Bruins

Bruins-Rangers preview: Night for fighting

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Bruins-Rangers preview: Night for fighting

The first reaction would be to say that revenge is on the menu for the Rangers Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Theyll get a chance to bump off a Bruins team that sent them into a two-game slide to start the season by thrashing them on the TD Garden ice during NHL opening night. But this is about self-respect and pride for the Rangers more than its about anything else. The Blueshirts led by the struggling trio of Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik will look to right the ship after a rough 0-2 start.

"It's not an individual thing," said Rangers coach John Tortorella. "As a group, we didn't have the fight level the past two games."

So the Bruins should be looking for that fight level to rise in a game nationally televised on the NBC Sports Network as one of their Wednesday Rivalry games. Mike Rupp had his face busted up in a tilt with Shawn Thornton last weekend, and theres little doubt hell come calling along with Arron Asham and other tough-minded Blueshirts players looking to show some fight.

But this will be more about playing a quality Eastern Conference team thats been off their game, and about the Bruins matching the Rags hunger and intensity after getting off to the best start Boston has had since 2001-02 when they jumped out to a 3-0 record. The defense and the goaltending has been stellar for the Bruins as one would expect for a Claude Julien-coached team, but the offense is still looking to get untracked both five-on-five and on a power play thats gone 0-for-9 on the season in two games.

Anybody who knows the Rangers and knows how they operate also knows theyre going to come out with their best game so far, Julien said when asked what to expect on Wednesday night. Desperation can do a lot of good things for people and teams. Weve been there before. I dont think its going to be an easy task, but were certainly going to be ready for it.

The puck drops at 7:30 pm and it should have the same kind of playoff-style atmosphere and quality as their first meeting of the season.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: The entire New York Rangers roster could use a Roberto Luongo-sized tire-pumping at this point after struggling out of the gate in their first two games. Henrik Lundqvist has been abysmal between the pipes, Ryan Callahan and Marc Staal are tied with a team-worst minus-3 rating through the first couple of games and Marian Gaborik has been shut out offensively while averaging nearly 18 minutes a game. John Tortorella told his team that this early stretch was going to test their mental fortitude and everybody will see that firsthand in a nationally televised game on NBC Sports Network.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: "The battle level and the plays are right up there to midseason (level). So you know, every game is going to be hard it's going to be tough battles and we need to be ready for everyone." Patrice Bergeron on Bostons mentality for each of the 48 battles theyll wage this season.

KEY MATCHUP: The Bruins power play has gone 0-for-9 in the first two games while showing improved puck movement and creativity with different personnel, and the Rangers PK is coming off two PP goals allowed in a 6-3 loss to the Penguins. Granted the Bs dont have the Pittsburgh personnel on the man advantage, but their top unit of Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci is noting to sneeze at. Something has got to give in this matchup of strengths and weakness, though many NHL power plays have looked out of sorts early in this unique 48-game season.

STAT TO WATCH: 31 That's the combined number of registered hits for Milan Lucic (14), Zdeno Chara (10) and Adam McQuaid (7) through the first two games of the season for Boston. Lucic is third in the NHL behind Minnesotas Cal Clutterbuck and Montreals Alexei Emelin.

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) missed Mondays game against Winnipeg and Brad Marchand was held out of practice on Tuesday. Both Marchand and Seidenberg have been deemed game-time decisions by Claude Julien.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: The 0.96 goals against average and .958 save percentage for Tuukka Rask have him off to exactly the kind of start he wanted to have in a personally pivotal season. He was the first goalie off for the Bruins at their optional Wednesday morning skate at Madison Square Garden and will get his third straight start in three games. For the Rangers, King Henrik Lundqvist is coming off being pulled from a game for the first time in 15 months, and is off to the most abysmal start of his All-Star career. The 4.75 GAA and .865 save percentage for the reigning Vezina Trophy winner reek of a goaltender that wasnt ready to start the season.

Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

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Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s still early in the careers of all the young Bruins rookies making their way this season, it sure looks like 22-year-old Danton Heinen is among the B’s youngsters that are here to stay. The former University of Denver standout didn’t make the cut at the end of training camp this season and he failed early last year when it was clear he wasn’t ready during an eight-game audition with the big club.

But Heinen continued to look ready while scoring a pair of goals and three points in the three games on a pivotal road trip through California last week, and is now tied for fifth on the Bruins in points despite missing four games in the AHL. In all, Heinen has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 rating in 15 games this season, and is on pace for a really strong 21 goals and 52 points in his first full year.

This has been a really nice step forward for Heinen after being a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring.

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“Last year’s playoff did a lot for him. When I saw him playing there, he was a different player than when he’d left [Boston],” said Bruce Cassidy. “There was a willingness to stay in the battle and his growth when it comes to winning pucks…you’ve seen it here. A lot of the things he’s down well are his second and third efforts on the puck where last year I thought he was pushed off the puck pretty easily [at the NHL level].”

There could be a period when his offense slows down or some other part of his game drags his minutes down, but right now he looks like he’s well on his way to establishing himself in a key role with the Black and Gold. The difference has been Heinen increasing his speed and also adding a little more tenacity to the skill and offense package that he was always bringing to the table.  

“I don’t want to say that because when we get our guys healthy then we’ll see where we’re at,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Heinen was a keeper at the NHL level at this point. “But I think he’s certainly shown he’s a much more consistent player than he was last year. He’s probably a bit ahead of the other younger guys because he has gone through a bit of it [at the pro level]. The fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of different situations, play left or right wing, and moved up in the lineup while being very effective with [Sean] Kuraly and [Tim] Schaller down in the lineup, as a coach it’s to have a guy like that who can move around and fit in a lot of different places.

“So he’s certainly helped himself [to stay in the NHL]. I think it’s too early to say if he’s here for good, but I don’t envision him leaving [Boston] anytime soon with the way that he’s played.”

Only time and consistently good play will allow the playmaking Heinen to truly lock up his spot on the NHL roster, but it’s increasingly difficult to envision any scenario where the fifth-round pick isn’t playing an increasingly important role for the Bruins. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

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Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

BRIGHTON -- In a development that was certainly much sooner than originally anticipated, David Backes has returned to the ice just a matter of weeks after having 10 inches of colon removed during surgery for diverticulitis. It remains to be seen how gradual a process it will be for the 33-year-old to actually return to game action given his original timetable for recovery was eight weeks following the early November procedure, but it seems like it might end up being ahead of the two months Backes was initially expected to be sidelined. 

For his part, Backes was happy to be back skating with his teammates and pushing his recovering body after feeling pretty sluggish for the first few days following surgery. He confirmed he’d been skating for a couple of days while the team was on the West Coast, but Monday was his first team doing anything post-surgery with the rest of the team. 

“It’s good to be back with the guys and to be around the room, and to have seen the kind of resiliency that these guys showed on the road trip. The back half of the road trip was impressive,” said Backes, who has an assist in five games with the Bruins before succumbing to the surgery. “To be on the ice and moving around after sitting around doing nothing for too long where you don’t think you’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels good. 

“The doc’s advice is that if it doesn’t hurt then I can keep moving forward and add more of a workload on, so that’s the update for today. It’s still non-contact, but we’ll keep moving along and hopefully I’ll be back doing what I love to do on a regular basis. I haven’t been notified that the timeline has changed at all, so I’m just going to keep putting in the work. The more I seem to do the work the better it is, and I seem to be able to do a little more each day. So those are all positive signs.”

For the Bruins it’s clearly a morale booster to see the big power forward back doing regular hockey activities, and serving notice that he’ll be bringing his size, strength, leadership and physicality back to a B’s team that definitely needs him. Clearly the return of another high-end forward would also immensely help a Bruins team that’s still very undermanned up front, but it would appear there will be some other B’s forwards getting back prior to Backes. 

Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner appear poised to return to full practice on Tuesday with a possible return to the lineup not too far beyond that after all three injured forwards took part in Monday’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE