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Pregame Notebook vs. Atlanta

by Hannah Becker / Boston Bruins
BOSTON – The Boston Bruins need just a single point to clinch the Northeast Division crown, which will subsequently give them home-ice advantage for the playoffs, meaning they need just a regulation tie in this afternoon’s matchup.

Easier said than done as Boston welcomes the Atlanta Thrashers to TD Garden for a matinee clash.

Atlanta is clinging on to the mathematical possibility of making the playoffs, but needs to win each of the remaining five games of their season. The Thrashers currently sit 11th in the Eastern Conference, nine points behind the eighth place New York Rangers.

So Boston will face another desperate team today, something Head Coach Claude Julien says is a good thing for his team, which has already clinched a playoff spot.

“We went stretches where we played well and then we kind of flatten out there for a while and then picked it up again. So it’s been good all around for our hockey club, and I think that’s been great to play the teams that we’ve played in the last little while,” Julien said before the B’s faces Toronto on Thursday.

Atlanta enters tonight’s game with a 5-4-0 record in their last ten games and a 6-4-0 mark in their last ten road contests.

The Thrashers hold the season series over Boston, as the Bruins have a 1-1-1 record against Atlanta, although they are 11-1-1 in their last 12 versus the Thrashers.

Wheeler, Stuart return to Boston
Former Bruins Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart will return to the TD Garden ice for the first time this afternoon, since being traded to Atlanta on Feb. 18 in exchange for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik.

Wheeler (26), then with the B's, controls the puck in front of Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Since being traded, both Wheeler and Stuart have had productive campaigns in Atlanta.

Wheeler led the Thrashers in scoring in the month of March with 4-6-10 totals. In his 18 games in Atlanta, Wheeler has a 5-8-13 scoring line.

While Wheeler, who played the first three seasons of his career in Boston, has found his rhythm skating on the Thrasher’s first line and taking an active role in their power play and penalty kill, Stuart has found a home on Atlanta’s blueline.

In his first 17 games as a Thrasher, Stuart had 24 penalty minutes. 39 hits and 22 blocked shot.

He also recorded his first point with a goal on March 27, in Atlanta’s 5-4 victory over Ottawa.

As Wheeler and Stuart return, their teammates look forward to seeing some familiar faces and old friends around TD Garden.

B’s forward Michael Ryder was Stuart’s roommate and center David Krejci was good friends with Wheeler.

“We’re going to go for dinner tonight,” Krejci said of Wheeler yesterday. “Obviously he was my closest friend on the team for the past few years, we got really close.”

“He’s definitely making the most of it and having fun, that’s what he told me. He’s putting up the points and scoring goals so it’s good to see him do that.”

Despite Krejci’s friendship with Wheeler, once he steps on the ice for this afternoon’s game, all bets are off.

“He’s my friend, but once we go on the ice there are no friends.”

Peverley faces former team
Speaking of seeing familiar faces, B’s winger Rich Peverley, acquired in the trade with Atlanta, will square off against his old team for the first time in a spoked-b sweater.

Peverley, then with the Thrashers, takes a shot in front of Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mike Lundin (39)during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Peverley played the first 59 games of this season with Atlanta, collecting a 14-20-34 scoring line. 

Since coming to Boston, Peverley has 2-2-4 totals skating on the Bruins’ third line, and has feels he has found his niche in the line-up.

“I found a role and I’m pretty happy with it. We have a pretty good team and we’ve played really well so far.”

Although skating against an old team can always bring mixed emotions, Peverley isn’t fazed and says he can draw on past experience to control the emotions.

“I’ve been through it before. When I was picked up on waivers, I went back to Nashville my second game, so it’s not the first time I’ve been through.

“You just go out and try to play your best game.”

Peverley has been keeping an eye on his former team as they continue to hang on to hopes of climbing back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and is hoping to use some of the familiarity with Atlanta to his benefit this afternoon.

“They’ve been playing pretty well, beat Philly (Thursday) night, so they’re coming into this building with a lot of confidence so I’m looking forward to playing them,” he said.

“You practice with guys for two years, you know some tendencies. But they’ve improved pretty well and keep getting better.

“I’m just looking to be able to play my game and hopefully we can come out with a win.

Hnidy looks to make season debut
Coach Julien has confirmed nothing yet, but has recently remarked that he is looking to fit defenseman Shane Hnidy into the line-up as early as today.

Hnidy, who wasn’t played all season after suffering a shoulder injury in the Phoenix Coyote’s training camp, will be ready for the call when it comes.

“It’s been a while since I’ve gotten in for a game. So I haven’t heard yet, but just prepare as if I’m playing. Whatever happens does and I’ll just go about business day-to-day,” Hnidy said yesterday.

“I knew what was going to be going on coming in. I knew it was going to be a waiting period and a matter of me working towards getting ready and I’m at that point and just waiting for the coaches whenever they feel right, putting me in a situation.”

Boston signed Hnidy as a free agent to a one-year contract on Feb. 28.

Hnidy has been working out with the team, getting himself back into shape, and says he feels good physically but won’t know where he stands until he gets in some game action.

“”For the first couple shift I don’t know if I need to go all out. I have to go out there and just have to play, I can’t try to do too much,” said Hnidy.

“I have to play hard and obviously m’ going to be excited to get out there and start playing the game again and I practice and practice, but we’re in this business to play in games.”

This is Hnidy’s second stint with the Bruins, as he played 108 games with 17 points for the team in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Despite having not found a place in Boston’s line-up yet this season, Hnidy is just happy to be part of the team again.

“I’m definitely enjoying it. When you’re away from the game and question your future like I was it’s a joy just to be back and in whatever situation you can.”

Player Profile: Tomas Kaberle
When a player spends the first 12 years of his career with one team, the adjustment to being traded and performing within a new system may take a little time.

Boston Bruins' Tomas Kaberle prepares for a face-off during first period NHL hockey action against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto Saturday, March 19, 2011. Kaberle, who played for the Maple Leafs for over a decade, returned to play in Toronto for the first time since being traded to the Boston Bruins. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)
But it’s beginning to seem that time has come for Tomas Kaberle.

Traded to Boston on Feb. 18 from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kaberle has played in 19 games with the B’s, collecting 1-6-7 totals this far.

In 77 total games this season, the 33-year-old has a 4-41-45 scoring line.

Kaberle was originally drafted by the Maple Leafs in the eighth round (204th overall), of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.

In his 11-plus seasons in Toronto, Kaberle collected 83-440-5 totals in 878 games. 

The 6-foot-1, 214-pound native of Rakovnik, Czech Republic has his best statistical season in 2005-06, recording 67 points (9-58-67) while playing in all 82 of Toronto’s games.

The three-time Olympian has 11 multiple-point games this season. He scored his first Bruins point with an assist on Feb. 26 against Vancouver.

Kaberle is looking forward to getting back into the playoffs, as he missed the postseason with the Maple Leafs in each of the last four seasons.

In 77 career playoff games, Kaberle has 6-22-28 scoring totals to go along with 24 penalty minutes and a plus-8 rating.
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