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Bruins notebook

It’s a hit-and-miss beginning for Morris

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / October 2, 2009

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In last season’s playoffs with the Rangers, Derek Morris didn’t see much of Alex Ovechkin. In the first round, New York coach John Tortorella deployed his top shutdown pairing of Marc Staal and Dan Girardi whenever the Washington sniper was on the ice.

Last night, in the Bruins’ 4-1 loss to the Capitals, Morris had a face full of Ovechkin for most of the game.

Morris, the Bruins’ most significant offseason acquisition, opened the 2009-10 season as Zdeno Chara’s partner. Whenever a goal-scoring machine like Ovechkin rolls over the boards, Morris will be out there with the captain.

“I think at times, we played well,’’ Morris said after last night’s 4-1 loss. “But we got away from it at times. We turned the puck over a lot in the neutral zone. We didn’t get our chips by their D, things like that.

“We did that at the start of the game. We had a lot of pressure early. For some reason, we got away from it.’’

In the first period, Morris and Chara were on the ice when Brooks Laich scored a power-play goal. They were also on the ice in the second, during a bad line change, when Ovechkin took a drop pass from Alexander Semin and wristed a shot through Tim Thomas to make it 2-0.

But Morris busted up two chances for Ovechkin. In the second period, Ovechkin drove one-on-one against Morris and tried to spin off the defenseman. Morris held his ground and thumped Ovechkin off the puck before he could complete the spin. In the third period, Ovechkin slipped behind the defense, took a stretch pass, and tried to race away. Again, Morris played the body and prevented Ovechkin from taking a shot.

“On those plays specifically, we kept him to the outside, played him hard, and didn’t allow him to get any shots,’’ Morris said. “He’s a guy that wanders all over the ice. With one play, he came all the way down the right side, then all the way across to the left side, then they rimmed it up that side. I don’t know if it’s a set play.’’

Sobotka upset
Vladimir Sobotka had survived what appeared to be the final round of cuts, which took place on Monday, when Zach Hamill and Brad Marchand were assigned to Providence.

But with David Krejci, Marco Sturm, and Steve Begin deemed healthy enough for the opener, Sobotka was sent to Providence on Wednesday.

It was the second straight year Sobotka was demoted on the eve of the opener.

The Bruins have no spare forwards and one extra defenseman in Johnny Boychuk, giving them 21 players on the active roster.

“He was upset,’’ said general manager Peter Chiarelli, who can save some cap dollars by assigning Sobotka. “He understood, but he was upset.

“It’s happening all across the league. These things happen. He’s a good competitor. I think he showed in the second half of camp that he can play at this level. You’ll be seeing him again.’’

Sobotka, due to earn $625,000 this season (he’ll be a restricted free agent at season’s end), projected to be the 13th forward.

But with the Bruins opening 2009-10 with a five-game homestand, Sobotka can be recalled from Providence easily in case of injury.

Sobotka would most likely have remained on the NHL roster had the Bruins opened on the road.

“We are carrying 21 players, and without a doubt if we could carry 22, he would certainly be here,’’ said Claude Julien. “At the same time, he’s going to go down there and either play a lot or hopefully we’ll see him back soon.’’

Up and running
After not playing in the preseason, Krejci took his usual spot between Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder on the second line. “I think for a guy who hadn’t played at all, he had a really good game,’’ said Julien. “He was skating well and he made some good plays. You can see his hands are almost there. Not to the point where we know they can be. But for a guy who hadn’t played since last year, I give him a lot of credit for what he did tonight.’’

Up and running, II
Sturm skated on the right side of the top line with Milan Lucic and Marc Savard, recording one shot in 16:24. Sturm, whose 2008-09 season was ended early because of knee surgery, was slowed by a groin injury during the preseason. “I felt all right,’’ Sturm said. “I knew at the end I had to do a couple short shifts. I was really excited and it felt great.’’

Hit parade
Begin landed a game-high six hits . . . Savard lost 8 of 11 faceoffs . . . After promoting Don Sweeney to assistant general manager last Saturday, the Bruins signed co-assistant GM Jim Benning to a multiyear extension Wednesday. “His strength is in player personnel,’’ Chiarelli said. “He’s shown us, since he’s come here, that he had a strong administrative side, a strong managerial side. It’s basically dealing with people.’’ . . . During the second period of tomorrow’s game against Carolina (the first whistle after the 6:00 mark), NESN will stay live for a ceremony to honor the late Fred Cusick. The home booth at TD Garden will be named the Fred Cusick Broadcast Booth.

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

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