Bruins

Bruins identify needs as trade deadline approaches

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Bruins identify needs as trade deadline approaches

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON, Mass. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has pinpointed needs on his hockey club he hopes to address before the NHL trade deadline comes to pass on Feb. 28.

But a couple of things are making things difficult for Chiarelli with slightly more than three weeks leading up to that deadline. First is the fact that one of the needs identified by the hockey club manager is that of a top-four defenseman able to relieve some pressure on a 22-year-old youngster like Steve Kampfer thats playing upwards of 20 minutes a night with plenty of pressure on his shoulders.

Not to mention getting some Andrew Ference insurance. Ference has been outstanding this season while playing solid, reliable, spirited hockey from his defenseman position and posting 9 points and a plus-19 in 49 games.

The problem: Ference has already played 49 games this season in a relatively healthy year, but hasnt played more than 59 games in any of the last three seasons while battling through groin and hernia issues among other assorted aches and pains.

An NHL general manager cant simply expect that a 22-year-old rookie is going to sail through his first stretch run and playoff experience without a few moguls on the mountain, and shouldnt expect Ference to make it through the next 30 games and playoffs without something cropping up health-wise.

That means the Bruins need to add another defenseman to the mix moving forward, and Chiarelli said as much while chatting with the media following practice at Ristuccia Arena on Friday afternoon.

Id like to try and get a defenseman that could help our group, said Chiarelli. I think our defense has played very well, but were trying to ease some of the minutes off of our players.

Theres clear and obvious Bruins interest in defensemen like Sergei Gonchar and Tomas Kaberle given their skill sets as puck-moving defensemen and their availability while playing on God-awful NHL teams. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen is another player that would fit in nicely with the Bs should be exposed to the trade market this month.

Both all of those players come with their own issues, however. Kaberle hasnt played a relevant NHL game in years, and some believe that the puck-moving blueliner is content to the point of dulling his competitive edge. Gonchar is a 35-year-old defenseman with two years at big money left on his contract, and any club taking him on is assuming all of the risk that goes along with it.

Theres a good chance Pitkanen wont ever make it to market as the Hurricanes catch up to the Thrashers in the Eastern Conference, and potentially push themselves into the playoff conversation.

But Chiarelli said that he expected any deal for a defensemen to be consummated with a Western Conference team, which really is at odds with the whispers that the Bruins were highly interested in Senators blueliner Chris Phillips.

Chiarelli called the market tight at this point in the month of February as so many Western Conference teams are still in striking distance of a playoff spot with 30 games or so remaining in the season and only four points separates the fifth place through 12th place teams out West.

That means there arent many sellers aside from the Edmonton Oilers, the Columbus Blue Jackets and perhaps the Blues now that injuries have slashes their season into ribbons.

Were not going to replace Savard because that guy is not available, but you can replace bits and pieces of it while things fall on the shoulders of some of our other players, said Chiarelli. Right now things are very, very tight. You hear that from me every year a month before the deadline and its even truer now.

The standings are very tight. You look in the West and things are tight, and usually if youre going to make a move itll be in the Westusually. I think teams 4-12 is like five points separating them. So a lot of the players we like arent available because their teams are still in it.

The other problem: the Bruins must come to a conclusion about Marc Savard and his concussion problems after suffering the fourth serious brain injury of his NHL career two weeks ago. Placing Savard on LTIR would certainly open up some flexibility for the Bruins, and dealing a spare defensemen with value around the league like Mark Stuart who several teams including the Atlanta Thrashers have expressed interest in -- would further open up the options for Chiarelli and Co. to make some roster improvements.

Chiarelli would only say that the team needs to be creative when thinking about finding a solution for filling the absence of Savard due to injury. The Bs GM admitted that there isnt anybody on the trade market thats likely to give the Bruins exactly what theyre missing in the form of No. 91 both on the power play and five-on-five but they never really saw the full 100 percent healthy Savard at any point this season anyway.

It certainly gives us more flexibility, so it allows us to do some other things, said Chiarelli. Were just not going to be able to replace Savard because that skill just isnt going to be available in trade. Were going to have to get creative.

Chiarelli would love to go shopping with the Bruins for a player list thats been pared down, tabulated and approved, but it appears hell be waiting things out along with the rest of the NHL as teams decide their buyer or seller status. The good news: the Bruins are tops in goals against average, among the best offensive teams in the East and dont come from anywhere the kind of desperate straits they did last season.

Chiarelli captured Mark Recchi two years ago and Dennis Seidenberg last season at the trade deadline, and it doesnt much appear the GM will hesitate to pull the trigger again over the next few weeks.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

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Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while enjoying the new Brown Sugar Cinnamon coffee flavor at Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s not Cookie Dough, but what is after all?

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer James O’Brien has the details on Radko Gudas getting ejected for an ugly, reckless and dangerous slash to Mathieu Perreault’s head last night. Gudas should be facing a long suspension for a play that has no place in the NHL. It’s time for Flyers fans to stop making excuses for a player who’s no better than a cheap-shot artist and hatchet man. He has to face the music for consistently trying to hurt his fellow players.  

*Frank Seravalli has some of the details for a historic GM meeting in Montreal where NHL hockey was born in the first place.

*You always need to link to a service dog being part of the pregame face-off ceremonies. That’s like a rule here at the morning skate?

*Cam Atkinson and the Columbus Blue Jackets have agreed to a seven-year contract extension, according to reports from the Athletic.

*It’s been quite an eventful year for Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet and some of it has been to the extreme both good and bad just a month into his first year as bench boss.

*For something completely different: Chris Mannix is all-in on the Celtics being the front-runners in the Eastern Conference after their big win over the Golden State Warriors.

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

These are desperate times for the Bruins even after pulling out a solid, blue-collar 2-1 win over a sputtering Los Angeles Kings team on Thursday night.

The victory ended a four-game losing streak and gave the Bruins just their second road win of the season in eight tries. It was also the fourth win of the season for backup netminder Anton Khudobin, who is a sterling 4-0-2 and has given them everything they could possibly hope for out of the backup spot. The Bruins have a grand total of 18 points on the season and Khudobin miraculously has more than half of those (10 to be exact).

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It’s clearly a far cry from last season for Khudobin, of course, when it took until February for the goalie’s season to get in gear.

But Thursday night’s 27-save effort from Khudobin was also a stunning contrast to what Tuukka Rask has been able to produce this season. Khudobin has a .928 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average. Rask has a dreadful .897 save percentage while giving them average play between the pipes at best.  

Khudobin is tied for seventh in the NHL with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in save percentage and Rask is chilling in the NHL goalie statistical basement with retreads Steve Mason and James Reimer.

Quite simply, Khudobin has been way better than Rask and the Bruins have, for whatever reason, played better hockey in front of their backup goalie. Some of it might also be about Khudobin’s more adaptable game behind a Boston defense that can make things unpredictable for their goaltender, but Rask is being paid $7 million a season to be better and figure it out. It would be amazing if this trend continued for the entire season and it would certainly merit more examination from management as to why the rest of the Bruins and Rask can’t seem to combine for an effective, winning product on the ice.

For now, the Bruins need to simply win by whatever means necessary and that amounts to riding Khudobin’s hot streak for as long as it lasts. It should begin with the backup goalie getting a second consecutive start against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night and seeing where it goes from there. Perhaps the extra rest gets Rask additional time to get his game together, or serves as the kind of motivation to get the Finnish netminder into a mode where he can steal games for an undermanned, out-gunned team that needs that right now.

“We’re going to look at it,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked postgame by reporters in L.A. about his goalie for Saturday night. “He played very well against San Jose last time. They’re a heavy team. He seems to do well in these kinds of games with a lot of traffic around the net. But we’ll look at that decision [Friday].”

Khudobin has stopped 57 of 61 shots in his two games in November, so perhaps that level of hot goaltending could also allow the Bruins to survive a month that otherwise might absolutely bury their playoff hopes. Maybe Khudobin finally loses on Saturday night and the goaltending conversation, not controversy, ends as quickly as his point streak. For now, riding the hot goalie is the right call for a team that needs something good to hang onto.

The Bruins are in desperation mode until they get a number of their injured players back. There certainly might not be more of a desperate option than setting their beleaguered sights on a goalie they sent to the minors as recently as last season. But it’s a new season, Khudobin has been excellent and he’s earned a chance to carry this team for a little bit until they can get things back in order.

Calling Khudobin’s number is the right call right now for the Bruins and, quite frankly, shouldn’t be that difficult a choice given what we’ve seen so far this season. 

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