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Bruins notebook

Yelle draws out kudos from coach

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / February 1, 2009
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Claude Julien counts Marc Savard, David Krejci, and Patrice Bergeron as his top three centers.

But it was telling that the Boston coach tabbed Stephane Yelle, his fourth-line center, to take a critical defensive-zone draw with 48.4 seconds remaining in regulation yesterday against Chris Drury, the Rangers center otherwise known as Mr. Clutch.

Facing a six-on-five situation (New York coach Tom Renney had pulled goalie Henrik Lundqvist), Yelle lined up alongside Bergeron and P.J. Axelsson and beat Drury, his old Colorado teammate, on the faceoff. The Rangers got one last rush that Tuukka Rask turned aside. Yelle scooped up the rebound, fought off the check of defenseman Wade Redden, and carried the puck out of the zone along the right wall to ice the victory.

"Those are the big plays," Julien said. "People that know the game of hockey realize how important that play is at the end - being strong on the boards, not just throwing it away and giving it back to them, and protecting it. That's what those experienced guys are capable of doing. It's one of the reasons we got Stephane, for those kinds of situations."

Yelle, the team's No. 4 center for the last three games, skated 16 shifts for 14:00 of ice time. He landed four hits, recorded two shots, and won six of nine faceoffs.

"He was one of our better guys on faceoffs, so we were able to put him in that spot, with just the way he handled the last few seconds and got the puck out," Julien said. "It's just indicative of what he and his line were all about. He certainly warranted being out there the last few seconds."

With the Bruins playing back-to-back games, it was imperative for Julien to roll four lines to save some juice for today's battle against the Canadiens. Yelle and linemates Shawn Thornton (12:36) and Byron Bitz (11:16) came through with solid two-way efforts, allowing Julien to limit Savard, the forward with the most ice time yesterday, to a mere 18:45 of action.

"When you look at Yelle, Bitz, and Thornton's line, they just kept the other team more or less bottled in their own end the whole game," Julien said. "Our whole team, especially up front with being able to use four lines right until the end, has given us a better opportunity to be fresher."

Sit and stew
Shane Hnidy, a healthy scratch Thursday against the Devils, was back in the lineup yesterday. Matt Hunwick was the healthy scratch.

When asked how Hnidy accepted Thursday's sitdown, Julien said, "Hopefully he took it hard. You want players to want to be in the lineup. You want them to want to play . . . You dress 20 and there are some hard decisions to be made. We have to look at the last team we played.

"Everybody talks about [New Jersey forward Jay ] Pandolfo [being a healthy scratch]. You can't get a better example than that - a guy deserving to be in the lineup. Those are the kinds of things that happen. You hope that players use that to their advantage and get themselves motivated when they are back in the lineup, and they do well enough that you can't pull them out."

Ice time for Fernandez
Manny Fernandez skated yesterday morning at TD Banknorth Garden to test his creaky back. Fernandez didn't dress for the game and did not accompany the team to Montreal. Yesterday was the first time Fernandez skated since aggravating his back over the All-Star break. "I think Manny's very close," said Julien. "I guess the prediction is that he should be on the ice with us [tomorrow] with the whole team and ready to go. Things are really looking up and he's feeling extremely good." Fernandez hasn't played since Jan. 8. Rask will be assigned to Providence when Fernandez is ready to go.

Beanpot hero
Drury will be inducted into the Beanpot Hall of Fame tomorrow. The former Boston University star hoisted the Beanpot four straight times . . . Savard extended his point streak to seven games.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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