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Bruins notebook

Axelsson able to wing it

With Sturm out, he's a late fill-in

Tim Thomas (30 saves) is able to cover up as the Senators' Chris Neil (left) and Jason Spezza go after a loose puck. Tim Thomas (30 saves) is able to cover up as the Senators' Chris Neil (left) and Jason Spezza go after a loose puck. (Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
Email|Print| Text size + By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / February 1, 2008

OTTAWA - P.J. Axelsson only traveled here to participate in yesterday's morning skate.

But Axelsson's right foot felt so good that the left wing, who had missed the seven previous matches, came back a game early last night.

"Couldn't happen at a better time," said coach Claude Julien.

That's because Marco Sturm came down with the virus that's been hounding the club, and he was forced to sit out the 4-1 win over the Senators because of flu-like symptoms. Axelsson wore the alternate captain's "A" in place of Sturm and saw 16:24 of ice time while skating on the third line with David Krejci and Petteri Nokelainen.

Peter Schaefer, who skated mostly on the fourth line Tuesday, took Sturm's spot on the No. 1 line alongside Marc Savard and Phil Kessel.

"Everything was good," said Axelsson, who didn't report any pain in his foot. "Timing was a little off. I had a long shift on the [penalty kill] once where I got a little tired."

Axelsson played with a plastic guard fitted to his boot to prevent another puck from doing more damage. He played 4:52 on the penalty kill, the most of any Bruin. Axelsson was also on the ice for Boston's two-minute five-on-three power play in the second period.

Timing it right

Two weeks ago, around the time Julien scratched Shawn Thornton for two games, the coach pulled the fourth-liner aside for a chat.

The conversation worked.

Since being scratched against the Rangers Jan. 20 and against Montreal two days later, Thornton has dressed in all three games, totaling five shots and nine hits. Thornton had a 6:31 workload last night, but in each of the two previous games, the right wing played more than 10 minutes.

"It's easier to get in a groove than when you're playing five or six shifts a game," said Thornton, who had rolled over the boards 15 times in each of the previous two games. "It all depends on our first couple shifts. If we get some chances, then we get rewarded. Then you start to get in a bit of a groove and you're playing 10 or 11 minutes."

The Bruins' brain trust believed Thornton had become too comfortable, especially after injuries to Axelsson and Glen Murray left the team without an extra forward. During their meeting, Julien reminded Thornton to return to his game - skating constantly, finishing his checks, defending his teammates, and creating scoring chances with bruising play.

"The thing we wanted to see from Thorny was the fact that he still had to play the game," said Julien. "Five on five, he still has to go out there and make things happen. Not just body checks, but he's got to make plays when he has the opportunity to make plays. I think he's done that."

Hello, it's me

Jason York visited his ex-teammates yesterday morning. York, who became an unrestricted free agent following the 2006-07 season (1-7 -8 in 49 games), considered playing in Russia, Finland, and Austria - one Russian club offered him more than $1 million per year - but has stayed put in his native Ottawa, doing occasional radio work for The Team 1200 AM.

York, 37, hasn't officially hung up the skates. The defenseman considered attending an NHL camp on a tryout basis like ex-teammate Glen Metropolit (they played together in Switzerland in 2005-06). But York said the only way he'd return to the NHL would be to win a Stanley Cup.

"If I got the call, I'd be ready in two weeks," said York, who ultimately hopes to land a TV analyst job for NHL games.

Alberts works out

Andrew Alberts went through his first off-ice workout Wednesday in several weeks. Persistent headaches had prevented Alberts from exercising, but the symptoms have subsided enough for him to go through light workouts. He missed his 19th straight game last night . . . Pascal Pelletier was the healthy scratch last night. If Sturm can play against Detroit tomorrow, Pelletier might be assigned to Providence . . . General manager Peter Chiarelli rejoined the team after spending the last week scouting prospects in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League. "At some point, something will happen," said Chiarelli of the trade market. "There are a couple teams in contention with [salary cap] room who are driving the bus right now." . . . The four major deals last February involving impending unrestricted free agents (Peter Forsberg, Ryan Smyth, Keith Tkachuk, and Bill Guerin) involved teams giving up first-round choices as part of their packages. Also, all four teams who traded for the UFAs lost in the first round of the playoffs. "It's tempting, said Chiarelli. "But the returns aren't enough unless you go really, really deep." Chiarelli said GMs who trade for big-name UFAs can structure deals with conditional picks based on how far the acquiring team advances in the playoffs . . . Chiarelli said the Bruins are working to sign prospect Yuri Alexandrov, a Russian defenseman selected 37th overall in the 2006 draft. However, teams have been cautious because the Russian federation is not part of the International Ice Hockey Federation transfer agreement, meaning that even NHLers under contract can return to the Russian Super League, as Stanislav Chistov did last summer. Chiarelli said he is talking with J.P. Barry, Alexandrov's agent, to build some flexibility into his contract. "There's no real security behind signing him because there's no real way to enforce his contract," said Chiarelli. "He says he wants to play over here at some point."

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