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Tough to argue with result

Team wasn't easy to play in opener

Martins Karsums of the Bruins sticks close to the Islanders' Frans Nielsen on Tuesday. Martins Karsums of the Bruins sticks close to the Islanders' Frans Nielsen on Tuesday. (RHONDA HAYWARD/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

WILMINGTON - During the offseason, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli uttered the following phrase so often that, by the end, he practically apologized each time he mentioned it.

Hard to play against.

It was Chiarelli's hope, amid his restructuring of last season's cowering club, that it would be a proper description of the 2007-08 squad. Based on the team's exhibition opener, the Bruins granted their GM his wish.

In a 3-1 win over the Islanders Tuesday in St. John's, Newfoundland, the Bruins flexed their muscles by finishing their checks, cycling low, and steering would-be attackers out of danger areas, limiting New York's scoring chances.

To say nothing about the fights.

The team threw down four times, serving notice that it is not going to be pushed around anymore.

"It's very common that in these first games, I think a lot of players from both sides are trying to impress themselves and their coaches," said Zdeno Chara, who squared off against forward Kip Brennan. "They want to do whatever they can to give them a chance to stay on the team."

When asked about his bout, Chara said it was part of the game. But the captain, who has pledged to return to his snarly self this season, might have been itching to establish himself as part of his new approach.

"It happens when it happens," coach Claude Julien said, referring to Chara's fight. "The one thing we don't want to do is let the emotions of the guy get the better of you. At the same time, we don't want to restrict guys from being themselves. I think we need to give him that responsibility of when he should and shouldn't go. It was a situation where he felt he was being challenged and he answered the call."

Shawn Thornton, signed this offseason to bear the brunt of the fisticuffs, kicked things off with a first-period battle with Brennan. Chara, Andrew Ference, and Milan Lucic defended themselves as well.

"It can't be up to the Jeremy Reiches and the Shawn Thorntons of the world," said Ference, "to do the dirty work."

Rest for the rookies

Lucic and Brad Marchand, who both played Tuesday and competed in the recent globe-hopping Super Series between Canada and Russia, were given yesterday off.

Marchand played his usual high-energy game against the Islanders, taking the brunt of defenseman Aaron Johnson's teeth-rattling shoulder during a midgame collision. Lucic forechecked aggressively and scored a takedown of defenseman Matthew Spiller.

"He's been very impressive," Julien said of Lucic, who skated with Marchand and veteran Glen Metropolit. "When you look at players like that, first of all, he's got good size. He's got a lot of good things going for him. I think the difference in this league is the players who do the little things right. So far, he's shown me that he's capable of doing that. He's certainly making us aware of that. I guess we have to keep a close eye on him from here on in. I can certainly tell you that he's going to make our decision a tough one."

Running with Devils

Manny Fernandez will start in goal tonight against New Jersey at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H., and will give way to Tuukka Rask approximately halfway through the game.

"We're going to take it one step at a time," Julien said of working Fernandez, who hasn't seen sustained NHL action since January because of a knee injury, into game shape. "It's a matter of not getting ahead of ourselves, trying to predict too much, and having to take a step back. It's a day-to-day process. We're going to see how he does, evaluate the situation the next day, and go from there."

Notables in tonight's lineup include Mark Stuart and Dennis Wideman, the only Bruins who also played Tuesday. Julien said there was no reason for the pair's inclusion, and Stuart wasn't sure why he was getting more action.

Also scheduled for playing time are Marco Sturm, Patrice Bergeron, and Brandon Bochenski, who could serve as Boston's No. 2 line in the regular season. Phil Kessel will center a line between Matt Hendricks and Glen Murray, while No. 1 draft pick Zach Hamill will skate with Pascal Pelletier and Byron Bitz.

Julien said he's not thinking about coaching against the Devils, who sacked him April 2.

"The quicker you turn the page, the better it is," Julien said. "I've done that."

Not yet called

After tonight, there will be eight Bruins in camp who have yet to appear in game action: Mark Mowers, Nate DiCasmirro, Nate Thompson, Mikko Lehtonen, Wacey Rabbit, Jonathan Sigalet, Sean Curry, and Adam McQuaid . . . Julien confirmed he prefers two point men on the power play. The Bruins primarily used a one-man umbrella formation last season . . . Marc Savard played a total of only 28 minutes 37 seconds on the penalty kill last season. But in the exhibition opener, Savard killed penalties with Peter Schaefer, perhaps indicating that the offensive-minded center could see some PK time this year. "Will he? Maybe," said Julien. "He is a good faceoff guy. But that doesn't mean I'm going to have him there necessarily. He does play power play. It's about not overutilizing players. Sometimes it's about not pushing players out of the game, either. If we happen to be taking a lot of penalties that night, you don't want him sitting on the bench forever." . . . The Johnstown (Pa.) Chiefs will serve as Boston's East Coast Hockey League affiliate this season. The Bruins had been sending players to the Long Beach Ice Dogs, but the club shut down at the conclusion of 2006-07 . . . There is one practice scheduled for tomorrow at Ristuccia Arena, indicating cuts may take place to get numbers down to one squad.

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

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