Bruins notes: Wheeler, Stuart thriving in Atlanta

191545.jpg

Bruins notes: Wheeler, Stuart thriving in Atlanta

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON While those in Boston have focused on the newcomers that arrived on the Bruins roster at the trade deadline at the end of February, Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart have done very well for themselves with the Atlanta Thrashers.

Stuart was reunited with former Bruins associate head coach Craig Ramsay in Atlanta, and signed to a multi-year contract extension with a Thrashers team in need of some physical play around the net. Meanwhile Wheeler has put up 13 points (8 goals, 5 assists) in 16 games with Atlanta since the trade, and flourished with plenty of ice time along with the first power play unit and PK teams.

They were good players for us, but they appear to be doing well, said Claude Julien.

Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton and Stuart developed a close friendship while both living in Charlestown over the last few years, and the Bs tough guy was looking forward to seeing the former Bruins first round pick.

Stuey was here as long as Id been here, and wed become really good friends, said Thornton. Itll be a lot different seeing him in that uniform, but Ive heard that theyre doing really well down there.

While Krejci was also excited to see his former longtime linemate in Wheeler coming back to Boston for the first time, the playmaking center honestly said he didnt care much whether Bruins fans gave them an ovation.

I dont care, said Krejci. Itd be nice for them, but well see what happens.

Wheeler is definitely having fun and making the most of it. Thats what he told me when I talked to him. Hes scoring goals and its good to see him doing that, said Krejci. Hes my friend, but once were out on the ice there are no friends. We all get used to it. Its weird, but now its just another game.

Bruins coach Claude Julien was noncommittal about whether Shane Hnidy would play against Atlanta on Saturday afternoon, but the veteran defenseman said hes ready to go and is hoping to get in more than one or two appearances before the season is over.

Hnidy hasnt played all season after undergoing rotator cuff surgery, and needs some ice time to knock the rust off.

Julien said there was a good chance Hnidy would be suiting up for the Black and Gold on Saturday.

Its been a while and I just want to get in for a game. I havent heard anything about it, but Im going to prepare as if Im playing and whatever happens then well deal with it, said Hnidy. When youre away from the game and questioning your future like I was, its a job to be back in any situation you can find.

Im going to need more than one or two games. I know we have five left, but I dont know whether Ill be playing in all of them or not.

Zdeno Chara took part in the team photograph portion of Fridays practice at TD Garden, but didnt take part in any of the on ice drills after the Bs defenseman missed portions of Thursday nights game against the Maple Leafs. Claude Julien said that Chara would be in the lineup Saturday against the Thrashers.

He had a day off, but hell be in tomorrow, said Julien.

Shawn Thornton didnt know whether hed be medically cleared to play against the Thrashers on Saturday afternoon, and said it would be 7-8 days before the stitches were likely to come out of his forehead.

Bruins Director of Hockey Administration and college hockey scout Ryan Nadeau was dressed in Marc Savards uniform to take his spot in the team picture on Friday morning at TD Garden. Savards head will be photo-shopped onto the body while the picture is going through the post-production process as the Bs center continues to battle post-concussion syndrome symptoms at home in Canada.

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

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

BOSTON – The Bruins didn’t show anything on the ice in Monday afternoon’s 4-0 matinee loss, and that’s not really any kind of an overstatement.

The scoring chances were almost nonexistent despite 32 shots on net, the second period was dreadful as the Bruins gave up three goals over the course of a six minute span and there was zero added urgency in the third period once the B’s fell behind. The emotion was missing from the drop of the puck to open the game and it never showed up once the Islanders began taking control of the game.

It was a bitterly disappointing result after the Black and Gold had played so well in their previous five games, and put in strong, winning efforts against the Panthers, Blues and Flyers.

On Monday afternoon, the passes were sloppy and errant all over the ice, there was zero physicality and the Bruins buckled once the Isles turned the intensity up just a little bit in the second period. The game was basically over once Nikolay Kulemin snapped one home wide open from the slot area with Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid and David Krejci all blowing their defensive assignments, and then Tuukka Rask followed it up by allowing a softie to Josh Bailey from a bad angle close to net.  

So Bruins head coach Claude Julien termed it a “flat” performance once it was all over with, and openly wondered whether it was fatigue-related result linked to the compacted schedule Boston has played through this season. Monday marked the seventh straight day that the Bruins held some kind of formal skate, though most of the veteran B's players stayed off the ice during last week's Wednesday off-day practice in Nashville.   

“We were flat tonight, obviously, flat from the get-go. I think that first half of the game, we didn’t give much until they scored that first goal. We were able to stay in, but we certainly weren’t generating much ourselves, from that point of view,” said Claude Julien. “His is really the first year, for me as well, going through a condensed schedule, and I’m certainly not using that as an excuse, is it fatigue?. . . But we were flat tonight. How do you explain it? I don’t know. I know that it’s frustrating. I know that it’s disappointing. That’s all I can say.

“Whether it’s mental fatigue, whatever it is. We made some mistakes tonight like, from the goals you look at, we weren’t even in the position that we’re normally in. So we were totally out of whack, as far as even defending. When you give that first goal that much room in the middle of the ice, your D’s go on the wrong side, your weak-side forward is way on the other side, and you open up the slot area, that’s something I haven’t seen much of this year. I think it said a lot from our game tonight.”

The compacted schedule certainly could be a factor for a Bruins team that’s played more games than anybody else in the Eastern Conference to this point, but the B’s also had 48 hours to recharge after winning a Saturday matinee over the Flyers. So the fatigue excuse seems a little far-fetched for a hockey club that’s no-showed a few too many times this season, and did it again on Monday afternoon against one of the worst teams in the NHL. 

Off day for Tuukka Rask plays into rough loss for the Bruins

Off day for Tuukka Rask plays into rough loss for the Bruins

BOSTON – Many times this season Tuukka Rask has bailed out the Bruins when the team was at less than their best.

Monday afternoon was not one of those times as the Bruins goaltender was knocked out of the game after two periods on the way to a listless 4-0 shutout loss to the New York Islanders. Rask allowed three goals on 15 shots in the game’s opening 40 minutes, and was responsible for a very soft goal during the Isles’ three-score barrage in the second period.

After the game Rask wasn’t ducking responsibility for the subpar performance, and admitted he was simply beaten to the short side post on a bad angle shot from Islanders forward Josh Bailey for the soft-serve special.

“I was just late. I picked the wrong seal. It’s one of those [goals] that I should have stopped,” said Rask. “Claude [Julien] mentioned [not taking the Isles lightly] before the game, and the last game we played here they got us. It was a bit of a flat game again last time, and we just woke up too late today. We didn’t want to underestimate them. Any team in this league is good even though the standings might show otherwise. We just never got it going.”

Rask was being kind because the Bruins never actually woke up at all in the first B's shutout loss to the Islanders on home ice in franchise history, and that includes when the Finnish netminder was yanked after the second intermission.

Julien’s act of pulling Rask from a 3-0 game was clearly designed to spark the struggling hockey club, but it did nothing to breathe life into a dead hockey club that simply allowed another goal playing out the string in the third period.

“There are two things that can happen. No. 1, you hope you can spark your team because of the performance in front of him,” said Julien. “If it doesn’t spark your team, [at least] you’re not wasting your number one goaltender’s energy.”

One would expect that Rask will be back between the pipes on Wednesday night against the Red Wings in Detroit, and in hindsight perhaps this Monday matinee might have been a good time to see what Zane McIntyre has to offer as the backup. Instead it will go down as an “off” game for Rask and another inexcusable no-show on home ice for the Black and Gold.