Tanner Glass fined for hit on McQuaid

March, 28, 2015
Mar 28

BOSTON -- New York Rangers forward Tanner Glass has been fined $3,897.85 for butt-ending Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid, the NHL announced.

After the final buzzer of Boston's 4-2 win Saturday at TD Garden, Glass was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct for hitting McQuaid in the face with the end of the stick. McQuaid was sporting a huge gash above his left eye after the game.

"He took a bit of a butt end in the face, so I haven't checked him out, but again those are things that if need be the league will look into," Bruins coach Claude Julien said before the fine was announced.

Per the CBA, the fine goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

(Read full post)

Bruins stun Rangers, now look dangerous

March, 28, 2015
Mar 28

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins made the hockey world rub its eyes Saturday afternoon.

When everyone’s vision was clear, the Bruins had beaten the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers 4-2 at TD Garden. Playing with their trademark physical and relentless style, Boston dominated for 60 minutes, and as a result many of the Bruins' players had fresh facial cuts after the game.

It’s been awhile since Boston has played this well.

It comes at a crucial time, too, with the Bruins fighting for a playoff spot. This was the type of game that could make or break Boston’s season. Beating the Rangers, especially in the manner they did, should give the Bruins some much-needed confidence with only seven games remaining in the regular season.

“You saw today that when we’re emotionally involved everyone plays a little bit more on the edge. It’s important and today we played a solid 60 minutes and played physical all game and that’s what we want,” said Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg.

[+] EnlargeHenrik Lundqvist, Milan Lucic
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesMilan Lucic got two pucks past Henrik Lundqvist on Saturday.

The Bruins have enjoyed perennial success when they play this style of game, but the question remains, why haven’t they been able to accomplish this on a consistent basis this season? When asked, even Seidenberg shook his head in disbelief.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We always talk about it, right? But for whatever reason it hasn’t [happened]. We have to hold on to it and keep going from here.”

It also helped the Bruins that Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist returned to action for the first time since Feb. 2 (a span of 25 games).

The Bruins’ Milan Lucic took the first bite, and he went back for seconds.

Lucic scored only 1:41 into the game, when the puck deflected off his skate and past Lundqvist. The play was reviewed, but it was not ruled a distinct kicking motion and the goal was allowed. It was the type of break the Bruins needed, and they capitalized, scoring twice more in the opening frame for a 3-0 first-period lead.

After the game, Lundqvist disagreed with the call on the first goal, and said it gave Boston the early momentum.

“I tried to stop the puck with my foot and didn’t try to kick it. Thankfully the call went our way and right now we’ll take anything we get,” Lucic said.

Unlike many games this season, the Bruins kept pressuring their opponent. Boston executed on its chances. The Bruins gained a 4-0 lead early in the second period on Reilly Smith's goal, and despite a late pushback by the Rangers, Boston finished with the victory.

“Everything kept rolling after we got that break on the first goal,” Lucic said. “It was good to see us step up and play the way that we can play. Right now it’s just continuing to recapture what we had here tonight ... and bring this type of emotion to every game from start to finish.”

There was some concern, however, when starting goaltender Tuukka Rask exited the game only 10 seconds into the second period. But afterward Bruins coach Claude Julien said it was due to dehydration. Backup Niklas Svedberg entered the game, and despite allowing two goals, he finished with 16 saves.

Rask traveled with the team to Carolina and will be ready to play Sunday against the Hurricanes.

“He’s fine,” Julien said.

Watching the Bruins play the way they did against the Rangers makes one wonder why Boston hasn’t played this way for the majority of the season. Sure, there have been injuries to key players, but that should not affect the team’s competitive level.

It’s a good sign for the Bruins that they finally showed some fight, bite and urgency, especially with a postseason berth at stake.

“We were playing with a lot of physicality, a lot of emotion,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “We didn’t get into taking unnecessary penalties or penalties at the wrong time of the game. We were able to control our emotions and play with a lot of the physical part of our game.”

Too many times this season, however, the Bruins have let an effort like Saturday’s go for naught. Boston remains a dangerous team, and if it can somehow earn a playoff berth, it’s possible the Bruins could face the Rangers in the first round.

So often Julien has said in order for the Bruins to be successful their best players have to be at their best. That was the case Saturday, and it needs to continue for another seven games.

“Everybody needs to respond at this point,” Julien said. “Everybody can bring something to the table.”


BOSTON -- Milan Lucic scored twice in the first 10 minutes, Carl Soderberg also scored in the first period, and the Boston Bruins spoiled New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's return after a long layoff with a 4-2 victory over the Rangers on Saturday.

Reilly Smith added a goal for the Bruins, who snapped a six-game winless stretch (0-3-3) and entered the day tied with Ottawa for Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.

Boston goalie Tuukka Rask left the game 10 seconds into the second period after stopping shots 14 shots. There was no announcement why Rask left the game and he didn't return to the bench. Backup Niklas Svedberg made 16 saves in relief.

Lundqvist missed seven weeks after a puck hit his neck. He stopped 26 shots in his return.

Rick Nash scored his team-leading 40th goal for New York and Matt Hunwick scored in the final minute.

(Read full post)

Tuukka Rask exits early in 2nd period

March, 28, 2015
Mar 28

BOSTON -- Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask removed himself from Saturday's 4-2 win versus the New York Rangers, exiting only 10 seconds into the second period.

The Bruins entered the second period with a 3-0 lead, and Rask had made 14 saves in the opening period. After the first whistle of the second period, Rask spoke with the referee and then skated off the ice and went to the locker room.

Bruins coach Claude Julien briefly checked on Rask as backup Niklas Svedberg entered the game.

Rask did not return to the ice, but after the game Julien said it was likely that Rask was dehydrated. Julien added that Rask will travel with team and should be ready for Sunday's game at the Carolina Hurricanes.

"He's fine," Julien said. "It looks like it might have been a case of dehydration, so he's scheduled to travel with us, he's scheduled to be with us and he should be fine for tomorrow."

During the first intermission, Rask wasn't feeling well, but he started the second period. After the first whistle of the period, Rask exited the ice.

"We just found out at the beginning of the second," Julien said. "He went in there and when he came off that's why I went to him said, 'Are you still having those symptoms?' He said, 'Yeah.' So I said, 'Well, let's get you out of here and put Sveddy in' -- who did a good job, by the way."

Svedberg allowed two goals and finished with 16 saves in the final two periods. It was his 18th appearance of the season.

(Read full post)

Bruins-Rangers is biggest game of season

March, 27, 2015
Mar 27

BOSTON -- Summoning the Bill Belichick deep inside him, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters after Friday’s practice, “We’re on to the Rangers.”

After a disappointing 3-2 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks Thursday, Boston will host the New York Rangers in a Saturday matinee at TD Garden. Simply put, this game will determine the Bruins' season.

I know, I know. We’ve talked about benchmark games all season. But since the Bruins are fighting for their postseason lives, and in some cases their jobs, a win over the Eastern Conference’s best team would help Boston regain its confidence as it attempts to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.

“It’s a big game. They’re all big. They’re playing well. We just need to regroup and get ready for them,” said Bruins assistant captain Chris Kelly.

With their convincing 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators Thursday, the Rangers clinched their fifth consecutive playoff berth, and have reached the playoffs in nine of the past 10 seasons. New York (47-19-7, 101 points) also reached the 100-point plateau for the eighth time in team history.

The Rangers arrive in Boston with victories in six consecutive road games and an 11-1-1 record in their past 13 games on opponents’ home ice. Overall, New York is 24-10-2 on the road this season and lead the league with 50 road points.

Goaltending has been key for the Rangers this season. Henrik Lundqvist (25-11-3) could return to the lineup Saturday. He’s been sidelined since Feb. 2 due to a serious vascular injury. In his absence, fellow netminder Cam Talbot has been outstanding, posting a 16-4-3 record in his past 23 games. Overall, he’s 20-8-4 on the season.

If Lundqvist returns against the Bruins, he owns a 21-10-2 record -- with a 1.85 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage -- in 33 career games versus Boston. He’s 9-5-2, with a 1.52 GAA, a .951 SP and three shutouts, in 16 career regular-season games at TD Garden. He’s also allowed two or fewer goals in 12 of those 16 games.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has a 7-4-3, a 1.99 GAA and a .934 SP in 14 career regular-season games against the Rangers.

The Bruins and Senators are tied with 85 points, but Ottawa still has a game in hand. The Florida Panthers remain in the hunt, trailing by only three points. The Senators have the easier matchup Saturday when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Kelly admitted after Thursday’s loss that he and his teammates were watching the out-of-town scores on the video board. Failing to earn a crucial two points Thursday makes Saturday’s game against the Rangers even more important.

“We’re not asking anybody else to do our dirty work right now,” said Julien. “It’s up to us to play and win our games.”

Not only does this game have direct playoff implications, it also could serve as a first-round appetizer. The players will tell you they’re not thinking about the playoffs, that they’re only taking it one game at a time, but Saturday’s game being a possible playoff preview means each team may want to set the tone.

The Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Finals last season and have a good enough team to accomplish that goal again. The Bruins have struggled this season, but if they can earn a postseason berth they have enough ability to be dangerous.

Saturday's game will be the third and final regular-season contest between the teams. Boston defeated New York 3-0 on Jan. 15 at TD Garden, while New York posted a 3-2 win at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 4.

If the Bruins beat the Rangers, it could be a good indication of what to expect from Boston for the remaining seven games of the season. If the Rangers win, then the Bruins could be heading to the offseason, even before it officially begins.


Check out some of the best goals, hits and saves from this week in the NHL, including three stops by stalwart goalies.

BOSTON -- Bruins forward David Krejci was in the lineup Thursday for the first time since Feb. 20, but his two points weren't enough, as the Anaheim Ducks posted a 3-2 overtime victory at TD Garden.

After missing 15 games due to a partially torn MCL in his left knee, Krejci showed no ill effects from his hiatus, recording a pair of assists and logging 19 minutes, 45 seconds of ice time. Afterward, Krejci said he felt fine.

"It always happens when I miss a bunch of games: When you come back, you're a little bit more careful," Krejci said. "But as the game went along, I felt better and better. Hopefully, the next game all I'm going to think about is the game and not going to worry too much about other things."

Instead of having him center the team's top line, Bruins coach Claude Julien decided it would be best for Krejci to play the right wing on the line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

"I enjoyed it," Krejci said of being back in the lineup. "There are things I still have to work on as a winger. It's a little different, but I thought I had a decent game. I know I can do much more … Hopefully, I'll be better on Saturday."

Julien said he was pleased with Krejci's game.

"The guy's missed the first two months of the season and then five weeks just lately," Julien said. "His pace probably isn't where it should be, but he was a good addition to our hockey club tonight."

Thursday marked only Krejci's 39th game of the season. Prior to his recent absence, he also missed 20 games with a lower-body injury.

Asked how he would describe this season, Krejci said, "Tough. But I've got to stick with it, stay positive, believe in myself, believe in this group that we can do it. That's all I can control."

BOSTON -- Just as the 17,565 in attendance Thursday at TD Garden began one of the loudest “Let’s go Bruins” chants of the season, the Anaheim Ducks scored at 3:09 of overtime to beat the Boston Bruins 3-2.

It was another crushing defeat for the Bruins, and despite earning one point, Boston dropped its sixth consecutive game. Fortunately for the Bruins, the New York Rangers defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-1, which means Boston and Ottawa both have 85 points. The Senators, however, have a game in hand on the Bruins.

This loss for Boston is another example of how its entire season can be described.

The Bruins had a 2-1 lead in the final minute of regulation, when the Ducks pulled goaltender Frederik Andersen for the extra attacker. With a faceoff in the Boston end, coach Claude Julien called a timeout. When play resumed, the Ducks’ Corey Perry crashed the net and redirected a shot past Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask with 38.5 seconds remaining in the period to tie the game 2-2.

The building went silent.

In overtime, the Bruins killed off a penalty, and the fans began their chant. It reached a deafening level. Seconds later, Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf beat Rask with a sniper-like shot from the high slot to give Anaheim the victory.

Again, the fans, the Bruins and their coach were stunned with the turn of events.

Afterward, Julien was not pleased the tying goal was allowed. He felt the officials should have called goaltender interference after Perry appeared to make contact with Rask just before the score.

“It’s really disappointing that goal was allowed,” Julien said. “There’s no doubt there’s goalie interference there, and that’s why they talk about reviewing those kinds of goals and coaches challenges because you can’t allow those kinds of goals. This is a big point we lost tonight on a missed call. Those are the things that are hard to swallow right now."

Rask said he didn’t know who collided with him on the equalizer, but he did not get the response he was hoping for when he asked the referee about the play.

“I asked the ref, and he said there was nothing there, so that’s what we go by,” Rask said. “I haven’t seen [the replay] yet, but somebody took my legs out.”

The Bruins have only eight games remaining in the regular season, and assistant captain Chris Kelly admitted he and his teammates were watching the out-of-town scores on the video board and knew the Rangers were beating up on the Senators.

These two points were crucial for the Bruins -- and they couldn’t hold on.

“We don’t play Ottawa again, so we can’t look at what they’re doing,” Kelly said. “We’ve got to focus on playing these eight games because if we don’t come ready to play for our eight games, it doesn’t matter what happens with Ottawa. We’ll be in a tough spot, regardless.”

With the loss, the Bruins are 8-4 in overtime this season. Julien was pleased with how his team responded after Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. On Thursday, the Bruins were seconds from beating the top team in the Western Conference. Instead, the Ducks answered and now have 101 points.

“We played hard,” Julien. “[Anaheim] is a team that scores a lot. [I] thought our checking game was good tonight. We checked well, as far as not giving them much, and we made it the kind of game we need to make it from here on in. We can’t keep giving up four or five goals a game. We’ve got to keep the puck out of our net, and if we do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance, and tonight, in my mind, it should have been a win.”

But it wasn’t.

“Terrible feeling, obviously,” Rask said. “We played a great game. We lost, and it’s a tough one to swallow -- again.”

Maybe Ottawa’s loss will bring the Senators (17-3-2 in their past 22 games) back down to earth for the final stretch. If that’s the case, maybe the Bruins can take advantage and win some games to separate themselves for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Rangers, who clinched the season’s first playoff spot with their win over the Senators, did Boston a favor. The Bruins host the Rangers on Saturday, and Boston needs a better outcome because Ottawa is playing the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs.

Thursday’s loss hurts. Boston’s inability to earn more than just one point could eventually become its downfall if this team does not earn a postseason berth. The Bruins were pleased with their effort, but it wasn’t enough.

“At the end of the day, it’s a loss, right?” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “Overall, it was a pretty good checking game, a solid team effort, but it’s still a loss.”

Getzlaf scores in OT as Ducks rally past Bruins

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26

BOSTON -- Ryan Getzlaf scored 3:09 into overtime to lift the Anaheim Ducks to a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.

Getzlaf, who also assisted on Corey Perry's tying goal late in the third period, beat Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask from the slot with a wrist shot over his shoulder to snap the Ducks' two-game skid.

Perry tied it with 39 seconds remaining in regulation when his shot ricocheted in off a cluster in front of the net. Patrick Maroon also scored for the ducks and Frederik Andersen stopped 27 shots.

Loui Eriksson and Ryan Spooner scored for the Bruins, and David Krejci had two assists in his return to the lineup after missing 15 games with a knee injury. Rask finished with 29 saves.

(Read full post)

BOSTON -- It’s been nearly a month since Brett Connolly arrived in Boston, and he’s inching closer to finally playing in a game for the Bruins.

The team acquired the 22-year-old forward from the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 2 in exchange for a pair of second-round draft picks in 2015 and 2016, but Connolly suffered a fractured right index finger during his second practice with Boston. He required surgery, and with only nine games remaining in the regular season for the Bruins, Connolly hopes to return soon.

“I hope so. I’m not too sure yet. My timetable, I know I’m getting closer and I’m expecting to be back for a few games before the [end] of the regular season, but we’ll see,” Connolly said.

Connolly participated in the team’s morning skate as the Bruins prepare to host the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday at TD Garden.

“It was a good first step today,” he said. “It’s encouraging, obviously. It’s been three weeks, so we’re trying to transition into getting me on the ice and getting me in shape. It’s a step in the right direction.”

Connolly was Tampa’s first-round pick (No. 6 overall) in the 2010 draft, and the Bruins are expecting him to make an impact now and in the future.

Anaheim forward Nate Thompson spent five seasons with the Lightning and watched Connolly develop. Thompson, who also spent some time in the Bruins’ organization early in his career, compared Connolly to former Bruins forward P.J. Axlesson.

“He could be a P.J. Axelsson kind of guy with maybe more of an offensive upside. The Bruins really got a good deal. He’s a good player and a good guy and he’ll fit in well,” Thompson said. “He’s a top-10 pick with a lot of ability, but you can see he’s rounded out his game. He plays a complete game. He plays hard. He’s got a heck of a shot. He finishes his checks. He benefitted by the way Tampa brought him along, letting him develop. He’s going to be a really good NHL player for a long time.”

BOSTON -- Bruins forward David Krejci is considered “probable” to return to the lineup Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks, according to coach Claude Julien.

Krejci participated in the team’s morning skate at TD Garden and will skate in the warmup before a final decision is made.

“If I feel good enough to help the team, I’ll be in,” Krejci said.

He suffered a partially torn MCL in his left knee on Feb. 20 and has missed the last 15 games. Overall, Krejci has played only 38 games this season due to injury.

If he does play Thursday, Krejci will ease his way back into the lineup playing the right wing, along with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

“I’m excited. It’s something new,” Krejci said. “I’m excited to play with Bergy and Marchy. It should be fun and I’m looking forward to it.”

Other than a few games at wing a few seasons ago, Krejci has been a centerman by trade his entire career.

“Probably a little less responsibility for now,” Julien said. “He’s only played half the season and we shouldn’t expect him to be our savior. Who knows how he’s going to react if he plays tonight, or how he’s going to be able to help us out. We don’t know that. When you’ve been out that long, the pace at this time of the year is pretty quick, and by putting him [at wing] probably takes a little pressure off him, as far as having to do all the dirty work down low. We’ll start him off there and see where it goes.”

Krejci has seven goals and 19 assists for 26 points this season.

UPDATE: Krejci did indeed play Thursday night, logging 19 minutes, 45 seconds of ice time and assisting on both Bruins' goals in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

Lack of consistency again haunts Hawks as they fail to make up ground in playoff race

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25


PHILADELPHIA -- As they begin the final phase of the regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks will search for a common element that has plagued them all season: consistency.

The Blackhawks, who entered the Wells Fargo Center here off a 3-1 victory Monday night in Carolina, missed a golden opportunity against the reeling Flyers, who had lost four consecutive games and whose playoff hopes were dimly lit since suffering a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Boston Bruins on March 7.

On top of that, Flyers coach Craig Berube’s future also has recently come under fire, notably as the team spins out of playoff reach.

On Wednesday night against the Blackhawks, however, Philadelphia looked more like the team with playoff aspirations within reach as they dominated play in a 4-1 victory.

[+] Enlarge Marcus Kruger
AP Photo/Matt SlocumIt was a rough turn of events early on for Marcus Kruger and the Blackhawks in Philadelphia, where they fell behind 3-0 in the second period to the reeling Flyers and were sunk. 

It had started out as a special night for Chicago defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who returned to the stage where he played with the Flyers since the 2007-08 season. Timonen was cheered in the pregame introductions, as well as during a video tribute during the opening period. He also received ovations during his early shifts.

On the other hand, the Blackhawks, still in the hunt for the Central Division, wasted an opportunity to gain ground on the second-place Nashville Predators and the first-place St. Louis Blues, who were both idle.

Chicago trails Nashville by four points and St. Louis by five with nine games left to play. It will take a maximum effort to get back to the postseason.

“We play better lately when we have a lead lately,” said Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who had the lone Blackhawks goal. “We obviously have to do better than we did tonight. First and foremost, we have to be operating on all cylinders.

“Tonight wasn’t the effort we expect. We know we have to tighten things. We can still make a run at the division. In our last game, we were able to get out early. Tonight, we couldn’t get going.”

Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds scored his team-high 28th goal of the season and broke a scoreless tie when the Blackhawks had trouble clearing the zone. He took a cross-ice pass from Matt Read and beat Corey Crawford to the stick side at 7:30 of the opening period.

The Flyers made it 2-0 when Ryan White redirected Carlo Colaiacovo’s slapper from the point past Crawford’s stick side at 6:09 of the second period. Philadelphia added its second goal of the third period when Claude Giroux tapped Jakub Voracek’s shot from the right faceoff circle past Crawford at 13:58 to make it 3-0.

Andrew Shaw got the Blackhawks on the board when he scored his 13th of the season tapped in Duncan Keith’s slapper from the top of the slot past Steve Mason’s stick side on the power play at 2:24 of the final period. Chicago scored just 14 seconds into the penalty.

Philadelphia sealed the contest when Michael Raffl fired a wrist shot between Crawford’s legs on the power play that made it 4-1 at 15:55.

Chicago did outshoot the Flyers 34-33. On Monday night, they were outshot 44-24 in a victory.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quennville lately has been juggling his lineup in an effort to add some scoring punch. Left wing Bryan Bickell and defenseman Teuvo Teravainen against the Flyers were healthy scratches and were replaced by Andrew Desjardins and Daniel Carcillo.

The Blackhawks have scored five goals in their past four games after scoring 12 during the previous three games. Chicago will continue to look for scoring options to replace injured Patrick Kane, who has a team-high 64 points and has missed the past 12 games with a fractured clavicle.

“We’re looking for some energy,” Quennville said. “We’re just trying to put the best lineup out there, that’s all. There isn’t anything else to it. We missed an opportunity tonight. We gave up a couple of goals that hurt us.

“We need consistent scoring options right now. A team like Philadelphia tonight was a dangerous team. They were struggling and came right at us. We need to focus on what we can do well over the next few weeks.”

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is disappointed with recent results.

"Our last few efforts haven’t been good enough,” Toews said. “Goaltenders are keeping us alive, and it could’ve been worse than it was tonight. It has been a tough stretch. We haven’t played well on this road trip. As a group, we’ll figure out what’s going on and what we have to do better.

“We have to do to get everyone firing and all four lines engaged, get that energy and enthusiasm back, like we did before this road trip. Once we figure that out, just take it one game at a time and get back to how we were playing before that.”

Timonen, 40, who joined the club a month ago and has contributed sparingly, was moved by his former fans’ support.

“I had some good memories tonight in this building,” he said. “It was cool, and the fans have always been great. But it was hard for us tonight, and we have to work to chance that soon.”

Todd McLellan, Mike Babcock and Paul MacLeanDave Reginek/Getty ImagesThe offseason could turn into a game of musical chairs for head coaches with Todd McLellan, Mike Babcock and Paul MacLean possibly getting hired by new teams.

The July 1 unrestricted free agent player pool this year leaves you quite cold, but luckily there should be action behind the bench that livens up the NHL offseason like rarely before.

This has the potential to be, quite frankly, one of the most intriguing and dramatic offseasons in the NHL coaching world in quite some time.

Let’s take a tour, shall we?

The San Jose Sharks will very likely miss the postseason for the first time since 2002-03. Todd McLellan has been head coach for seven seasons and the question is whether he pays the price for the team’s decline, even though the club is undergoing a very public, rebuild-on-the-fly transition. He’s got one more season left on his deal.

If McLellan is fired, he’d be a hot commodity on the open market. My sense is the Toronto Maple Leafs are among the teams that like him a lot. But the list would not be short in that regard. This guy is one of the very best coaches in the league. He’s a great hire if he indeed becomes free.

McLellan went to San Jose from Detroit in June 2008 after helping Mike Babcock coach the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup that spring. Babcock’s future, of course, looms large over the entire off-season coaching carousel. The game’s biggest pending UFA coach plans to decide after the season what he’s going to do -- re-sign with the Detroit Red Wings or hit the market for a bigger payday.

The question is whether Babcock has seen enough of the impressive next-generation core of the Red Wings this season to convince him to stay, albeit for less money than what he could make in a place like Toronto. Or Philadelphia? Or Buffalo? Or elsewhere?

The Wings will make a very good offer. His decision, either way, will have a domino effect.

The Boston Bruins are sitting out of a playoff spot as I write this and that can’t be good for head coach Claude Julien, at least if you go by the veiled hints made this season by the owner’s son Charlie Jacobs and team president Cam Neely. It seems crazy to me that Julien, one of the game’s most respected coaches and the guy who guided the Bruins to 2011 glory, could be fired. But that’s the feeling you get from the vibes coming out of Boston. And if he hits the market, holy moly, that’s another huge fish.

Media in Philadelphia over the past few days have deliberated over Craig Berube’s future as coach of the Philadelphia Flyers and have speculated that he might be in danger of being fired. General manager Ron Hextall, after all, hasn’t had the chance to hire his own coach yet. The Flyers’ job would be a plum opening for sure, the kind of big-market job most coaches salivate over.

Which brings us to Toronto, of course, where the Maple Leafs will need a new head coach. Whether it’s Babcock or McLellan or whomever, it’s doubtful it won’t be a marquee name. But the next Leafs coach also will know when he signs on the dotted line that there’s a long-term rebuild that he’s going to have to weather.

Does Dave Tippett stay with the Arizona Coyotes? He’s under contract for three more seasons and loves the Phoenix area where he’s built a home, but I don’t think he’s interested in a long, long rebuild. He needs to know that the plan is to win sooner rather than later. At least that’s my sense. If he somehow became free, he’d be in high demand. But perhaps he stays put.

It’s long been rumored that Ted Nolan could be fired at season’s end by the rebuilding Buffalo Sabres as GM Tim Murray gets to hire his first coach. There have been rumors about whether Murray likes Luke Richardson as his next guy given his former ties to the Ottawa Senators organization. But who knows if Richardson even wants to leave his AHL gig. He's said to be very happy there.

But you also have to ask yourself after seeing Sabres owner Terry Pegula shell out big bucks to lure Rex Ryan to coach his football team whether the Sabres wouldn’t want to take a similar approach with the hockey team’s coaching position -- Babcock, for example. Keep in mind that Murray had a hand in giving Babcock his first NHL coaching job in Anaheim way back.

Will the Edmonton Oilers keep interim coach Todd Nelson on board? The team has responded well to him, the players seem to like him, the power play is better and heck, Nail Yakupov is better under him. Rival scouts say the Oilers have better structure under Nelson. But can the Oilers really afford to name a first-time head coach for the third time in a row after Dallas Eakins and Ralph Krueger?

Mind you, they should have never fired Krueger. Krueger is a good coach and he was on to something with that young Oilers team.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has to figure out his bench, too, as in not standing behind it next season and deciding either between co-coaches Adam Oates and Scott Stevens or looking elsewhere. Reached Wednesday, Lamoriello simply told ESPN.com he would make a coaching decision after the season.

First-round playoff exits could also prove costly, as they often do. I can’t imagine Bruce Boudreau can afford to lose early with the Anaheim Ducks and there are some who wonder what happens if Ken Hitchcock doesn’t get the St. Louis Blues out of the first round. (As an aside, how good a fit would Hitchcock be in his native Edmonton to teach the Oilers?)

Boudreau and Hitchcock would potentially be two other big names on the market, although I hope they have long playoff runs and they stay in place instead.

Let’s not forget that there are free agents already out there, the likes of Peter DeBoer, Dan Bylsma, Randy Carlyle, Paul MacLean, Ron Wilson, John Tortorella et al.

And another wild-card to all this: Who gets Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel? The draft lottery in April could have a big impact on how certain coaching jobs look to candidates. So in many ways, perhaps the draft lottery is the biggest domino factor of all.

Buckle up, this is shaping up to be the summer of the coach.