Bruins ready if Sabres decide to get nasty

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Bruins ready if Sabres decide to get nasty

While the age of lawsuits and heavy NHL fines has dulled the tough talk leading into hockey games that are expected to be nasty, the feeling in the Bruins dressing room was that someone will try to set the tone with physical play when Boston hosts the Sabres Thursday night.

We know theyre a deeper and tougher team, said Tyler Seguin. I have the most confidence in our team with Milan Lucic and toughness. I dont think well have a problem with that.

It's the first matchup of the year between the Bruins and Sabres. The tone for last season's matchups was set when Milan Lucic dumped Ryan Miller to the ice with a bulldozer hit and then the Bruins took care of their business without even a whimper of protest from Buffalo.

That incident really inflicted damage on the Sabres psyche, which likely didnt even start to heal until after Paul Gaustad dropped the gloves with Lucic in their next meeting at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo. But after the season, there were still whispers that the Sabres didnt have the proper heart or courage needed to be an elite hockey team. Without those things, they would continue to be perpetual divisional doormats for the Bruins.

Its difficult to stand toe-to-toe with the schoolyard bully when a team has a roster full of skilled munchkins like Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe, or flopping, agitating rats like Patrick Kaleta (who wont play against the Bruins after sustaining a sprained neck against the Maple Leafs that landed him in the hospital). But the Sabres addressed their need for toughness in the offseason by signing 6-foor-8, 260-pound enforcer John Scott and trading for noted Bruins harasser Steve Ott. Both will be in the lineup for the Sabres on Thursday night for what's expected to be an Adams Division-style bloodbath.

Scott has been itching for a fight with Bs enforcer Shawn Thornton for the last two years after some harsh words were exchanged between them when the behemoth was a member of the Blackhawks organization. But there may also be a target still planted on the back of Lucic after trucking Miller so Scott might just go looking for vengeance there.

Perhaps it becomes a situation where 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara finally feels like somebody in his weight and height class is ready for the 'Z' Challenge -- something that many have tried and failed in the past.

Im sure itll be a hard-fought game," said Bruins forward Chris Kelly. "We always have good games with them. They always come out hard and we need to do the same. Theyve added a few guys and in the right time and place they have those guys that will fight a little bit more. Last year was last year. After what happened in the next game Lucic did what he had to do with Gaustad and thats over.

By no means are we thinking about that. This is a good hockey team in Buffalo and when its a shortened season youre playing these teams a lot of times. So the two points are the thing. I dont think theyre going to jeopardize trying to get the two points by doing something foolish.

With all of this circling as the back story, the Bruins are suiting up for battle just in case the fight comes to them. Chris Bourque will be a healthy scratch after going scoreless in his first six games with the Bruins, and 6-foot-3, 209-pound AHL enforcer Lane MacDermid will suit up for the Black and Gold.

The 23-year-old MacDermid had five points (2 goals, 3 assists) and seven fighting majors in 32 games with the P-Bruins this season, and racked up 14 fights between the AHL and NHL last season.

MacDermid made his debut with the Bruins last season at Madison Square Garden and fought Mike Rupp on his very first shift of the game. Hes also dutifully watched and waited as a healthy scratch for the first six games of this season while waiting for his chance to play. So it goes without saying that he should be ready to go when the call goes out to the Bruins fourth line tonight to bring some energy and perhaps match the aggressiveness Buffalo throws on the ice.

MacDermid has got to play a little bit, said Julien. Were going to sit Bourque out tonight. I had a good talk with Chris this morning. I think hes putting a lot of pressure on himself right now and is certainly not the Chris that we know.

With the past history in mind is Julien expecting the Sabres to come out with a glove-dropping, punch-throwing point to make tonight?

Youll have to ask Buffalo that question, said Julien. Youre asking the wrong coach."

So, Lindy Ruff?

"We added Ott and Scott for added team toughness and to make us an overall grittier team," the Sabres coach said. "It had absolutely nothing to do with the Bruins. You try to win the puck battles and territorial battles. We have to win a game. In a short season we need points. We dealt with it last year where Gaustad fought Lucic and where Robyn Regehr fought Chara. We played a couple of great games and took away points. Hockey is about winning the physical battle and winning the mental battle. We're here to get the points."

Whatever's being said, the answers will be obvious when the Bruins and Sabres drop the puck for a game that might just live up to the hype fueled by hard feelings.

Spooner working on his draws to help become a more complete center

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Spooner working on his draws to help become a more complete center

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Ryan Spooner quickly ticked off face-offs as one big area that needed improvement headed into his second full NHL season with the Bruins and the speedy young center has most definitely put in the work thus far in camp.

Still, it didn’t translate in Spooner’s first preseason game in Wednesday night’s lopsided loss to the Red Wings as he finished 4-for-16 on the draw, and to add insult to injury: he also served a two-minute minor penalty for a face-off violation that led to a power-play goal. 

The skilled center made up for it at the other end by setting up a score for fellow speed-demon center Austin Czarnik as Boston’s only goal, but he was again back out on the Warrior Ice Arena sheet working on his draws again Thursday.

“I wasn’t great on my face-offs [against Detroit] trying to cheat a little bit too much. I think I just need to maybe just bear down a little bit more,” said Spooner, who finished at a very lackluster 42.8 percent success rate on face-offs last season. “[I need to] not try to win them clean, maybe just tie them up a little bit more. I was just trying to cheat on those [face-offs], and it didn’t work.”

Clearly, the draws were a contributing part of the problem in the rough loss to the Red Wings and it’s something Spooner will need to iron out before he’s fully trusted by the coaching in the nitty-gritty situations late in games. That was obvious at times last season. It’s something Spooner wants to change this season when there’s so much competition at the center spot, with Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Backes, Dominic Moore, Noel Acciari, Riley Nash and Czarnik all considered natural centers.

“When you start with the puck then the game is so much easier,” said B’s assistant coach Bruce Cassidy. “For Spooner [face offs] are important. I don’t want to speak for Claude [Julien], but he does have the luxury now of playing Spooner with guys that can take draws in his place if he wants to go down that road.

“At some point he’s going to have to improve [on the draw]. I think he wants to [improve on the draw] and he’s working at it, but the numbers aren’t where they need to be for him obviously. That’s the challenge Claude has going forward, but I think he can still get out on the ice and help you, even if he’s deficient in the face-off circle, and if he has some wingers that can help him.”

Spooner has employed veteran center Moore to give him some pointers while the two have worked out together in training camp and, in theory, it should be a big help for the young third-line center. Moore is one of those trusted veterans that is used in key face off situations with positive results, and is a left-shot player who can show the 24-year-old the exact techniques to help him.

Spooner said that getting face-off tips from Bergeron or Krejci had a limit to its helpfulness because those are right-handed centers doing the absolute reverse technique that a left-shot center would employ. Moore downplayed his role as a bit of a face off mentor, but the statistics, and his reputation on the draw would indicate he’s got plenty of knowledge to offer a second-year player.

“There are a lot of little things in the game, face-offs being one of them, that you learn through experience, and you want to try to pass it along to help make the team better,” said Moore. “[Spooner] is eager to try and improve a little bit every day. Part of face-offs is trying to get an edge any way that you can because they’re such a hotly contested thing.

“It’s definitely not easy, but if you have the right mentality then you try and build it up. You just have to approach it on a daily basis, commit to it and try to improve as best you can.”

Like so many things in life it would seem face-off ability is about putting in the work as much as it’s about natural-born skill and Spooner is putting in the hours to be a more complete center and trusted part of the team.

 

Bruins set roster for tonight’s preseason game in Detroit

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Bruins set roster for tonight’s preseason game in Detroit

The Bruins' lineup for Friday night’s preseason game in Detroit at Joe Louis Arena against the Red Wings will include players from both practice groups filling into a more veteran-laden B’s lineup in Motown.

The Matt Grzelcyk-Adam McQuaid pairing that wasn’t great on Wednesday night will get right back into it, and the John-Michael Liles-Brandon Carlo pairing that was so good on Monday night will get another look as well. Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Anton Khudobin, Dominic Moore, Joe Morrow, Riley Nash and Ryan Spooner will be the established NHL veterans along with McQuaid and Liles suiting up for Boston’s first road exhibition of the preseason.

Here’s the entire lineup, with Boston now serving as one of the last NHL teams that is yet to make any cuts from their camp roster: Matt Beleskey, Anton Blidh, Brandon Carlo, Colby Cave, Peter Cehlarik, Brian Ferlin, Alex Grant, Seth Griffith, Matt Grzelcyk, Jimmy Hayes, Danton Heinen, Anton Khudobin, Jeremy Lauzon, John-Michael Liles, Zane McIntyre, Adam McQuaid, Dominic Moore, Joe Morrow, Riley Nash, Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Spooner.

The Bruins will be traveling to Philadelphia for another preseason game on Saturday and that may perhaps be the first time B’s fans get to see returning World Cup veteran players David Backes, David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask after they began practicing with the camp group on Thursday morning at Warrior Ice Arena.