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From 15th in East to 3rd, Bruins go for 10 wins in a row here Wednesday night

It was a sensational return Monday night for Sidney Crosby with two goals and two assists in the Penguins' 5-0 win over the Washington Generals-like New York Islanders and that's the story that will dominate the hockey world Tuesday morning.

But in the Shake-Your-Head Division, Team Department, comes the story of the Boston Bruins. The Bs survived Monday night in Montreal, 1-0, to win their ninth straight game as Tim Thomas posted his second straight shutout. That means they hit town for Wednesday's grudge match in First Niagara Center against the Sabres going for 10 in a row, just another juicy subplot in a game full of them.

And then there's this: The Bruins (12-7-0) took over first place in the Northeast from the Sabres (12-8-0) by virtue of higher points percentage. That puts Boston third in the Eastern Conference -- just 16 days after the Bruins were dead last in 15th place at 3-7. Pretty incredible. The Bruins were actually second for a few minutes until the upstart Florida Panthers took over the spot with a 4-3 win over New Jersey in a game they trailed, 3-0.

The Sabres, meanwhile, fall from second in the East to fifth.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Sabres trying to low-key revenge factor

The Sabres said all the right things about the Boston Bruins after practice Monday. If revenge against Milan Lucic is on their mind, you sure wouldn't know it.  While it's reasonable to think the fan base is at least interested in a pound of flesh as it is with two points, the Sabres tried to give us the business-as-usual approach.

"I don't know what the fans are wanting," insisted Paul Gaustad. "We want to get a win. I think that's what we have to focus on: Playing our game, execute our system and try to win. ... We have to address it as taking care our business of executing the game. We're trying to win the two points. You have to focus on our systems and execute what they'll do with their systems."

Lucic, of course, said after the game in Boston the Bruins were a different team and would never allow their goalie to get steamrolled. So he bruised the Sabres on the ice and again after the game. What was Gaustad's reaction to that?

"I don't watch the media or read the newspapers," he said. "So I don't know exactly what he said. It's his opinion and we tried to put that in the past and focus on the stretch of games we've had here."

"All that other stuff, you can't think about it or talk about it too much," added defenseman Robyn Regehr. "You have to try to win a game. There's certain things that happen spontaneously and so be it. It happesn when you're playing a good hard physical, aggressive game. I don't think there's going to be any sort  of premediated stuff if that's what you're implying. First and foremost, let's win this hockey game."

The only sign came from Lindy Ruff, who first tried to feign ignorance when asked if the NHL had made any pre-emptive phone call yet to the teams. Then Ruff admitted, "We're all smart enough. As the cowboy would say, 'This ain't my first rodeo.' "

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

 

Bulletin (yet again): No suspension for Lucic

MONTREAL -- This just in from the NHL's Toronto headquarters: Milan Lucic has escaped his league hearing with no suspension. Here's the NHL.com story detailing the thoughts of NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan, who spoke to Lucic today via conference call.

In essence, Shanahan said he could not determine an elevated level of intent on Lucic's part and that the Bruins' player was properly penalized for charging.

"The minor penalty called on the ice was the correct call," Shanahan said. "And, while it's unfortunate that Miller was hurt I saw nothing egregious about this hit that would elevate it to supplemental discipline."

There is no immediate comment from the Sabres. In situations like this, GM Darcy Regier usually speaks to the media between periods of that night's game. But you know how the Sabres feel. Remember what Lindy Ruff said this morning?

"If [Lucic] isn't suspended, it just means teams will be able to do exactly what Lucic did," Ruff said. "Their goaltender can play the puck, we can run him over. We can hurt him and all you get is a two-minute minor penalty. That's essentially what that means. You can concuss the other team's goaltender. You can run him going at whatever speed he was going. He made no attempt to get out of the way. It means it's fair game on goaltenders."

So the message is clear in the wake of Lucic's escape: If your goalie is hit, take care of it yourselves. The Sabres should have done that Saturday. They'll meet the Bruins again Nov. 23. That should be interesting.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Lucic after practice today: 'It certainly wasn't meant to happen that way'

MONTREAL -- Milan Lucic awaits his fate on a possible NHL suspension for his hit on Ryan Miller but again claimed innocence today following the Boston Bruins' practice in Wilmington, Mass.

You can read the complete NHL.com story here. Among the comments from Lucic I found most interesting were:

1) "There shouldn't be game plans to run goaltenders over. I'm all for that. To say you put traffic in front of him is one thing. To run him over, I disagree with that. So again, it just kind of reinforces that it certainly wasn't meant to happen that way."

2). On why Miller played another period after the hit: "With the new protocol and the concussion stuff, I know the last three NHLPA meetings that I've been part of, they've clarified about concussions and head injuries, the main thing that they talked about is there's no such thing as getting your bell rung or seeing stars anymore. That's considered a concussion. And if you're in that position, you have to do whatever you can to take yourself out of play. And obviously, Ryan plays a big part in the NHLPA and what he does, and I respect him what he does there. That's pretty much it."

(It should be noted the Bruins' team doctors ruled Miller out after the SECOND period).

3). The Bruins remain skeptical Miller got a concussion on the hit. Said Lucic: "I've looked at it and his shoulder hit my chest, so there was no hit to his head. His helmet came flying off, but his head didn’t hit the ice."

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

The lack of response -- and what used to happen when somebody took a run at your goalie

EN ROUTE TO MONTREAL -- Greetings from JFK Airport as I await the flight to Montreal, where the Sabres have scheduled a noon meeting in the Bell Centre. Who wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall in that one after the stunning events of last night in Boston?

Well, it's long been an issue among their fan base, but the Sabres now have a full-blown issue as a weak team across the hockey world in the wake of last night's Milan Lucic-Ryan Miller dustup.

Read John Vogl's full recap from the Garden, which includes Miller's rant against Lucic -- and the Boston tough guy's pithy response that just about says it all: "We wouldn't accept anything like that. We would have [taken] care of business. But we're a different team than they are."

Obviously so. The Sabres are getting killed. Billy Jaffe on MSG Live out of New York called them "soft" last night. The Hockey Night in Canada Hot Stove crew of P.J. Stock and Mike Milbury was baffled by the lack of response and the headline from this New England Sports Network column says a a lot too: "Ryan Miller calls Milan Lucic gutless for hit on goalie but Sabres lack of response was truly gutless."

Judge for yourself.

Here's a snippet from NESN of Lucic with reporters. Look at the smirk at the beginning of the interview and the little smile and raised eyebrow at the end when asked if he was surprised there was no response.

I guess Paul Gaustad doesn't fight anymore. Even Lindy Ruff pointed out he was on the ice. Would you have thought differently about Tyler Myers' disastrous night if he had at least done something with Lucic? Probably. 

So what should the Sabres have done? Well, this isn't old-time hockey. I realize that. But you still don't run the goalie like Lucic did. Yes, Miller was out to play the puck and was fair game (**I take back what I wrote in an airport at 7 a.m. he was fair game to a point when he had the puck..but Lucic still has to try to avoid contact. That was totally unnecessary). . But when was the last time you saw that? Lucic knew who was on the ice and knew he had few worries. 

You want to see what USED to happen when you ran the goalie? Check out these dustups.

The Bruins didn't allow this stuff in the 70s (see Willi Plett and Gerry Cheevers) and the Sabres certainly got a pound of flesh in the 80s in Detroit after Tom Barrasso got run earlier in the game. Look how the Bruins and Red Wings answered. Compare that to last night. Nuff said.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Stanley takes a spill on Ryder's day

Summer isn't over yet for the Boston Bruins on their individual tours with the Stanley Cup. Each member of the winning team gets it for a day and today is Michael Ryder's day in his hometown of St. John, Newfoundland. Ryder, who will play for the Dallas Stars this year, is planning a helicopter ride but the day didn't start very well as the Cup got dinged thanks to a tricky table leg.

Check out the video from the St. John Telegram.  Bet there's a nervous Cupkeeper nearby.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Another final for Boston as Bruins take their turn

Horton Boston is going to get a chance at another championship. Hey Beantown, how about sharing with the rest of us? For the ninth time since 2001, a Boston team is in the finals of the four major sports after the Bruins' 1-0 win in Game Seven against the Tampa Bay Lightning Friday night.

While the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics have all had good runs of late, it's been a long time for the Bruins. They haven't made the Stanley Cup Final since losing to Edmonton in 1990 and haven't won the Cup since 1972. As a city, Boston is 6-2 in its recent title forays. 

Writes Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy: "These are Boston’s Glory Days, Black-and-Golden Days, Lobster Salad Days." And he throws out another wild note: If the Bruins win the Cup, the Boston team with the longest title drought would be the Patriots -- going all the way back to 2005! 

Nathan Horton (above right) got the goal with 7:33 left made the difference and he is the first player in history with two Game Seven winning goals in the same playoff year. The Bruins got him from Florida last June for defenseman Dennis Wideman, the 15th overall pick in last year's draft a third-round pick this year. Lots of folks in these parts were advocating the Sabres go for Horton. Pretty good return for the Bruins, don't you think?

Down in Tampa, St. Pete Times columnist Gary Shelton -- one of my favorites from trips to the Final Four and World Series -- had this take on the end of a great ride for the Bolts: "No one is ever sorry to see a bad season end, after all. A bad team is like a bad tooth, and the quicker you can get rid of it, the better. When a team is successful, however, you cannot help but notice the opportunity that was missed."

May26_tower_tiggyIn Vancouver, meanwhile, enthusiasm is higher than ever for the Canucks. In the form of a 56 feet long and 20 feet wide banner (left) affixed to the control tower at the Vancouver airport. Game One of the final is Wednesday night.

And who could be a surprise entry at some point in this series? Canucks center Manny Malhotra, a faceoff ace who suffered a career-threatening eye injury more than two months ago, is practicing fully. That would be quite an addition. Shades of Erik Cole returning to the Hurricanes late in the '06 final against Edmonton.

Malhotra could use as many days as he can get but the schedule might be tough on the Canucks, who will go eight days without a game and play just one in 11 days because there's a two-day break after Game One.

And how about some kudos for my cohorts? In our season preview video at Buffalonews.com, John Vogl picked the Bruins to beat the Canucks in the SCF while Bucky Gleason had the Canucks over Washington (I had the Capitals over the Canucks. Oh well). If you scroll to the 2:25 mark below, you can review the discussion of our picks.


---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

(Horton photo from AP, Vancouver tower photo from Canucks.com)

Pick a playoff foe

'May Day' gets its day in NHL ad campaign

There's a new "History Will Be Made" ad debuting tomorrow on NHL.com and the NHL Network as we get set to head into the playoffs. And it's a time-tested classic in these parts. Check it out here, courtesy of the league's entertainment department.

Live from Beantown: Sabres vs. Bruins

BOSTON -- Greetings from Level 9 atop the TD Garden for tonight's game against the Zdeno Charas, er, the Boston Bruins. Seems like that's all we've been talking about today and all anybody in the building is talking about. So I get upstairs to my seat here and what am I next to? A black stanchion blocking my view of the net to the left on your television screen. Plenty of room for me to move down a couple and get the view. No stanchions for me.

Be sure to scroll through all of today's posts for the latest on Zdeno Chara. We've had a very busy day on the Edge before a puck is ever dropped. But we are finally going to get to hockey as the Sabres try to pull two points ahead of idle Carolina in the battle for eighth place in the East. The Rangers are also idle. The Sabres will pull even in games with the Hurricanes while Buffalo will have two games in hand over New York when tonight's play is over.

Speaking of Chara, doesn't he have to be on his best behavior tonight? No outbursts like we saw after Game Five of last year's playoff series in HSBC Arena. I'm thinking the Sabres may want to try to agitate him even more than normal. We'll see.

The Bruins have gotten great goaltending all year from Tim Thomas and they're a classic play-from-in-front team. They have outscored their opponents, 60-40, in the first period this season. They are 25-4-4 when scoring first, 22-2-1 when leading after one period and 25-0-1 when leading after two. Wow.

Keep these numbers in mind if we go to overtime tonight. Buffalo is 12-8 when tied after regulation and Boston is just 2-8. The Sabres are 5-1 in shootouts, the Bruins are 1-5. Hmmm.

With all the Chara chatter and pregame prep, you still have to eat at some point. And when you're in Boston, one of the great choices is The Fours on Canal Street right by the Garden. I've been going since 1989 and made it there again this afternoon. Classic stuff. Tremendous Boston-themed memorabilia collection. Voted No. 1 sports bar in America a few years ago in a Sports Illustrated story and a great Boston-themed menu. I'm a veteran of The Bobby Orr, a terrific steak tips sandwich. But today, I got a little daring and took the dive into lobster mac and cheese. Major yum alert.

Now that I'm hungry again, I'll find some of the league's best press box popcorn and hunker down. Keep it here.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Sabres starters: Niedermayer-McCormick-Grier-Montador-Sekera. Goal: Miller
Bruins starters: Paille-Campbell-Thornton-Seidenberg-McQuaid. Goal: Thomas 

Overtime recap: SABRES WIN 4-3 as Boyes pots Gerbe's rebound with 1:44 left. It came 25 seconds after Rich Peverley had MIller beat but cranked a shot off the post. Sabres are 8-7 in OT deciders and 2-1 in them on this road trip.

Third Period

8:59 p.m: The puck is dropped.

17:42 left: The Bruins take the lead as Gregory Campbell pounds a loose puck through Miller's legs. Chara let got a big shot from the point that didn't appear to get through but it pinballed right in front of the goalie and Campbell put it home. Looked like it hit Campbell, hit another player and bounced right back to Colin's son. Bruins lead, 3-2.

16:35 left: Recchi for high sticking.

16:18 left: Marchand for tripping Sekera, who went down awfully easily. Timeout Lindy. Two-man for 1:44. The Sabres have to tie the game here.

14:55 left: And they do. Good pressure. And Connolly pokes one home on Buffalo's third shot. Game tied, 3-3. Connolly had not scored in 14 games. That's his ninth of the season. Game tied, 3-3.

13:30 left: They announced it as a Boyes goal. I'd like to see another replay on that. We'll see if that holds. The Buffalo PP is thus 2 for 7 tonight.

13:00 left: They change it back to a Connolly goal.

11:07 left: Terrible Montador giveaway but Miller stops Bergeron from the slot. Shots are 5-5 in the period.

6:00 left: Still tied at 3-3, which is a nightmare for your deadline-nearing scribe.

4:05 left: Good stop by Miller on Recchi after Boyes failed to get the puck out. Shots are 41-28 for Buffalo (8-7 for Sabres in this period.

2:35 left: Grier fails on a tap-in of a great Vanek pass after a Vanek steal at the line. Bigger point: I don't want Thomas Vanek passing the puck down low to Mike Grier EVER. Gotta shoot.

End-3rd: Remember my OT stats at the top of this blog. Go get em. Here we go at 3-3. Shots are 41-29. Sabres move a point ahead of Carolinq with their eighth of the road trip. Now going for No. 9.

Second Period

Of note: The Bruins' PR staff is one of the best in the league. Pregame notes are stellar and they produce between-periods and post-game information sheets the like of which every team should copy (hint, hint, Sabres). Here's a nugget they just passed out -- The Bruins are 37-4-4 in games in which they've lead at any point. That's points in 41 of 45 games. Pretty staggering. But there's this addendum: Two of the four losses were to Buffalo, on Dec. 15 in HSBC Arena and here on Jan. 20.

7:58 p.m: The puck is dropped.

19:37 left: Miller stops Recchi on a play set up by a terrible blind back pass by Mancari. He'll get a one-way ticket never to return with plays like that. 

17:40 left: Sekera stopped and Connolly just fails to get the rebound.

14:17 left: Thomas with more robbery, including a diving stop on a Connolly rebound. The play ends, the scrum ensues and Chara is right in the middle with Grier. In the end, McQauid and Grier go for roughing. The Sabres have a 19-18 edge in shots in this game; it was once 10-3 for Boston.

13:06 left: Chara goes for boarding and that was a terrible call. He pushed Montador down and Montador slid 10 feet and hit the boards with a thud. 

12:47 left: Thomas robs Vanek but another penalty, Seidenberg for cross checking. That was legit. So it's a 4-on-3 for the Sabres for 30 seconds, then it will be 5 on 3.

10:43 left: The two-man edge was for 1:10 and the Sabres didn't score as Stafford fanned on one shot, passed too hard to Vanek on another. Thomas made good stops on Pominville and Boyes. And now the Sabres get a too many men on the ice penalty. Not good.

8:34 left: Grier and Pominville block Chara shots but just as the penalty ends, the big guy gets in tight to feed Ryder. His first shot is stopped but Recchi bangs in the rebound. Special teams, special teams. Bruins lead, 2-0.

8:07 left: Big answer. Ennis gets in tight, holds it, holds it, hold it and flips it up and in off McQuaid from the goal line just to the right of the net. Ennis' 15th. Bruins lead, 2-1. Sabres their first goal on their 27th shot of the night. 

5:49 left: Another Boston penalty. Boychuk for holding. The Sabres have a 19-6 bulge in shots on goal in this period. Doesn't seem like the ice is tilted that much but Buffalo has been good. Except on the power play. Here's another chance.

5:00 left: What a play by Sekera to save a breakaway by Brad Marchand, who was off to the races after Butler missed the puck at the Boston line. But Sekera quickly caught up to Marchand so no chance for short-handed goal No. 13 against Buffalo. As for this power play ....

3:40 left: No shots on goal on the PP.

2:52 left: Another Boston penalty, Kaberle for tripping. Sabres should decline.

1:08 left: I take it back. Vanek half fans on an Ennis pass but gets enough of it to chip it over Thomas. Great play at the point a few second earlier by Myers to keep the puck in after his point shot got blocked. Game tied, 2-2.

48.9 left: Big bout at center ice between McQuaid and Gaustad. Lots of shots but decision to McQuaid on that one.

8.2 left: Another scrum that's really nothing until Gerbe sent a Bruin flying. Eventually, Lucic and McCormick slug it out and the place is going wild. That was a pretty ill-advised shove by Gerbe. Butler ended up with the extra penalty for roughing.

End-2nd: We're tied at 2-2. Wild period. Sabres had a 22-7 edge in shots and it's 33-22 through two. 

First Period

7:07 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

19:20 left: Big cheer as Chara takes the ice for the first time. And the crowd is chanting "Cha-ra, Cha-ra"

18:04 left: Miller with some robbery on Nathan Horton, who took a pass and walked right around Connolly. A few seconds earlier, Chara drilled Pominville in the corner. He only knows one way to play.

17:06 left: McCormick and Campbell talk, look at each other and drop 'em in the corner. Big decision to McCormick drew a few gasps from the crowd.

15:17 left: Have to like the Bruins' skating and physical play so far. Sabres haven't done much in either department other than McCormick's scrap. Shots are 4-1 for Boston.

13:29 left: A definite smoke smell wafting up into the press box where I'm sitting. Hey you people in the balcony, what's going on down there? Security! By the way, Thornton goes for interference for Boston.

13:24 left: There goes the Buffalo power play. Myers for tripping. 

12:43 left: Leopold just fails to get away, then the Bruins lose the puck again and Leopold and Pominville are in on Thomas on a 2-on-0. But Thomas stops the Leopold shot.

11:06 left: With the Sabres getting completely outplayed a goal was bound to happen. Great 3-on-2 by Boston. Krejci to Lucic to Horton for a goal-mouth tap in. Bruins lead, 1-0. Shots are 9-3.

8:15 left: Great save by Thomas on McCormick from right in front. Sabres have just four shots but two A-1 scoring chances as Lindy Ruff likes to call them.

5:05 left: Thomas stones Pominville from 5 feet after a Connolly feed. Sabres much better since the Boston goal, strangely enough. Shots are now 12-9 for the Bruins.

2:17 left: Miller with a good stop on Adam McQuaid from in front a few seconds after what was at least Connolly's third grievous giveaway of the period. Couple inquiries on the lines and I just realized I forgot 'em (sorry). The Sabres ran out Niedermayer-McCormick-Grier, Gerbe-Gaustad-Mancari, Vanek-Connolly-Pominville and Stafford-Boyes-Ennis. Defense pairs are Montador-Sekera, Butler-Myers, Morrisonn-Leopold.

End-1st: With Miller making a save on Recchi in the final 30 seconds, the Boston lead stays at 1-0 through one. Shots were 15-11. Miller and Thomas were far and away the best players on the ice.

Habs' owner criticizes NHL on Chara

BOSTON -- The Zdeno Chara story isn't going away any time soon. Police agencies in Quebec are launching probes about whether to charge Chara with, I presume, assault in the wake of the Max Pacioretty hit.

And late this afternoon, Habs owner Geoff Molson issued this statement on the team's Web site decrying the NHL's lack of suspension in the case. 

Among the highlights:

"The news of the NHL decision yesterday was a hard blow for both the players and fans of the Montreal Canadiens. It was one which shook the faith that we, as a community, have in this sport that we hold in such high regard."

"The Montreal Canadiens organization does not agree with the decision taken yesterday by the National Hockey League. We can assure you that we have made our position clear to Commissioner Gary Bettman."

"Our organization believes that the players’ safety in hockey has become a major concern, and that this situation has reached a point of urgency. At risk are some of the greatest professional athletes in the world, our fan base and the health of our sport at all levels.

"We understand and appreciate hockey being a physical sport, but we do not accept any violent behavior that will put the players’ health and safety at risk. On this specific issue, I am asking for the support of the 29 other NHL owners, to address urgently this safety issue. And I am willing to play a leadership role in coordinating this group effort."

Molson said Habs GM Pierre Gauthier plans to make this a primary issue at next week's GM meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. Stay tuned.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

 

Chara: 'It was just a hockey play'

BOSTON -- Zdeno Chara did not take part in the Bruins' optional skate today in TD Garden but he emerged in the Bruins locker room this morning and took a few questions from the media about the Max Pacioretty incident and its aftermath.

Obviously, Chara said he was satisfied the NHL did not suspend him for the play. He also said he understood Pacioretty's angry reaction in an interview from his hospital bed last night with TSN.

"I totally understand. He's in the hospital so he's got the right to be emotional so I respect that," Chara said. "I obviously feel bad he got hurt. As a hockey player we all feel bad when something like that happens. ... I'm wishing him to a fast recovery and hopefully he'll be back on the ice soon. That's all we love to do. We love to be hockey. When we go out there, we take risks and sometimes we do get hurt. But it's just very unfortunate."

Chara denied Pacioretty's assertion that he intentionally drove the Montreal player into the stanchion by the Bell Centre benches.

"It was just a hockey play that developed," Chara said. "I know deep down I didn't do it intentionally. I said it before it's not my style. It's not what I try to do. I never try to hurt anybody. I play physical. I play hard. That's not what I intended to do."

"There's always going to be two sides to that," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "We're supportive of our player. We know he didn't do it on purpose. It wasn't intentional. But at the same time, I understand their frustration at the other end becaue we've been on the other side of the coin (think Matt Cooke-Marc Savard), and it's normal to be frustrated."

The Chara interview only lasted about two minutes before Chara was whisked away by a Bruins PR official. Here's the audio from the session:


Zdeno Chara

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Pacioretty: 'I am upset and disgusted' with no Chara ban

BOSTON -- Montreal's Max Pacioretty talked to TSN's Bob McKenzie from his hospital bed Wednesday night and he had plenty to say about the fact Zdeno Chara is playing tonight against the Sabres. Chara was not suspended by the NHL for his devastating hit on Pacioretty in Tuesday's game.

"I am upset and disgusted that the league didn't think enough of [the hit] to suspend him," Pacioretty told McKenzie. "I'm not mad for myself, I'm mad because if other players see a hit like that and think it's OK, they won't be suspended, then other players will get hurt like I got hurt."

For his part, Chara said the play was an accident and he had no intent of riding Pacioretty into the stanchion by the benches. Pacioretty -- who has a severe concussion and fractured cervical vertebra -- isn't buying that.

I felt he did mean to do it. I would feel better if he said he made a mistake and that he was sorry for doing that, I could forgive that," Pacioretty said. " ... I believe he was trying to guide my head into the turnbuckle. We all know where the turnbuckle is. It wasn't a head shot like a lot of head shots we see but I do feel he targeted my head into the turnbuckle."

In a related matter, the Ottawa Sun is reporting  mega NHL sponsor Air Canada is threatening to pull out its sponsorships of the league unless something is done about head shots. More fodder for the league's GMs to talk about when they meet next week in Boca Raton, Fla.

---MIke Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Chara verdict hangs over Sabres-Bruins prep

BOSTON -- Greetings from Beantown as the Sabres' see-the-USA tour continues today with practice beginning in the 11:30-11:45 a.m. range at Boston University's Agganis Arena. The TD Garden is unavailable due to tonight's Celtics-Clippers game (and I'm planning on getting a look at Blake Griffin in that one).

The Sabres' goal today is simply to get healthy and find out whether Thomas Vanek (flu) and the injured duo of Jochen Hecht and Mike Grier can play tomorrow against the Bruins. The B's, meanwhile, will be dealing with a major issue today as they should find out if there will be any NHL justice meted out to the guy Sabres fans love to hate, Zdeno Chara. 

Big Z took Montreal's Max Pacioretty into the stanchion between the benches last night during Boston's 4-1 loss the Bell Centre and Pacioretty had to be stretchered off the ice. Chara got a five-minute penalty for interference and a game misconduct. Seems OK based on the injury. But is it suspendable? While the play might be a little late, he's just riding Pacioretty off the puck. If it's anywhere on the ice, there's no injury at all.

But should Chara have known where they were? And what about the premeditation between the two after Pacioretty pushed Chara following an overtime goal last month and the Boston defenseman flew into a rage? And how about the Montreal-NHL factors? You stretcher a Canadien off the ice, lots of people think you get more attention than if, say, a Nashville Predator is hurt. In addition, NHL discipline czar Colin Campbell is off this case because his son Gregory plays for the Bruins and Mike Murphy will make the call.

The NHL is holding a noon conference call hearing and the league can't win: If Chara is suspended, people think it's because of the favoritism to old bastion Montreal. If Chara isn't suspended, it's because Campbell & Co. let the Bruins off the hook with Gregory on the roster. A lose-lose.

Here's my take -- the penalties were sufficient. Yes, the hit caused injury (Pacioretty is said to have feeling back in his extremities) but it wasn't a head shot and it was more of a fluke. The only way you suspend Chara, and it would only be for a game or two at most, is if you think he targeted Pacioretty in retribution. Not in this case. There was a puck play involved.

Check out the videos for yourself below, both the Jan. 8 incident and last night, and vote in our poll.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

The Pacioretty goal/Chara outburst

The Chara-Pacioretty hit 

Ice chips, pre-practice style

Clearing the notebook now that the World Juniors are out of town and we can return to the NHL schedule:

---The Sabres return to practice today in HSBC Arena in the midst of a 4-0-1 run that has them back to .500 at halfway mark of the season (18-18-5). They're 10th in the East, eight points behind Boston and Montreal.

---The Penguins have one goal in two games without Sidney Crosby. And it's likely he'll be out a few more games as well so they have to figure out where to get some offense. They host the Bruins tonight on Versus.

---Things are no better for the Bruins with David Krejci underperforming, Milan Lucic slumping, and Marc Savard a shade of his former self. 

---Have you checked the Western Conference standing lately? Four points separate No. 4 Nashville from No. 12 St. Louis (From 4-12 in the East is an 18-point difference!). The defending champion Blackhawks have climbed from 12th to sixth just by winning the last two games. They beat the Islanders, 5-0, on Sunday and announced before the game that they'll put up statues for ex-Chicago greats Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull outside the United Center. Move over, Michael Jordan.

---Things are really bad in San Jose, where the Sharks were shut out again Sunday by the Ducks and have dropped to 11th place in the West. They've lost four straight games and have been shut out twice in the last three (by Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller). Worse yet, they have just five goals in their last five games.

---In a last farewell to the World Juniors, the ratings for Wednesday's Canada-Russia final were astonishing north of the border. A record audience of 6.88 million viewers watched on TSN and its French counterpart, RDS. The audience peaked at 9.3 million viewers during the third period. The 6.23 million who watched on TSN marked the highest audience ever for the network, Canada's equivalent of ESPN.

If you missed any of our World Juniors coverage, be sure to check out our special section on this site.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Three stars: Bruins 5, Sabres 2

The choke to end all chokes

Choke HEARD IN BOSTON -- Water. Water. Water. I'm ch-ch-ch-oking.

Wish I could conjure every noun possible but "choke" does the trick quite nicely. There is no other way to describe what the Bruins did against the Flyers. Bad enough they blow a 3-0 lead in the series. But a 3-0 lead in Game Seven? At home? That's a gag job of biblical proportions. Flyers 4, Bruins 3. Flyers win series, 4-3.

Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe puts it in amazing perspective this morning. Some of his best lines:

"In Boston, it makes them the Red Sox of the new century."

"Grady Julien"

"It is a new low, the worst moment in franchise history since Bobby Orr left as a free agent in 1976."

"I hate to keep bringing the Red Sox into this (actually, I don’t), but the Sox had 3-0 leads in Game 7 of the World Series in 1975 and again in 1986. You know what happened."

The funniest part of all this, of course, was that the Bruins took the collar thanks to a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty. Think Don Cherry, Montreal, circa 1979. Incredible that bit of history repeated itself and Kevin Paul Dupont's column describes what happened. He calls the 2010 version of TMMOTI "haunting, almost sadistic."

Watched the game this morning on the DVR and you can clearly see Marc Savard raise his stick to the bench to come off and then stay in the play as the Flyers broke up ice. Vladimir Sobotka had already come on, however, and made a futile scurry back to the bench.

In Philly, meanwhile, Phil Sheridan of the Inquirer writes how the Flyers embraced their seemingly impossible task. 

And after all this, the No. 7 seed has home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference finals. Wow.

Go to this post on the Edge to make your predictions for the conference finals.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington

(Photo: The Bruins are stunned after the final buzzer/Associated Press)

Bruins' run foreshadows big, bad future

Here's a great read from today's Boston Globe, albeit a sobering one for Sabres fans. Columnist Tony Massarotti points out that the Bruins -- still one game away from a stunning run to the Eastern Conference finals after Friday night's OT loss in Philly -- are going to be Stanley Cup contenders for years to come thanks to the shrewd trades and drafting of GMs Peter Chiarelli and Mike O'Connell.

And thanks to the brainlock of self-appointed Toronto genius Brian Burke, don't forget that a Boston team on the verge of hockey's final four has the No. 2 pick in this year's draft and is about to add either Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall, junior standouts destined for NHL stardom.

NHL Central Scouting, in fact, compares Seguin to Steve Yzerman and Hall to Zach Parise. And one of them becomes a Bruin in a few weeks. Oy vey.

The Bruins barely made the playoffs this season as they suffered from injuries and inconsistency in goal. The window of opportunity to get them might have been this year. The Sabres took advantage in the regular season to claim a division title but they didn't finish the job in the postseason when they had the chance. Here's hoping that misstep was a one-time speed bump and not a result the Blue and Gold will be burning over for several years.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Sturm's quiet playoffs end with knee injury

Lindy Ruff said in Thursday's wrapup press conference that a Buffalo win in the first round would have resulted in a lot of fingers in Boston pointing at the no-shows of Marco Sturm and Milan Lucic, much the same way everyone in these parts is giving it to Tim Connolly and Derek Roy.

Sturm didn't have a goal against the Sabres and he won't have any more chances in these playoffs. He limped off the ice on the first shift yesterday and the Bruins announced today that he's done for the playoffs with a serious knee injury. Torn ACL AND MCL? Yikes. Might see him by Halloween.

At first glance, a big loss for the Bruins. At second glance, no goals in seven games and the B's are 5-2 in the playoffs thus far after yesterday's thrilling OT win over the Flyers.

Hard to figure these playoffs. Bruins are looking mighty good right now.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Game 6 postgame podcast

BOSTON -- Hear News hockey writers John Vogl, Bucky Gleason and Mike Harrington discuss the Game Six loss to the Bruins that ended the season.

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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