Neil, Big Z exchange greetings, punches

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:36 PM ET

BOSTON — Zdeno Chara was shown exchanging pre-game pleasantries with Chris Neil Saturday at the TD Garden.

Only four minutes into the game between the Bruins and Senators, the two former teammates were exchanging punches — sort of.

While Neil had declared Friday the only Bruin he hadn’t fought was the 6-foot-9 Chara, the Big Z tried to make the Ottawa winger pay for his decision to fight defenceman Dennis Seidenberg two weeks ago.

There was Chara trying to go toe-to-toe with 6-foot-1 Neil. Chara landed only one punch before losing his footing and Neil resisted the urge to throw another shot as the big Boston blueliner was falling to the ice.

“They’re probably telling (Chara) it’s not a great tradeoff to fight a guy like me or (Matt Carkner),” Neil said Friday. “He’s a guy that plays a lot of minutes for them.”

But Chara didn’t mind taking a major on this night.

Kuba returns

Filip Kuba finally made his much-anticipated return to the Senators lineup Saturday night. The wait was longer than most expected, but Kuba was finally taken off the injury list before the game against the Bruins and suited up alongside Erik Karlsson. The defenceman had back surgery last spring, then broke his leg after catching his foot in a rut in the ice on the first day of training camp in September. Kuba was back in the lineup for the first time since March 18 vs. Atlanta. “It’s been a long time,” Kuba said. “It feels good enough to get in the game. I hope that as soon as I get into the game, I play good enough to get over the hump.” The Senators weren’t expecting spectacular play from Kuba — they just want him to contribute with solid minutes and re-establish some chemistry with Karlsson, who was paired with him last season. “What we need is for him to keep it simple,” said Senators coach Cory Clouston. “He’s worked hard to get himself in shape. He came into camp in good shape. He moves the puck well. He’s not a physical guy, but he’s got a big body with a good reach and a big stick. He makes very good decisions when he’s playing well and helps to create some offence.” Clouston wasn’t frustrated by the long wait for Kuba’s return. “We have to trust the players know their body the most,” he said. “We can’t force a player into a situation where he doesn’t feel comfortable and confident.”

It makes you go hmmm

Senators D Brian Lee sat out for his 10th consecutive game Saturday night. GM Bryan Murray would like to get Lee, 23, who is making $875,000 US this season, playing time one way or another. That means the Senators are going to have to deal him, send him down for a conditioning stint in Binghamton or put him in their lineup. If the club elects to send Lee to Binghamton for conditioning, he’d have to agree to go ... Daniel Alfredsson had a small cut on the side of his face after he got hammered in the face by a Boston TV camera rushing to get to a scrum with Kuba. “I’m going to be a game-time decision,” joked Alfredsson, who scored the Senators’ second goal. “But he got me pretty good.” ... The Senators outshot the Bruins 15-10 and played one of their best first periods in a long time in Beantown.

The morning skate

Boston G Tim Thomas is glad he won’t be making selections during the all-star weekend in January. So, who would he choose No. 1 overall? “I don’t know ... I do appreciate what I’ve seen (Jaroslav) Halak doing and the success St. Louis has been having,” said Thomas. “I’ve had a lot of fun watching my old college teammate Marty St. Louis (in Tampa). He’s just a ball of energy, but it’s pretty hard to argue with Steven Stamkos’ numbers.” Somebody should have the pleasure of choosing Thomas ... Veteran winger Mark Recchi has been impressed with what he’s seen from Boston rookie Tyler Seguin. “He hasn’t had to carry the load here,” said Recchi. “He’s just had to come in and be a piece to the puzzle. He can learn the game and he’s growing as a player.” ... Blake Wheeler has to get his stick on that loose puck in the crease at 8:01 of the second that resulted in a waved-off goal. You’re not allowed to score with your glove, Blake.

Just sayin’

Bruins C Marc Savard is closing in on a return from post-concussion syndrome. He could resume skating with the team in the near future. Boston GM Peter Chiarelli said Savard, an Orleans native, is feeling better. “He’s made great progress. He’s got a couple of tests coming up and if those go well, then he may start skating with the team.” Savard hasn’t played since the Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs last spring ... D Matt Carkner and G Brian Elliott suited up for their 100th NHL games Saturday night. It’s a big deal for Carkner, 30, who spent eight years bouncing around the minors before earning a spot with the Senators last year. Asked if he’ll make 1,000 some day, Carkner said: “I’d have to play until I’m 45 — I could try.”

The last word

The return of Kuba meant D David Hale was a healthy scratch along with Lee. Hale, who is on a two-way contract, hasn’t been sent back to Binghamton yet, but likely will be. Clouston has been pleased with Hale’s play. “We had really good minutes from David Hale. David came up and played really well for us,” said Clouston. “He showed that he can help our team out.”

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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