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Forward thinking by Bruins' Moran

He appreciates help for defense

The Bruins have given up only two goals per game through the first 17 games, and defenseman Ian Moran credits the offense for that strong goals-against average.

"Our real team strength is on offense, from the top of the faceoff circles on down," said Moran after practice at the FleetCenter yesterday. "Our forwards are skilled, and they are difficult to defend. They are great at keeping the puck in the other team's zone, allowing the defense to keep good position. We don't have anyone carrying the mail out of our own zone. Our job is to get the puck up to the forwards as fast as we can and let them go to work."

Moran, 31, was traded from Pittsburgh, where he had played for nine years, at the deadline March 11 last season. He was born in Cleveland, but he has deep local roots.

He grew up in Acton, and played four years at Belmont Hill and two years at Boston College before he left for the US National Team and the pros. He met his wife Britta, who is from Needham, at BC, and Moran was delighted when he was traded to the Bruins.

"I had a feeling I was going to be traded, but I thought it was going to be to a team in the Western Conference," he said. "It would have been a lot different if I'd gone to the West, but then I found out I was going to Boston. It was sad to leave Pittsburgh, but, at the same time, I couldn't have been more pleased than to come and play for the Bruins.

"It was a great feeling. Other teams were interested, and Boston came in kind of late. But the Penguins management let me know that they were sending me to Boston almost as thanks for what I had done there. They knew I knew everybody here. It was a thrill coming to play for the Bruins, the team I followed when I was young.

"When I first came back, everybody thought that I was still 18 and ready to party it up again. But I kept it pretty quiet. After the season was over, it was really great. We got to visit with everybody, and it was great to see them after nine or 10 years."

Moran was able to play in only eight games for the Bruins last season, but this season he has been regularly paired with Dan McGillis, and they have been rock-solid. Moran scored a goal Nov. 6 against San Jose, which wouldn't be surprising except it was his first goal in 131 games. It wasn't the ordinary shot from the point, either. It was a nifty flip over the goalie's shoulder from in close that gave the Bruins their first goal on the way to a 5-5 comeback tie at home.

"The way they wanted to play it in Pittsburgh was they paired me with the guys who took chances, so I rarely jumped up," he said. "I had to be the responsible guy. But here, as a unit, our coaching staff has really encouraged the defensemen to jump up. They want us to at least be an option, which creates confusion for the opponent. You want to be a guy who moves the puck, but you have to be ready to get involved with the offense."

After all, that's the strength of the team. . . .

The Bruins have won four in a row, and earned at least one point in nine straight games (6-0-1-2), and coach Mike Sullivan continues to stress the team concept. "It's all about effort and focus," he said. "If you don't stay focused on a day-to-day basis, if you don't have the ethic to outwork the other team, it's hard to win in this league. We have to bring that every day. We just look forward to the next opponent, regardless of who it is [next is Atlanta on the road tomorrow night]. It's up to our team to do the job. Not that the opponent is irrelevant, but we want to keep the focus on our team." . . . With the team on top by 5 points (over Toronto) in the Northeast Division, it's good to be a Bruin these days.

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