Thomas, Bruins shut out Devils, 3-0

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Thomas, Bruins shut out Devils, 3-0

By Danny Picardand Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- The Bruins answered Claude Julien's call for a better transition game and more offense Monday night at the TD Garden, shutting out the New Jersey Devils, 3-0.

Tim Thomas, who picked up his first loss of the season on Saturday night, earned his ninth win of the year while making 28 saves. It was his fourth shutout. "I personally approached it as a must-win and I think the team did, too. We need to get back on track; we need to show some urgency," said Thomas. "We faced a team that's been playing better but has struggled this year, and we needed to come out with the win so that we could start building and getting back to the game that we were playing when we were having success."Michael Ryder put the Bruins up 1-0 with 4:34 left in the first period, on a 5-on-3 power play, after he sniped on Martin Brodeur from the left goal line.Nathan Horton added another 43 seconds into the second period, to give the Bs a 2-0 lead. The goal came as a result of a nice cross-ice neutral zone pass from Milan Lucic the exact type of transition that Julien had called for after Saturday nights 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Horton took the pass at the Devils' blue line on the right wing, skated into the offensive zone, and beat Brodeur to the low left corner with a snap shot from the right circle.Blake Wheeler added another, eerily enough, 43 seconds into the third period (the same time as Horton's goal the period before), after he beat Brodeur with a snapper from the left circle. GOLD STAR: Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler each dished out 5,000 of their money to purchase tickets for military members and their families on Military Appreciation Night, and then each player gave the soldiers their moneys worth on the ice. Wheeler scored a goal in the third period, and has looked better and better as a center option for the Bruins during times of adversity. Stuart doled out five hits and really pushed the physical envelope in the second period with the kind of brute punishment people have come to expect from him in the defensive zone.BLACK EYE: Tyler Seguin was okay, but didnt really do much in his 12:53 aside from play a pretty passive role on the second power play unit. Seguin finally registered a shot on goal in the third period, but the 18-year-old passed up multiple wide-open opportunities from the left faceoff dot during Boston's first unsuccessful power play. On the night, the PP went 1-for-7 and is 2-for-16 since David Krejci went down.TURNING POINT: The Bruins managed to stave off a flurry of Devils shots early in the first period, and then Adam McQuaid really took the momentum away from the Devils with a prolonged bout against Rod Pelley. The McQuaid fight played a big role in the B's solid early start to the game, and certainly gave Boston the most bang for McQuaid's 9:05 of ice time.BY THE NUMBERS: 7-0-0 the B's perfect record when theyve scored the first goal this season. Apparently the Bruins are very good frontrunners, but then again there aren't many teams that aren't good frontrunners.QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was kind of looking around. I was kind of just expecting it, but no, it was nice not to have to do that. I think if you're hitting clean, you can kind of avoid that kind of stuff." Mark Stuart on the novelty of making some big, thumping hits in the second period and not being forced to fight after a clean hit something hes had to do on multiple occasions over the last two seasons.INJURY UPDATE: Claude Julien revealed after the game that both Johnny Boychuk (fractured forearmwrist) and David Krejci (concussion) will travel with the team to New York for Wednesday night's game against the Rangers, and theres a chance Boychuk could play. Hes now considered day-to-day with his injury.
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard.Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him. 

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win.