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Rocky Mountain High

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
7:28 p.m.

Bruins Roster: Printable Version
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Practice is over and the B's are enjoying a couple of hours off before a big team dinner.

The great thing about practice was the sheer simplicity of it -- 22 guys, four lines, etc. -- and the fact that the regular season starts tomorrow.

"It's fun to get the season going," said Bruins head coch Claude Julien. "Just the fact that tomorrow is the real thing is exciting for everybody.

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.
"I could sense it from out team today...the guys are looking forward to tomorrow.".

Nobody takes their place in the NHL for granted -- NOBODY.

"No doubt," agreed Julien. "There's a lot of people work their whole lives trying to get here, as players, as coaches, as managers.

"(Some) have a lot of success...they just don't get that breaks (and) you need the breaks."

But it's not just getting the breaks, it's what you do with them that matters.

"You need to be there at the right place at the right time," said Julien. "And you have to take advantage of it."

The Bruins return to practice tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. Denver time. JB

5:16 p.m.
So, the team that is on the ice here in Denver is (in no special order):
Sturm, Axelsson, Wheeler, Lucic, Yelle, Krejci, Savard, Bergeron, Kessel, Ryder, Kobasew, Thornton, Nokelainen, Ward, Wideman, Hnidy, Chara, Ference, Stuart, Alberts, Fernandez and Thomas.

That's 22 players.

4:56 p.m.
Vladimir Sobotka has been assigned to Providence. The official release is coming...

4:29 p.m. (Boston time)

The Bruins are in the Pepsi Center. It's 2:28 here, and the club is going to get a practice in before the team dinner.

Word from the home front is that Nate Thompson was claimed off waivers by the Islanders. Meanwhile, Jeremy Reich and Peter Schaefer made it through.

It was a nice flight out, with just a bit of turbulence to make it interesting.

Wheels still on the Hub of Hockey
Yesterday, Blake Wheeler’s name bounced about frequently, particularly after Schaefer did not show up for practice. To the young man’s credit, Wheeler was not counting on anything until he heard some official word.

“I don’t know anything officially yet, but I guess probably sooner than later I’m going to find out,” said Blake.

Nobody had to wait much longer for the news.

“Again, right now we still might have one more move, but Blake has made the team,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “We’re going to take it slowly.

“I liken it to [Milan] Lucic a little bit last year, although Blake’s a couple years older. I haven’t talked to him about it yet, but I want him to continue working hard, continue practicing hard, and we hope to see a progression because the level of play picks up now. We’ll see how he does.”

Chiarelli was asked if Wheeler’s making the club was more surprising than Milan Lucic’s accomplishment last season.

“Don’t forget that, while Blake is three years older, he was the fifth pick overall in the draft, his draft year, so he comes with a pretty thick resume,” said Chiarelli. “As a third party as you look down, you’d expect him to make it versus Lucic making it, all things being equal.”

Bruins head coach Claude Julien simply sees another big, skilled player.

“If you look at his physique, there’s no doubt that he’s strong enough, and he’s big enough,” said Julien. “Where he really impressed us also was how strong he was with the puck along the boards.

“I think he is ready.

“He uses his body well and he’s a big, strong individual, so that should play in his favor,” said the coach.

Wheeler’s hockey sense should too, especially given the skill of the players around him in the NHL.

“As a former player, being called up from the AHL to the NHL, I found it was an easier game in the NHL,” said Coach Julien. “The players are in position, your options should be a lot easier and I think that’s part of what he noticed.

“That’s a guy in his first pro camp noticing those kinds of things (but) he’s already got good hockey sense, and I think that’s really helped him along.

“I think he understands the game well. You don’t have to repeat something to him twice; he gets it the first time.”

Like most successful NHL rookies, Wheeler said that he just put his head down and played.

“I think the biggest thing about it was my mindset coming into camp was that I never had any expectations,” said Wheeler. “I never really set any goals, I just kind of went day to day, worked hard, and let the rest take care of itself.

“I think when you come with an expectation make the big club or bust, then I think that if you have any setbacks it can be really depressing and it can set you back quite a ways.

“You’ve got to take the peaks with the valleys and I think that’s the mindset you’ve got to have to be successful as an athlete There’s going to ups, there’s going to be downs. I just came into camp ready to accept both of them, and I think that was really beneficial for me.”

It was pretty beneficial for the Bruins, too.

Fernandez feeling fine
Judging solely by his body language during Tuesday’s session, Manny Fernandez is feeling pretty comfortable in the crease.

“Camp is over,” said the goalie. “Camp is over, but we got by.

“I had a nice little day off with the family and we were back to work, today.”

Only, it didn’t look like too much work for Fernandez, who looked sharp and wore a smile throughout much of the skate.

“I think, sometimes, it’s fun to laugh it up a bit,” said Manny. “I lightens the mood, a little bit and if you give the guys a little challenge, that’s what it is all about.”

These days, it’s pretty much a challenge for anyone who finds themselves trying to shoot on a Bruins goalie, whether it is in Boston or in Providence. But the addition of Fernandez to 2008 All-Star Tim Thomas, should add to the whole being-harder-to-play-against vibe.

After all, even before opponents get to challenge Thomas or Fernandez, they have to get by Zdeno Chara.

But that’s not why Fernandez was smiling on Tuesday.

“I think it comes with playing,” said Fernandez of his confidence. “I’ve gained a little bit of that confidence back, where I feel better and your body starts to move in the right directions and doing the right stuff.

“But it takes time.”

And Manny figures it’s time to take the crease in a regular season game.

“I didn’t figure it was going to be an easy road,” said Fernandez. “I am my own toughest critic.

“And I think, over the years, that’s the way it’s (always) been.

“(But) this year I want to let it ride and hopefully I do well,” he said.

Fernandez said that this year he is got going to dwell on negatives.

“I need to be able to turn the page and look forward and work hard,” he said. “There are still pieces (of my game) missing, but hopefully…over the (course of) the year it will all come back.”

GM Peter Chiarelli sounded hopeful, as well.

“I’m happy where they are at,” said Chiarelli of his backstops. “They’ve both had good games, and our objective was to get a strong duel and I think that’s where we’re heading.”

Beyond simple competition, the GM feels that having two veterans in the crease will take pressure of their bodies.

“I think certainly helps,” said Chiarelli of goalie tandems. “You can see the wear and tear on a couple of the goalies last year that played a ton of games.”
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