Bruins

Bruins notes: Kaberle finally turns corner

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Bruins notes: Kaberle finally turns corner

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

TAMPA Just when the Tomas Kaberle bashing was starting to reach Wideman-like levels, something miraculous happened for the puck moving defenseman.

The light bulb actually started going off for the longtime Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman, and he put up respectable back-to-back efforts against the Tampa Bay Lightning after a shaky start. Its imperative that a defenseman shake off his mistakes, and use that selective memory to keep pushing forward while breaking out with the puck and slicing through the bogged down neutral zone.

Kaberle has done that recently, and its making a difference.

I know everybody here is rooting for me and everybody here is playing hard and trying to do well, said Kaberle. It means a lot. Everybody cares about each other here and they should be. Not every game is going to be your best game, and youre not always going to be successful.

But Im trying to play my game. I feel a little better the last two games and its important for me to get my confidence back. We always talk a lot before the game about what were trying to do out there. There are a lot of plays to be made out there. Its not necessarily about making one play.

The uptick in play -- which saw him notch a pair of power play assists in the Game Two win at TD Garden and perhaps develop some chemistry with Tyler Seguin on the man advantage coincided with a bit of a heart-to-hear conversation between the embattled defenseman and the Bruins head coach.

The heart of the talk: dont get weighed down by what is or isnt happening on the power play, and simply focus on the rest of the hockey game. That talk appears to have gained some traction for Kaberle, who has listened up and started making plays with confidence in all three zones.

I think he's played really well in the last couple of games, said Claude Julien. We had a conversation about maybe taking some pressure off his shoulders about everything that wasn't going right about the power play. Fingers kept pointing at him. He's more than just that.

He's a good puck mover. He can play a pretty good game when he's on top of it. And we have confidence in him.

Kaberle struggled in Game One while playing more than 17 minutes of ice time, and its probably not a coincidence that his uptick in play over the last two games is linked to his minutes getting carefully rationed out. In the battle of match-ups and pitting strength against strength, the pairing of Kaberle and McQuaid is used selectively to blossoming results against the Bolts.

Kaberle himself now has five assists and a plus-6 in 14 playoff games with the Bruins, but still has only 18 shots on net. At this point its been determined that the 33-year-old isnt going to be sniping too many pucks on the man advantage, but he has shown some good creativity recently while moving his feet and keeping the defense guessing as to what hes doing with the puck.

In his own words Kaberle got way too stationary with his positioning, and was getting wildly predictable while letting his power play unit get bogged down by it all.

Sometimes going away from the set play is going to make the difference and you dont want to do the same thing all the time, said Kaberle. Then things get stationary and they know where youre going to go.

Sometimes you need to make the play that they dont expect.

There were moments in the last two games where Kaberle was moving all around the ice on the PP from his point position to the half-wall and then back again. That movement and rotation began opening things up for his teammates, and created some of the seams that led to his two PP helpers.

I think he's relaxed a little bit which has given him some confidence in his game. I think the last two games he's been a better player. He's passing. He's more poised. He's a little bit more aggressive, said Julien. He's not sitting on his heels. I think that's made a big difference in his game. We say it almost every day when we talk about players, it's about confidence. That word "confidence" plays big.

Plenty of cameras and recorders out for Shane Hnidy and goalie coach Bob Essensa as talk stirred up about the Atlanta Thrashers moving into Winnipeg starting next season with Hnidy from the Winnipeg area and Essensa proud of his six seasons as a member of the Winnipeg Jets. The move isnt official and hasnt been approved by the NHL Board of Governors, but it appears to be a foregone conclusion.

Shawn Thornton was kind enough to assist reporters in doing their jobs as he continuously yelled Shane Hnidy is available, and hes from Winnipeg! during media availability in the visitors dressing room at the St. Pete Times Forum. When Hnidy and Essensa did speak, they both spoke with uniform joy that NHL hockey was finally returning to a place that had been mourning its loss since the day it left.

Winnipeg might not be a booming metropolis or a city teeming with night life, but its a city that will wrap both arms lovingly around their hockey club.

The support is there. The economy is different than it was. Youve got the building in place and theyve got a great ownership group that knows how to run things successfully, said Hnidy, who makes his off-season home in Winnipeg. Anybody thats played on the (AHL) Moose had nothing but great things to say about it. Guys love playing there. Most of the negative stuff that comes out is from people who arent familiar with the area.

From a coachs standpoint as Essensa is coming from, a city like Winnipeg is the perfect place to have a group of players focused on winning hockey games rather than where to hit on Friday or Saturday night postgame.

Theres something to be said for those small-town Canadian teams that the players and the community really rally around, he said. They dont have maybe as many distractions as a big American city. From that standpoint, youre focused on hockey, youre focused on your teammates and I think the team and the city is better off because of it.

The biggest question is whether players go to Manitoba if they have other alternatives, but its not like there was a steady stream of players gravitating toward Atlanta once they hit free agency. The lure of playing for a Canadian team with Canadian-born players is a pretty strong thing.

Its tough to say. Certainly, with salary caps and whatnot, if Im getting x amount of dollars in Tampa and the same amount of money in Winnipeg, maybe Im leaning towards going to Tampa but, like I said, I think theres a quality to playing to Winnipeg that cant be matched anywhere else.

Tim Thomas was the subject of questions around the Bruins room today despite his absence from practice, and Claude Julien had a pretty keen observation when it came to his 37-year-olds motivations in the playoffs. Its pretty clear Thomas knows he may not get many cracks at the Stanley Cup, and this is his time to make it happen while hes young enough and dominant enough to still get his name on the shining piece of hockey heaven.

You have to remember, where Tim is right now, he's never been there, said Julien. He's accomplishing things that he hasn't accomplished yet, like a lot of players on the team, like a lot of us. We want to move forward.

There's a lot more than -- for him, it's nice to win Vezina trophies, but to win the Stanley Cup would be nice for him as well. So everybody is pushing in that direction. I think he's one of those guys that, where he's at in his career, his age and everything else, when those opportunities come, you want to make sure you make the best of it.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Backes hoping return from diverticulitis is 'on the upswing'

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Backes hoping return from diverticulitis is 'on the upswing'

BRIGHTON, Mass – While there will clearly need to be sign-offs from the Bruins medical staff before becoming a possibility, the Bruins aren’t ruling out a return from David Backes for Thursday night’s game vs. the Vancouver Canucks.

Both Backes and Patrice Bergeron returned to Bruins practice with the rest of their teammates on Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, but it was only the 33-year-old Backes that practiced fully without any limitations.

“He skated a little while we were away and a full practice today, so we’ll consult with the medical staff going forward with his plan,” said B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Potentially he could be an option for Thursday, and I think that should sort itself out in the next couple of days. We’re no different than anybody else, right? We’d like to have our full complement, and some of the guys we’re missing are glue guys that could really add that element to some of the kinds of games that got away from us.”

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After the team practice, Backes said that he’s been skating for the last four days and that he’s lost about 10 pounds over the last couple of weeks while adjusting to the medication and dietary treatments for diverticulitis. It wasn’t a complete shock to Backes given some of his family medical history, but he wasn’t expecting anything like that to hit him in the prime of his professional athletic career at just 34 years old.

“I have a family history of it, but this is kind of unfortunate timing and unfortunate circumstances. Hopefully I take care of this, get it behind me and not have to ever think about it again,” said Backes. “The first couple of days it was tough to just stand up straight or do anything, and then you’re on a ‘no exercise’ regimen for six or seven days. So progress…certainly. A return…we’ll see. Long-term prognosis we’ll have to discuss with the really smart guys.

“You don’t have much appetite, to deal with pain you take a painkiller and then that slows down digestion and just makes it even worse. So you’re stuck there…and it really drains your energy. I was on a liquid diet there for a few days and lost about 10 pounds. I don’t suggest that as a crash diet for anybody.”

He’s come a long way from being stuck in a Mass General hospital bed during Bruins opening night against the Nashville Predators, and Backes is hoping he’ll be all the way back to playing sooner rather than later. The Bruins right winger skated in a third line spot with Riley Nash and Tim Schaller on Tuesday, and said he’s actually even consulted a bit with former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light, who battled his own stomach issues with Crohn’s Disease during his NFL career.

“I was like a kid in a candy store before practice. You have that carrot of Game 1 dangled in front of you and then taken away, and finally you’re back with the guys on the ice after they’ve been gone a week. Knowing what the results have been you want to interject a little energy out there while knowing that we’ve got 77 games left to establish ourselves, and find our game,” said Backes. “I felt good out there and it was nice to be back on the ice. I was smiling most of the day knowing that I’ll hopefully be playing some ice hockey in the future.

“We’re working to get that strength back and to return me to a productive member of this hockey team, which is going to be on the upswing here shortly. It’s not just due to me, but because guys are putting work in as a group. I’m trying to be as educated about it as I can, so I can be available as often as possible and as productive as possible when I am available.”

There are medical hurdles that need to be traversed by Backes before he can return, but once it becomes a matter of toughness and grit then he’ll be suiting up again for the Black and Gold, and that moment might be coming soon.

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'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

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'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was acting a bit out of character after the Sunday night loss to the Vegas Golden Knights when he said he wouldn’t be commenting on team performance outside of his own goaltending. 

Clearly, it was a tense atmosphere in the Bruins dressing room following an extremely bad road performance and it would seem very likely there’s probably been some friction in the past between Rask and positional players over his postgame candor.

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That was the backdrop for Rask keeping it laconic, and saying on Sunday night: “I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

It would seem that some fans and Bruins observers took that to mean Rask was pissed off at his Bruins teammates after a few breakdowns defensively, and a total non-performance at the offensive end of the ice.

Taking all that into account, Rask clarified his comments a bit after practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and said it’s all about focusing on his own performance rather than taking issues with any of his teammates.

“You lose games and you’re not happy with your performance. Somebody just told me that I guess it got spun the wrong way that it was me mad at my teammates or something. That’s definitely not the case,” said Rask, whom at 1-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .880 save percentage this season, is clearly in need of some improvement as well.

“You lose games and you definitely hold yourself accountable and you want to talk about your performance and what you need to do to get better," Rask said. "So, that’s where I was coming from. I definitely wasn’t mad at our team. I was more mad at myself, so that’s that.

“You always try to give a fair assessment about the game, but I think the biggest thing that I need to worry about, and what everybody else needs to worry about, is how they get better themselves. You start from that, so that’s where I was coming from.”

The prospect of getting Patrice Bergeron and David Backes back healthy would go a long way toward improving the Bruins play on the ice and stabilizing things defensively for Rask and the rest of the Black and Gold. That’s really what’s needed at this point to improve a situation where the B’s are 23rd in the NHL, averaging 3.6 goals allowed per game, and real, rather than figurative, fingers might start getting pointed all around if it doesn’t start looking better in short order.