Bruins

Bruins roster update: Bjork is in, DeBrusk needs to impress in final preseason game

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Bruins roster update: Bjork is in, DeBrusk needs to impress in final preseason game

BRIGHTON, Mass – With the days numbering just a few until final NHL rosters are due into the league offices on Tuesday, Bruce Cassidy has an idea of where he’s going with most of his roster headed into Saturday night’s preseason finale in Chicago.

With the caveat that nothing is concrete until the final list is submitted on Tuesday afternoon, it’s just about an automatic that Anders Bjork has won the top-six, right-wing job alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Anton Khudobin will be the backup goaltender provided he gets through Saturday’s start without any issues and it looks as if Sean Kuraly has won a job to start the season after a solid training camp.

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Jake DeBrusk isn’t quite in the same “lead-pipe lock” status that fellow rookie Bjork is for Thursday's opening night roster, but it looks like the 20-year-old former first-round pick will make the cut if he can show a little offense against the Blackhawks in his final exhibition tune-up.

“Bjork seems like he’s going to be a fit. We’ve played him with [Bergeron] and [Marchand], but he can play the other side. So he could flip and play the other side with Krejci and Pastrnak as well. We haven’t looked at that much, but it could happen,” said Cassidy. “But we like where his game is at right now. DeBrusk, we’re going to keep in there and we’re looking for a few more things out of his game. We like it as well, but we think that Bjork is the furthest ahead of all the young guys.

“We like where Kuraly’s game has been as far as what he brings: Energy and the ability to turn pucks over. It has really turned into a lot of offense, but we believe that it will over time as he continues to play like that. We’re looking at him as a wing tonight rather than center, and he may be a guy that moves around. I’ve liked Danton Heinen’s game. We haven’t talked about him as much, but we want to get another look at him with [Ryan] Spooner as more of a skill guy. There’s no concrete decision on the sixth defensemen yet, and I think [Anton Khudobin] is ready to go as the backup. That’s where I have him. Bjork looks like he’ll start in the lineup, and then we have some spots to fill in down below [among the forwards]. The game matters tonight more for that area.”

DeBrusk came close to scoring in his last preseason game before it was wiped away due to goaltender interference, and Cassidy wants to see the young left winger play at the higher pace he knows he’s capable of when he’s pushing forward.

“[We’d like to see] a little finish around the net. That would be good for [DeBrusk’s] confidence. When you’re playing up in the lineup [in a top-six spot] that will be talked about if you can’t finish,” said Cassidy. “Be a little more proactive skating. There are times when he really pops out of the pile and off he goes skating. He’s shown spurts of that, but let’s see that all the time.

“Coming down the wing let’s not pull up with the puck, but let’s continue to attack and make your plays with your feet moving. He’s a good skater, and if he’s going to make our team it’s going to be because he adds foot speed. That’s what we want out of that younger group, and that’s what they’ve been advertised as.”

Clearly, there are still jobs up for grabs among the bottom-six with Noel Acciari, Matt Beleskey, Frank Vatrano, Danton Heinen, Teddy Purcell, Tim Schaller and Kuraly all in Saturday night’s lineup, and likewise Matt Grzelcyk, Robbie O’Gara and Paul Postma all competing for a fill-in spot while Krug sits out with a fractured jaw.

So, it should be a competitive effort from a group of hungry Bruins on Saturday night in their final dress rehearsal prior to opening night and several players keenly aware that NHL employment might hinge on the final impression they leave with the coaching staff. 

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.

 

Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries

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Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries

BOSTON – It feels like the Bruins might finally be hitting their critical mass with all of the injuries in the first few weeks of the season.

The B’s were down Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and David Krejci as the new injuries Saturday night and clearly missed those players, along with the others currently out with injuries in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. The Bruins had a three-goal lead in the second period and a two-goal lead in the third but frittered away both while allowing the hapless Sabres to outshoot them 21-6 in the third and overtime.

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Anton Khudobin battled his rebound control for most of the game while facing 42 shots on net but it was the absence of Miller and McQuaid in the D-zone that made it a little too easy for Buffalo to push Boston when it mattered late.

Torey Krug was on the ice for the last three of Buffalo’s goals and was out penalty killing late in the third period in a spot where he would never have been in if the B’s were healthy on the back end.

“That’s where the appreciation comes in for the Kevan Miller’s and the Adam McQuaid’s of the world. They’re not always flashy, but in those instances, they’re money. They get it done. And that’s why they are paid to get it done,” said Bruce Cassidy. “So yes, we miss them. But, last week we missed other players. So the guys that are out there, it’s up to them to get it done, right?

“It didn’t happen tonight, and hopefully we learned from it and can be hungrier the next time. There’s not much else to analyze that. That was it. Someone had to play in that situation. We pick guys who we figure would get the job done, and it didn’t work out for us. Next time, we’ll keep working at it.”

As part of the injury factor, there are also players that are banged-up and back in who are also clearly not back to full strength. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and David Backes (diverticulitis) are both back from their early-season issues and Krug continues to play with a healing fractured jaw, but all three key players combined for just a single assist and three shots on net in a game that featured nine goals.

Krug was the most noticeable weak link in the loss as he was overwhelmed in the D-zone on the game-tying goal when an Evander Kane shot bounced on him on its way into the goal. Krug was down on his stomach after losing his balance while battling in front of the net. Krug then was out for an extended period in OT before bumping a Sabres player around the crease who fell into Khudobin just as Ryan O’Reilly was pushing the game-winning goal past him.

Krug spoke on Saturday morning about feeling like things were starting to come together for him but he finished a minus-3 against the Sabres with his big, bad teammates out with injuries. He's a startling minus-8 after the first two weeks of the season.

“Obviously we have to do a better job tonight. Two-goal lead in your own building, it’s got to be the hardest place for the opposing team to come in and overcome that. We’ve got to be better,” said Krug. “I thought I had an opportunity to win a battle in the corner on that loose puck. Just trying to swat away and all of a sudden it comes out the other side, and we just couldn’t overcome. That’s survival mode. “Especially when they were able to make changes like they were. We just got to stay calm, composed, and make sure we’re not getting beat one-on-one. We obviously managed it for a while, but we just couldn’t get the puck back.”

It was also clearly about Khudobin, who had a big chance to put the Bruins team on his back with Rask out with a concussion. The Russian netminder made 37 saves and at times looked energetic and ready to battle between the pipes but at other times couldn’t make the clean save that the Bruins needed in order to get a whistle and calm things down. In OT, Khudobin couldn’t make a clean glove save on a Rasmus Ristolainen tester from the high slot that would have allowed the Bruins to get some tired players off the ice in the 3-on-3 OT.

Instead, Krug, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were out on the ice for 2 minutes, 15 seconds and eventually got beaten on O’Reilly’s play that took the puck straight to the Boston net. Cassidy called it an “erratic” night for Khudobin when they needed calmer, more poised play from their goaltender and that was clearly a reflection of the Black and Gold missing Rask.

“[Khudobin] was erratic. 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,” said Cassidy. “But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out [on plays] that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.

“[There were instances] in the third period, plus overtime, where we needed to calm the game down. Whether it’s a face-off, even right before the overtime goal, we had opportunities to get possession out of that pile. They came out with it. And that’s what I said. They were hungrier than us. Late, they won more pucks. If we win that puck out of that pile, we might not be talking about losing. Maybe we get out of trouble and it goes our way. We’ll never know.”

Maybe things would have gone the Bruins way if they had more of their walking wounded back and contributing. Instead, it feels as if the B’s are being tested with new, damaging injuries with each passing day. A number of those had a direct impact on a brutal loss to the Sabres on Saturday night. One has to wonder if there are more of those coming until the Bruins can start stabilizing their medical situation.