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Welcome Back Bruins

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
This morning, the Bruins are waking up back home in the Greater Boston Area. Cue the theme from Welcome Back Kotter:

Welcome back,
Your dreams were your ticket out.
Welcome back,
To that same old place that you laughed about.
Well the names have all changed since you hung around,
But those dreams have remained and they're turned around.
Who'd have thought they'd lead ya (Who'd have thought they'd lead ya)
Here where we need ya (Here where we need ya)
Yeah we tease him a lot cause we've got him on the spot, welcome back,
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.

Mr. Kotter with Principal Woodman
Yah, I am in a Gabe Kaplan (or his character Gabe Kotter) kind of mood this morning -- for the first time in, well, ever.

I think it's because we are all going back to Ristuccia Arena for practice today and back into a routine that, hopefully, won't end until kids are getting out of school.

But the mood might have occurred because I need a haircut, big time (see picture of Gabe).

But I digress...

Just like Kotter's unruly students (nicknamed "sweathogs") there is a sense of unknown about this set of Boston Bruins. Will they fulfill the promise they've shown earlier this season or will injuries prevent them from making it to the Stanley Cup playoffs?

There are a lot of people who are yelling, "Oooo-ooooo-ooooh" or Arnold Horshack's catch phrase on Welcome Back when he thought he knew an answer. To those people, I say, "Up your nose with a rubber hose" or Vinnie Barbarino's (John Travolta's) catch phrase from the same show.

The truth is that right nobody can predict where this season is going, especially since you could make the point that it is simply injury, and not talent or production, that have slowed Our Boys in recent weeks -- weeks where it has been nearly impossible to ice a consistent lineup ("I'm so confused," sayeth Barbarino).

And yah, the B's have hit a rough stretch 1-3-1 in their last five and 4-5-1 in their last ten, buuuuut they remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and second place in the Northeast. And they have been consistent point producers -- their last loss being the only time this season where the Black & Gold have failed to pick up a point in consecutive games.

Just to catch up, take a looksie at the standings:

 Eastern Conference
 Team GP Pts

 1. * Ottawa 36 52  
 2. * New Jersey 36 43  
 3. * Carolina 38 41  
 4. Boston 36 40  
 5. Montreal 36 40  
 6. NY Rangers 37 40  
 7. Buffalo 35 39  
 8. NY Islanders 35 38

Northeast Division
Northeast GP Pts

Ottawa 36 52
Boston 36 40 
Montreal 36 40
Buffalo 35 39
Toronto 37 38

And yes, I do notice that it is very tight and yes, I am aware of the similarities to this time last year. But here is the deal, and I can say this with dead certainty, this team will not give up and neither should we.

There is a lot of hockey to be played before April, and it all re-starts, today. I can't wait...

10:14 p.m.
Running out the door I caught a glimpse of the real world...

The news said that former former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been killed in Pakistan. Very sad news, particularly for her friends from Harvard -- including Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna, who knew her very well.

The inevitable question: Why report this in a hockey blog?

Well, it turns out, that Ms. Bhutto, who would become the prime minister of Pakistan just like her father, was a big Harvard hockey fan and a few years back Joe, who played goal at for the Crimson,  wrote a very touching story about how he introduced her to the "inner workings" of a hockey puck and she introduced him as "the goalie from the movie Love Story."

I am certainly very sorry to hear of her passing...

Click here to read that happy story about hockey's ability to bring people together and how athletics (and hockey in particular) enriches lives  -- even the lives of heads of state.

I think it is a terrific piece.

Off to practice...

6:52 p.m.
I had one more piece of sad news to pass along...

John Smith, off ice official here in Providence saying, "Hi."

Haven't been in touch in a while so I thought I'd drop a line. We are seeing some great hockey down here. If you get a night off feel free to stop in.

Along with my e-mail, I bring some sad news to you. The day we met last season, I introduced you to one of our off ice officials officials, Bill Carey. Bill sat in the back row of the press box at the end of the table. I'm sure you remember him he talked your ear off all night about hockey.

Im sorry to report that Bill Passed away recently at the age of 90.

Bill was a life long Sports enthusiast and an avid Bruins and Red Sox fan. He was an American Hockey League Off Ice Official with the Providence Bruins for 15 years and was a long time usher at the "old" Rhode Island Auditorium for the Providence Reds of the AHL.

This past summer Bill was honored by the RI Reds Heritage society for his years of dedicated service to Reds hockey.Bill also worked with the Brown University hockey and football teams for 50 years, and was the official scorer for the Community College of RI baseball team.

Most notably, Bill fought in World War II and was in the first wave to land on Utah Beach in the invasion of Normandy for which he was awarded the Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf Cluster and the Bronze Star and, finally, a second Purple Heart.

The P-Bruins had a very nice moment of silence for Bill and I just wanted to say, from all the Off Ice Officials in Providence, "We will miss you, Bill."

John Smith

I have some interesting stuff (that Bill would have surely enjoyed) from today's practice, so check back in a few. Thanks to John Smith for the nice note...

8:20 p.m.
After practice I wandered into the Bruins locker room in Ristuccia and ended up talking to Chuck Kobasew.

Chuck has been a real nice piece of the puzzle this season, particularly after he missed much of his time with Boston last season with various injuries, and has 13 goals to lead Boston in that department.

Even so, the B's are in need for some more goals and I asked him if he were feeling the pressure to score even more than he has.

"I think you just have to go out there and play," said Kobasew. "Anytime you press, it doesn't work.

"You have to just go out there...and have fun.

"Good things will happen," he said.

Looking at the lineup, I also asked Kobasew if it were hard to gain any personal momentum with the lines (necessarily) being shuffled due to injury or if new linemates tended to help create momentum.

"It doesn't really matter," explained Chuck. "Sure, if you play with someone for a while you get to know their tendencies.

"But at this point in the season everyone's played with everyone. We know each other well enough (so) if you play with a guy for a couple of shifts a game or a whole game, it doesn't matter."

On the flip side, despite his omnipresent smile Brendan Bochenski is certainly feeling some urgency to contribute.

Wearing a white jersey in today's practice and playing on Marc Savard's first line, the former North Dakota star knows that he has the ability to put some heady points on the board (he was 11-11-22 in 31 games with Boston last season). But in 18 contests this season Bo is still looking for goal number one (as he is 0-6-6).

"Yah, it sounds like I will be getting a chance (indicating the white first line jersey) in the next game, and maybe the next couple of games, to play with some players who can get you the puck and I need to do what I need to do," said Bo. "I've missed the last six games, so I am just excited to get back into the lineup.

"But to get back and get to play with Savvy and Axie (P.J. Axelsson), that excites me even more."

Come to think of it, everyone seemed pretty excited to get back to the rink and back into the schedule. And it certainly didn't take very long for that to happen.

Shortly after we spoke, Kobabsew and Bochenski and the rest of the B's, hightailed it to the airport. Via Bear Force One, Our Boys arrived in Raleigh Thursday evening in preparation for their tilt with Carolina on Friday.

I can't wait for Friday night...
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