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Hockey Notes

Chiarelli likely to brew something

By Kevin Paul Dupont
January 25, 2009
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Now the pace really quickens. Once the NHL All-Star Game comes and goes, the regular-season schedule is officially in free fall. The Bruins have played 47 games in 2008-09, and the remaining 35 dates leading to the playoffs will disappear from the calendar faster than all those New Year resolutions you've already, uh . . . forgotten.

Coming up even quicker is the March 4 trade deadline. The Bruins, still atop the Eastern Conference, have continued to resemble bona fide Cup contenders, even in the face of mounting injuries and illness, but it's likely general manager Peter Chiarelli will make a move or two in the next five weeks to augment his roster. Perhaps not huge moves (did someone mention Vincent Lecavalier could be available?), but a body or two to add depth at forward and/or defense.

"But anything we do, we have to be mindful of the salary cap, and also mindful of team chemistry," noted Chiarelli, watching his club go through a light skate at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto last week.

For now, Marco Sturm (knee surgery) is the only one of the injured designated not to return. His ability to cut in off the wing and snipe important goals could be one area Chiarelli will look to cover. Trouble is, most every other GM with a Cup contender is looking for that guy who can win a game, a series, with one dash to the net.

Otherwise, in terms of other missing bodies . . .

"We expect everyone to make it back," said Chiarelli.

Everyone includes Patrice Bergeron, recovering from a second concussion in 14 months, although no one is certain how soon the talented pivot will be ready to play. Phil Kessel (mononucleosis) is probably at least a couple of weeks from getting back in action, based on the original diagnosis and recovery timeline. Just prior to the All-Star break, coach Claude Julien said he figured Andrew Ference (surgery to repair a leg fracture) and Milan Lucic (shoulder) could be back as early as Tuesday's game vs. the Capitals. Aaron Ward (charley horse) returned Wednesday and made it through the full 65 minutes vs. the Leafs.

The kind of move Chiarelli may be pondering, he said, is something akin to what the Ducks did en route to winning the Cup in 2007. His club in need of a character boost and experience up front, then-GM Brian Burke hired on veteran winger Brad May, swapping Mike Wall to the Avalanche. Burke's first move as Toronto's new GM was to bring May to the Leafs earlier this month.

May did not bring the Ducks much offensive pop. He picked up a lone assist in the 14 games following the trade deadline, and then only one more assist in 18 playoff games. But the point was, May already had played in 64 career postseason games and Burke wanted that kind of experience on a roster that was dotted with young forwards, many of whom had little playoff experience.

"From what I've seen of Boston, they don't need much," said Burke, sitting in his box at the Air Canada Centre Wednesday night, watching his Leafs lose to the Bruins in a shootout. "This is an excellent team Pete's put together, he's got them right in the hunt. Really, I don't see any holes when they're healthy. In Anaheim, May was a factor in every playoff round that year for us. He's physical, with great leadership skills - every game, every round, he was a presence."

Boston's forward corps, full of youngsters such as Kessel (if), Lucic, and David Krejci, received valuable maiden experience in last season's seven-game run in the first round against the Canadiens. Veteran pivot Marc Savard, at age 30, also experienced his first minutes of postseason action. Untested, no. But support and experience could help come crunch time.

If the Oilers become sellers at the trade deadline, free agent-to-be Erik Cole, who won a Cup with the Hurricanes, no doubt will be among the hottest deadline commodities. Big-bodied Keith Tkachuk, here last Monday with the Blues, will be another primary target. Both would seem ideal acquisitions, as Brendan Shanahan would have been had the Devils not taken him off the market at the cost of a budget-friendly $400,000.

But don't get fixated on big names when trying to figure Chiarelli's move. His two main acquisitions over the summer, Michael Ryder and Stephane Yelle, weren't on the primary pickings list. All the attention then, remember, was on Marian Hossa (as it likely will be again this summer). Look cheaper, look older, or look for March 4 to pass with little fanfare.

Looking to get benched

Peter Laviolette, dismissed in December as the Hurricanes' coach, remains in Carolina, hoping he'll get another chance soon to take over a bench, be it in the NHL or elsewhere.

"I absolutely want to get back," said Laviolette, ex- of Westfield State College and former captain of the US Olympic team, reached last week via cellphone as he brought his kids home from school. "But right now, there are no opportunities. So, I guess we wait until the summer, and maybe then there is some movement."

Laviolette was in a similar position not long ago after being dismissed as Islanders coach. He hooked on with USA Hockey, coached the Yanks at the Deutschland Cup, and that in turn led to his return to the NHL with Carolina. He directed the 'Canes to the franchise's only Stanley Cup in 2006.

If something came up again to work for Team Red, White, and Blue, said Laviolette, he would jump at the chance.

"I'd love for USA Hockey to call," said Laviolette, who was behind the USA bench in Turin for the 2006 Olympic Games. "I really enjoyed working for them and working the international tournaments, being faced with different styles of play, all of that. But right now, you know, there are a lot of American coaches out there, and like a lot of them, I'm looking for work. Not much for me to say; we're just in a holding pattern right now."

The 'Canes, distant sons of the Hartford Whalers, stood 12-11-2 (.520) when Laviolette was canned Dec. 3, approximately halfway through a five-year deal reportedly worth $1 million per year. They have since gone 11-9-3 (.543) under the tutelage of Paul Maurice, the longtime Hartford-Carolina coach who was put back on the job when Laviolette was bounced.

Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos recently told Chip Alexander of the Charlotte News & Observer that he was unimpressed with Laviolette's work and bluntly stated, "I didn't like the old coach . . . his public persona and private persona were two different things.

"We had the perfect storm in the year we won the Stanley Cup," Karmanos continued. "We played this all-over-the-ice kind of style. It took about three-quarters of the season for people to catch on."

The 'Canes survived four rounds, defeating the Oilers for the Cup. Not everyone caught on.

Asked the other day if he cared to respond to Karmanos's comments, Laviolette declined.

"I've laid low, and I'll continue to lay low," said Laviolette. "Ed Anderson, the owner in Providence [AHL] when I coached there, always told me, 'No matter what happens to you in coaching, take the high road and you'll be better off.' And I think that's what I'm going to do."

Etc.

Challenging process
Round 1 of the Glen Murray arbitration case is done, with Round 2 on the docket for Feb. 12, and possibly Round 3 the next day. The former Bruins right winger claims he was physically unfit to play last summer, thus negating Boston's ability to buy him out of the last year of his contract (worth $4.15 million). "I want to stress, this is a player who played a lot of years, and if he feels he has to exercise this option, then I understand that he's fully within his rights to do so," said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. According to Chiarelli, the 36-year-old Murray wore a walking cast when attending the hearing before Richard Bloch in Toronto. The GM said Murray in November underwent "major reconstructive surgery" on a leg. If Bloch were to rule in Murray's favor, the Bruins would have to pay him the full $4.15 million this season. In terms of the salary cap, it would remove $1.383 million from next season's obligations. Such would be the case this year, too, but by the time the decision were rendered, it would have little or no impact in the Bruins' potential dealings over the final weeks of the regular season.

Another Bruins farm guy?
Bruins executive vice president Charlie Jacobs last weekend put his home in Weston up for sale. The asking price for the sprawling six-bedroom, nine-bath Colonial on 2-plus acres: $5.95 million. An avid equestrian, Charles in Charge is looking for something in the same area with more land, no doubt reminiscent of the family estate in East Aurora, N.Y. "Not a great time to be selling," the junior Jacobs wrote in an e-mail. "It could take a while for the right buyer to come along." Confirming that he and his wife are looking for a more rural setting, he added, "We have our eye on a few farms just down the road with a little more acreage."

Burns in a fight
Sad to hear the news that ex-Bruins coach Pat Burns is battling cancer for a third time, this time in his lungs. His woes began nearly five years ago when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was in the press box for Boston's game in Tampa Dec. 4 and noted then that he told doctors to stop chemotherapy sessions. He received the most recent diagnosis, according to a report early last week, following his work with Team Canada at last spring's world championships . . . Rumors that Vincent Lecavalier will be traded out of Tampa will continue up to the March 4 deadline, then pick up again after the season, prior to his new deal, and no-trade clause, kicking in July 1. It's a big contract: $85 million over 11 years. However, it is front-loaded over the first eight years, when he will earn $78.5 million. The balance of $6.5 million will be paid over the final three years, presenting a potential buyout option of some $4.4 million over six years. If someone takes on the deal, they're essentially paying Big Vin the same as Sidney Crosby for the next eight years.

Loose pucks
Claude Lemieux, age 43, made it back to an NHL bench Wednesday night, logging 7 minutes 8 seconds in San Jose's 2-1 overtime win over Vancouver. No points, but he landed three shots on net. The real surprise: The Perpetual Pest did not pick up a penalty . . . Joe Thornton, tied with New Jersey's Zach Parise as the league's No. 7 scorer (55 points each), continues his low-shooting ways. Through his first 45 games, Jumbo Joe The Master Passer landed but 75 shots on net, compared with the 169 averaged by everyone else among the league's top-10 scorers . . . The Lightning are sitting top rookie Steven Stamkos for the odd game and it appears to be helping him. The highly skilled freshman had only 14 points in his first 40 games. He then went 2-2 -4 in four games sandwiched around his rests. Interim coach Rick Tocchet figures the breaks allow the kid to spend extra time to lift weights and lift his overall conditioning . . . Are other NHL GMs calling Chiarelli about Tuukka Rask, Boston's prized goaltending prospect in Providence? "No," said Chiarelli, "because they got tired of the emphatic 'NO!' I gave them every other time they called." . . . Larry Kelly, Chiarelli's former partner in the player-rep business, was in the Hub of Hockey for Monday's matinee with the Blues. Kelly has a lengthy roster of Bruins on his client list, including David Krejci, Dennis Wideman, Aaron Ward, Marc Savard, Stephane Yelle, and Martin St. Pierre. A reasonable guess would be that Kelly and Chiarelli had some discussion on a new deal for Krejci, but Chiarelli would not confirm any talks were held . . . The Flyers are willing, if not eager, to move ex-Bruins Glen Metropolit and Andrew Alberts. One report out of Philly last week suggested Metropolit could be waived.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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