Bruins

Bergeron, Crosby ready for tough matchup

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Bergeron, Crosby ready for tough matchup

PITTSBURGH The Bruins will get their first look at Sidney Crosby and the Penguins this season tonight at CONSOL Energy Center, and its a matchup both Crosby and buddy Patrice Bergeron have been looking forward to.

Crosby and Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury caught up with Bergeron on their way out of the building as Bergeron rode the stationary bike following Monday morning skate, but it will be all business when both centers suit up tonight with Eastern Conference supremacy on the line.

Im very happy for him that hes back and feeling good, Bergeron said of Crosby, who recently made his return to the ice from a concussion. Playing Pittsburgh you always think about Sid. I know it makes them a better team obviously, but hes a great guy and he deserves to be feeling 100 percent.

Crosby has 12 points in seven games since his return, and hell be counted on for additional support now that puck-moving defenseman Kris Letang has been knocked out indefinitely with a concussion stemming from the Max Pacioretty blindside hit.

The two top teams, you always get up for these games," Crosby said. "You look at it as more of a test. Obviously theyre Stanley Cup champions, and you look for those matchups and those games within the game.

Theyre pretty defensive. They play a team game. Their discipline and confidence in the way they play stands out. When you have success winning previously, you have confidence that youre going to win with that way again. Any good or successful team is going to have that.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma sees a team in the Bruins that are playing with a little more offensive bent than they were previously known for, but the Bs have been top five in offensive production over the last two years. So its not a new development rather than everyone around the league stepping up and taking notice that the Bruins can feature a bruising, overpowering puck possession game to go along with sound defense and elite goaltending.

Clearly their record stands for itself. They have not lost a regulation game in their last (14). Theyve been playing very good hockey and what Ive seen from them in the last 10 games is maybe the best hockey in the league, said Bylsma. They are very sound structurally and getting great efforts throughout their lineup. Theyre a good opponent. Im expecting a very physical game. They spend an awful lot of time in the offensive zone and theyre very good in that regard. They really grind teams down in the offensive zone.

Those grinding, physical qualities are things both the Bs and the Penguins have in common, and its that kind of even matchup that will force marquee guys like Crosby and Bergeron to step up tonight on the big stage.

Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

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Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

BRIGHTON -- Tuukka Rask is quickly making his way through the concussion protocol and may return to action this weekend.

The Bruins netminder skated with the other injured players ahead of Monday’s main team practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and is on track to rejoin the team at regular practice on Tuesday barring any setbacks in his concussion recovery. That would leave Rask with just a couple of games missed after getting trucked by Anders Bjork at practice last week, and it would give the Bruins back their No. 1 goaltender after Anton Khudobin let in five goals vs. the Sabres on Thursday night.

“He’s in the protocol and progressing well,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’ll probably join us [on Tuesday] for the next step if there are no ill effects from today. That’s a positive. If there are no setbacks, I think Saturday is a more realistic [timetable for a return].”

The hope would be that Rask could start elevating his game when he does return, and play better than the goalie that’s posted the 1-3-0 record, 3.30 goals against average and .882 save percentage thus far this season. But first things first with the recovery to his first career concussion as an NHL goalie, and the set of hurdles that must be passed before Rask is again allowed to jump back into game action as early as this weekend.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Bruins practice with Rask, David Krejci and Noel Acciari all skating prior to practice, Patrice Bergeron staying off ice with a maintenance day and Kevan Miller skating in main practice with a maroon, no-contact jersey:

Marchand-Schaller-Bjork
DeBrusk-Backes-Pastrnak
Agostino-Nash-White
Beleskey-Kuraly-Vatrano

Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Miller-Postma

Khudobin

Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

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Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

BRIGHTON -- Injuries, and some really tough losses, have put a bit of a damper on the start to the Bruins season. But there've also been a couple of unquestioned bright spots.

And one of them is Tim Schaller, who's been a strong, consistent performer in the first couple of weeks of the season. The New Hampshire native -- and lifelong Bruins fan -- was penciled in as a fourth-line winger throughout most of training camp, but he’s played everywhere as injuries have ravaged the B's roster.

The high point was probably centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak (and notching an assist) in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Sabres, and filling in for a late-scratched David Krejci with a very different set of skills. Certainly he’s been a standout for the Bruins with his physicality, including stepping up and fighting man mountain Erik Gudbranson after Gudbranson's nasty boarding hit on Frank Vatrano last week, and he’s also kicked in a couple of goals and three points in seven games thus far this season.

“It’s a reactionary thing, and that’s just in a person,” said Bruce Cassidy of fighting Gudbranson. “It’s a character thing because you don’t have a lot of time to think about it. Good for Timmy. That earns a lot of street cred not only in your own locker room, but the other teams notice it. too.

"We know with the goals that he can obviously chip in [offensively] and he’s doing a great job for what we’re asking him to do. He’s probably going to take ownership if he’s out there with some young guys on a line, and if he can be a leader and get that line playing the right way every night that is very valuable to us.”

Schaller’s game to this point is a continuation of what he showed in his first season with the Bruins last year, when the 26-year-old posted 7 goals and 14 points in 59 games while becoming a staple in Boston’s bottom-6 group. He’s once again shown pretty good straight-ahead speed for a big man, and a willingness to take his 6-foot-2, 219-pound frame straight to the net.

“I’ve been moving well and I’ve got the two goals, so personally I’m happy [with my game],” said Schaller. “Hopefully others can feed off what I’m trying to do out there, and we get a more well-balanced game [as a team]. I had a good season last year, and what was really good was that I knew that I had more to give. That’s what I’m trying to do this season.

“I can obviously produce more. I had a good start to last season and then I kind of fell off a little bit. So hopefully I can be a little more consistent for this entire year.”

That would be a very good thing for a Bruins team that can use him in a bottom-6 energy role when its roster is healthy, and will fully utilize his versatility in times of injuries and adversity.