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Pat Burns


C - Jason Allison, Anson Carter, Joe Thornton, Tim Taylor, Chris Taylor. LW - Sergei Samsonov, Ken Baumgartner, Rob Dimaio, Peter Ferraro, Antii Laaksonen, Ken Belanger. RW - Dimitri Khristich, Steve Heinze, Per Johan Axelsson, Peter Nordstrom. D - Ray Bourque, Don Sweeney, Dave Ellett, Kyle McLaren, Hal Gill, Darren Van Impe, Grant Ledyard, Dennis Vaske, Jonathan Girard. G - Byron Dafoe, Rob Tallas.




Signed Anson Carter, c, and Kyle McLaren, d, to contracts. Traded Ted Donato, lw, to the Islanders for Ken Belanger, lw.


10/28 at Montreal    W 9-2
10/29 Montreal       T 1-1
10/31 Carolina       L 2-0
11/03 at Buffalo     L 4-2
11/05 Toronto        W 4-1
11/07 at Pittsburgh  T 0-0
11/08 Carolina       W 5-2


Northeast Division  GP   W   L   T   PTS   GF   GA  
  Boston            15   6   6   3    15   36   26   
  Montreal          13   6   5   2    14   34   33  
  Toronto           14   6   6   2    14   41   44  
  Ottawa            11   6   5   0    12   37   34   
  Buffalo           11   5   3   3    13   30   23 


by Matt Brown, Boston Correspondent

The biggest news in Boston is that Cam Neely will be practicing with the team for the next ten days, and there is some possibility that he will attempt a comeback.

This startling news is being reported in the Boston media Tuesday night. Neely is supposed to begin practice on Wednesday. Cam retired, tearfully, three years ago because of the deterioration of his hip, and there was concern at the time that he would not be able to avoid hip replacement surgery, even if he quit hockey.

In the intervening time, his recovery has apparently been far more successful than was hoped, and he began doing some skating in the fall. Now he plans to test his hip in a more challenging environment, to see if there is any chance of a comeback.

Bruin fans should not get overexcited, because remember, Al Iafrate practiced with the team for six months and still never got to the point where he could play in a game. On the other hand, Cam is no Al Iafrate. To attempt this, Cam must miss the game fiercely, and it is admirable that Boston Bruin management would let him pursue this dream. One can only wish him the best, and give him one piece of advice: stay away from Claude Lemieux.

Before that story broke, the cheers in Boston were for the signing of defenseman Kyle McLaren to a new contract. Kyle inked a three-year deal reportedly in the five million-dollar range, including incentives. No, not five million per year; five million total. Hey, this isn't baseball.

Kyle wanted two million a year, well under the Ray Bourque ceiling (the unspoken and not always followed premise that Raymond will be the highest paid player on the team. But Kyle didn't get it, and the young man found out in the process that the second contract isn't as much fun as the first. Kyle has said that he doesn't like the negotiating game one bit, but that he will dedicate himself to the coach and his teammates now that he is signed.

The Bruins are idle until Friday's game with the Rangers, giving Kyle a sort of mini-mini-camp to get revved up. Kyle signed at just the right point in the schedule. After missing a month of the season, even a few days will help, rather than being thrown into a three-games-in-four-days meat grinder his first week back.

People say "Welcome to the NHL" when rookie players are exposed to the top-level pro game and are taken aback by the hitting, the speed, or the intensity. In Boston, players in effect hear "Welcome to life as a Bruin" when they complete their first contract and try to negotiate another.

Harry Sinden and Mike O'Connell are right not to just open up the money bag and overpay players. Unfortunately, it invariably seems that the process of re-signing the player involves picking apart his performance and belittling his importance to the team, to the point where the player often feels badly used and unappreciated. Not every player can attack the game with the same enthusiasm, ever again, after going through this process. The team ultimately loses out, even if the General Manager is able to lean back and say "See, he really wasn't worth two million a year."

Hopefully, Kyle McLaren is the kind of guy who can take this as a challenge to prove that he is worth the two million he wanted. And in Harry's defense, there are enough times in sports that the player who gets a big payout no longer feels that challenge and his performance slumps. It is just too bad that neither Harry nor Mike are articulate enough to put the whole thing in language and incentives that will motivate rather than discourage the athlete.

McLaren is one heck of a defenseman, but his return probably will not have a massive impact on the Bruins, who have been doing fairly well defensively. Kyle has been more of a defensive force than an offensive threat, but that may be more a result of his role to date than his capabilities. The Bruins other defensemen, like Darren Van Impe and Grant Ledyard, have filled in admirably. With Don Sweeney back at full steam from his shoulder injury last year, the Bruins could have one of the strongest and deepest defensive corps in the league this year - enough so that they could afford to send 1st round draft pick Jonathan Girard back to Junior.

On the other hand, the Bruins haven't lost a game since they signed Anson Carter to a new contract. Hey, it sounds good, though Carter probably wasn't the deciding factor in those games. But his return has to boost the team's confidence, and get them thinking about how they can take up where they left off last year. Prior to Carter and McLaren's return, every injury certainly had fans thinking "If only we had Anson, we could weather this," or "If Kyle were here, he'd step up," if one of the defensemen took a ding.

In the case of Anson's first game back, against Toronto, is was only two days after P. J. Axelsson was felled by a nasty Matthew Barnaby elbow (which earned the Sabre a three-game suspension). Anson, who arrived that day and was hustled into duty, was able to fill the gap, and since he had warmed up by playing five games in the IHL for the Utah Grizzlies, he didn't look out of place at all.

Meanwhile, a fan favorite, good locker room guy, Boston native, and damn nice guy, played his final game for the Bruins against Pittsburgh this weekend. Ted Donato was traded to the Islanders straight up for Ken Belanger. Ted was one of the most versatile forwards on the Bruins, playing wing, center, and point on the power play throughout his career, wherever the team needed him. Unfortunately, with the coming of Joe Thornton, Tim Taylor, Jason Allison, and several other players who were stronger as centers, Donato was more and more often delegated to fourth line duty under Pat Burns.

Donato asked for a trade in the off-season, but the team was unable to place him until recently. Here is a case where Bruins management deserves a pat on the back, because sending Teddy to the recently revived Isles was as soft a landing as a dealt player could ask for. The Isles are a young team that could use some leadership and work ethic, which Donato should be able to provide.

Also, the Isles haven't been a winning team in quite a while, though they might be on the verge this year. Ted is a winner, and he can be a very positive locker room presence. To Mike Milbury, Ted is a known quantity, and Ted should be a stabilizing influence for the Isles. Milbury put Donato on a line with Robert Reichel, his leading scorer, and former Bruin spelling nightmare Mariusz Czerkawski, so Mike must have some confidence in Ted.

For some reason, Ted Donato never seemed to be the player Pat Burns was looking for. This is surprising, because most Bruins fans would have viewed him as a Burns kind of guy. But Ted hasn't been the same Bruin since he was punished with a hefty suspension last year by the NHL brass for a high-sticking incident. Ted was tracking to have a career year prior to the suspension, but after he came back, there seemed to be some spark missing. Whatever it was, most all Bruins fans will hope Ted Donato finds it again, and is a major success on Long Island in all but three games this season.

The Tough Luck Week Award goes to P. J. Axelsson. P.J. missed a game as the result of a vicious elbow thrown by Montreal's Dave Manson, earning Manson a three-game suspension. Then P. J. came back only to get belted by Matthew Barnaby, as previously mentioned, who was banned for four games, even though most fans would probably vote Manson's hit as the nastier of the two, because Manson "double-pumped" his elbow before striking Axelsson, according to Pat Burns.

Two concussions so close together are no laughing matter these days, because of the number of players who have had their careers threatened or shortened by such head injuries, and the NHL is absolutely right to step in and enforce the rules to prevent this.

Even without McLaren and with most of their checking line ailing, the Bruins are tied for the lowest goals against numbers with Phoenix. Much of this has been a result of the hard work of Byron Dafoe, who stopped a ton of shots in preserving a 0-0 tie in an away game with Pittsburgh. Jaromir Jagr said after the game that if he had known the game would end 0-0, he would have rather slept through it, but you can bet he didn't get any rest during the game.

Jagr said last year that the tandem of Ray Bourque and Hal Gill was the toughest defense pair he played against, and this game, there was Gill, draped all over the hairmeister. Hal is still rookie-like in a lot of ways, but with his physical tools, and the defensive experience and wisdom of Ray Bourque, they are a tough pair to beat.

As much as we harp on Harry Sinden, and make fun of his penchant for re-tread players, you just cannot help but admire the acquisition of veterans Dave Ellett and Grant Ledyard. These two guys, along with the strong return of Don Sweeney, have turned the Bruins defense from a sieve to a wall. Every once in a while, they falter, but that is true around the NHL, that no team can stay at a perfect high for 80 plus games. But last year, and so far this year, the Bruins have performed pretty well defensively.

The problem, though, is on offense. If the top line of Jason Allison, Dimitri Khristich, and Sergei Samsonov, is not on target in a given game, the Bruins struggle to get goals. Usually, a Steve Heinze or a Rob DiMaio or a Tim Taylor will step up and perform, but they can't do so every night. Sometimes, like their 5-2 win over Carolina, the other team cooperates; other times, like the 2-0 whitewashing at the hands of the same Hurricanes, they don't.

Looked at the standings lately? Only Dallas and Phoenix have won-loss records that merit the use of the phrase "winning percentage" to describe them. Every other team in the league is at best a game or two above .500, and four of five teams in the Atlantic Division are tied with 14 points as of Tuesday. And the Bruins tied with Carolina for most points in the East with 15? Well, it is early in the season indeed.

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