Thornton throws a punch at anti-fighting crew


Thornton throws a punch at anti-fighting crew

By Joe Haggerty Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

BOLTON, MA Shawn Thornton has heard all of the whispered speculation this summer about the three tragic deaths of NHL enforcers since May.

He knows much of the chatter has been crafted around curbing hockey fights in the NHL, and hes got a message to those trying to use the regrettable deaths as ammunition for their anti-fighting propaganda.

Cut the crap or youre going to be answering to him.

It kind of expletive pisses me off that people take this opportunity to try and exploit a certain part of the game, said Thornton. I think those are very, very sad instances, but I also think exploiting them for a part of the game isnt the right way to go.

NHL fighters Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak all died under complicated circumstances this summer. The beastly Boogaard was suffering from some very serious concussion symptoms and had developed an addiction to pain-killers that he was never able to overcome. Rypien had serious issues with depression and his own personal demons that may have contributed to his death. The circumstances behind Belaks death in Toronto last month have never truly been explained in the ensuing weeks.

But it was easy for many to still draw a parallel between the three players and their untimely deaths.

Some immediately assume that a potential cocktail of concussions, drugs and alcohol -- and perhaps even performance-enhancing drugs -- was messing with this particular class of NHL player, and turning them from hockey pugilists into ticking time bombs.

But theres only so much anybody will now know about what was going through the minds of Boogaard, Rypien and Belak directly before their respective deaths.

Never mind the fact that theres no proof in any of these cases that fighting had anything to do with their deaths. People that had already developed their strong anti-fighting agendas were ready to pounce on the deaths like grand-standing politicians after a community tragedy, and those opportunists found this summer of tragedy around the NHL as the perfect opportunity.

There appears to be a special circle in hell that Thornton has envisioned for those cold-hearted hockey pundits, and a simple piece of advice in the end from Bostons resident enforcer.

Thornton has been doing it for 12 seasons of pro hockey, has been in 86 career NHL scraps, and knows a thing of two about what hes talking about. He's also coming off a career year offensively that saw his Bruins win the Stanley Cup, and saw him prove that hes much, much more than a fourth line fighter. Hes also a guy with an enormous heart and his priorities in complete order when it comes to the deaths of his NHL brothers.

So he had another simple message.

I think we should remember those people for the men that they were, and not what they did for a living, said Thornton.

It might be time for the anti-fighting set to find another hockey ambulance to go chasing after because it looks like once again their efforts to manipulate lifes unexpected turns to their own advantage has been noticed and summarily punched into submission by Thornton.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday


Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

BRIGHTON -- Tuukka Rask is quickly making his way through the concussion protocol and may return to action this weekend.

The Bruins netminder skated with the other injured players ahead of Monday’s main team practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and is on track to rejoin the team at regular practice on Tuesday barring any setbacks in his concussion recovery. That would leave Rask with just a couple of games missed after getting trucked by Anders Bjork at practice last week, and it would give the Bruins back their No. 1 goaltender after Anton Khudobin let in five goals vs. the Sabres on Thursday night.

“He’s in the protocol and progressing well,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’ll probably join us [on Tuesday] for the next step if there are no ill effects from today. That’s a positive. If there are no setbacks, I think Saturday is a more realistic [timetable for a return].”

The hope would be that Rask could start elevating his game when he does return, and play better than the goalie that’s posted the 1-3-0 record, 3.30 goals against average and .882 save percentage thus far this season. But first things first with the recovery to his first career concussion as an NHL goalie, and the set of hurdles that must be passed before Rask is again allowed to jump back into game action as early as this weekend.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Bruins practice with Rask, David Krejci and Noel Acciari all skating prior to practice, Patrice Bergeron staying off ice with a maintenance day and Kevan Miller skating in main practice with a maroon, no-contact jersey:




Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain


Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

BRIGHTON -- Injuries, and some really tough losses, have put a bit of a damper on the start to the Bruins season. But there've also been a couple of unquestioned bright spots.

And one of them is Tim Schaller, who's been a strong, consistent performer in the first couple of weeks of the season. The New Hampshire native -- and lifelong Bruins fan -- was penciled in as a fourth-line winger throughout most of training camp, but he’s played everywhere as injuries have ravaged the B's roster.

The high point was probably centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak (and notching an assist) in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Sabres, and filling in for a late-scratched David Krejci with a very different set of skills. Certainly he’s been a standout for the Bruins with his physicality, including stepping up and fighting man mountain Erik Gudbranson after Gudbranson's nasty boarding hit on Frank Vatrano last week, and he’s also kicked in a couple of goals and three points in seven games thus far this season.

“It’s a reactionary thing, and that’s just in a person,” said Bruce Cassidy of fighting Gudbranson. “It’s a character thing because you don’t have a lot of time to think about it. Good for Timmy. That earns a lot of street cred not only in your own locker room, but the other teams notice it. too.

"We know with the goals that he can obviously chip in [offensively] and he’s doing a great job for what we’re asking him to do. He’s probably going to take ownership if he’s out there with some young guys on a line, and if he can be a leader and get that line playing the right way every night that is very valuable to us.”

Schaller’s game to this point is a continuation of what he showed in his first season with the Bruins last year, when the 26-year-old posted 7 goals and 14 points in 59 games while becoming a staple in Boston’s bottom-6 group. He’s once again shown pretty good straight-ahead speed for a big man, and a willingness to take his 6-foot-2, 219-pound frame straight to the net.

“I’ve been moving well and I’ve got the two goals, so personally I’m happy [with my game],” said Schaller. “Hopefully others can feed off what I’m trying to do out there, and we get a more well-balanced game [as a team]. I had a good season last year, and what was really good was that I knew that I had more to give. That’s what I’m trying to do this season.

“I can obviously produce more. I had a good start to last season and then I kind of fell off a little bit. So hopefully I can be a little more consistent for this entire year.”

That would be a very good thing for a Bruins team that can use him in a bottom-6 energy role when its roster is healthy, and will fully utilize his versatility in times of injuries and adversity.