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Goaltender drops down

But Raycroft just as quickly back up

WILMINGTON -- Saturday night, goalie Andrew Raycroft was between the pipes for the Providence Bruins as part of a short conditioning stint. Yesterday morning, he was back at practice with Boston and was one of three netminders on the trip to Ottawa.

''It feels good, so I'm back in the mix," said Raycroft. ''It's kind of nice."

Raycroft limped off the ice Jan. 7 with 42.5 seconds remaining in the Bruins' 6-3 win over Tampa Bay after injuring the area just below his right knee, then suffered a pair of lopsided losses while not at 100 percent. The Bruins wanted him to go to the minors to give it a test. He stopped 20 of 23 shots and all five shootout bids in a 4-3 win over the Falcons in Springfield.

''It's been a month since I've had a road trip," said Raycroft. ''I'm looking forward to getting on the plane and hanging out with the guys."

Raycroft said there were no plans for him to play more than one game with Providence.

''I decided I might as well go down and play rather than stay here and lift weights," said Raycroft. ''It just kind of worked out with the way the scheduling was that I was able to go down. I didn't miss anything here, it was just get a game in and make sure the leg feels [the way it should]. If I felt healthy, I'd come back and if I went down and I [didn't], I'd take a few more days and get better."

The verdict -- as well as the outcome -- turned out to be positive.

''It was good," he said. ''I just wanted to kind of get through it healthy. I was able to do that."

According to Raycroft, in the first couple of periods there were a lot of power plays and play was kind of scrambly; he said it took about an hour to play. Then in the last period, Providence took over.

''[Springfield] scored two five-on-three goals in the first 10 minutes," he said. ''In the last period and overtime, I didn't have a shot on net. I just kind of stood around. I was hoping someone would score in overtime so we wouldn't have a shootout. I didn't know if my groin muscles would hold up."

When it went to the shootout, though, Raycroft was glad to get the win, and to come out of it OK.

''To be able to make it through the third without having to do a whole lot probably did help my leg," he said. ''Obviously, everything is a little tired in my legs, but it feels healthy so it's good. Once I get my timing back and have a few practices, the other stuff will come a little easier."

Chemistry experiment

Sergei Samsonov has been a bit of an orphan this season when it comes to linemates. The veteran has played with a dizzying number of teammates because of the revolving door that has been the roster. The Bruins have had 40 players if you include goalie Craig Anderson, who has dressed but only backed up the last five games, and center Ben Guite, who was called up for Saturday's game but did not dress. Samsonov's latest assignment is on the checking line with pivotman Wayne Primeau and right wing P.J. Axelsson. Coach Mike Sullivan put them together as a result of Brad Isbister's ankle sprain, suffered against Washington Thursday night. ''[Primeau] is a big guy and he creates a lot of room for me and Axy out there," said Samsonov, who has one goal in his last 12 games. ''I thought we did well. I'd like to stay consistent, on the same line. I'd like to be playing [with the same people] the whole time rather than here and there." Samsonov said in addition to battling injuries, he and the rest of the club have had to adjust to many new faces. ''Our team has changed a lot," he said. ''I think we have 10 guys who are [now] not here. When you go through changes like that, guys get bounced around. It takes some time to find your combinations. It's been an odd year. Some coaches like to change it a lot, some not, so it really doesn't matter. I remember playing for Pat Burns, he used to like to change lines pretty much after every loss. You just go do your best. If a combination works, though, it's a good feeling knowing that you have some chemistry going." Said Sullivan, ''We've had other injuries and call-ups and we're trying to put combinations together that can be successful and ones we feel have been we tend to keep together."

Give him a break

Boston's top center, Patrice Bergeron, didn't skate yesterday but Sullivan said he was fine. ''We just thought he played a lot of minutes over the last handful of games and we're playing a lot of games in a short period of time so we thought it was best to leave him off," he said . . . Right wing Glen Murray (bruised right foot) went through the whole workout but won't play tonight. ''Murray is progressing," said Sullivan. ''He's stopping and starting out there. This was his first real full practice, so we're hopeful he'll be back [soon]. I think this week is a reasonable time frame." . . . Right wing Eric Nickulas (hip pointer) didn't make the trip. His status is day to day . . . Goalie Hannu Toivonen (ankle sprain) has yet to skate. ''We're hopeful he'll skate fairly soon," Sullivan said.

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