They know about Bobby Orr in Slovakia. Milan Jurcina is sure everyone back home has heard of the Hall of Fame Bruins defenseman.
''Oh, sure," said the smiling 6-foot-4-inch Bruins defenseman. ''Bobby Orr . . . he is known everywhere, in every country."
Most nights, there is no correlation between the former Bruin defenseman, who wore No. 4, and the current back liner, Jurcina, who wears No. 68. But yesterday, separated by so many decades and so much skill that it can't be quantified, the 22-year-old Jurcina knocked in a pair of goals -- the first two of his career -- in a span of only 4 minutes 15 seconds in the second period.
Back in the day, a two-goal night was a typical Robert Gordon Orr evening. He finished with two goals if he wanted to finish with two goals, only adding more if he cared to, or if one of his fellow Big Bad Bruins insisted he go home with a hat trick. The nights were long, the scoring easy, and Causeway Street was aglow in everything Black and Gold.
''I was saying to the guys on the bench," said Jurcina, asked if he had one of those Orr-like hat tricks in mind, '' 'OK, one more, boys.' "
In a season when smiles have been few in the Bruins' dressing room, Jurcina last night wore the expected wide, toothy grin of a young boy just loving life. And why not? More than four years after being selected 241st overall in the draft, he had not one, but two pieces of vulcanized rubber in his locker, suitable for mounting on a piece of polished oak.
For a guy who logged a scant 5:21 in ice time over the first two periods, he scored two goals, the second of which pulled the Bruins into a 3-3 tie with the Tampa Bay Lightning. More important, they proved to be the spark, the power surge, that propelled the Bruins to a 6-3 triumph, their second win on Causeway Street in only 48 hours. In an era that is anything but Orr-like, back-to-back wins is virtually akin to running the table, and Jurcina's goals began a streak of five straight goals for the Bruins.
''He's getting better right in front of our eyes," said coach Mike Sullivan.
Bold prediction: There won't be a lot of two-goal nights for Jurcina. In fact, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him wrap up the 2005-06 season with only two goals on his résumé. Truth is, he's not in the lineup to score. Most of all, he's in the lineup to learn, a raw rookie who is spotted in sparingly by a cautious coach who has been handed a lineup that carries reason to be cautious.
''He's got great size, and he has a great shot -- one he gets on net," noted Sullivan. ''And we've been harping on our defensemen to get it on net. I'm happy he got rewarded. He works so hard every day to improve, and to contribute on the scoresheet like that will boost his confidence."
Other than goaltending, defense is the most difficult position on the ice. Rookies can't be hidden behind the blue line the way an inexperienced center or wing can be tucked, ever so anonymously, into a third or fourth line. Rookie defensemen, if they care to be around for a sophomore season, worry most about not being on the ice when the other team scores.
All of which leaves the likes of Jurcina, who twice showed he has a decent shot (scoring on a wrister first, then a slapper), thinking defense first, second, and even third. Offense? Not an afterthought, but certainly not high on the list of priorities.
''I'm a young guy . . . I don't want to hurt the team," said Jurcina. ''If I try for goals, I don't want to leave open the back side. That's no good, you know? When you are young, you don't want to do any mistakes, leave anything open back there."
In part, similar worries on Sullivan's part led to Jurcina playing only four shifts, for 104 seconds, in the first period. He more than doubled the workload in the second period, adding seven more shifts and 3:27 in ice time. Two of those shifts brought the goals, the first off a Brad Boyes feed, the second dished by Alexei Zhamnov -- just less than four minutes before Zhamnov departed with a broken ankle. Zhamnov undoubtedly will be on the sideline until at least after the February Olympic break.
''I see I can score in this league," said a beaming Jurcina. ''I have to keep trying, and, hopefully, I can score more."
That's not required, of course, but it certainly would be a blessing on a team that many nights is offensively challenged, sometimes to the point of paralysis.
These are not the swashbuckling Bruins of Big Bad days gone by. All too often, these are the popgun Bruins, desperately in need of goals from anyone who can so much as fog a pane of the phonyglass that surrounds the rink.
Orr's likeness is on a plaque hanging in the Boston dressing room. It is one of a couple of dozen similar plaques of ex-Boston greats that ring the walls, just above the lockers of the current players. Orr's is between Brad Park and Bill Quackenbush, just over the stalls of P.J. Axelsson and Zhamnov. How the names have changed.
Milan Jurcina of Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia, never has met Robert Gordon Orr of Parrry Sound, Ontario. In fact, the only clip he has seen of the Boston icon is the one in which Orr feeds Derek Sanderson, gets the return pass, and knocks home the Cup winner May 10, 1970.
''I've seen that many times," said Jurcina, born June 7, 1983. ''But that's all. Upstairs, in the museum, they say there are films of him. I have to see that someday."
Must viewing, Milan. A sight not only to behold, but for any young defenseman, one worth keeping in mind.