Return of Stuart and Lucic sparks Bruins

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Return of Stuart and Lucic sparks Bruins

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- A goal certainly takes the pressure off a player's return from injury.

In the case of Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart and forward Milan Lucic, each put a puck into the net within the first 10 minutes of Monday afternoon's game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the TD Garden.

However, Stuart's was the only one that counted.

The B's defenseman played in his first game since Dec. 7 after missing more than month because of a broken right hand. His slap shot from the left point, eight minutes into the first period, got through a Michael Ryder screen and past Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward, into the top-left corner of the net.

Lucic had missed the previous three games because of an undisclosed injury, and beat Ward with a hard snap shot from the high slot, less than minutes after Stuart gave the Bruins an early 1-0 lead.

The goal horn sounded, and Lucic celebrated his first goal since Dec. 16.

Problem was, the officials had called a delayed penalty on the Bruins, and for some reason didn't blow the whistle until after Lucic had put the puck in the net.

"I have to build off it," said a smiling Lucic. "It was a little disheartening. A good, quick shot for myself, and I thought, 'Oh, here we go, get it going again.' But unfortunately it was called back."

Lucic has now gone 12 games without a goal.

For Stuart, Saturday's blast from the point was his first goal of the season. Both made their returns to the lineup, but Stuart's injury was much more severe than Lucic's.

"It felt good," said Stuart. "You're a little nervous beforehand, just because you don't really know what to expect. But I was fortunate enough to get that goal early, and it kind of helped me relax, I think."

Stuart finished Boston's 7-0 win as a plus-3 in 16:04 of ice time. His coaches and teammates didn't see a player who missed over a month with a hand injury.

"It was good, I thought, for his first game back," said coach Claude Julien. "We talked, before the game, that he only had one real, full practice with the team. He had been out for five, six weeks, and when you come back and play a pretty solid game like he did, you've got to be pleased.

"It was nice to see him get that goal," added Julien. "The first chance he got at shooting the puck, he scored. The rest of it, he kept his game pretty simple. And when he kept it simple, he moved the puck well. I thought he was good."

"He was very good, especially for being out for a while," said goaltender Tim Thomas. "He didn't have the shakiness that sometimes can happen when you haven't played in a while. He was really calm with the puck, and made good plays, and he was very strong. A lot of times, when you come back from injury, too, it seems like you're a step behind, and was definitely not that. He stepped right in and played with mid-season form."

So much so, that Stuart nearly got in a fight with Hurricanes forward Troy Bodie in the final minutes of the game. But just before the gloves came off, fellow defenseman Adam McQuaid sprinted over and dropped the gloves with Bodie himself.

By rule, no player can fight while wearing protective equipment on their hands. And Stuart played Saturday's game with a protective brace on his right hand, which he said he plans on wearing for a "couple more weeks."

McQuaid knew that, and didn't want Stuart to re-injure the hand, so he stepped in.

"We all know Stuey's not going to back down, so it was just kind of something I needed to do," said McQuaid. "The brace kind of puts him in a tough spot, so like I said, someone had to jump in there for him."

"I felt bad, because I didn't want to put Adam in that situation," said Stuart. "You kind of forget sometimes, in the heat of the battle, that you can't do it."

Stuart didn't have to drop the gloves. All that mattered, on Saturday, was that he and Lucic were back in that heat of the battle. And it's a pair of returns that's more than welcomed in the Bruins locker room.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

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Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

The Bruins still hold high hopes for what free agency might bring them for a defenseman when the market opens Friday at noontime, but it also feels like Bruins GM Don Sweeney is under-promising while hoping to over-deliver. Either that or the Bruins really don’t have many good prospects at significantly improving their blue line group headed into next season.

For the first time Sweeney made a “defenseman-by-committee” reference during Thursday’s conference call to announce the four year contract extension for Torey Krug, and talked up positive contract talks with 35-year-old John-Michael Liles.

Yes, that’s the same Liles that was a minus-7 in 17 games with the Bruins after coming to Boston at the trade deadline for draft picks and Anthony Camara. One would expect it to be a one year deal at a very reduced rate along the lines of last year’s $2.75 million to bring Liles back in Boston if the Bruins can’t somehow land a bigger free agent fish like Jason Demers, or Brian Campbell.

There’s also the possibility of something shaking loose with Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler in trade discussions, but Liles was the only available defenseman that Sweeney addressed by name during his chat with reporters.

“We’ve talked to free agent candidates. I’ve mentioned John-Michael [Liles]; I think that we’ve had very, very productive talks there. We’re looking for balance; we’re looking for younger players to have an opportunity to emerge and grab a hold of that,” said Sweeney. “Whichever we can improve our team internally or externally, we’re going to continue to evaluate and pursue. The trade market … whether that materializes remains to be seen. And it’s not an easy process, nor is the free agency process.

“So we’re going to do the work to try and improve our team but it starts internally with our group. And our coaches are excited about what our young players are going to bring to the table.”

After signing Krug to a four year extension that will pay him $5.25 million per season and buying out Dennis Seidenberg’s contract, the Bruins still have $19 million to play with headed into Friday’s open of the free agent market. So the Bruins have the capital to be players on July 1 if they want to make a big splash.

It just remains to be seen whether the Bruins will be capable of making a big splash given the available players, and how many of the big named ones seem to be leaning toward NHL destinations other than the Black and Gold. 

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Greg Wyshynski joins Michel Felger on Sports Tonight to discuss the recent Boston Bruins moves and other potential landing spots for free agents Loui Eriksson and Milan Lucic.

Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

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Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

With Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in the fold for four more years, a Thursday afternoon conference call with the 25-year-old defenseman and GM Don Sweeney was about what the young puck-mover can accomplish over the next few years. With Krug coming off a four goal, 44-point season and offseason shoulder surgery, it will be a slow and steady progression to begin next season once he’s cleared to play.

What isn’t in question is Krug’s leadership, toughness and gritty attitude to go along with his considerable offensive skill set, and those all made the $21 million contract a no-brainer from the Black and Gold end of things.

“Torey’s got a very, very unique skill set that’s important to our hockey club. He’s had a very, very productive three years. His role this year and his time on ice, in all situations, increased significantly. He was able to shoulder much, much more responsibility in all parts of the game. As a young player who is invested in the Boston Bruins organization, he wants to win, he does things the right way every time he comes to the rink,” said Sweeney. “He wants to get better; he’s not satisfied. All the things you want out of a young player to identify with, which is something we also acknowledge, that Torey has really been identified as an emerging part of our core leadership group.

“I think he’ll help tremendously to help all of our young players that hope to fall in similar fashion with the success that he’s had up to this point. We have a lot of work to do in front of us and Torey’s going to help us get back to where we want to be in trying to win a Stanley Cup.”

Krug has averaged 10 goals and 41 points over his first three seasons in the NHL, and averaged a career-high 21:37 of ice time last season as a de facto No. 2 defenseman behind Zdeno Chara. It was a big season because Krug survived, and continued to put up points, as a legit top-4 defenseman in the NHL, but the 5-foot-9, 181-pounder also needed his shoulder repaired after his first season of heavy duty usage.

So it bears the question of whether Krug will stay in one piece with the heavy top-4 duty over the next four years. Whatever the answer is to that question, the puck-moving defenseman will be a leader, a feisty character on the ice and somebody that’s going to serve as a good professional role model for the flock of young players expected to come through in the next couple of seasons.

The Michigan boy couldn’t be happier to be a part of all of it in Boston for the next four years.

“I think [the leadership thing] has been something that was instilled in me in a young age, you know, coming from my father. It’s always been authentic. If anyone tries to force it then people see right through that, and it just doesn’t happen. But for me and this team and this locker room I think I’m able to bridge that gap from the young guys to the older guys,” said Krug. “I relate to every single person in that locker room, which I think will help our team as we grow and we mature bringing in younger guys from Providence. Or guys that are just signed and helping them develop and helping them feel comfortable within the locker room because it can be intimidating.

“It’s tough to walk in the locker room, you know, when you have Stanley Cup Champions and Norris and Selke Trophy winners. So it can definitely be very intimidating and hopefully I can serve as that bridge to kind of ease that gap for those guys. As far as young defensemen goes, the one thing that Claude [Julien] helped me with when I first came up was making sure I was myself. I was here for a reason. I was able to do the thing I do well, and I wasn’t straying away from that to try to be someone that I’m not. So I think young defensemen, once they realize that and they realize that everyone in this organization is there to help them then they’ll begin to improve. They’ll become themselves as they will at the NHL level.”

With Krug having experienced a couple of years of late season collapses as one of the young leaders on this Bruins team, even more will be asked of him next season as the Black and Gold push hard to right the ship.