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Samsonov still ailing

Ribs make him doubtful tonight

TORONTO -- When left wing Sergei Samsonov missed all but eight games of the 2002-03 season because of a fractured right wrist that required bone-graft surgery, he figured he had paid his injury dues. But even though he has played 48 of the Bruins' 59 contests this year, he remains frustrated about those he hasn't been able to suit up for. It's doubtful he will play tonight against the Maple Leafs but his current ailment -- bruised ribs -- is improving.

"It feels good," said Samsonov, who participated in practice at the Air Canada Centre yesterday morning. "It feels better, so we're just kind of testing it to see where it is right now.

"I haven't really played in any contact or anything like that. It feels a lot better but it's not 100 percent yet so I think we're just going to wait and see how it feels. There's been a big improvement. I tried to skate before the Ottawa game [Thursday] and I lasted five minutes on the ice and that was it. I skated pretty much the whole practice [yesterday] and it felt pretty good."

If Samsonov can't play tonight, which would mark the third straight game he'd miss, there's a strong chance he'd be back Thursday night against the Flyers in Philadelphia.

"It's pretty manageable," he said of the discomfort level. "Hopefully I'm not going to aggravate it by skating. It's really difficult to sprint. Those first couple of steps you take, that's when you really feel it. After that, it feels pretty good once you pick up some speed."

Samsonov started the year completely healthy. It took him a while to get his timing, and just when he felt he was starting to find his niche, he suffered a sprained knee that knocked him out of the mix for nine games from Dec. 13-30. He has been frustrated by the fluke injuries, but he's hoping the worst is over.

"That'd be nice," he said. "We have 20-some games left and I'd like to put a good stretch together and get ready for the playoffs. Hopefully I'm past that point. Knock on wood, I guess."

Calling in sick Defenseman Jiri Slegr missed the workout yesterday because he was sick. He's not expected to be sidelined long. "He thinks he might have food poisoning or a stomach bug or something," said coach Mike Sullivan. "We're expecting he'll be OK [today]." . . . The coach's emphasis during practice was on communication. He doesn't believe his players are doing enough of it, and that has led to some hairy situations. "It's something we've talked about all year and we have to get better at it, especially in our own end," said Sullivan. "It's important that guys help each other out there because things happen so fast. The guys away from the puck have to help the guys on the puck. With the way teams cycle and play in the confined spaces, there are picks and screens and the only way you defend through those situations is to talk to each other." . . . Although the team's power play is 0 for 6 in the past two games, Sullivan doesn't think it's anything to be overly concerned about, considering the Bruins converted on eight of the previous 27 chances over six games. "I thought the power play was the difference in the Pittsburgh game [last Tuesday]," he said. "They scored three power-play goals, so they did something right in that game. I think the power play is maybe not as consistent as we'd like it to be. But I wouldn't say it's been poor." The penalty killing, though, has left something to be desired. The Bruins have allowed at least one power-play goal in nine of the last 11 games in which there has been an opposing power play (the Jan. 27 Islanders game had no power plays on either side). Sullivan believes the team needs to commit fewer penalties, and that will take care of it. Against Chicago Saturday, the Bruins were forced to kill off a double minor to P.J. Axelsson for high sticking and a tripping minor on captain Joe Thornton in the third period, then Thornton was whistled off for hooking in overtime. "To have to kill six of the last 20 minutes and two in overtime, you're using similar people and it drains them of energy," said Sullivan. "It's tough because it takes a lot of energy to kill penalties." Thornton said his hooking call in the extra session was ludicrous, believing Blackhawks center Brett McLean took a dive. Sullivan didn't address that specific instance but does believe diving is a problem in the NHL. "How to solve it, I don't know the answer," he said. "The referees are going to call it as they see it. In the Chicago game, we put ourselves in a position to take stick infractions and that's something we can control. From my standpoint, that's the bottom line."

in today's globe
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