The Bear Cave

September 29, 2009 9:41 AM

Presenting: The 2009-10 Boston Bruins

The 2009-10 regular season is only a few days away, and it appears that the Boston Bruins are set and ready to go. On Monday, the team made two transactions, sending Brad Marchand and Zach Hamill to Providence, bringing Boston's current roster down to 22 players. In all likelihood, the 22 will make the roster final, giving the Bruins 13 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders. With the roster the way it is, that translates to one extra forward and one extra defenseman.

Starting with the netminders, that equation is an easy one. Tim Thomas returns for his fifth season with the Bruins. The Boston backstop returns with a Vezina Trophy in hand, as well as a new contract that he received late in the 2008-09 campaign. Last season, Thomas was outstanding, going 36-11-7, with a 2.10 goals against average, a .933 save percentage, and five shutouts. He is the obvious starter.

After two full seasons in Providence, the backup role belongs to Tuukka Rask. The 22-year old compiled a total of 60 regular season wins at the AHL level, while also adding 15 playoff victories. The original plan was to have Rask as the backup this season, and after a 2-1 preseason, he certainly appears ready for action.

The blueline is led by another trophy recipient, as Zdeno Chara returns for his fourth season with the Black and Gold. Chara took home the Norris Trophy last season, posting 19 goals, 31 assists, and 50 points in 80 games.

With the loss of Aaron Ward to Carolina, Chara will have a new defensive partner in Derek Morris. Morris split the 2008-09 season between the Phoenix Coyotes and New York Rangers, totaling five goals and 15 assists in 75 contests. This should be an exciting season for the Edmonton native, who has only played in two playoff series at the NHL level.

Joining Chara in the defense's 50-point club is Dennis Wideman. Wideman is coming off of his most productive NHL season, as he recorded 13 goals and 37 assists a year ago.

Andrew Ference ran into injury trouble last season, as an Andrei Markov slap shot fractured the Boston blueliner's tibia, limiting him to 47 regular season games. In that time, Ference lit the lamp once, while dishing out 15 assists.

Mark Stuart appears to be on his way to becoming a true iron man, as the 25-year old has played in every single game for each of the last two seasons. Last season, Stuart had five goals and 12 assists for 17 regular season points.

Matt Hunwick caught the unfortunate break of a ruptured spleen during the playoffs, forcing him out of action after game one of the series against Montreal. However, that doesn't erase a strong rookie campaign that saw the Warren, MI native post totals of six goals and 21 assists in 53 games. Hunwick has recovered from his surgery, and will be ready to start the season.

Rounding out the blueline this season is Johnny Boychuk. Boychuk won the Eddie Shore Award last season as the top defenseman in the AHL. That, as well as his 20 goals and 45 assists certainly helped in earning him a spot with the big club. The 25-year old is best known for his powerful slap shot, as Wacey Rabbit coined the nickname "Slap Shot" for him last year with the Baby B's.

Switching to the forwards, we start at the top of last year's scoring list with Marc Savard. Savard has simply been a machine in terms of dishing out assists, since he joined the Bruins at the start of the 2007-08 campaign. The Ottawa native has averaged over one point per game in that time, registering 62 goals, 200 assists, and 262 points in 238 games.

Savard will get to reunite with a linemate this season, as Marco Sturm is healthy and ready to return to the lineup. Sturm got to know the injury bug quite well last season, as he was held to just 19 regular season games. However, the native of Germany was able to score seven goals and six assists in that short period of time. After missing almost one full season, timing will be the key to watch with Sturm.

Sturm is in a similar position to that of Patrice Bergeron last season. After playing in just ten games during the 2007-08 season, Bergeron returned to the ice with eight goals, 31 assists, and 39 points in 64 games. Those aren't quite the numbers that Boston fans are used to seeing, but this season should be significantly better for the sixth year Bruin.

While on the topic of injuries, there were many questions surrounding David Krejci's status for opening night. A situation that originally looked slim is now looking like Krejci may be in the lineup on Thursday. The Czech center would be a huge plus for the club, as he finished second in scoring last season with 22 goals, 51 assists, and 73 points.

One of the best stories of last year came from Krejci's linemate, Blake Wheeler. After being signed during the offseason, Wheeler made the Big B's as a rookie out of training camp, and proceeded to have a stellar first campaign. In 81 games, the former Minnesota Golden Gopher had 21 goals, 24 assists, and 45 points, while finishing second behind Krejci with a plus/minus rating of plus-36.

The final member of that line was Michael Ryder. Ryder spent the majority of the 2007-08 season in Guy Carbonneau's dog house with the Montreal Canadiens, but was able to regain his form when he was placed with Krejci and Wheeler. In 74 games, 29-year old recorded 27 goals, 26 assists, and 53 points.

Speaking of former Canadiens, Ryder will be joined this season by old friend, Steve Begin. Begin was signed on July 1st, and has experience playing under Claude Julien. The 31-year old split last season between Montreal and Dallas, coming up with seven goals and five assists in 62 games. Begin will replace Stephane Yelle as the team's fourth line center.

Joining Begin on the fourth line will be Boston's tough guy, Shawn Thornton. Prior to joining the Bruins, Thornton never spent a full season in the NHL. That has changed since, as he has played in 137 games in the organization, without a single trip to the Peebs. The Oshawa, ON native is coming off of his best offensive season, as he found the net six times, while handing out five assists. However, the key number is Thornton's 123 penalty minutes.

When talking about physical play, it becomes a necessity to bring Milan Lucic into the conversation. Lucic has quickly become a fan favorite in two years with the Bruins, as his goals, hits, and fights tend to bring the arena to life. The 21-year old will be aiming for his first career 20-goal season, as he fell just short last year, with 17 goals, 25 assists, and 42 points in 72 games.

If you were looking for 20-goal scorers a year ago, Boston wasn't a bad place to begin the search, as the Bruins had seven on their roster. Phil Kessel is gone to Toronto, but Mark Recchi is still around. The majority of Recchi's scoring was done with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he fit in perfectly down the stretch. In just 18 games with the B's, the 41-year old had ten goals and six assists, giving him overall totals of 23 goals, 38 assists, and 61 points.

Another 20-goal man from last season was Chuck Kobasew. In fact, Kobasew has netted at least 20 goals in each of his first two campaigns with Boston. Last year, the former Boston College Eagle compiled 21 goals, 21 assists, and 42 points in 68 games.

Next, we come to Byron Bitz. Bitz began the 2008-09 campaign in Providence, picking up three goals and seven assists in 37 games. The 25-year old earned his first call-up in January, and never looked back. In 35 games with Boston, Bitz had four goals and three assists, while not being afraid to throw his 6-foot-5, 215 lbs. frame around.

The final member of the 2009-10 club is Vladimir Sobotka. After playing in 48 games with Boston in 2007-08, Sobotka lost out in a numbers' game to start last season. However, the Czech Republic native did manage to appear in 25 games last year, registering one goal and four assists in that time. Sobotka also played in 44 games with the P-Bruins, scoring 20 goals and 24 assists for a point per game clip.

So, there you have it. Those are the 2009-10 Boston Bruins, who will begin play on Thursday night with a home game against the Washington Capitals.

2009-10 Boston Bruins' Roster:
#6 D Dennis Wideman
#12 F Chuck Kobasew
#16 F Marco Sturm
#17 F Milan Lucic
#21 D Andrew Ference
#22 F Shawn Thornton
#26 F Blake Wheeler
#27 F Steve Begin
#28 F Mark Recchi
#30 G Tim Thomas
#33 D Zdeno Chara
#37 F Patrice Bergeron
#40 G Tuukka Rask
#45 D Mark Stuart
#46 F David Krejci
#48 D Matt Hunwick
#53 D Derek Morris
#55 D Johnny Boychuk
#60 F Vladimir Sobotka
#61 F Byron Bitz
#73 F Michael Ryder
#91 F Marc Savard

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