Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins staying grounded after historic November

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Haggerty: Bruins staying grounded after historic November

TORONTO Its always difficult to appreciate history when its taking place all around the office -- or the frozen sheet in this case.

The Bruins closed the books on November with a 6-3 dispatching of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre, and it was a colorful and bountifulmonth to remember. The Bruins went 12-0-1 in the month of November and became the first team All-Star edition of the Bruins organization to go without a single regulation loss over an entire calendar monthsince the 1968-69 campaign.That edition of the Bruins went 10-0-4 in January and included a ridiculous 49 goals and 126 points from Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr in his prime and a team that would go on to win the Stanley Cup the following season. So do anything to match those squads means the current set of Black and Gold members are doing something pretty damn positive.

They also totaled 25 points during the month of November, and became the first Bruins team since March of 1978 to enjoy that kind of winning stretch over a month-long period. Its been a winning streak built on obedience to Claude Julien's systemand enthusiasm for the nightly match-up, and its also shown the different facets to Bostons dominant game that they can feature on a nightly basis.There isn't just one way the Bruins go about dismantling an opponent, and the stunningly awful October has them on a mission.

Every game is a different situation and now were looking at it that way, said Bs coach Claude Julien. We thought we were a better team than what we showed in October. We decided to pick up our game and play the way we can. Thats made a big difference.

The Bruins have punched their way to wins when it served them best against the NHLs cowardly lions in Buffalo. The Bruins have dazzled defensively-inept opponents in offensive shootouts like their goal-scoring show on Long Island, and theyve stolen hockey games when Tim Thomas is on point between the pipes as he was in Montreal last week.Befitting a Stanley Cup champion, there weaknesses have been far and few between for over a month of hockey -- and that's a large section of a hockey season to begin making assessments about a team. Perhaps the B's are closer to being this good against some very good opponents than anybody dares imagine.

The Bruins have been the last team standing in 12 out of 13 games over the last calendar month, and they managed only one true knockout punch in an alley fight with the Sabres. The rest have been aboutscoring and systems work.It would bea tediouschore to for Boston if they were simply scratching the surface for goals, and scrounging around for offense. Instead theyve been outscoring their opponents by a wide 57-24 margin during their wonderful November surge, and seem to just now be enjoyingtheir just desserts given the talent up and down the roster. But if the Bruins learned one thing during their Stanley Cup rin it's this:theres no time for patting each other on the back in Bostons world. Its on to the next challenge and a rematch with Toronto on Saturday night. Their display of firepower in November was both awesome and impressive, but it's not quite that breathtaking for a team that reached the NHLmountaintop last spring.

Its quite an accomplishment, but unfortunately with the way the world works -- and the way this league works its over and November is gone, said Tim Thomas. Its December now and Saturday night we have a game against a team that gave us a tough battle tonight.

For the Bruins, the record comes with many other things: Zdeno Chara has been a legitimate offensive force with 14 points in 13 games, and thats a career-high for the franchise defenseman over a calendar month. David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic all got on the scoresheet in one manner or another in Wednesday nights game, and made it the first game since a Nov. 7 win over theIslanders that two of the three forwards on the Bs top line were able to kick on a couple of scores.

So to put it simply, the Bruins would need something grand to get them off track on whats been an amazing run. A few years ago the Bruins might have been reading their clips and kicking back for a weeks relaxation at this point in their work cycle, and they definitely might have looked past a lesser opponent.

But theres one final thing they keep coming back to: a point Andrew Ference made clear following all kinds of back-slapping and kind words about their current situation in the visiting dressing room at the Air Canada Centre. Many of the Bruins have already won an award thats the coolest in all of professional sports, so there arent too many key B's players jumping up and down about a solid month of hockey. A midweek game against the cellar dweller in the East provides as much of a challenge as anything else for a B's team that's taking it all as it comes.It sounds like the voice of exprience has been a good teacher for the Bruins.

Its kind of a weird feeling. I think any other year wed be a lot more giddy about it, said Andrew Ference. Were being pretty level-headed. When we were losing at the start of the year till now theres not a huge difference in the locker room. Coming off last year we learned a lot about keeping a level head, and how much it benefited last years players on their way.

You dont see a lot of guys walking around their rooms with their chests puffed out because we know this is a difficult league to score against other teams. Things can change quickly. You want to respect your opponent, but not give them too much respect.

It sounds like the Bruins have found that delicate balance.The November ride isa nice historical footnote, but nothing more than that with so much already serving as water under the hockey bridge. Bring on the Stanley Cup again and another chance to win it, and thats when the Bruins truly come alive these days.As it should be for any champion.

Rask helped off ice at Bruins practice after collision

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Rask helped off ice at Bruins practice after collision

BRIGHTON, Mass – Tuukka Rask had to be helped off the ice midway through practice Wednesday when it appeared rookie Anders Bjork crashed hard into the Bruins No. 1 goaltender in a drill. 

Coach Bruce Cassidy didn't have much in the way of an encouraging update on Rask following practice: "He left early. We had a line rush drill where there was obviously contact around the net. He's being evaluated. Hopefully, he's fine, but we don't know anything until he gets checked out."

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Rask never returned in what looked like another streak of bad luck for the B’s. Rask is off to a slow start at 1-3-0, with a 3.30 goals-against average and .882 save percentage, but Boston can ill afford to lose their top goalie right now.

The Bruins continue to look for the right mix of players at the start of the season and they’ve called up a couple of forwards off to hot starts in Providence for a look.

Big, skilled Slovakian winger Peter Cehlarik and AHL scoring champ Kenny Agostino have both been called up while it looks like some struggling NHL veterans, perhaps Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano, might be hitting the pine.

The two call-ups, along with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson were off to a red-hot start in Providence: Agostino leads Providence with two goals and five assists for seven points (tied for third in AHL) with a plus-four rating in three games this season. Cehlarik is second on the team with two goals and three assists for five points with a plus-three rating in three games with Providence.

Patrice Bergeron was again wearing the maroon no-contact jersey at practice on Wednesday while participating in line drills, and it would appear it’s going to be a stretch for him to be available vs. the Canucks. Adam McQuaid returned to practice on Wednesday, so Ryan Spooner was the only injured Bruins regular that wasn’t able to suit up and practice with the team.

Tuukka Rask had to be helped off the ice midway through practice when it looked like Anders Bjork crashed hard into the Bruins No. 1 goaltender in a drill. Rask never returned in what looked like another streak of bad luck for the B’s. Rask is off to a slow start at 1-3-0, with a 3.30 goals-against average and .882 save percentage, but Boston can ill afford to lose their top goalie right now.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Wednesday afternoon’s practice with it looking like David Backes might be up for a possible return on Thursday:  
 
Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork
DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak
Schaller-Kuraly-Backes
Cehlarik-Nash-Agostino
 
Beleskey-White-Vatrano
 
Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Miller-Postma
McQuaid
 
Rask
Khudobin
 

Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

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Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

BRIGHTON -- While there will clearly need to be sign-offs from the medical staff, 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 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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