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Bruins unfurl welcome mat

Ward, Wideman practice with team

WILMINGTON -- All that's left for the Bruins is the present.

The tension of the NHL's trade deadline is past, broken Tuesday when Boston acquired defensemen Aaron Ward from the Rangers and Dennis Wideman from the Blues. Both players were at Ristuccia Arena for yesterday's practice and their first chance to meet and greet new teammates.

The Bruins got one guy who knows his way around the league, and one guy who's eager to go where he's told. They got one guy who is good at moving the puck, and one guy who is good at blocking it.

Ward, traded for Paul Mara, comes to the Bruins with experience in all or parts of 12 seasons in the NHL, and three Stanley Cup rings (Carolina 2006, Detroit 1997 and '98). Wideman, 23, an eighth-round draft pick in 2002 who had been proving himself in St. Louis, arrived in exchange for Brad Boyes.

The shifts are not ice-shaking, but the Bruins hope they have assembled a bigger, better, faster version of the defense that brought them to this point: 8 points out of the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. With 20 games left to make that climb, every step has to be up.

"I'd like to win 16-18 of the last 20," said Bruins coach Dave Lewis. "There are so many things that can happen; we try to break it down to winning period by period for the players. We're going to push right to the end and see what happens."

Yesterday, there was some lingering sadness about the loss of two well-liked teammates, but that was trumped by the enthusiasm of the newcomers.

"I'm thrilled to be here," said Ward, who will get to face the Rangers -- who are 2 points ahead of the Bruins -- twice in the season's final stretch. "We're as much in the playoff hunt as they are."

Reports out of New York said an in-game argument Feb. 3 between Ward and the Rangers' $8.36 million man, Jaromir Jagr, had left simmering resentment, though Ward said the disagreement was blown way out of proportion. Still, Ward was quick to put New York in his rearview mirror, jumping in his car Tuesday night and driving to Boston.

"When you go through frustrating times, there's talk," said Ward. "It's always a sideshow; it took on a life of its own. I'm a Boston Bruin now, that's so far in the past now."

The Bruins expect to gain from Ward's experience on winning teams, and his physical play.

"I like to play the body, I like to step in front of the puck," said Ward, who ranks 10th in the league with 142 blocked shots, and 17th in hits with 148 (one fewer than Bruins captain Zdeno Chara). "Hopefully, I can pick up a couple of apples along the way. I'm 34, my concept is to just help the team along its way."

Wideman, 6 feet and 200 pounds, said he often had been told he'd never play in the NHL. "Too small, too slow," he said of the critics' complaints, shrugging. "It's seemed to work out so far. The rule changes helped me; that fast-tracked me quite a bit."

Nevertheless, Wideman felt small when introduced to the 6-9 Chara.

"I've never felt smaller in my life," Wideman said. "It will be good to have him around to learn from."

Wideman, who did not dress for four of the Blues' last six games and Ward, who sat out Saturday when the Rangers played Chicago, get a fresh start with Boston, which needs a fast finish.

"Now that we've added energy," said Lewis, "we've got to make sure we have chemistry."

Chara extended a welcome. "For sure, now we've got more depth," he said. "Wardie is an experienced guy and a winner, he's won the Stanley Cup with two teams. Dennis can move the puck. That depth allows us different options, different scenarios.

"Everyone should be relieved to know this is the team they're going to be on and just go after the goal we have."

Lewis did not expect to call up anyone from Providence for tonight's game against the Flyers, though he said it depended on the status of Glen Murray (groin) and Chuck Kobasew (elbow), who both practiced but remain in the "we'll see after today's skate" category, according to Lewis. Murray couldn't say he was better, adding, "Well, it's not worse, I'll go that route." Lewis said Petr Tenkrat (ankle) was ready to go. Marc Savard did not practice. "Just a day off," said Lewis.

Barbara Matson can be reached at matson@globe.com.

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