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Three Bruins to Play in All-Star Game

by Angela Stefano / Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, left, is congratulated by teammates after his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period of their NHL hockey game in Boston, Thursday Jan. 17, 2008. From left is Chara, Dennis Wideman (6), Phil Kessel and Marco Sturm of Germany.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Bruins fans will have a lot to cheer about while watching the All-Star festivities this Saturday and Sunday as four Bruins players will be participating in Atlanta this weekend. Rookie forward Milan Lucic will bring his talents to the YoungStars game and then he, and the rest of the hockey world, will get to see three of the Hub of Hockey's best in the big game on Sunday night.

When B’s captain Zdeno Chara was named as an All-Star Game starter for the Eastern Conference team, his teammates were not surprised and all agreed that the defenseman deserved the honor.

“He talks to you quite a bit out there on the ice,” said fellow defenseman Dennis Wideman.  “He doesn’t even have to say that much.  You just watch him and you learn.

“[You see] his work ethic and the way he handles himself out there….It’s a presence that the other team feels, but you feel, too.”

Fellow All-Star Tim Thomas usually has the best view of Chara's work.

"Just because they are booing him doesn't mean that they don't appreciate what he does," said the goalie.  "(They do) after the game. They just don't like it when (their team) is playing him."

Head coach Claude Julien, too, was praiseful of Chara.

“He’s had a great year so far, and he’s been a big part of our success, so I think that people are recognizing that around the league.

“Every night he’s in there and playing against top players on the other team,” he said.  “He’s a very focused individual, and he’s a very committed individual.”

Chara himself was humble upon receiving the news earlier this month.

“'I thank the fans for giving me their votes and my teammates," he said.  "It's a big privilege and a big honor to be selected."

As a veteran of the game, Chara was able to share some advice about the experience with Marc Savard, another Bruin headed to Atlanta this weekend.

Boston Bruins' Marc Savard (91) leaps to avoid a shot on Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price which was blocked by defenseman Ryan O'Byrne (3) during the second period of a hockey game in Boston Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
“He said it’s exciting, it’s a great time,” Savard said after he was named to the Eastern Conference roster on January 14. He replaces injured Ottawa Senator and ex-teammate (in Atlanta) Danny Heatley.

Despite being high on the league scoring list last year, Savard was not nominated for the game, a memory that still stings.

“I was upset a little bit,” he said in an NHL conference call.  “I thought for sure…I had a good chance of getting in.

“You know, I guess it takes some time.

“This year I didn’t really think about it, and look what happens,” Savard told the media after his nomination.

“It’s an awesome feeling….I’m excited, and I’m going to have some fun.”

The Bruins center said he never thought about playing in the All-Star Game as a young player.

“First off, I just wanted to make the NHL and be a regular,” he said during the conference call.

But now that he’s made it, Savard has other high hopes.

“Making the playoffs is a huge thing, so I think that is the next step,” he said.

Savard noted that an All-Star player doesn’t make it to the big game alone.

“I owe a lot of thanks to the guys [on the team] and the coaching staff,” he said.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, right, makes a save on a deflection by New Jersey Devils' Mike Rupp, left, during the third period of Boston's 4-3 win in a hockey game in Boston on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
The third and final Bruins offering to the Eastern Conference All-Stars came on Tuesday, January 22, when Tim Thomas was named to the team.

“I don’t even know what first-timers usually do.  That’s how inexperienced I am at this game,” Thomas said in an NHL conference call.  “I am kind of in the dark still, and if that’s what the first-timers usually do, then I’ll follow suit.”

Thomas took a winding road to the NHL, including a stint on a team in Finland during the NHL lockout, before signing with the Bruins.

“When I found I was going [to the All-Star Game], I emailed a friend of mine that I had played with in that lockout year…and he emailed back: ‘I guess this is final proof that you have made the right decision in coming back,’” Thomas said.

“It was a really tough decision, but it looks like it’s bearing fruit.”

The goalie said he was grateful to those who supported him on his journey to the NHL, especially his agent, Bill Zito, and his wife, Melissa.

“Surrounding yourself with people that believe in you…makes it easier to believe in yourself,” he commented.

For the longest time, the goalie didn’t dare to dream about becoming an all-star.

“You didn’t dare think about it for so many years.  It was just a hard enough battle to try and make it to the NHL,” he said.

“Last summer, I did set a goal for myself to make the All-Star Game….It’s like a list of goals that you shoot for.  You might not get ‘em, but that’s one thing that I made in my mental list of goals.”

Still, Thomas himself is shocked that he’ll be playing Sunday.

“I can’t believe that it actually bore through.  Just hearing them announce me, ‘Tim has been elected to the 2008 All-Star Game,’ it’s funny even hearing it.”

He’s excited to share the experience with his wife and their three children.

“Being 33 and getting my first All-Star…it makes it quite special because I can share it with more people so to speak,” he said in the conference call.

While he’s thrilled to be spending his weekend in Atlanta, Thomas spoke for all the Bruins all-stars when he said that he wouldn’t let the honor go to his head.

“You can never get comfortable.  You can never relax in this game,” he said.  “If you don’t keep trying to get better…you’re going to get passed by.”

“I’ve been through enough challenges, though, to where I’m not afraid of a challenge.”

The 2008 NHL All-Star Game begins Sunday at 6 p.m.
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