Bruins

Boychuk delivers against Blackhawks

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Boychuk delivers against Blackhawks

CHICAGO Johnny Boychuk has always prided himself on being a big game player, and he brought his entire arsenal to the table in an early season must-have game against the Blackhawks in their anthem-cheering barn.

So it probably shouldnt be much of a surprise that Boychuk manned up against the Blackhawks, and put on an active, physical, offensive effective delivery of his defenseman skills in the Bs 3-2 shootout victory Saturday night at the United Center. Boychuk doled out a team-high six hits of punishment including a standup job on Jonathan Toews in the second period that sent the message.

We knew that we needed at least a split on the road trip . . . It wasnt the greatest first period in the world, but we battled back to make sure we got the win, said Boychuk. I thought our game went exactly the way we wanted it to after the first period. We didnt do anything fancy. Just made the simple plays and made sure to get the puck in deep and onto the net.

Even better: Boychuk set up Nathan Hortons game-tying goal in the third period that pushed overtime and the shootout, and found a way to blend all his hockey potential into 21:48 of vintage performance.

It was Boychuks best game of the season and a perfect time for each member of the defense corps to step up their game with the transitional skill and dangerous scorers that Chicago was throwing at them.

He had a great game tonight. Johnny was a really good player for us, said coach Claude Julien. It was fitting that he set up that tying goal because he was one of many that we really felt like picked up his game tonight.

Most interesting of all was that Boychuks game didnt shoot up to optimum levels until he thought hed broken his right arm following a hit in the corner of the defensive zone by Daniel Carcillo.

Boychuks arm was pinned against the boards and Carcillo crashed right into with excruciating force, and then the defenseman had his right arm caught with a Duncan Keith slap shot from the right point. He skated off the ice in the first period following the shift whole holding his right arm precariously, but came right back like a man possessed for the rest of the game.

His active stick and skates were poking pucks away and breaking up passes through the evening, Boychuk kept his feet moving and then finally made the play that helped win the game midway through the third. The Bs defenseman was simply going to dump the puck in the offensive zone, but then saw that he had the corner on his Chicago defender and simply carried through behind the Chicago net.

I just wanted to get it in deep, but once I knew I had him beat I just wanted to get the puck, said Boychuk. I saw Horton and went around the net to get the puck to him he knew where to put it.

One wouldnt be blamed if they thought Boychuk was a power forward winger simply driving toward the net, and working perfectly in tandem with Tyler Seguin and Horton on the play.

He played really well tonight. I thought Boychuk was my winger for a second there when I saw going on with the puck, said Seguin. I thought it was Horton, but obviously Horton ended up shooting the puck.

Boychuk find Horton waiting all alone in front and fed him a perfect pass from behind the net for a one-time wrist shot that tied the game at 2-2 and effectively earned Boston at least one needed point amid swirling chatter of Stanley Cup hangovers and crippling starts to the season.

Kudos clearly should go to big money players like Tim Thomas, Seguin, Chris Kelly and Dennis Seidenberg for similarly upping their games in a time of need, but it was Boychuk really helped set the tone for a must win over the Blackhawks only five games into the season.

Its time for Boychuk to bottle that kind of effort and save it because the Bruins will need much more of it before the year is over.

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.