

“He's very  emotional.  He's  very  disappointed.  He's  been  taken out of the
Stanley Cup  playoffs,” he said.

“I  don't  think right now he could tell you anything because he's way too emotional about what happened.”

While the Canucks clearly don’t  agree with the suspension, their hearts are still going out to Horton. No player wants to see another player, on the opposing team in the Stanley Cup Final or not, go down with the type of injury Horton suffered.

“Last  night,  very  unfortunate  that  hit  turned  bad.   We're real disappointed the player got hurt,” Vigneault said.
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