Bruins

Haggerty: Don't expect a slugfest between B's, Sabres

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Haggerty: Don't expect a slugfest between B's, Sabres

The Bruins actually know exactly whats going through the furiousminds of the Buffalo Sabres.

A majority of the players now on the Bs roster have lived through the same kind of emotionalcycle of shock, embarrassment, anger and retribution that Buffalo has been riding since Milan Lucic blasted Ryan Miller in a collision at the Garden two weeks ago. It's a Merry Go Round from Hell for any team that prides itself on teamwork and trust.

Lucic collided with the skinny goaltender in a game twoweeks agowith enough force to knock Miller to the ice, and ultimately the Sabres goalie exited the contest with a concussion thats kept him sidelined since then. But thats not the worst part.

The worstaspect ofthe entire incident was a damning indictment of the Sabres: Not oneof Millers Sabres teammates stepped up in defense of their franchise goaltenderafter gettingdumpedby the hulking left winger. There was plenty of harsh criticism centered around Buffalo center Paul Gaustad, who was out on the ice during the incident and never attempted to drop the gloves with Lucic in defense of his fallen goalie.Gaustad has 27 fights on his NHL resume, and dozens more at the minor league level before making it with Buffalo -- so it's a role he should have been happy to fill.

Lucic admitted he was surprised the Sabres players didnt come gunning for him in the remaining two periods of play during the first meeting between the two teams. The B's power forward poured more salt on the wound bystating "it would have been different" if that kind of thinghappened to the Bruins. Guys like Cody McCormick or Patrick Kaleta could be forced into pushing Lucic for payback, but true justice would be ifGaustad atoned for his lack of courage the first time around.

Ive always respected the Buffalo Sabres, said Lucic, who admitted he expects to be invited to fight Wednesday as an answer to his actions. I didnt call anyone a coward or anything like that. I never said anything along those lines. All I said is we would respond differently. Thats the only thing I said. I never pointed fingers at absolutely anyone.

The passion is what makes it fun. I know its a Wednesday night in November. It is a big game. A lot of people are talking about it. Theres a lot at stake with getting that first place in the division. I think even the fans here in Buffalo are going to be excited for it. I know were excited for it. Weve been looking forward to this game as much as they have. Its what makes this game fun.

But the whole Sabresteam took the blame, and their players, management and coaching staff admitted in the days following the incident that they failed one of the basic tenets of hockey: standing up for teammates when other players take bigliberties with them.

For the Bruins it was eerily reminiscent of the Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard when the Bs players did nothing to make the Pittsburgh cheap shot artist pay for his blindsiding ways. Shawn Thornton and Matt Cooke eventually did drop the gloves during the Revenge Game a month later that season, and that essentially evened things out in the mind of the players.The Bruins were crushed for their lack of response to Cooke's elbow as Savard lay motionless on the ice, and that's the biggest reason Lucic knows his teammates would never let it happen again. They've lived through embarrassment and shame that's become Buffalo's world this month.Gregory Campbell saw a parallel between the Cooke and Millerincidents from a reaction perspective, and the feelings of retribution being sought after by the wronged team.

This team has been in situations like that before. We go into games focused on winning and our nature is to play physical anyway, said Campbell. Its not really our area to worry about. It was an internal issue with their Sabresteam and they can handle it howeverthey want.

The Bruins players expect the same kind of scenario to play out Wednesday night in Buffalo, and perhaps there is even a run or two taken at Tim Thomas between the pipes. That would be interesting given that Thomas has shown a real ability to defend himself at his goaltender position, and the Bruins will be watching their goalie protectively.

Things shouldnt get too out of control on Wednesday night with the league watching closely and the Sabres not really known as a brawling hockey club, and it would be playing right into the hands of the Big Bad Bruins after all. But Sabres President Ted Black did go on 550 AM radio in Buffalo on Wednesday morning and answered "Realistically, yes" when asked point blank if expected at least one fight in the BruinsSabres game that also has Northeast Division bragging rights on the line.

Its not like you can go out there and be stupid. We were obviously in the same situation with the Cooke thing when he hit Savvy. If they want to get goofy then thats fine, said Andrew Ference. Our team is well-equipped for different kinds of games. It was a controversial hit and theyre obviously upset about it. Im sure they want some retribution and Lucic is fully prepared to answer to anybody that wants to get involved. If not then we just play.

There will be plenty of passion and perhaps even a good old-fashioned scrap Wednesday between the Sabres and Bruins.Maybe Buffalo will get their revenge, or maybe the B's will put the Sabres in their place because that simply isn't the Sabres preferred style of play. But those looking for a Slap Shot style gong show will be sorely disappointed when a hockey game -- not an alley fight -- ultimatley breaks out in Buff.

Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

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Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s still early in the careers of all the young Bruins rookies making their way this season, it sure looks like 22-year-old Danton Heinen is among the B’s youngsters that are here to stay. The former University of Denver standout didn’t make the cut at the end of training camp this season and he failed early last year when it was clear he wasn’t ready during an eight-game audition with the big club.

But Heinen continued to look ready while scoring a pair of goals and three points in the three games on a pivotal road trip through California last week, and is now tied for fifth on the Bruins in points despite missing four games in the AHL. In all, Heinen has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 rating in 15 games this season, and is on pace for a really strong 21 goals and 52 points in his first full year.

This has been a really nice step forward for Heinen after being a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring.

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“Last year’s playoff did a lot for him. When I saw him playing there, he was a different player than when he’d left [Boston],” said Bruce Cassidy. “There was a willingness to stay in the battle and his growth when it comes to winning pucks…you’ve seen it here. A lot of the things he’s down well are his second and third efforts on the puck where last year I thought he was pushed off the puck pretty easily [at the NHL level].”

There could be a period when his offense slows down or some other part of his game drags his minutes down, but right now he looks like he’s well on his way to establishing himself in a key role with the Black and Gold. The difference has been Heinen increasing his speed and also adding a little more tenacity to the skill and offense package that he was always bringing to the table.  

“I don’t want to say that because when we get our guys healthy then we’ll see where we’re at,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Heinen was a keeper at the NHL level at this point. “But I think he’s certainly shown he’s a much more consistent player than he was last year. He’s probably a bit ahead of the other younger guys because he has gone through a bit of it [at the pro level]. The fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of different situations, play left or right wing, and moved up in the lineup while being very effective with [Sean] Kuraly and [Tim] Schaller down in the lineup, as a coach it’s to have a guy like that who can move around and fit in a lot of different places.

“So he’s certainly helped himself [to stay in the NHL]. I think it’s too early to say if he’s here for good, but I don’t envision him leaving [Boston] anytime soon with the way that he’s played.”

Only time and consistently good play will allow the playmaking Heinen to truly lock up his spot on the NHL roster, but it’s increasingly difficult to envision any scenario where the fifth-round pick isn’t playing an increasingly important role for the Bruins. 

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Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

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Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

BRIGHTON -- In a development that was certainly much sooner than originally anticipated, David Backes has returned to the ice just a matter of weeks after having 10 inches of colon removed during surgery for diverticulitis. It remains to be seen how gradual a process it will be for the 33-year-old to actually return to game action given his original timetable for recovery was eight weeks following the early November procedure, but it seems like it might end up being ahead of the two months Backes was initially expected to be sidelined. 

For his part, Backes was happy to be back skating with his teammates and pushing his recovering body after feeling pretty sluggish for the first few days following surgery. He confirmed he’d been skating for a couple of days while the team was on the West Coast, but Monday was his first team doing anything post-surgery with the rest of the team. 

“It’s good to be back with the guys and to be around the room, and to have seen the kind of resiliency that these guys showed on the road trip. The back half of the road trip was impressive,” said Backes, who has an assist in five games with the Bruins before succumbing to the surgery. “To be on the ice and moving around after sitting around doing nothing for too long where you don’t think you’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels good. 

“The doc’s advice is that if it doesn’t hurt then I can keep moving forward and add more of a workload on, so that’s the update for today. It’s still non-contact, but we’ll keep moving along and hopefully I’ll be back doing what I love to do on a regular basis. I haven’t been notified that the timeline has changed at all, so I’m just going to keep putting in the work. The more I seem to do the work the better it is, and I seem to be able to do a little more each day. So those are all positive signs.”

For the Bruins it’s clearly a morale booster to see the big power forward back doing regular hockey activities, and serving notice that he’ll be bringing his size, strength, leadership and physicality back to a B’s team that definitely needs him. Clearly the return of another high-end forward would also immensely help a Bruins team that’s still very undermanned up front, but it would appear there will be some other B’s forwards getting back prior to Backes. 

Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner appear poised to return to full practice on Tuesday with a possible return to the lineup not too far beyond that after all three injured forwards took part in Monday’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena. 

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