The Bear Cave

April 29, 2008 5:16 AM

Stuart Earns an “A” for Team USA

Boston, MA- One member of the Boston Bruins got some exciting news on Monday from Team USA as they prepare for the World Championships. Defenseman Mark Stuart was named one of the team's assistant captains. Tampa Bay's Jeff Halpern earned the honor of captain, while Stuart will be joined by Devils' forward Zach Parise as the two alternates.

Heading into the tournament, the main focus for the Bruins on Team USA was directed toward forward Phil Kessel and goaltender Tim Thomas. Kessel is coming off of his second NHL season, a year that saw him notch 19 goals and 18 assists in 82 regular season games before exploding for three goals while dressing in only four of the seven playoff games against the Montreal Canadiens. Thomas also had a noteworthy season this past year. With Boston trading for Manny Fernandez, many thought Thomas would be the backup. Instead, he carried the team on his back and took them within one game of reaching the second round of the playoffs.

Mark Stuart might not have had the numbers of someone like Zdeno Chara, but he is a reliable force back on the blueline. Prior to this season, Stuart played in 32 NHL games for the Bruins, scoring one goal, and adding two assists. The majority of his time from 2005-2007 was spent in the AHL with the Providence Bruins. This season, Mark cracked the Boston lineup on opening night, and never looked back. In fact, Mark Stuart was one of only three Bruins (along with Kessel and Metropolit) to play in all 82 regular season games. In that time, he was able to score four goals and dish out four assists for a total of eight points. He had a steady plus/minus of plus-2, while spending 81 minutes in the penalty box. One of Stuart's four goals was the game winner on New Year's Eve in a 5-2 win over his brother Colin and the Atlanta Thrashers.

The timing of the announcement could not have been much better for Mark. He celebrated his 24th birthday on Sunday. 24 years old might be a bit on the young side for a letter to be placed on a jersey, but when it comes to responsibility and leadership skills, Stuart is well beyond his age. He should be a terrific assistant captain for Team USA, and this could very well be a role for him a few years down the road for the Boston Bruins.

Stuart and the Americans played an exhibition game Sunday afternoon at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine. None of the three Bruins factored into the main story of the game, but Team USA did pull off a 5-1 win over Sweden. The biggest highlights of the day came from Chicago's Patrick Kane and Phoenix's Peter Mueller, who helped create two of the five goals. Local product Nathan Gerbe out of Boston College got his name in lights as he put the biscuit in the basket for the fourth goal of the contest. The other two goals came from the Los Angeles Kings' Patrick O'Sullivan and Dustin Brown. Robert Esche and former Bruin Craig Anderson split the duties between the pipes.

Team USA remains in Portland until Wednesday. Their first real game of the tournament takes place Friday against Latvia.

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