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Bruins notebook

Confident Kaberle goes on the offensive

Shawn Thornton got the Bruins on the board when he tipped this first-period shot past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. Shawn Thornton got the Bruins on the board when he tipped this first-period shot past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / March 23, 2011

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The Tomas Kaberle the Bruins believed they had acquired on Feb. 18 finally emerged last night.

In his 13 previous games, Kaberle had been adequate (three assists), but not the elite puck-moving defenseman that required a bounty (Joe Colborne, a 2011 first-round pick, and a conditional 2012 second-rounder) to pry from Toronto. Kaberle was hesitant to rush the puck. He was even more shy about shooting.

There was little hesitation in Kaberle’s game last night. He had two assists, including a helper on the power play, in 21:18 of ice time. Overall, Kaberle played with more pop.

“There was more of a jump to his game,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “He was proactive. I thought he brought some good offense to our game carrying the puck, because they weren’t giving us much space. He was taking space that was given to him. I thought that really helped our team a lot. To me, it was a really solid game from him. Arguably his best.’’

On the Bruins’ first goal, Kaberle took a pass from Milan Lucic and held the offensive blue line. After drawing Adam Mair toward him, Kaberle wheeled a cross-ice pass to Dennis Seidenberg at the right point. Seidenberg’s shot deflected off David Krejci and Shawn Thornton before coming to rest behind Martin Brodeur.

On the go-ahead goal, Kaberle and Lucic connected again. Once more, Kaberle drew a defender, this time Brian Rolston. Once Rolston drifted his way, Kaberle gave the puck back to Lucic. With the space created by Rolston’s departure, Lucic found Zdeno Chara across the ice for the game-winning power-play goal.

Kaberle could have had another assist late in the first. Kaberle’s strength centers on puck retrieval and a crisp first pass to trigger the breakout. But at times, Kaberle can be comfortable carrying the puck into the offensive zone, even if he doesn’t have the wheels of premier rushers such as Mike Green or Dan Boyle. Late in the first, Kaberle carried the puck down the right wing, then sent a backhand dish to Michael Ryder in the slot. Ryder shot the puck into Brodeur’s pad at 16:55.

“We’ve been able to move the puck well,’’ said Kaberle. “Not stationary. When you move the puck, good things are going to happen. You don’t have to score. Just collect chances and be there. Eventually you’re going to get your chances.’’

Marchand in action Brad Marchand returned to the lineup last night. Marchand sat out last week’s losses to Toronto and Nashville while serving his two-game suspension for elbowing R.J. Umberger last Tuesday. Marchand had one shot in 16:03 of ice time.

“I really wanted to use the few days I had off to rest up as best I can,’’ Marchand said. “It’s been a long, grueling schedule. I think the only good thing I could have taken out of being suspended was resting up, watching, and seing where I can improve my game. I felt like I had a lot of energy out there tonight. That’s the few extra days off.’’

During warm-ups, Marchand skated on the fourth line with Thornton and Gregory Campbell. Marchand hadn’t played on the fourth line since Jan. 6. Marchand opened the game alongside Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. Marchand took several shifts on the fourth line later in the first, but was back on the No. 2 line to finish the night.

“We were happy to have him in warm-ups,’’ Thornton said. “I think we had two shifts with him. Then his seasoning was done. He was off to the races and back with Bergy. Obviously it’s fun playing with him. He’s a good hockey player.’’

Ryder replaced Marchand on the fourth line.

Thomas earns win Tim Thomas, winless in his four previous starts, stopped 30 of 31 shots to earn his 30th victory. It is the third time Thomas has hit the 30-win mark.

“Definitely a right step forward,’’ Thomas said of the play in front of him. “We need to build off it and make sure we continue to do the same things that gave us success tonight. New Jersey’s been hot. They’ve been playing some really good hockey. Getting the win isn’t easy against them.’’

Thomas was at his busiest in the first period, when the Devils winged 16 shots his way. Thomas had zero chance to stop Ilya Kovalchuk’s power-play goal, which came off a behind-the-net pass from Mattias Tedenby.

“We were doing a better job of letting me see the puck than we had been,’’ Thomas said.

Can’t keep up In late December, partly in jest, Thornton kept an eye on Kovalchuk, whose goal-scoring pace was lacking. As of Dec. 23, Thornton ($812,500 annual cap hit) had seven goals, just one fewer than Kovalchuk ($6,666,667). But going into last night, Thornton had scored only once since then, while Kovalchuk has stepped on the gas. Kovalchuk entered with 26 goals to Thornton’s eight. The tough guy had a laugh when informed that Kovalchuk had lapped him several times, so to speak. Then Kovalchuk and Thornton both scored in the first period . . . Julien’s take on Matt Cooke’s suspension, which will make the Pittsburgh winger a spectator for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs: “I respect what the league is doing. That’s my answer to that. You take care of your own backyard and let the league handle those things. I respect what the league has done.’’ . . . Daniel Paille and Tuukka Rask were the only players to skate yesterday morning. The rest of the team went through off-ice workouts . . . Steven Kampfer was a healthy scratch for the second straight game . . . Shane Hnidy completed his stint on long-term injured reserve and is eligible to play. Julien hinted that the defenseman will see action before the conclusion of the regular season . . . North Reading’s Alex Carpenter and Bridgewater’s Matt Harlow were the recipients of the John Carlton Award, presented annually to high school seniors who excel in hockey and academics. Carpenter, who attends Governor’s Academy, will attend Boston College in the fall. Harlow, a senior at Nobles, will be a freshman at Brown.

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

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