Bruins

Chara ready for first post-Pacioretty game vs. Habs

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Chara ready for first post-Pacioretty game vs. Habs

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON Zdeno Chara didnt shy away from the teeming mass of Boston and Montreal media that crowded around his locker after Wednesday's practice, looking to ask questions about Thursday nights HabsBruins regular-season finale.The two storied NHL rivals still appear to be on a collision course for the first round of the playoffs, and the CharaMax Pacioretty collision that left the Montreal forward with a severe concussion and fractured vertebrae was on the minds of everyone within the dressing room.Though Bruins media relations maven Matt Chmura said Chara wouldnt be answering any questions about the Pacioretty incident prior to a five-minute scrum with reporters, the Bruins captain did manage to get a few things across that hes likely been waiting to express.Without going into details, Chara said hes reached out to Pacioretty several times over the last few weeks, but Pacioretty hasnt responded. The B's defenseman may have attempted to go through Pacioretty's Michigan teammate, Steve Kampfer, to get in touch with the Montreal winger, but that's not something Chara was elaborating on.Ive made a few attempts to contact Pacioretty, but he hasnt responded back yet. So far, nothing, said Chara. Im glad hes doing much better and hes probably going to be playing based on the reports that weve heard. Im glad hes going to be fine. Thats good news.Chara seemed to lose a little bit of his edge following the loss, and controversy, up in Montreal, and both the player and team battled through a bit of a dark cloud over their head as police investigations and some truly vicious accusations emanated from Montreal.But Chara battled through on the ice, and has put up two goals and five assists in the six games since the incident, along with a plus-5 rating. It was Charas power-play goal on Tuesday night that proved to be the game-winner over the New Jersey Devils.Chara said well see when asked if he felt like any retribution was coming his way from the Canadiens as a result of the hit a likely scenario, given that no suspensions or supplemental discipline was handed down by the NHL after the collision and it appears the Bruins are braced for anything coming their way.The game itself should be a lot less about settling scores, and quite a bit more about simply playing for Northeast Division supremacy and potential home ice in the playoffs as only three points separate the third-seeded Bs from the sixth-seeded Habs. A win for either team in Boston gives the other momentum and a huge emotional advantage headed into the last few weeks of the regular-season sprint.With two games in hand on Montreal, Chara and the Bruins know theyd essentially be securing their divisional crown with a victory over a motivated Habs bunch that embarrassed them on the Bell Centre ice in the Pacioretty game. They also need to make a statement after struggling with a 1-3-1 record in the previous five meetings against the Canadiens this season.The Bruins have lost 11 of their last 13 regular-season meetings with Montreal, and need to play their strong, intimidating game against a speedy, finesse Canadiens bunch thats skated circles around them in four out of five games this year.The lone exception was the bloody battle on the Garden ice that led to nearly 200 penalty minutes, and set up the CharaPacioretty scene in Quebec.If you look at the standings it looks like BruinsCanadiens could be the playoff matchup, so well see whats going to happen in the next 10 games, said Chara. We all know its a big game for both teams. The rivalry is there and the competition is there. We just need to focus on our game and establish what were working on in the last game. Were focusing on our game.The Habs have a lot of skill and speed up front, and theyre very good system-wise. Its tough to play against teams like that. You have to be in control. Its part of the game to be emotional and play with a lot of jump, but you have to keep a lot of it bottled up and not let emotions take over your game.

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.


 

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.