TOP OF THE HEAP: The Bruins are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, which has them leading the Eastern Conference. The Bruins are battling the Pittsburgh Penguins for conference supremacy and Boston only has 16 games remaining in the regular season.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE LATELY: This is the third and final meeting of the season between these two teams. The Bruins won the first two games of the regular-season series 4-1 and 3-2 (OT), respectively. Along with its current winning streak, Boston is 10-1-2 in its past 13 games and 15-2-3 in the past 20. In the midst of this streak, the Bruins have defeated the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers (twice), Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens and the Phoenix Coyotes. The Hurricanes are 3-7-0 in their past 10 games. Carolina has won two in a row, including a 3-1 win over the Rangers and a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
MASKED MEN: Since Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (30-14-4/2.10/.928) played back-to-back games and posted victories against the Canadiens and Coyotes this week, one would think he would get the day off against the 13th-ranked Hurricanes. If he does, backup Chad Johnson will get the nod. Johnson is 7-0-1 in his past eight starts and is 1-0-0 with a 1.97 GAA in one game against the Hurricanes. If Rask does play, he's 4-3-0 with a 2.41 GAA in eight career games against Carolina. For Carolina, Cam Ward is 12-12-3 with a 2.63 GAA and three shutouts in 27 career games against the Bruins. Justin Peters is 1-0-0 with a 4.62 GAA in three career games against Boston. Anton Khudobin, a former Bruin, has not faced Boston in his career.
Chris Kelly, Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson have built chemistry and the three compose arguably one of the best third lines in the league.
"We're a great line and we just want to keep that going," Soderberg said. "Since I started to play center, it's quite obvious I'm creating more offense. I can still play the wing, but I prefer center."
It took a little bit of time, a few injuries, and a few tweaks for coach Claude Julien to find the right trio.
At the start of the season, Eriksson played on the team's second line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, while Reilly Smith played with Kelly and Soderberg. After Eriksson suffered his first of two concussions early in the season, Smith replaced him on the second line and that trio quickly had success.
When Eriksson returned, Julien decided it would be best to ease the veteran winger back into the lineup by putting him on the third line. The coach also moved Soderberg to the middle more frequently and had Kelly playing the other side.
Suddenly, the entire lineup had harmony and now the Bruins are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak.
When Soderberg registers a point, the Bruins are 23-3-3 this season. He's finally showing the skating ability, strength and production the Bruins were hoping for.
Julien says he sees Soderberg is settling into a good rhythm.
"His line is one of the reasons that he's been doing really good," Julien said. "Kells has come in and done a good job on that left wing, but Loui, as we're all seeing, is just playing much better hockey since that injury. So that in itself makes for a better line, and like I said the other day, I think in Carl's situation he loves to skate, so by putting him in center he's been able to cover a lot of ice and that seems to suit him better."
Top-line winger Milan Lucic has been impressed with the play of the third line, especially Soderberg.
"It's real good," Lucic said. "You can see his confidence coming in and he's using his big body and he's found his skating game in the NHL, which wasn't really there for him when he first came here, but you can see the commitment and the time he put in to make sure he can contribute to this team this year and you can see him starting to get rewarded for that."
Like Soderberg, Eriksson is coming into his own. Limited by a pair of concussions earlier this season, he started to show signs before the Olympics, where he won a silver medal for Sweden. Since being back with Boston he's playing well.
"To me, Loui has been really a good player and we're starting to see the player that he is and that's encouraging," Julien said. "That line has been good overall, but Carl's a big body that can skate well and he's strong on the puck and he does make things happen."
The third line has become an important part of Boston's success this season. They need that kind of depth to continue to enjoy another deep run through the postseason this spring.
It’s easy to forget that he’s only 20 and in the midst of his first full season in the league (his rookie season was shortened by the lockout). He’s still learning to harness his size, strength and ability and once it all comes together it should be an impressive package.
Bruins coach Claude Julien thought it best for Hamilton to sit as a healthy scratch for two games earlier this week against the Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens. He was back in the lineup Thursday and helped Boston to a 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at TD Garden.
After the game, Hamilton sat at his locker stall and discussed his playing situation. It’s understandable that he was upset for not being in the lineup as a healthy scratch, and the Bruins coaching staff would be disappointed if it didn’t bother him. But Hamilton is not the type of young player to whine about anything.
“I think that’s because he trusts us,” Julien said. “We’ve told him as a coaching staff the whole time he’s a good player and he’s going to be an even better player as we move on here. What we’ve asked him is to be patient with us because he came in here as a 19-year-old. A 19-year-old that’s on a team that’s rebuilding is going to play a ton, a 19-year-old that’s on an established team doesn’t get the same luxury, but he gets the luxury of developing in a winning environment and finding out quickly what it takes to win, so he’s in a good situation.
“I think he trusts us, I think we know what we’ve got, he knows that we know that as well and it’s just a matter of being patient and he comes in [against Phoenix] and plays a good game. He moved the puck well and he was assertive and all the little things that you talk about, you can see that effort in him. It’s trust. It’s respect and that has to happen both ways here.”
Hamilton understands the process and the veterans on the team help him, too. During his recent two-game stint as a healthy scratch, he found himself dissecting the game from press level. He’s been breaking down video with the coaching staff and learning ways to improve his game.
“I think it’s obviously a different game from up there and it’s a lot easier. Everything is slower and stuff like that so you can see things, but I think just trying to add different things to my game,” Hamilton said. “The coaches talked to me and told me certain things to add and I think there’s been things all year that I’ve been working on and trying to improve. And I think I just have to keep adding more and keep getting ready so I can play in the playoffs.”
Last season was not the typical rookie season for Hamilton. Due to the NHL work stoppage, Hamilton remained with his junior team until labor dispute was settled and the 48-game, lockout-shortened season began in January. It was a crash course for Hamilton, then 19. He played 42 regular-season games and seven in the playoffs.
This season he’s played 47 games and has played well. He’s shown improvements in every aspect and the experience from a year ago has paid dividends.
“I think I’m more used to it now. Obviously it’s not fun not playing but I think I got to learn a lot last year through that whole playoff run and know more what to expect and what’s expected of me,” he said. “So just trying to get my game to a trustworthy playoff game in this last month or so, and hopefully I can do that and earn a spot.”
With less than 20 games remaining in the regular season, and a postseason berth imminent, Julien has time to figure out his pairings for the playoffs. Since Dennis Seidenberg is lost for the season due to a knee injury, Julien losses some of the defensive consistency that has helped the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup finals twice in three years.
When general manager Peter Chiarelli added veteran defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter at the trade deadline, the team’s blue line regained some depth. It gives Julien options. Until puck drops for the Stanley Cup playoffs, it will be a tryout of sorts to figure out what pairs work best.
Hamilton said he understands the coach’s philosophy. Since Hamilton was back in the lineup Thursday, fellow blueliner Torey Krug was a healthy scratch and missed his first game of the season.
“We know we have eight D now and I think it’s, I guess, a competition so, just trying to play your best when you’re in the lineup, but it’s out of your control so you can’t really think about it. Just do your best and work hard in practice,” Hamilton said.
Whether he’s in the lineup or not, Hamilton needs to remain confident because everything will eventually click and the Bruins’ blue line should be secure for the foreseeable future.
* Sharks: Won four straight games
* Sharks: win gives SJ 93 pts on season, tied with Ducks for most in Pacific Division
* Patrick Marleau (SJ): Two goals; 60th multi-goal game of career (tied for eighth-most among active players).
* Sharks: 1-3 on power play; entered game 1-23 on PP since Olympics.
From Elias: Patrick Marleau scored a pair of goals for the Sharks in their shootout win at Columbus. Remarkably, it was Marleau's first multi-goal game since he began the lockout-delayed 2012-13 NHL season by scoring two goals in each of San Jose's first four games (Jan. 20-26, 2013).
Maple Leafs 3, Kings 2
* Kings: Loss snaps 8-game win streak.
* Kings: Led 2-0, allowed 3 unanswered.
* James Reimer (TOR): Saved all 31 shots he faced; came in to start 2nd period after Jonathan Bernier left with injury
Wild 2, Rangers 1
* Wild: Snap three-game winless streak (0-1-2 past three games).
* Rangers: 2-4-1 in past seven games.
* Zach Parise (MIN): Game-winning goal; four goals in last six games.
* Darcy Kuemper (MIN): 29 saves; 6-1-1 in past eight starts
Bruins 2, Coyotes 1
* Bruins: Seven consecutive wins; longest win streak since 2011-12 (also seven games).
* Zdeno Chara (BOS): Scored 16th goal; three shy of career-high 19 goals.
* Shane Doan (PHX): Played his 1,300th game (54th all-time)
BOSTON -- It's not about the winning streak. It's all about the process for the Boston Bruins.
With a 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night at TD Garden, the Bruins won their seventh game in a row and now own the top spot in the Eastern Conference with 93 points, one ahead of the idle Pittsburgh Penguins.
With 16 games remaining in the regular season, Bruins coach Claude Julien is pleased with the way his team is playing right now. Boston is a deep team, and every aspect of its game is on display. With a crazy schedule this month not only for the Bruins but for the league as a whole, Julien believes his team knows that the name of the game is about preparing for the Stanley Cup playoffs, not making excuses.
When the Bruins are playing well defensively, it translates into a potent offensive style of play, and that's what they've been exhibiting during this streak. Goaltender Tuukka Rask has a front-row seat and he's pleased with what he's watching.
"We're just playing Bruins hockey day in and day out and not trying to do too much," Rask said. "The schedule's tough and we're trying to keep things simple. We pretty much know we're going to make the playoffs, and we just want to get our game to a level we think it needs to be going into the playoffs."
The Bruins concluded their 12th of 17 sets of back-to-back games, and they're 9-2-1 in the first game and 10-2-0 in the second game. Thursday's game easily could have been a letdown for the Bruins, especially coming off an emotional 4-1 win over the division rival Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night at Bell Centre.
"We're playing really well right now," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. "Everyone seems to be buying into the system and playing their role and not trying to do too much. When you have all four lines going, and all six D and both goalies, it's great. We're showing we've got a really good team here, and that's what we need to be doing down the stretch."
With the regular-season schedule winding down, it's going to be a battle for Eastern Conference supremacy between the Bruins and Penguins. Boston has basically secured the top spot in the Atlantic Division, but the Bruins are focused on more than just the seeding in the standings.
"It would be big, obviously," Marchand said of winning the conference title. "You want to finish as high as you can, and home-ice advantage in the playoffs is huge, but it's more about the process and how you get there. I think if we just worry about playing our game every single night, things will work themselves out."
Given the Bruins were facing the Coyotes on a back-to-back game on Thursday night, it was a bit of a surprise that Julien decided to start Rask in net. It proved crucial as he finished with 21 saves, many of them timely.
"I don't think we should overanalyze Tuukka, or Tuukka's fatigue," Julien said. "Chad [Johnson has] played well for us, and he's going to play and they're going to share the net. For me, it was a decision I made, and I felt Tuukka wasn't overly tired. He felt great and he can rest tomorrow because we don't play."
After the game, Rask said he didn't feel completely fresh Thursday but expected to play.
The Bruins believe there's still another level they can raise their game to, and that's something they want to reach when the playoffs arrive.
"Honestly, we've been pretty focused," said forward Jarome Iginla. "We've been trying to keep pushing ourselves to be better and to keep working on things. It's been fun winning. Guys here, it's a hungry team and a very competitive team. We want to keep winning and keep getting better. We've been able to get ourselves into a battle for the top of the conference, but even that guys don't really talk about on a day-to-day basis."
Not lost in Thursday's win was the fact that Julien earned his 300th career victory in Boston. Overall, he has a 419-249-10-84 record in 762 career games as a coach, but he always downplays individual accomplishments. His goal is to win another Stanley Cup with the Bruins.
"I had no knowledge and my guys know it doesn't matter to me," Julien said. "It's great, don't get me wrong. It's great and I'm happy it's happened here. I'm happy to have that, but at the same time, to me, I'd rather look forward to hopefully a lot more than just that. I'm proud to have accomplished this in Boston. It's great. I've really enjoyed myself here and I'm looking forward to another 300."
BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins extended their winning streak to seven games with a 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night at TD Garden.
With the win, the Bruins have gained control of the top spot in the Eastern Conference with 93 points, one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who did not play Thursday.
The Bruins received goals from Zdeno Chara and Jarome Iginla, while goaltender Tuukka Rask finished with 21 saves.
During this current streak, the Bruins have defeated the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers (twice), Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens and the Coyotes.
After the Bruins returned from a three-game road trip, Thursday's game could have been a letdown but that wasn't the case. Boston's penalty kill proved crucial as it went 5-for-5 against the Coyotes' power-play unit.
After the Bruins killed off a Jordan Caron double-minor for high sticking, Boston gained the early lead when Chara scored his 16th goal of the season for a 1-0 advantage at 5:54 of the first period. Phoenix turned the puck over in its own end when Chara gained control and walked in from the blue line. Teammate Chris Kelly set the screen and Chara's shot beat Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith.
Rask faced only eight shots in the opening period, but he made a significant save when he kept a loose puck from crossing the goal line. The Bruins gained control and quickly scored at the other end of the ice when Iginla redirected Johnny Boychuk's shot at 17:31 to give Boston a 2-0 lead.
The Coyotes scored at 8:14 of the third period to cut their deficit when Lauri Korpikoski redirected a shot past Rask, but the Bruins held on for the win.
SAVE OF THE GAME: With the Bruins holding a 2-0 lead early in the second period, the Coyotes' Shane Doan, who was playing his 1,300th career game in the NHL, capitalized on a Boston turnover and created a breakaway. Rask held his ground and made a left-pad save to secure the Bruins' two-goal advantage.
IN AND OUT: After missing the past two games as a healthy scratch, Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton returned to the lineup against the Coyotes. As a result, fellow blueliner Torey Krug was a healthy scratch. It was the first game he's missed this season. Overall, Krug has 13 goals and 22 assists for 35 points, including a plus-11 rating in 65 games.
UP NEXT: The Bruins host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday (1 p.m.) at TD Garden.
MONTREAL -- A season is not won or lost at the NHL’s trade deadline.
It’s a general manager’s job to improve his team, especially if that team is a Stanley Cup contender. The Boston Bruins have become a perennial Cup contender, so when GM Peter Chiarelli added depth to the team’s blue line by adding two veteran defensemen at the deadline on March 5 -- Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter -- it was a simple move that would keep the team’s core intact and wouldn’t disrupt its chemistry.
Boston’s division rival, the Montreal Canadiens, made a significant acquisition by adding veteran forward Thomas Vanek, who is considered a Bruins killer based on his repeated success against the black and gold.
Even before he was asked a question during his trade deadline day press conference, Chiarelli acknowledged the fact that the Canadiens improved their team. He said it would be a challenge to play them and that he looked forward to it.
The Bruins entered Wednesday’s game at Montreal with an 0-4-1 record in their last five games against the Canadiens, but Boston ended its skid with a 4-1 win at Bell Centre. The Bruins received contributions from every line, each defensive pairing and goaltender Tuukka Rask, who made 35 saves in the victory.
It was the type of game Bruins coach Claude Julien was hoping he’d see.
Entering this game, the Bruins were riding a five-game winning streak and Julien wanted his players to downplay the fact they were playing their storied rivals. He also wanted to downplay the fact they were playing in hostile territory. As much of a challenge as that would be for the Bruins, they successfully accomplished their goal.
More importantly, the Bruins gained some confidence, knowing if they play their style of hockey, they can beat anyone in the league. Currently, Boston is atop the Atlantic Division with 91 points and only one point behind the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins. The conference standings are tight, so there is a possibility the Bruins will face Montreal in the playoffs.
“It is a nice way to answer, especially after what happened last game against them when they embarrassed us in our building,” Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said. “I thought we responded really well and we stayed poised in that first period, even though it wasn’t our best start. We battled through it and we got it going.”
Even though the Bruins attempted to downplay the situation, there was definitely a sense of relief after the win.
“It was real important,” said Bruins forward Milan Lucic, who scored his 20th goal of the season. “We talked about our mindset going into this game, and it was just about focusing on what we’ve done well to this point, especially on this road trip.
“We just wanted to play to our strengths. Obviously you don’t forget when you lose a game the way you did last time against whether it’s the Habs or anyone else, you don’t forget how you played the last game against them and that gave us some motivation as well heading into this game. It’s nice to finally get a result against these guys.”
It didn't start out that way. The Bruins couldn’t create any sustained pressure in the first period and had trouble getting the puck deep into the Montreal zone. Turnovers were a problem too. Fortunately for the Bruins, Rask finished the first period with 13 saves.
“Early in the game, they got some early power plays, so we had to kill those and Tuukka stood tall in that situation, but I thought everyone overall played well,” Julien said. “You need your goaltender to be good and that’s what he’s paid to do and that’s what he did tonight. The rest of the team did the same thing.”
Rask finished with 35 saves to improve his career record to 3-10-2 against Montreal. Even though statistically he hasn’t been on the receiving end of many wins, Rask joked after the game that he’ll take full credit for Wednesday’s victory.
“I don’t care,” he said of his numbers. “I felt good against them [in the past] but I still have the losing record, so I’ve got to win some more games.”
At the start of the second period, the Bruins played their style of game. They created a fierce forecheck and took advantage of Montreal’s miscues. It was an important game for Boston, and with a six-game winning streak in hand, the Bruins are satisfied with the way they’re playing with only 17 games remaining in the regular season.
“Despite the start, I thought we played a pretty solid game,” Rask said. “We took most of their opportunities away and capitalized on ours in the second period. It’s a good road win, especially with the little cushion [in the standings] and we’re happy where our game is headed right now.”
Teams or winning streaks are not built at the trade deadline. The simple fact is the Bruins are a solid team, and Wednesday’s win against the Canadiens is just another example of how good the defending Eastern Conference champions can be.
Said Bruins forward Carl Soderberg: “We didn’t play well at all at home against them and we wanted to get a win here, so if we’re going to play against them in the playoffs we know we can beat them.”
The Bruins made that statement loud and clear.
The Bruins entered Wednesday's game with an 0-4-1 record in their last five games against the Montreal Canadiens, but Boston ended its skid with a 4-1 win at Bell Centre. With the victory, the Bruins extended their current winning streak to six games.
The Bruins received goals from Carl Soderberg, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara, while goaltender Tuukka Rask finished with 35 saves. With the win, Rask improved his career record to 3-10-2 against Montreal.
On Wednesday, the teams were scoreless in the first period, but there were quality chances at both ends of the ice.
Lucic had a golden opportunity during Boston's first power play of the night. He received a pass in the slot and had time to get off a snap shot, but Peter Budaj made a blocker save with 1:15 remaining on the man-advantage. Lucic was smiling and shaking his head after the next whistle.
With the game scoreless early in the first period, the Bruins had control in the offensive zone, but the puck squirted out to center ice. The Canadiens' Max Pacioretty collected it and broke in on Rask, who turned away the scoring opportunity with a right-pad save.
Rask was key again during Montreal's second power play of the game. The Canadiens' Alexei Emelin threaded a pass through the neutral zone to Alex Galchenyuk, who snuck in behind defenseman Andrej Meszaros and broke in on Rask. But Rask denied the quality scoring chance with a glove save.
Montreal finished the opening period with 14 shots, while Boston had only six.
The Bruins drew first blood in the second when Soderberg notched his 12th goal of the season at 1:33 of the period. He collected a loose puck in front, and with linemate Chris Kelly setting a screen, Soderberg beat Budaj to give Boston a 1-0 lead.
The Bruins added to their lead when Bergeron scored his 19th of the season at 9:25 as Boston gained a 2-0 advantage. Bergeron and linemate Brad Marchand created a nifty passing sequence in the Montreal zone before Bergeron finished with a quick shot from the slot.
The Bruins weren't done.
Montreal had control of the puck in the offensive zone when Lucic stapled Emelin into the side wall, which created a turnover, and in transition the Bruins' Jarome Iginla gained the blue line and held the puck along the wall, waiting for Lucic to jump into the play. Iginla fed Lucic the puck and he blasted a one-timer past Budaj to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead at 18:32. It was Lucic's 20th goal of the season.
The Bruins still weren't done.
Boston scored only 23 seconds into the third period when Chara netted his 15th of the season. Marchand made a centering pass to Chara in the slot, but Budaj made the original save before Chara collected the rebound and gave Boston a 4-0 lead.
The Canadiens, however, would not be shut out.
Montreal created a scramble in front of Rask and he lost sight of the puck as he was sprawled out in the crease. The Canadiens' David Desharnais found a hole and put it in for Montreal's first goal of the game at 2:46 of the final period.
DROP 'EM: After the Bruins gained a 2-0 lead in the second period, Montreal needed to do something, so the Canadiens' Brandon Prust asked Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller to drop the gloves. Miller obliged and the two went toe-to-toe. Prust landed a few shots, but Miller held his own. It was Miller's third fighting major of the season.
UP NEXT: It's a quick turnaround for the Bruins. This is the 12th of 17 sets of back-to-back games this season as they return to Boston and host the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday night (7 p.m.) at TD Garden. The Bruins are 9-2-1 in the first game and 9-2-0 in the second of those series.
With the trade deadline wrapped up, teams viewing the bigger picture soon will be turning their attention to their free agents. That's not necessarily a good thing for those looking to use free agency this summer as a way to restock their franchise. There are good players on the top 25 unrestricted free-agent list below, but it only thins out from there.
"I have the preliminary list," said Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray, who is going to have a lot of money to work with this summer. "You can look at that and say, 'OK, we have 10 guys on that list we like, they can sign between now and then.' So I don't get too excited about that list."
With teams as diligent as ever about signing their players to long-term contracts before they hit free agency, the number of available quality players is already a small one. Supply and demand will put general managers in a tough spot.
"Obviously, it's getting tougher and tougher," Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon said during a quick chat Tuesday.
Like Murray, Tallon is going to have money to spend this summer.
"There's some assets we're interested in," he said. "We've identified who we like, who fit into our player allotment, where they would fit into our organization and how they would help our young guys develop quicker."
This list, like Murray's preliminary list, is going to change between now and July 1, but here's an early look at the top 25 unrestricted free agents for this summer, ranked in order of the most value they'll provide their next team:
Note: All cap hit data is courtesy of CapGeek.com.
At this point in Miller's career, he has to decide where he thinks he has the best chance of winning a Stanley Cup. "That's what it comes down to," one NHL source said. "That is the determining factor." It's hard to argue there's a better spot than the one Murray sent him to before the trade deadline. The Blues really like Jake Allen, but are firmly in the middle of a Stanley Cup window, and Miller gives them the best chance to win. It might be the perfect marriage. If the Ducks decide to let Jonas Hiller walk this summer, Anaheim is another city that would intrigue Miller, who spends offseason time in California. The problem there is that Ducks GM Bob Murray has no shortage of goalie options in the system. Miller's future may hinge on how things go this postseason in St. Louis.
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SNAPPING IT: The Bruins are 0-4-1 in their last five games against the Canadiens. This is the third of four games between these teams this season. The Bruins are 17-10-3 on the road this season and 16-8-1 against Atlantic Division teams. Montreal beat Boston 2-1 on Dec. 5 at Bell Centre. Then the Canadiens won 4-1 on Jan. 30 at TD Garden.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE LATELY: The Bruins are in the midst of a five-game winning streak. Boston is 8-2-1 in its last 11 games and 13-2-3 in the last 18. After a 4-3 shootout win over Tampa on Saturday, and 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday, the Bruins close out this three-game road trip against the Canadiens.
“We’ve got to go out there and play our game and let’s continue to do the things we’ve done lately,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “That’s where our focus has to be. Not on the team we’re playing, not on where we are, but what we have to do and that’s what we intend to do tonight. We played a great game in Tampa, a great game in Florida and now it’s about bringing this game here and doing the same things that have given us success. If we focus on those things our chances are good.”
Montreal is 6-3-1 in its last 10 games and has an 18-10-5 record on home ice. The Canadiens are 9-6-4 against divisional opponents.
“If we go out and play our game tonight, it’s going to be an interesting one,” Julien said.
MASKED MEN: Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask did not participate in the team’s optional morning skate Wednesday, but he’s expected to start against the Canadiens. He has a 2-10-2 career record against Montreal, with a 2.88 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage. Rask is leading the league with six shutouts, and is 7-3-2 in his last 12 starts. Since Montreal’s No. 1 goalie Carey Price remains sidelined with a lower-body injury, fellow netminder Peter Budaj will start against the Bruins. Budaj is 4-1-0 in his career against the Bruins, including one shutout, a 2.34 GAA and a .919 SP. He stopped a season-high 34 shots en route to a 4-1 win over the Bruins on Jan. 30. Overall, he’s 8-7-2 with a 2.42 GAA and a .909 SP in 20 games this season.
LINEUPS: The Bruins will be without forward Daniel Paille (concussion) and defenseman Dougie Hamilton (healthy scratch). Forward Jordan Caron will play on the Bruins’ energy line, along with Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell. Montreal added forward Thomas Vanek at the trade deadline and this will be his first game against the Bruins as a member of the Canadiens. He has 61 points in 53 career games against the Bruins. Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges is out with a broken left hand.
“I’m going with the same D-core as I had the other night,” Julien said.
The pairings will likely be: Zdeno Chara-Andrej Meszaros, Matt Bartkowski-Johnny Boychuk, Torey Krug-Kevan Miller.
Meszaros, who arrived in Boston via a deadline-day trade with the Philadelphia Flyers, made his Bruins debut in a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday in Sunrise, Fla. He scored a goal, registered six shots on net and logged 20:36 of ice time.
Since the Bruins play a completely different defensive style than he’s used to, Meszaros has been watching video before and after games, and has been spending time learning the system from the coaching staff.
A left-handed shot, Meszaros played the majority of his career on the right side, but this season the Flyers had him on the left side. Julien would like Meszaros to return to the right side, which is a comfortable spot for the veteran defenseman.
“To me it doesn’t matter,” Meszaros said. “I like it because your stick is always in the middle in the offensive zone so you can shoot it right away. Obviously, it’s a little tougher to pull [the puck] off the wall and in the defensive zone it’s a little bit harder to pass it, but when you play for so long you get used to it and I don’t mind it at all.”
Hamilton has played well this season, his first full season in the NHL, but he had a few critical miscues in Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Prior to the acquisitions of Meszaros and Corey Potter, the Bruins had only six healthy defensemen. Now that there’s depth again, it creates a healthy competition on the team’s blue line. Overall, Hamilton has seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points, including a plus-14 rating in 47 games this season.
Paille, who suffered the injury early in the first period of Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers, could return to game action on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden.
“We felt it was a real minor concussion, but the protocol is what it is and you have to respect that and right now he’s just going through the stages and doing very well,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “Today he skated with no contact and hopefully we’ll move on to the next level by tomorrow.”
Paille showed no ill effects during Wednesday’s skate. Overall, he has nine goals and seven assists for 16 points, including a plus-9 rating in 57 games this season. He missed seven games in December due to a concussion.
Pressure already on Caps' Kuznetsov
It will be interesting to see how Washington head coach Adam Oates employs Evgeny Kuznetsov during the stretch run. The former first-round pick of the Caps (26th overall in 2010) made his NHL debut Monday after much anticipation and many delays. Oates admitted he was trying to shield the talented winger from expectations in what is a completely foreign game to the youngster. Kuznetsov played 10:22 in his NHL debut (and 14:52 on Tuesday night against the Penguins), lining up mostly on the team’s fourth line, although he did end up playing a shift or two with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. The issue will be how quickly to try to accelerate the learning process for the 21-year-old. The Caps are life and death to make the playoffs and one of the team’s critical areas of deficiency is its depth scoring. After Ovechkin’s 44 goals there isn’t a 20-goal scorer on the roster. The Caps are one point out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference but have two teams to jump over, have played more games and have a poor tiebreaker with just 22 regulation or overtime wins. In short, whether it’s fair or not, how quickly Kuznetsov adapts to the North American game might say a lot about whether the Caps’ streak of six postseason appearances gets to seven.
Jets are passive and winless
There’s the old chestnut about the best deal you make being the one you don’t make. Right now that doesn’t really apply to the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets, of course, made their big move earlier in the season when they fired head coach Claude Noel and then caught fire under new head coach Paul Maurice. But in spite of crawling back to within a point or two of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Jets were strangely passive at the deadline, neither moving potential free agents Devin Setoguchi or Chris Thorburn nor adding pieces that might actually push them into the postseason for what would be just the second time in franchise history. Their competition did not sit idly by. The Phoenix Coyotes added Martin Erat, while Dallas GM Jim Nill straddled the fence by trading defenseman Stephane Robidas to Anaheim while keeping free agents Ray Whitney and Vernon Fiddler (and adding Tim Thomas). Both teams have played well of late and are ahead of the Jets in the standings. Now we’d be praising GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to the skies if the Jets had reeled off a few wins in a row after the deadline to prove not just to the public but to themselves that their strategy was sound. But they have now gone winless in four and have failed to collect a W in the three games since last week’s trade deadline. The bottom line? As of Wednesday morning, the Jets were six points out of the final wild-card spot with two teams to dislodge and they are not in a good situation vis-a-vis the tiebreaker. In short, the chances of the Jets arresting the franchise history of fading to black come playoff time are slim to slimmer.
Fair for Devils to get pick back?
In theory, I don’t have any problem with the NHL relenting on its original penalty for salary-cap shenanigans in the New Jersey Devils' original contract attempt with the erstwhile Ilya Kovalchuk and reinstating their 2014 draft pick by locking them into the 30th pick in Philadelphia. When Daniel Alfredsson explained last summer how he and the Ottawa Senators had basically cooked up his last salary to beat the cap system and the league failed to act, well it just seemed fair that the Devils at the very least should get their draft pick back. But know this, loads of teams aren’t big fans of this decision. So the Devils are locked into 30th; it still robs the teams that draft behind them in the second round of a pick or, rather, positioning. Let’s say the Oilers draft first overall (don’t they always?). The Devils in theory are getting their pick at the top of the second round. Fair? Not for Edmonton or for Florida, etc. And the fact that this draft pick was given back at least in part as a show of good faith for the new ownership group in New Jersey does not sit well with other teams, either. Nor should it given the kind of precedent this has the potential to set.
Struggling a relative term for Bruins
Boston GM Peter Chiarelli admits he wasn’t thrilled with the way his team came out of the Olympic break. First, the Bruins were beaten by lowly Buffalo 5-4 in overtime. Then the Caps got the better of the Bruins by a 4-2 count. Even though the Bruins entered the break on a 3-0-1 stretch, Chiarelli acknowledged you never know how a sudden stoppage in play will affect your team.
“Sometimes you come out of it in a funk,” Chiarelli told ESPN.com this week.
Good thing for the Bruins "funk" is a relative term. Since a disappointing return, the Bruins have rebounded to play some of their best hockey of the season. In fact, they have played so well that at one point this week they overtook Pittsburgh for top spot in the conference in a battle that now seems destined to go down to the wire. Not that the Bruins are necessarily focused on the standings, but rather on making sure their style of play is on display on a consistent basis, as it has been during their current five-game winning streak.
“I liked how we responded,” from the slow post-Olympic start, Chiarelli said.
The Bruins tightened up their defensive game and have been rolling offensively, getting timely contributions from up and down the lineup -- the calling card of the Bruins team that won a Cup in 2011 and then went to the Cup finals last spring.
“For us, it’s about having the four lines and three defensive pairs going and that’s hard to do. You have to have everyone in sync,” Chiarelli said.
This is a Bruins team that underwent significant change up front during the offseason with Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton and Jaromir Jagr all headed to different teams. But in recent days, the Bruins’ third line of Carl Soderberg, Chris Kelly and Loui Eriksson has caught fire and been a catalyst to their charge to the top of the conference standings. Kelly is a veteran presence down the middle and Soderberg’s skating has improved, which is important for a player with his size. Eriksson, the key to the deal that sent Seguin to Dallas at the draft last June, is making the kinds of plays that the Bruins expected he would when they made the deal.
“That third line has really been key,” Chiarelli said.
As for watching the standings, the Bruins finished behind the Penguins last season, but when the two met in the conference finals, it didn’t matter to the B's when they swept the favored Penguins.
“It’d be nice to be there,” Chiarelli said of the top seed. “But we don’t focus on it.”
Statues all around
It is the season of the statue, apparently. The Philadelphia Flyers will unveil a 1,300-pound bronze statue of Hall of Fame coach Fred Shero at Wells Fargo Center on the morning of March 15. It’s fitting the unveiling of the statue honoring the man who coached the Flyers to their only Stanley Cup championships, in 1974 and 1975, will happen before the Flyers take on the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose general manager, Ray Shero, is Fred Shero’s son. That’s a nice touch. A few weeks later, the Tampa Bay Lightning will have a similar unveiling near their home building in Tampa. A nine-foot sculpture depicting former captain Dave Andreychuk holding the Stanley Cup aloft as he did after the Lightning edged Calgary in Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup finals will be unveiled during a pregame ceremony on April 5. Andreychuk is sometimes a forgotten figure in the Bolts’ seminal run to their lone championship. The focus has often been on Brad Richards, captain Vincent Lecavalier and the recently traded Martin St. Louis, but Andreychuk’s leadership and his willingness to adapt his style at that stage of his career to a more defensive role were crucial to the team’s overall success. Now fans will be reminded of that every time they head to a Lightning game.
MONTREAL -- The Boston Bruins haven’t had much success against the Montreal Canadiens within the past calendar year, but they are hoping their recent string of success carries over into Wednesday night’s game at Bell Centre.
The Bruins are in the midst of a five-game winning streak and have outscored their opponents 22-9 during the stretch. After Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers, the Bruins were given Monday off to enjoy the warm weather before traveling to Montreal on Tuesday morning.
In preparation for Wednesday’s game, the Bruins held practice Tuesday afternoon at Bell Centre, and afterward coach Claude Julien remained mystified as to why the Bruins have lost five in a row to the Canadiens.
“I don’t know. I can’t answer that, but I can tell you one thing, I don’t think we’ve played well against them,” Julien said. “Have they given us trouble or have we given ourselves trouble? That’s the thing we’ve got to figure out here because, in my mind, it’s not to take any credit away from them but I’m going to talk more about this year.
“The game in Boston we just weren’t playing well at all, so hopefully tomorrow we’ll paint a different picture, and if we play the way we’ve played lately, I think it’s going to be a great game. We’ve just got to focus on that.”
The Bruins are atop the Atlantic Division with 89 points and Montreal is third with 77 points. The Canadiens have won both games against Boston this season, but Montreal coach Michel Therrien said his team is not taking Wednesday’s contest for granted.
“First of all, the Bruins, this is a good hockey team,” Therrien said. “They are battling with Pittsburgh right now for first place in the conference and every game is a new challenge. Tomorrow is no different and it’s a huge challenge for us.”
The last thing the Canadiens see when they exit their locker room is a giant picture of them celebrating a goal against the Bruins. It’s not like Montreal needs any added motivation against the Bruins, as the Canadiens always are at their best when Boston comes to town. While the Bruins are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, Montreal is 6-3-1.
“They’re playing well, and even though they lost their last game, their lineup is strong and solid and they always give us a good run,” Bruins forward Gregory Campbell said. “It’s important for us to know that the job’s not done yet and to carry on what we did in Tampa and Florida.”
In the first matchup of the season between the teams, the Bruins dominated the majority of the game. However, Boston’s second period on Dec. 5 at Bell Centre was one of its worst 20 minutes of play this season and the Canadiens finished with a 2-1 win. Julien was disgusted after the game because of the team’s implosion.
Montreal dominated the second game of the season series with a 4-1 win over the Bruins on Jan. 30 at TD Garden. The Canadiens embarrassed the Bruins, who simply had no answers.
Now, in the midst of their longest winning streak of the season, the Bruins hope to reverse their misfortunes against the Canadiens.
“They play us hard,” Campbell said. “A lot of the matchups in the league aren’t dependent on where teams sit in the standings. It’s more of how you might match up against a team, and in this case, it’s a major rivalry, so both teams are always up for the games.”
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has struggled against the Canadiens. He’s 2-10-2 against Montreal and was pulled after allowing three goals on 18 shots during Montreal’s win at TD Garden in January.
Montreal goaltender Carey Price, who has been sidelined with a lower-body injury since the Olympics, practiced with the team Tuesday, and while Therrien said his No. 1 goalie is improving, he will not play against the Bruins.
From a defensive standpoint, Julien made some changes to the team’s blue line on Sunday in Florida. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton was a healthy scratch, but Julien said that will not be a permanent thing. When asked if Hamilton would be back in the lineup against the Canadiens, Julien said he hasn’t made a decision.
Hamilton has played well this season, but had a few miscues in the Bruins’ 4-3 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. With the trade deadline additions of Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter, the Bruins have more depth defensively, which gives Julien more options.
“Dougie’s not going to sit long. Dougie has played good hockey and he’s been good for us, so Dougie is not going to be the guy that is going to be singled out here,” Julien said. “Dougie is going to be back in our lineup, and it’s just a matter of me making those tough decisions. But the good part is we’ve got a lot of games in a short span of time, so there’s lots of room for everybody to get in there.”
After Tuesday’s practice, many of the Bruins players were asked about their lack of success against Montreal. All the answers were the same. They’re not concerned with the past five games against their storied rival; it’s only about Wednesday night.
After that game, the teams play only once more during the regular season, on March 24 at TD Garden. The Bruins could use a confidence boost from these last two games because the teams might meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“It's going to be a great battle. It's always fun against them, there's always a lot of history and lots of build-up also,” Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said. “It’s always exciting to be here. It's a great building to play in, it's a tough building to play in. That's what you want. [Wednesday’s] game is going to be a tough battle, but that being said, that's why we play, and it's always fun.”
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The NHL's general managers and other league personnel were gathered at a Florida golf club for a dinner to honor former Blues GM Larry Pleau on Monday night when they were alerted that something had gone horribly wrong in Dallas.
Dallas forward Rich Peverley had collapsed on the Stars' bench and immediately in Florida there was a desperate need to get more information. As the NHL's disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan always has the capability to watch video whenever games are on, even at a dinner.
He grabbed his iPad.
"My guys are back in New York doing the game in the video room," Shanahan told ESPN.com Tuesday. "They sent it to me immediately."
He shared the Peverley video with Stars GM Jim Nill, who was checking voice mails in an attempt to get any update of the situation.
Commissioner Gary Bettman, Nill, Shanahan, Colin Campbell, Bill Daly and Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen were all part of a group that went into a hallway to form the proper response, all the while trying to gather as much information as possible on Peverley's health.
Both the Stars and Blue Jackets let it be known that they strongly preferred to stop play for the night. Ultimately, Shanahan said, it was Bettman who made the call to postpone the game -- the right decision.
"He knew what to do," Shanahan said. "Gary's a very clear thinker in crisis mode. First and foremost, it was about the health and safety of Peverley."
For Shanahan, it was a reminder of the scary moment he experienced as a player when Detroit Red Wings teammate Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench during a game against Nashville in 2005. It was a moment that helped the NHL gain experience and make improvements in medical standards that might have saved Peverley's life.
In that 2005 game, Shanahan was at the end of the bench and saw commotion. He saw someone standing over Fischer and first thought a fan had gotten onto the bench. When the reality hit that it was a medical emergency, he joined his teammates in trying to get play stopped. They threw sticks on the ice, jumped over the boards. Anything to get the attention of the referees.
"The referees didn't know what we were doing," Shanahan said.
Mathieu Schneider, now an executive with the NHLPA and in Florida to represent the players in the rules debate being had by the GMs, was closer to Fischer than Shanahan. Much closer.
He said Fischer collapsed right onto him.
"That was one of the scariest moments of my career," Schneider said. "You had no idea what was happening. But then he started convulsing. It was real scary for everyone. [Red Wings head physician] Tony Colucci was right behind our bench and on top of him before anyone knew. It was a great effort to save him."
The same can be said for Peverley and the doctors in Dallas. While there was universal concern among those at the GM meetings in Florida for Peverley and the gravity of the situation, there was also gratitude that the Stars staff was as prepared as it was to respond to that situation.
"We've had a number of scary incidents over the years, probably 10-15 years. I think that has helped us compile medical emergency standards that we have in place in every building," said deputy commissioner Bill Daly. "Obviously in this instance, the fact that the doctors have to be proximate to the playing surface with immediate access to the players bench or the playing surface is important. Thank God it worked out the way it did."
The next step is moving forward.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the league had narrowed down the date on which the game between Dallas and Columbus would be made up. In following the Fischer blueprint, the plan is to play a full 60-minute game with the Blue Jackets starting with a 1-0 lead, carried over from Monday night's game.
Both the Stars and Blue Jackets were back in action Tuesday night, really the best way to honor a hockey player once the situation is stabilized. Keep on playing.
Shanahan understands the emotions the players are feeling right now and sometimes it's just best to get back on the ice.
"Look, it's tough that there's such a quick turnaround," Shanahan said. "I think they’ll have to use all of their skills as professional athletes to block things out, which they do with other things. ... My guess is that they probably all went to the hospital. Maybe had a chance to speak to him last night, certainly that helped them today."