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Wideman’s help is icing on the cake

Tuukka Rask blocked Marek Zidlicky’s shootout attempt in the Bruins’ 2-1 victory over the Wild Wednesday night in St. Paul. Tuukka Rask blocked Marek Zidlicky’s shootout attempt in the Bruins’ 2-1 victory over the Wild Wednesday night in St. Paul. (Tom Olmsheid/Associated Press)
By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / November 27, 2009

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Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman wasn’t so wide-eyed when he showed up for work around 8:45 a.m. yesterday in the Garden’s parking lot at the edge of Causeway St.

“I think the flight got us in around 2:30 this morning,’’ Wideman said between liberal sips of his caffeinated wake-up call. “Probably 4:30 before I got to sleep . . . but that’s OK, I’m looking forward to this.’’

With practice called off, a reward for four straight victories, including a 2-1 shootout win in St. Paul Wednesday night, Wideman was free to complete his one-man Thanksgiving Day volunteer mission. The 26-year-old back liner, continuing a tradition started by former Boston defenseman Aaron Ward, dashed around town with pies he purchased from Mike’s Pastry in the North End. The goodies were headed to eight homeless shelters in the city.

“It’s really a team-organized thing,’’ said Wideman. “They were looking for someone to do it, and I was looking for something like this - it’s nice to be able to help people who might not have as much as someone else. So this is great.’’

Meanwhile, noted Wideman, his team’s bounty has grown of late, the Bruins vaulting to first place in the Northeast Division and the No. 3 slot in the Eastern Conference rankings (although they are fourth in the conference in points). Prior to running off the four W’s, the Bruins were scuffling along with a handful of clubs at the bottom of the playoff seedings.

Over the last week, though, the club has reclaimed some of its mojo from last season, when it finished first overall in the East with 116 points, only one point behind the San Jose Sharks for the Presidents’ Trophy. Wideman, with three points in his last four games, is part of a six-man back-line unit that is playing far more cohesively than it did the first six weeks of the season. Tuukka Rask, in net for the last five games with No. 1 goaltender Tim Thomas sidelined with an undisclosed upper-body injury, has played to his promise as one of the game’s young netminding stars.

“Yeah, I’d say it’s good defense, great goaltending, and we are finally scoring some goals,’’ said Wideman, enumerating keys of the recent success. “We got ourselves out of that pattern where, you know, we’d give up only one goal, but lose, 1-0, or we would score four goals, but lose, 5-4. It’s hard to put your finger exactly on what was wrong. But we are back winning battles and that’s helped us put it together like we did last year. Maybe we forgot, or overlooked, some of the attention to detail that is necessary to win in this league night after night. And when we were losing, we lost our confidence and it all kind of snowballed.’’

Just prior to the turnaround, Wideman sat down with general manager Peter Chiarelli to discuss what had been the defenseman’s inconsistent start to the season. Chiarelli stressed the importance of not trying to do too much, which has been key for Wideman since coming to Boston via trade for Brad Boyes. He has been more effective when removing some of the riverboat gambler from his game.

“I feel like I’m starting to get there,’’ said Wideman. “I think I’m starting to control the puck a little better, more like I used to, and that helps me push the envelope a little bit, jump up into the play more. So these last four or five games, I probably dialed it down a notch . . . just little things, like if I don’t have control of the puck by the time I’m at the top of the [offensive] circles, then I’ll circle back. That little bit of precaution can make a big difference.’’

Lucic hits a rut
Wideman delivered the pass through the neutral zone in the third period Wednesday that ended up the last puck Milan Lucic would see for the night. The strapping left winger, reaching back awkwardly along the blue line, his left skate blade apparently lodged in a rut, hobbled off the ice, seemingly in a fair degree of pain.

“I didn’t see it happen at all,’’ said Wideman. “I made the pass and went straight to the bench. Next thing I knew, some of the guys were talking about Looch being hurt, or something. But like I say, never saw it.’’

Postgame, coach Claude Julien said Lucic, just back after missing some five weeks because of a fractured right index finger, would be evaluated by the medical staff once back in Boston. As of last night, the club had not released an update on the 21-year-old winger’s condition.

“I saw him after the game and he was walking around, joking with the guys,’’ said Wideman. “He didn’t say anything about it, wasn’t hobbling . . . I’m sure he’s fine.’’

Home cooking
Beginning with today’s noon visit by the Devils, the Bruins will play five of their next six on Garden ice. The Senators are on Causeway St. tomorrow night, followed by the Lightning on Wednesday . . . Of the four teams the Bruins beat on the road - Atlanta, Buffalo, St. Louis, and Minnesota - only the Sabres, parked eighth in the East, owned a playoff seed as of this morning. The three other clubs stood a collective 28-28-10 . . . Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci scored in the shootout with the Wild, with Krejci’s slick backhand roof shot proving to be the winner. Bergeron also won 12 of 20 faceoffs. He has won 276 draws this season, second only to Sidney Crosby (302) as of yesterday morning. Bergeron is on pace to win 943 at the dot . . . The shootout win was Boston’s fourth this season, tying Florida, Pittsburgh, and Montreal for the league lead . . . The Boston power play still needs a booster shot. The Bruins have gone 12 for 83 (14.5 percent), which had them slotted 26th yesterday. The penalty-killing unit, meanwhile, has snuffed out 76 of 90 shorthanded situations, an 84.4 percent success rate good for fourth overall . . . Ex-Bruin Phil Kessel, who has a lone point (his sixth goal) over his last four games, will be back at the Garden Dec. 5 with the Leafs. Through 11 games, Kessel is 6-3 -9 with 62 shots on net.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com.

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