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Boynton first to blink

Defenseman OKs $1.75 million deal

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Bruins finally came to terms with defenseman Nick Boynton yesterday when the 26-year-old accepted the team's one-year, $1.75 million offer that had been on the table for weeks.

Boynton balked initially, feeling he was worth $1.9 million, the amount of the option the team declined to pick up in the offseason. However, Boynton decided playing was more important than the $150,000 difference -- especially since he'd already lost a year of his career because of the lockout and was losing more time this season.

''Enough was enough," said Boynton. ''I talked to [general manager Mike O'Connell] and it was time to start playing. For personal reasons, it was time to get it going. I want to play and you get to a certain point when nothing was happening. I was kind of disappointed in the way things were going. Now, I want to go out and have a good year and try to help this team win a Stanley Cup."

Boynton said there were no hard feelings and he wasn't going to harbor any resentment regarding the hard line taken by the Bruins.

''It's already behind me," he said. ''I'm a hockey player. I do my thing and I'm not going to let it affect me."

As happy as the Bruins are to have their No. 2 blue liner back in the fold, they will be without captain Joe Thornton for a while. He was sent back to Boston Wednesday because of back spasms, and was diagnosed with a strain.

''He saw people [on Wednesday]," said coach Mike Sullivan. ''The only change would be that I don't think it's fair to say his status is day to day. It's going to be longer. How long it is going to be, I don't know. He's a big part of our team, he's our captain, he's our best player, and when he's not in the lineup, he's difficult to replace. We feel as though we have people who are capable, and our expectation is to win."

Sullivan didn't transfer Thornton's ''C" to another player. Instead, he added Hal Gill as a third alternate captain with Thornton sidelined.

Boynton is scheduled to skate in Wilmington, Mass., today before joining the club in Ottawa, where the team will arrive early this evening after practicing here in the afternoon.

''I know Nick is just happy to have it over with," said Gill. ''He really missed it. The passion he brings to hockey, it's the kind of thing he needs in his life. He's a competitor and he'll do what it takes out there. That's a huge addition to our team. The whole negotiation thing, he's got so much pride and passion in everything he does. If he thinks he's doing the right thing, he sticks to his guns, so it took a lot for him to come back and play. That's a testament to how much he wants to be here. Nick wants to play and we need him to play."

Goalie Andrew Raycroft, a close friend of Boynton, said he never thought it wouldn't get settled, it was just a matter of when.

''He's going to fit right in, there's no doubt about that, and he's going to add a lot of character to the room," said Raycroft, who was in net for Boston last night against the Florida Panthers. ''He always wanted to be back here more than anything. I didn't let it get in my mind that he wasn't going to be here."

The only exception, Raycroft said, was a blockbuster deal. ''No offense to Nick, but maybe if they might have traded him for Rick Nash," said Raycroft with a laugh, ''or [Scott] Niedermayer or someone like that, then it would have been, 'I'll talk to you in the summer.' "

Sullivan wouldn't say when Boynton would be in the lineup, although he could play tomorrow night against the Senators provided the coaching staff thinks he's ready.

''We'll have to get him into a couple of practices and see where's he at," said Sullivan. ''Like all of our players, we want to put him into a position to succeed and be effective. We'll try to gauge where he's at based on the first couple of days."

Boynton said he wants to play soon. His first workout with the team will be at the morning skate tomorrow in Ottawa.

''I'm as ready to go as I can be considering the situation I'm in," he said. ''I've been skating every day. It's realistic for me [to play tomorrow], but whether it's realistic for [Sullivan], that's up to him."

Boynton said he doesn't anticipate any problems with the new rules designed to eliminate obstruction. He's a strong skater and hasn't been prone to clutching and grabbing.

''I've watched a couple of games," he said. ''I like the new rules. I've got to adjust real quick and go from there but I don't think it will take a long time."

Front and center

With Thornton out perhaps for a couple of weeks and Alexei Zhamnov on the shelf because of a shoulder injury, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Boyes were elevated to the Nos. 1 and 2 centers, respectively. Bergeron had a goal and an assist, while Boyes was kept off the scoresheet. ''You don't want to see that, you don't want to see your top two centers out," said Boyes, who was on a line with Brad Isbister and Shawn McEachern. ''Maybe what helps is being early because there is more responsibility for Patrice and myself, so you learn early instead of it being really late in the season and all of a sudden you're putting pressure on you there. You take any positive out of it that you can. I've learned it doesn't matter who you're playing with or what you're doing. I'm not here because of my toughness. You have to do what got you there." . . . As expected, center Dave Scatchard made his Bruins debut after missing the first four games because of a groin strain. Scatchard was scoreless in 11 minutes 43 seconds of ice time.

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