Bruins identify needs as trade deadline approaches

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Bruins identify needs as trade deadline approaches

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON, Mass. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has pinpointed needs on his hockey club he hopes to address before the NHL trade deadline comes to pass on Feb. 28.

But a couple of things are making things difficult for Chiarelli with slightly more than three weeks leading up to that deadline. First is the fact that one of the needs identified by the hockey club manager is that of a top-four defenseman able to relieve some pressure on a 22-year-old youngster like Steve Kampfer thats playing upwards of 20 minutes a night with plenty of pressure on his shoulders.

Not to mention getting some Andrew Ference insurance. Ference has been outstanding this season while playing solid, reliable, spirited hockey from his defenseman position and posting 9 points and a plus-19 in 49 games.

The problem: Ference has already played 49 games this season in a relatively healthy year, but hasnt played more than 59 games in any of the last three seasons while battling through groin and hernia issues among other assorted aches and pains.

An NHL general manager cant simply expect that a 22-year-old rookie is going to sail through his first stretch run and playoff experience without a few moguls on the mountain, and shouldnt expect Ference to make it through the next 30 games and playoffs without something cropping up health-wise.

That means the Bruins need to add another defenseman to the mix moving forward, and Chiarelli said as much while chatting with the media following practice at Ristuccia Arena on Friday afternoon.

Id like to try and get a defenseman that could help our group, said Chiarelli. I think our defense has played very well, but were trying to ease some of the minutes off of our players.

Theres clear and obvious Bruins interest in defensemen like Sergei Gonchar and Tomas Kaberle given their skill sets as puck-moving defensemen and their availability while playing on God-awful NHL teams. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen is another player that would fit in nicely with the Bs should be exposed to the trade market this month.

Both all of those players come with their own issues, however. Kaberle hasnt played a relevant NHL game in years, and some believe that the puck-moving blueliner is content to the point of dulling his competitive edge. Gonchar is a 35-year-old defenseman with two years at big money left on his contract, and any club taking him on is assuming all of the risk that goes along with it.

Theres a good chance Pitkanen wont ever make it to market as the Hurricanes catch up to the Thrashers in the Eastern Conference, and potentially push themselves into the playoff conversation.

But Chiarelli said that he expected any deal for a defensemen to be consummated with a Western Conference team, which really is at odds with the whispers that the Bruins were highly interested in Senators blueliner Chris Phillips.

Chiarelli called the market tight at this point in the month of February as so many Western Conference teams are still in striking distance of a playoff spot with 30 games or so remaining in the season and only four points separates the fifth place through 12th place teams out West.

That means there arent many sellers aside from the Edmonton Oilers, the Columbus Blue Jackets and perhaps the Blues now that injuries have slashes their season into ribbons.

Were not going to replace Savard because that guy is not available, but you can replace bits and pieces of it while things fall on the shoulders of some of our other players, said Chiarelli. Right now things are very, very tight. You hear that from me every year a month before the deadline and its even truer now.

The standings are very tight. You look in the West and things are tight, and usually if youre going to make a move itll be in the Westusually. I think teams 4-12 is like five points separating them. So a lot of the players we like arent available because their teams are still in it.

The other problem: the Bruins must come to a conclusion about Marc Savard and his concussion problems after suffering the fourth serious brain injury of his NHL career two weeks ago. Placing Savard on LTIR would certainly open up some flexibility for the Bruins, and dealing a spare defensemen with value around the league like Mark Stuart who several teams including the Atlanta Thrashers have expressed interest in -- would further open up the options for Chiarelli and Co. to make some roster improvements.

Chiarelli would only say that the team needs to be creative when thinking about finding a solution for filling the absence of Savard due to injury. The Bs GM admitted that there isnt anybody on the trade market thats likely to give the Bruins exactly what theyre missing in the form of No. 91 both on the power play and five-on-five but they never really saw the full 100 percent healthy Savard at any point this season anyway.

It certainly gives us more flexibility, so it allows us to do some other things, said Chiarelli. Were just not going to be able to replace Savard because that skill just isnt going to be available in trade. Were going to have to get creative.

Chiarelli would love to go shopping with the Bruins for a player list thats been pared down, tabulated and approved, but it appears hell be waiting things out along with the rest of the NHL as teams decide their buyer or seller status. The good news: the Bruins are tops in goals against average, among the best offensive teams in the East and dont come from anywhere the kind of desperate straits they did last season.

Chiarelli captured Mark Recchi two years ago and Dennis Seidenberg last season at the trade deadline, and it doesnt much appear the GM will hesitate to pull the trigger again over the next few weeks.

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

Amid signs his job might be in trouble, Julien says: 'I'm not quitting on this team'

Amid signs his job might be in trouble, Julien says: 'I'm not quitting on this team'

BRIGHTON, Mass – Roughly 12 hours after embattled Bruins coach Claude Julien bristled at a question about his job security and labeled it “shock journalism” in the heat of the moment after a tight loss to the Blackhawks, the B’s bench boss delivered a classy, heartfelt response to the same question.

Julien was asked about it in French by a reporter from the Montreal Gazette, but answered in English because of the “loyalty he feels to the people in Boston.”

In essence, Julien basically said he should be relieved of his duties if he’s deemed to be behind what ails the Black and Gold, but he’s going to keep working to fix things until that day comes.

It was exactly the kind of response you would expect from a coach who's taken the B’s to the mountaintop in his 10 years running the team and will always be respected and loved in Boston long after his coaching days are done.

“How do I deal with all of the rumors and all that is going on? I didn’t feel like [Friday night] was the appropriate time for me to answer that after a game where you’re emotions are pretty high. I wasn’t getting into that, but to be honest with you my job is to coach the hockey club,” said Julien. “Am I worried about my job? No, I’m not. Because it’s not my job to worry about it. My job is to fix things, and my job is to coach this team and do everything I can. If I become one of the reasons that we’re not doing well, then management has to make that decision.

“It’s not my decision to make. I’m not quitting on this team. I’m not quitting on anybody. I’m not quitting on management. I’m ready and willing to go through the hard times, and I said that at the end of last year. If it’s deemed my fault, then I shouldn’t be here, and that’s all I can say.”

While the Bruins roster is clearly less than perfect and has a larger dose of youthful players than in years past, Julien also freely admitted that they should be held to a higher standard after proving many nights that they should be a playoff team. That’s the mandate from Bruins ownership and that’s the challenge that Julien has willingly accepted.

It’s also the challenge that’s falling a bit short now as they’ve lost three crushing games in a row and have fallen behind the Ottawa Senators in the playoff standings, with Toronto also right behind them holding six games in hand.

“If we’re going with what we said we were going with and there’s going to be some growing pains along the way, so be it,” said Julien. “I think we put ourselves in a position earlier in the year where we could all of a sudden believe that we’re a playoff team...absolutely. I still think we’re a playoff team. Whether we can do it or not we’ll find out at the end of the year, but my job is to do everything I can to get us into the playoffs and that’s what I’m going to do.

“As far as the rumors are concerned, they’re out there and I know that. But I don’t worry about it because worrying is wasting a lot of my time. And my time is spent trying to fix things here.”

Julien and the Bruins are headed to Pittsburgh for a Sunday matinee against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and will have two games against the red-hot Pens headed into an All-Star break weekend that must feel like a well-earned oasis for Julien at this point in the season. 

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

BOSTON – The all-important results continue to elude the Bruins at the time when they need them most.

The Black and Gold lost their third game in a row, 1-0, to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden Friday night when they allowed the game-winning goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. It was a simple defensive breakdown and some great tic-tac-toe passing with Marian Hossa finishing things off, but it also felt like a game where the Blackhawks coasted against a wounded Bruins team for 58 minutes before turning it on when it was winning time.

The winning goal was a cross-ice pass from Tanner Kero to Hossa, with the puck sliding right between the legs of Adam McQuaid in the slot, and Hossa picking a corner while giving Tuukka Rask zero time to react side to side.

“We had a game plan in place and our guys executed well, they were ready to play,” said Claude Julien. “One little mistake and it’s in our net, and you lose yourself a pretty important hockey game.”

So, now the Bruins have taken only one point in their past three games, have dropped behind the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division standings and continue to skate around like they’re wearing the weight of the entire organization on their shoulders.

“At the end of the night it is another loss and that’s the biggest thing. Did your team play fairly well? I think so. I think we competed hard, but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains. We had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and in our net with a minute-and- a-half left,” said Julien. “We have to stand there again, and take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first 58 minutes.

“I thought we played pretty well against a good team. We had contained the guys that we needed to contain. We didn’t score any goals – I don’t think we did a good enough job there - we had some chances but again you got to find ways to score goals. That’s where we are at.”

Clearly, the Bruins didn’t give up a ton defensively and Rask had been solid for the first two-plus periods, but there was also a sense Chicago didn’t bring its best game either when Boston outshot the Blackhawks 17-6 in the opening period. It was also clear that, aside from a couple of good, early chances from Tim Schaller and Brad Marchand, along with a Joe Morrow breakaway chance, the Bruins offense wasn’t doing enough work to get closer to the Chicago net for any sustained pressure.

So, instead of a solid result with dark clouds swirling over Causeway Street that a big change is needed to jolt a stagnant team, the Bruins hang up another loss where they outshot their opponent and end up with nothing to show for it.

These are the kinds of losses that test morale and togetherness and could either be taken as a sign of things tightening up for the Bruins or of things continuing to spiral away from a team that just needs wins at this point.

“I’m sure everybody’s feeling down right now because we lost, but you can’t start pouting too much. You’ve got to move on,” said Rask, who allowed one goal on 22 shots in the loss. “[There’s a] big game coming up Sunday, and next week, so it’s a loss and we have to move on. [We have to] get ready for the next one. I’m sure guys are pissed today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Tomorrow is a new day for everybody on the Black and Gold including Julien, who is scheduled to still run practice on Saturday as the B’s bench boss before speaking to the media prior to the team leaving for Pittsburgh. So, it’s business as usual after another loss on Friday night in a classic Original Six matchup that’s clearly most of the luster from where it was at four years ago, but one can only sit and wonder how much longer business as usual cuts it for a hockey club that continues to flounder.