Bruins

Bruins-Hurricanes preview: B's looking to reverse the tide

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Bruins-Hurricanes preview: B's looking to reverse the tide

RALEIGH, NC The Bruins have been reminded of last years putrid performances against the Carolina Hurricanes over the past few days, so it should go without saying that theyll come out with a purpose at PNC Arena on Monday night.

The Canes outscored them by a 14-5 margin during a four-game regular season sweep last year that can only be described as a royal butt-kicking, no matter how the numbers are broken down. Sure the players that did most of the damage against the Bruins wont be suiting up for Carolina, this time around (Anthony Stewart and Brandon Sutter were both traded and Tuomo Ruutu is gone for the season after hip surgery), but the Hurricanes can still do some damage against the Bruins.

Its a pretty important game for us, said Bruins coach Claude Julien. This is a team that gave us a fair share of trouble last year and they improved their roster. Theyve won their last couple of games, so its going to be a challenge for us. There are certain teams that give other teams trouble. Theyre a four-man attack team and they always have a D up on the rush.

We havent played our best against them, and theyve played some very good games against us. Its one of those things where we want to get that win against them as quick as we can, so we can get the monkey off our back.

Of the returning players, Eric Staal scored three goals in the four games against the Black and Gold and will team with brother Jordan Staal, Alex Semin and Jeff Skinner to form a formidable offensive attack. The Bruins will be looking to protect Anton Khudobin in his first start of the season; he sat for the first nine days of the NHL season waiting for Tuukka Rask to take a breather.

Theres no doubting the Hurricanes played inspired hockey in the second half of last season once Kirk Muller took the coaching reigns and theyll be smack in the middle of a wide-open Southeast Division as both Florida and Washington have stumbled out of the starting box. The challenge for the Bruins will be not looking past them to a home date against the reigning Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils tomorrow night at TD Garden.

But Juliens reminders about last years four-game drubbing at the hands of Carolina certainly shouldnt have fallen on deaf ears as they ready for the first end of their first back-to-back games in the compressed NHL schedule.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Tyler Seguin has 11 shots on net in four games and has had a handful of good scoring opportunities, but is looking for his first NHL goal this season after potting 25 in 29 games while in Switzerland. Bruins officials believe that part of Seguins goal-scoring drought is attributed to the readjustment to the smaller rinks in North America, and the aggressive defenses that go right along with it.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Their record against us last year is something were well aware of and were going into the game well-prepared. They come at the net hard, they open up a lot and we havent been at our best against that kind of a team. We just havent been as prudent playing against a team like that. We need to take away their shots from the point and make sure we clear away any traffic from the front of the net.
Claude Julien, speaking about a Carolina Hurricanes club that dominated the Bs in four regular season meetings last year.

KEY MATCHUP: The Carolina Hurricanes are fresh off a 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres where Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner both tallied power play goals for a young and hungry 'Canes team. Until the Bs power play gets moving, theyll need to continue to hold down the other teams PP unit as theyve done while going a perfect 14-for-14 on the penalty kill this season. That will be a stiff challenge for killers like Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk as they look to hold down the Carolina man advantage featuring the Staal Brothers, Semin and Skinner in a potent attack. They only currently rank 23rd in the NHL currently, but it looks like the Canes PP is trending upward.

STAT TO WATCH: .965 the save percentage for Carolina goaltender Cam Ward last season in four very good games between the pipes against the Bruins while going 4-0 against them.

INJURIES: Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is expected to miss the season and be placed on long term injured reserve. Dennis Seidenberg (lower body injury) returned to the lineup against the Islanders Friday, and said felt fine after skating 18-plus minutes in the win. Carolina forward Tuomo Ruutu (hip) -- a noted Bruins killer in the past -- is likely to miss the entire regular season.

GOALTENDING MATCHUP: Anton Khudobin is largely an unknown to Bruins Nation with only last years 44-save masterpiece against the Ottawa Senators at the end of last season to use as a frame of reference. But the 26-year-old Khudobin does hold outstanding numbers overall with a 5-1 record, a .961 save percentage and a 1.32 goals against average in seven career NHL games between the Bruins and the Minnesota Wild. For the Hurricanes, Cam Ward will look to build on an excellent career body of work against the Black and Gold that includes a seven-game playoff series win against them for years ago and a 4-0 record with a .965 save percentage and a 1.25 goals against average in the regular season domination. It could be exactly what Ward needs as hes struggled out of the gate thus far for Carolina.

Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

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Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

The entire concept of Tuukka Rask getting pushed by one of his backups is based on the backup consistently performing at a high standard, and that wasn’t the case for Anton Khudobin over the weekend.

Just as it isn’t solely the fault of Rask when the Bruins lose, it wasn’t solely the fault of Khudobin that Boston squandered leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in an overtime loss to Buffalo on Saturday night. But Khudobin couldn’t step up and carry the B's when they clearly started losing their edge in the second half of the game, and that inconsistency will certainly make the Bruins pine for a sooner-rather-than-later return of a concussed Rask.

“Erratic,” said coach Bruce Cassidy when asked to describe Khudobin postgame. “He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. He certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him. But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.”

It was certainly too much to expect Khudobin to be perfect, but they just needed him to be good enough to pull them through while they were getting waylaid in the second half of the game. That proved to be a major challenge, given the players the Bruins are missing and the extremely rough night suffered by Torey Krug (minus-3 on Saturday night, and minus-8 for the season). Khudobin finished with 37 stops as a defense corps without Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller wilted in the third period and the overtime, but he couldn’t make the clean saves for whistles when the team really needed them. Case in point was a Rasmus Ristolainen tester in overtime while the Bruins were in the midst of being outshot by a 6-0 margin in the extra session. Khudobin got a glove on it but couldn’t cleanly catch it for a badly needed stoppage in play at a time when Krug, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand had been caught on the ice for over two minutes.

"The start was great, and the game was great until we scored the fourth goal, and I think after that, we thought it was an easy game,” said Khudobin. “[The high volume of shots] wasn’t that much difficult, I like shots, like probably every other goalie, but they were crashing the net. They were going hard. There were a lot of deflections, a lot of rebounds, a lot of scrums in front of the net, which were . . .that’s the dangerous part, not just the shots.”

Khudobin, 31, has taken five of a possible six points in the games he's played this season and is off to a solid start with a 2-0-1 record, a 2.98 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. He looks like he’s going to be a perfectly fine backup, enabling the Bruins to hold Rask to the 55-60 games they’ve forecasted for his peak performance this season.

But Saturday night was a major blow to any hopes that Rask would be pushed competitively by his backup, and that a Khudobin hot streak could spark a slow-starting, and now injured, Rask when he does return.

Instead the Bruins are left to hope they can survive while missing Rask along with a number of other key players, and that the goalie returns sooner than later to a team that can’t survive too many morale-crushing defeats like the choke job against the lowly Sabres.

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Morning Skate: 'After Hours'? Injured Jagr is open

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Morning Skate: 'After Hours'? Injured Jagr is open

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering if it shouldn’t be more of an issue that potential Red Sox manager Alex Cora was good buddies with Dustin Pedroia when the two played together in Boston.

*Jaromir Jagr suffers a lower-body injury and then goes on Hockey Night in Canada’s “After Hours” program to show once again how wonderful it is to be “The Jagr.”

*The Ottawa Senators get Erik Karlsson back this week, but now they’ve lost power forward Bobby Ryan for a month with a broken finger.

*The Montreal Canadiens are getting exposed for the very flawed team that they are during a brutal start to the 2017-18 season.

*Keep an eye out on the Los Angeles Kings now that they’ve suffered an injury with Jeff Carter and do appear to be in the running for the playoffs this season.

*New Jersey Devils fans help a singer belt out the national anthem after there might have been a case of forgetting the words.

*Doug Gilmour might not have always enjoyed the prying eyes while playing in Toronto, a case that gives you an idea what it’s like to be a pro hockey player in a market like Toronto where everybody knows your name.

*For something completely different: There’s no doubting that Aaron Judge has brought life and energy back to the Yankees and that’s something that’s very good for baseball.