Bruins

Boyes makes statement with game-winner

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Boyes makes statement with game-winner

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli traded Brad Boyes to the St. Louis Blues at the 2007 trade deadline. In return, the B's brought in puck-moving defenseman Dennis Wideman.

At the time, Chiarelli explained his thought process: "I'd like to think that our defense will be a better puck-moving unit now. That's really going to help our chances."

Similar words were spoken at this year's trade deadline, with the acquisition of veteran puck-moving defenseman Tomas Kaberle.

But on Thursday night at the TD Garden, it was Boyes who proved his offensive qualities to be more important -- in this game at least.

Boyes knocked home the game-winning goal with 1:16 left to play in overtime, giving the Sabres a 4-3 win over Boston. It was his sixth game with Buffalo, after being traded from the Blues for a second-round pick at last month's trade deadline.

He made an immediate impact in the division race as he skated hard to the net, and finished a Nathan Gerbe pass from the lower-left circle, after Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was caught too far out of the net, after taking Gerbe's initial shot off the shoulder.

"I figured I'd follow Gerbe in there and see what he's got," said Boyes. "He made a great play. Most of it was effort. With Timmy Thomas coming out like that, it was an easy tip-in for me."

In essence, Kaberle is this team's new Wideman, proving he can fill the "puck-moving" role on the blue line. And in the moments leading up to Boyes' game-winner, it was Kaberle's defense -- or lack thereof -- that allowed Gerbe to not only get an easy shot off from the high slot, but also allowed him to make Kaberle look like a turn-style, beating him to the loose rebound, and finding a wide-open Boyes at the right post.

It marked Boyes' third goal with his new team. And it was a big one, as it kept the Sabres in the hunt for one of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spots.

It was also fitting that it came against his old team, at the expense of some poor defense from a puck-moving defenseman, which was the type of player Boyes was traded for.

"I've had some great memories here," said Boyes after the game. "I loved playing here. It was a lot of fun. So you want to come back, and you want to do those things. I've been on a few teams, and any time you play an old team, there's that little extra bit, that, you want to make sure that they made a mistake, kind of getting rid of you. Again, that was a while ago. But you still have that extra jump, that sense of excitement."

Boyes played 142 total regular-season games with the Bruins before he was traded more than halfway through his second year in Boston.

He scored 26 goals in 82 games in 2005-06, and had 13 goals in 62 games with the B's prior to the trade to St. Louis.

The following season -- his first full year with the Blues -- Boyes scored a career-high 43 goals. The year after that, he scored 33.

Since then, Boyes' numbers have dropped. Last season, he scored only 14 goals in 82 games, while having only 12 goals in 62 games this season, before being traded to the potentially playoff-bound Sabres.

Thursday night's overtime game-winner marked his 15th goal of the year. While it was special to score against the team that once traded him, Boyes was happier to help the Sabres get two points, putting them in seventh place in the East, with 74 points.

"There is always that extra little bit, but to be honest, it's been a while since I've been back," said Boyes on playing in Boston. "You want to score and go hard against all teams. There are a lot of different faces over there.

"The biggest thing is, you can't stress how important it is to get that extra point. Those other things are great, and I'll take them. But that point is so valuable right now.

"I enjoy it here," said Boyes about his new home in Buffalo. "I think it's been a good move. I'm excited. When I came over here, that was my thought, just being excited, and getting back to what I enjoy doing, scoring goals, winning games, and things like that. That's what I'm trying to do."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Rask out tonight as he recovers from practice collision

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Rask out tonight as he recovers from practice collision

BRIGHTON, Mass – The string of injuries for the Bruins continues as Tuukka Rask (upper body) is out for tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden after getting trucked by Anders Bjork in practice Wednesday.

Rask was wobbly-legged while being helped off the ice after the violent collision and the 21-year-old Bjork looked like he’d also needed a couple of stitches on his chin after bloodying his practice jersey.

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The big concern is Rask still being evaluated by Bruins medical personnel for a possible concussion. It will be Anton Khudobin stepping in place for him against the Canucks with Providence Bruins netminder Zane McIntyre serving as his backup.

“Tuukka is out tonight. He’s going to get reevaluated today and we’ll have a better idea tomorrow,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Anton will start [against the Canucks].”

Clearly, Khudobin didn’t like seeing his goaltending partner get drilled in a spirited practice, but the 32-year-old is clearly feeling confident after a strong camp and a winning season debut last week against the Arizona Coyotes.

“You don’t want to see that, but at the same time we’ve got to keep moving forward and hopefully he’s going to get better soon,” said Khudobin, who stopped 29-of-31 shots in the win over Arizona last weekend. “I feel good. Camp was good and everything is fine, and I’ve started better than last year. My role is just day-to-day. Today is a game day and hopefully, you get a good result, and then tomorrow is another new day.”

Otherwise, it looks like the Bruins will at least be getting some of their healthy bodies back with David Backes in the lineup and Patrice Bergeron a game-time decision against the Canucks. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on Wednesday’s practice:

Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork
DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak
Schaller-Kuraly-Backes
Beleskey-Nash-Agostino
 
Chara-McAvoy
Miller-Carlo
Krug-McQuaid

Khudobin 

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Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

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Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

BRIGHTON, Mass – It would appear that Bruce Cassidy is ready to start shuffling the deck up front after a slow start to the season.

With the Bruins ranking among the league’s worst both offensively and defensively just a handful of games into the season, they are both introducing a few new forwards to the mix while hoping for full health to a couple of other ones. 

First off, the Bruins appear that they might get David Backes back for Thursday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after his bout with diverticulitis, supplying some badly needed size, strength and net-front tenacity on the wing. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) might not be too far behind after going through a full practice wearing a no-contact jersey. The return of No. 37 would help in any number of different areas once he’s good to go, and would have a cascade effect on the rest of the forwards.  

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Getting both players back in short order would give the Bruins a toughness around the net that was certainly missing against Malcolm Subban and the Golden Knights, and hasn’t been there consistently this season with No. 37 and No. 42 out of commission.

“[Bergeron] is progressing. In the past we’ve ruled him out ahead of time, but we’re not ruling him out for [Thursday vs. the Canucks]. Backes looks closer to being ready to play,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Some of the games that have gotten away from us, those guys are glue guys that really add that element to us to keep us on the rails without the game getting away. Some nights you just need their offense or some hard defending, and you miss their leadership obviously. They’re all good players, but most of them you know they’re bringing that North/South game and a few good shifts here or there could have got us back on track.

“[Bergeron] is underrated in his ability to get to the front of the net especially with Marchand and Pastrnak on his wings. So we miss that part of it: Getting there on time, making plays and finishing off plays. Backes is just a big body there and you certainly miss that part of it. With Vegas the other night that was one of the biggest things we were missing was getting second chances, shooting for second chances, hitting the net and getting those rebound chances against a team that was harder to get inside on.

A few moves on Wednesday might also suggest some on-the-fly changes with some forwards that haven’t been working out with the Black and Gold. Ryan Spooner suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday night against Vegas, and it sounds like it might not be a short-term injury for the center with just one point in his first five games. Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano also haven’t produced much in the first couple of weeks of the season, and could be in danger of losing roster spots to Providence call-ups Kenny Agostino and Peter Cehlarik.  

Both players were late cuts from training camp and were showing the blend of size, strength, skill, experience and production that Boston needs more of as they search for answers among their forward group. Beleskey, Spooner and Vatrano have combined for one point, a minus-6 rating and just 12 shots on net in a combined 14 games this season, so clearly that is one of the first spots to look for upgrading the roster from within.

“[A tryout period] is a good way to put it. We talked about that in training camp when we had a long look at guys, but not Cehlarik because he didn’t get a chance to play [because of shoulder surgery]. He obviously piqued our interest last year and did a lot of good things for us,” said Cassidy, who has been in a state of constant flux putting forward lines together due to injury and ineffectiveness. “We just went in a different direction at the trade deadline, but we brought him up to give him a look. We have a decision tomorrow and I’m not going to say whether [Cehlarik] is in or out.

“He’s really played well in Providence, and we just thought he might be able to help us. Some of it may depend on the health of the other guys as far as who’s in and who’s out. If both Cehlarik and Agostino are both in the lineup there’s a chance [they might play together]. They were with [Riley] Nash today in the middle, and he has some of the same qualities as JFK down in Providence. But until we sort through who’s in for tomorrow, and that starts at the top with Bergeron and Backes, then stuff will fall into place for all of them.”

Depending on how Don Sweeney plays with his 23-roster spots, perhaps the time has come to put one of those players on waivers for a trip to the AHL. Simply based on merit it would be Vatrano and the total nothingness he’s shown in his first four games this season, but there would also be a legitimate concern they’d lose the 23-year-old Massachusetts native on waivers for nothing.

For their part, players like Agostino and Cehlarik ripped up the AHL while teamed with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson in Providence, and were just looking for their chance to carve out a role in Boston. Now they may get their chance based on others not really grasping their opportunity, and they’re ready if that’s the case.

“It’s encouraging for me, but I’m just taking things day-by-day. I’m not looking past anything and I’m looking in the past. I just take things as they come here,” said Agostino, who leads the Bruins two goals and seven points in three games thus far. “This isn’t my first time [up at the NHL], so I’m just going to do whatever I can to make the best impression possible.”

What if Agostino and Cehlarik, a career AHL player and a former third-round pick, can’t make the impact that the Bruins are looking for?

Hopefully by then the Bruins will at least have their top two lines healthy and firing on all cylinders, and can continue to mix and match things in the bottom six until they find a combination of forwards that work. But it may come to a point where the Bruins need to look outside the organization for an impact forward or two, or at least find somebody that can make an impact on the ice rather than will themselves invisible.

Only Beleskey has been at all effective this season as he’s dropped the gloves and played physical at times, and certainly can still be an effective third or fourth liner with the right players skating alongside him. For those reasons along with the massive contract money still owed him, Beleskey should be given every opportunity to succeed in Boston. But one thing is clear at this point: There is too much dead weight on the Bruins roster right now at the forward position, and something needs to be done about it if they hope to pull themselves out of their early-season funk.   

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