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Northeast: Bruins feeling better at the break

by James Murphy
After going winless in 10 games and falling to 12th in the Eastern Conference, the Bruins have finally gotten it together. They entered the Olympic break on a four-game winning streak to climb to the seventh in the conference with 22 games remaining in the regular season. There is a renewed hope among the players that they're finally coming together after a season riddled with injuries and underachieving.

"If you look at the history of the teams that won (Stanley Cups), a lot of them got hot at the end," veteran forward Mark Recchi told reporters. "That's got to be our focus these last 22 games. I don't think it matters what place you're in to get into the playoffs. ... But let's be in the playoffs, let's be hot going into the playoffs and then we'll see how far we can take it."

Goaltender Tuukka Rask has been one of the main reasons for the Bruins' recent resurgence. Rask started the last six games and won all four leading into the break. He entered the Olympic hiatus 14-7-4 with a 2.08 goals-against average and .928 save percentage after turning aside 188 of the 200 he faced in the last six games. He seems to have taken over the No. 1 goalie spot, and the Bruins may look to ride him as far as he'll take them in the final 22 games.

Six Bruins are competing in the Olympics -- Zdeno Chara and Miroslav Satan (Slovakia), Tim Thomas (U.S.), Patrice Bergeron (Canada), David Krejci (Czech Republic), and Marco Sturm (Germany).

Sabres feeling good again -- While the Sabres lost their grip on the Northeast Division last week, they at least were able to go into the Olympic break on a high note, snapping a six-game winless streak (0-4-2) with a 3-1 win against the Sharks last Saturday. The Sabres know they need to be better, but they were relieved to snap the winless skid and build some confidence.

"It was good that we could go into the break feeling good," goaltender Ryan Miller told the Buffalo News. "Even though it's been a tough stretch, feeling good about the way we played tonight against a good team can go a long way.

"Attitude is a big thing, and rest is a big thing in this League. A lot of guys are finally getting it, and it definitely helps going into our break."

For now, the Sabres' non-Olympians look to get some much-needed mental and physical rest and come back strong after the Olympic break.

"Guys need to get away a little bit (but) not too far away," Paul Gaustad told the Buffalo News. "We've got to hit the ground running when we come back. We're still in-season. We're still focused. Get our rest and then come back at it."

Six Sabres are participating in the Olympics: Ryan Miller (U.S.), Henrik Tallinder (Sweden), Andrej Sekera (Slovakia), Toni Lydman (Finland), Jochen Hecht (Germany). Coach Lindy Ruff will be an assistant coach for Canada.

Habs trying to figure things out -- After a thrilling 5-4 overtime win against the Capitals last Wednesday, the Canadiens were swept in a home-and-home set by the Flyers and left looking for answers heading into the break. Montreal still held the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but the players know they need to be better.

"No excuses," Jaroslav Spacek told the Montreal Gazette. "You've just got to get the job done. We had good games against Washington and Pittsburgh. There's no reason not to play good hockey against teams like Philly or Boston."

As Spacek pointed out, the Habs will need to come out of the gate strong after the Olympic break.

"The (Olympic) break is coming at the right time," he said. "We can energize and come back, have a few good practices and be focused for our last 19 games."

Montreal called up defenseman P.K. Subban for the final two games before the break, and the Habs' 2007 second-round pick delivered right away, with an assist in each game. Subban was reassigned to Hamilton of the American Hockey League for the Olympic break, but he should be back up with the big team when Montreal returns to action at Boston March 2.

New GM Pierre Gauthier made his first trade last week, acquiring forward Dominic Moore from the Florida Panthers for a 2011 second-round draft pick.

The Habs have six players at the Olympics: Yannick Weber (Switzerland), Andrei Markov (Russia), Tomas Plekanec (Czech Republic) Jaroslav Halak (Slovakia) and Sergei Kostitsyn (Belarus). Andrei Kostitsyn was selected for Belarus, but he's sidelined with a knee injury.

Busy day for Senators -- The Senators had a lot happening last Friday. First they extended the contract of General Manager Bryan Murray, and then Murray went right back to work, acquiring center Matt Cullen from the Carolina Hurricanes, for defenseman Alexandre Picard and a 2010 second-round draft pick.

"Bryan has proven that he is the right man to lead this team," Sens owner Eugene Melnyk said. "Our team is now in a position to not only be competitive each season, but also to contend for the Stanley Cup. Bryan and his staff have worked hard to build an organization that now has the depth at the National Hockey League level and in our farm system that should allow us to be competitive for many years to come."

As for his first move after getting extended, Murray was excited to add Cullen to the mix.

"He's a hardworking guy, versatile, he can play center, wing, he can kill penalties and play the point on the power play," Murray said. "He's got some skill, he's got good effort, and he's a real good character guy."

Ottawa has won 14 of its last 16 games and entered the break one point ahead of the Sabres for the Northeast Division lead.

Five Senators are playing in the Olympics: Daniel Alfredsson (Sweden), Filip Kuba and Milan Michalek (Czech Republic), Jarkko Ruutu (Finland) and Anton Volchenkov (Russia).

Burke back at work -- It hasn't been an easy last week for Leafs GM Brian Burke. But he's doing his best to move forward following the tragic, shocking death of his 21-year-old son, Brendan in a car accident.

He met with the media in Toronto on Friday, and also that day claimed forward Jamie Lundmark on waivers from the Calgary Flames.

Lundmark, a 29-year-old six-year veteran, had 9 points in 21 games with the Calgary Flames, and 21 points in 32 games for the Flames' AHL affiliate the Abbotsford Heat.

Lundmark also provides veteran depth should Burke move out another center following the Olympics.

Five Toronto team members are skating in the Olympics: Tomas Kaberle (Czech Republic) Phil Kessel (U.S.) Jonas Gustavsson (Sweden), Ron Wilson (U.S. coach) and Brian Burke (U.S. GM).

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