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Northeast: Savard, Lucic sparking Bruins' win streak

by James Murphy /
After being called out by their coach for coming out "flat" and "not being prepared" following a 4-1 loss to the Islanders, the Bruins have responded with three straight wins.

A large part of the quick turnaround has been the return of Marc Savard and Milan Lucic.

Obviously, Savard will bring more points to the offense; but, as he proved in his first game back Tuesday, Savard makes the Bruins lineup and, more specifically, their power play more dynamic.

By the way, Boston won 4-2 against St. Louis in Savard's return Monday night.

Savard re-entered the lineup with Boston's power play sitting as the League's second-worst, sputtering along at 13.2 percent. But with Savard back in his usual spot on the No. 1 power-play unit, Claude Julien is now able to slot other players back into their normal spots.

The result? The second unit, with Patrice Bergeron as the centerpiece (four assists Monday), connected for two power-play tallies in the win. The Bruins were 2-for-3 on the power play Monday, but Savard wasn't on the ice for either.

"Our power play scores two goals tonight, and ironically Savvy's not on the ice for either one of them,'' Julien said. "It just goes to show that there's more in our dressing room than just one player.

"But still him coming back and giving us that look on one power play, and being able to move some guys around and making both power plays work pretty good was important for us. It was nice to get that going. Although we've been playing better, it's been a thorn in our side. Our power play just hasn't been good enough."

Upon his return, rumors continued to circulate that Savard will sign a seven-year extension with Boston that could pay him upward of $6 million per season. An announcement could come as early as Friday.

"It's exciting," Savard told Comcast Sports Network New England. "I've said many times that I love Boston and this is where I want to finish. Talks are ongoing and things look good, so hopefully we'll have something to report in a little bit."

Backup plan -- Boston goalie Tim Thomas has been nursing a lower-body injury and has not played since a 6-5 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Nov. 14. In his absence Tuukka Rask has gone 3-1-0, starting four straight for the first time in his NHL career. Rask is now 6-2-1 with a 2.27 goals-against and .919 save percentage.

Trouble at top -- After watching his team go 0-1-2 and scoring only six goals during that three-game span, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff didn't hesitate to point out the problem.

"We need our top six to push through for us and make a difference," Ruff told the Buffalo News following practice Monday. "It's not easy. ... You're not going to have all six guys on a given night. More on a nightly basis, we need more even-strength scoring out of that top six. Before [Saturday], we had nine even-strength goals in 10 games. That makes it awfully tough on the plus-minus."

As Buffalo News hockey scribe Mike Harrington pointed out:

"Leading scorer Tim Connolly has 17 points -- but no goals in his last 10 games. Clarke MacArthur has one goal in his last 11 games and Jason Pominville had one in 10 until scoring in the third period Saturday in Ottawa. Derek Roy didn't score in October and is now on another four-game drought. Vanek is a minus-8 over the last five games and has three goals in his last 13. Drew Stafford has two goals in the last eight."

Ruff wants more from his big guns and he was not afraid to single out the likes of Roy and Connolly.

"We need Tim [Connolly] to score. We need Derek Roy to score," Ruff said. "That pack of those top six guys offensively has to make it tough on the other team. They have to be scared that these guys are going to score."

Meanwhile, forwards Drew Stafford (lower body) and Mike Grier (groin) are questionable for Wednesday night's game at Washington.

Manic Monday -- The Canadiens were probably singing the 1980s hit "Manic Monday" by the Bangles on Monday night. The day started with the news of Carey Price being recognized for his recent resurgence as the NHL's Second Star of the Week.

Price had a 2-0-1 record during the past week with a 1.89 GAA. Headed into Tuesday's game against Columbus, Price was 4-2-1 with a 1.94 GAA in his past seven appearances, rebounding from a six-game losing streak earlier this season.

Later in the day, the Canadiens completed a trade with the Wild, acquiring forward Benoit Pouliot in exchange for forward Guillaume Latendresse. Pouliot was the No. 4 pick in the 2005 Entry Draft and Latendresse was No. 45 the same year.

Pouliot has 9 goals after 65 NHL games, with 2 goals and 2 assists in 14 games this season. Latendresse, meanwhile, scored 46 goals in his first three NHL seasons. But, this season, he has just 2 goals and an assist in 23 games.

Later in the day, Montreal recalled troubled forward Sergei Kostitsyn from Hamilton (AHL). Kostitsyn had 4 goals and 9 assists in 16 games with the AHL team.

The busy day ended with the news that Habs winger Georges Laraque was suspended five games for a knee-on-knee hit on Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall during the first period of his team's 3-2 shootout loss to the Red Wings Saturday night. Kronwall is expected to miss 4-to-8 weeks.

The activity didn't let up on Tuesday. Top-four defenseman Jaroslav Spacek sat out Tuesday's game against Columbus, joining No. 1 center Scott Gomez on the sidelines. Both have lower-body injuries. Sergei Kostitsyn and J.T. Wyman were recalled from Hamilton of the AHL.

Fisher finding his game ... and love again

Mike Fisher comeback season continued Monday night when he scored the overtime winner 74 seconds into overtime, helping his team earn a 4-3 comeback win against the Capitals -- the Sens' fourth-straight victory.

"For whatever reason, I seem to get a lot of chances (in overtime) and they seem to go in," Fisher said after his team erased a two-goal deficit in the third period.

Earlier in the day, Fisher was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week after he helped the Senators to three-straight victories. He scored 2 goals and added 4 helpers, as the Senators beat the Leafs (3-2), the Pittsburgh Penguins (6-2) and the Buffalo Sabres (5-3).

The 29- year-old center, with ten goals and 11 assists in 21 games, is on pace to beat the career-high 48 points he accumulated in 2006- 07.

Fisher is also romantically linked to country music superstar Carrie Underwood, who he has been dating since near the start of the year. Apparently, Underwood has helped Fisher get his game going again.

"Yeah, there definitely can be (a tie-in) ... she expects me to score every night now," Fisher told the Ottawa Sun. "This year, I think, I felt a little more relaxed coming into the season. Because of the bad season I had last year, there was kind of less pressure, and I was like, you know what, I'm just going to play and have fun."

One Senator who's not going to play for a while is goaltender Pascal Leclaire, who broke his jaw on Saturday and is expected to miss a month. He was injured during Monday's win over Washington -- and he wasn't even playing. Leclaire was hit in the head by a puck while on the bench.

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