Respite was a good break
Spirits are high after needed rest
WILMINGTON -- The Bruins returned from the Christmas break a much less tense group than the one that walked out of the FleetCenter after Tuesday's 1-1 tie with the Tampa Bay Lightning. They know they've won only two games in the last 16, they know they're winless in five, but after a high-tempo, one-hour practice at the Ristuccia Center yesterday, coach Mike Sullivan said they welcomed the time away and now they're rarin' to go.
"It was great to spend some time with my family and not think about it for a little bit," said Sullivan, whose team has a rematch with the Lightning in Tampa tonight. "I think it's refreshing for everybody. You can re-energize yourself mentally and physically and now we're looking forward to getting back at it. I think it was really what everybody needed. We've played a lot of hockey -- 14 games in 26 days -- so the schedule has been a grind and it was really good physically for our players but even more so it's a great time to step back and think about something else."
Sullivan said when he walked into the rink, he sensed that the weariness and frustration that was so noticeable earlier in the week was gone.
"Everybody understands where we're at and where we have to improve and we want to get the results and we'll do everything we can to get them," he said.
"I'm excited to get back at it and play. I thought our team played well [Tuesday] night. I think we've put a stretch of hockey together where we've done some pretty good things. We've got to find a way to find the back of the net. We just have to make sure we don't get discouraged and keep a positive frame of mind and we build. We build and we gain momentum."
During the monthlong struggles, there has been plenty of talk about breaks -- as in good breaks for the other team, and no breaks or bad breaks for the Bruins.
Sullivan said good fortune is often a matter of a team taking charge of the situation, creating offense and playing strong defense.
"When teams are going well and they're playing well, they get the breaks," he said. "So you certainly have to make your breaks and I think we're doing that. We've had a lot of real quality scoring chances as of late. We still haven't had much to show for it but I believe if we continue to bring that, it'll change."
Defenseman Ian Moran will be sidelined indefinitely due to a high ankle sprain suffered Tuesday night. "I believe it's going to be 2 to 4 weeks but it's one of those types of injuries where it depends how he responds," said Sullivan. "We've got to make sure we don't throw him back in too soon and then put him out again for any duration." Moran has been one of the team's best blue liners. He'll be replaced by Zdenek Kutlak. "He's been real solid back there," said Sullivan of Moran. "It's unfortunate for our team but Zito [Kutlak] has been here and he's been practicing and has deserved a chance and I think he's excited to get the opportunity as well. He went down and played a couple of games in Providence and he's been practicing at the NHL pace for quite some time now. Zito is a guy we have faith in." . . . Sergei Samsonov, who continues to rehab a left knee sprain, was going to stay home to work out but he couldn't find ice time in the Boston area, so he was going to make the two-game trip. Samsonov participated in much of yesterday's workout but estimated that he's about a week away from returning. "He's getting there but he's not quite at a point where he feels comfortable to be with us full time," said Sullivan. "That was really the first test. He's been skating on his own with [strength coach] John Whitesides but we put him in some line rushes . . . so today was his real first test and we'll see how it responds. At this point, you go from week to week to day to day and I think we're closer to the day to day." Samsonov said he was encouraged, particularly in terms of conditioning. "I'm not ready to play yet," he said. "Skating with the team and doing certain drills, at least I can test what feels good and what doesn't." Samsonov was wearing a knee brace when he got injured and he thinks it prevented him from suffering a more significant injury to the medial collateral ligament. "I think if I didn't have it, it could've been worse," he said . . . Despite the Bruins' struggles, 18-year-old Patrice Bergeron continues to stand out. He's playing on the top line with Joe Thornton and Mike Knuble and could receive consideration for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. The last Bruin to win it was Samsonov in 1997-98. "Right now he's one of our better players," said Sullivan. "He makes the right plays with the puck at both ends of the rink. He makes great decisions with the puck and he knows where to be when he doesn't have it. I don't think people realize how difficult it is to come into this league as an 18-year-old and have an impact. I just think it speaks volumes for the type of player and type of person he is. I think he's a lot stronger on his skates than people give him credit for. I think he surprises guys."
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