Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins need to find motivation

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Haggerty: Bruins need to find motivation

RALEIGH The first step to addressing a problem is admitting that one exists in the first place. That seems to be what the Bruins need to do after a 3-2 loss to the Hurricanes at the RBC Center on Wednesday night that dropped them to 1-3 on the young season.

The Bruins fell behind by two goals before engineering a furious comeback attempt in the third period that fell just short, continuing a pattern of slow starts coupled with third period revivals arriving just a little too late in the game.

On Wednesday night it was a Tyler Seguin rush from the right side one of the few players that brought the goods from puck drop to final buzzer against the Canes that opened up the scoring for Boston in the third period, and finally seemed to act as the cattle prod to the behind the Bs needed.

With a power play thats 1-for-18 to start the season and some real issues finishing plays with three goals in their three losses on the season, it would be pretty easy to shrink down Bostons struggles into easily-digestible compartments.

Horton has struggled early, but showed signs hes starting to come out of it against the Canes while assisting on Seguins highlight reel goal. There are plenty of Bruins struggling to find their consistent playing level from last year, and the Bs coach is willing to work through it with them.

Were trying to find our A game. Weve got a lot of guys struggling right now and until we get everybody playing to their level its going to be a struggle, said Julien. I sense frustration in that room for that reason.

We need to look for more determination to turn things around. We have to fight through these things. They happen during the season, and the guys just have to get together and find a way to play some better hockey. They need to turn things around.

But it's a macro problem.

The Bruins have staggered out of the gate with very little emotional connectedness to the games, and even less urgency in their actions. Too many players just dont seem like their heads or hearts are fully committed to it yet, and the same shift-to-shift intensity seems to have been lost somewhere between the Cup ring ceremony and the field trip to Gillette Stadium last weekend.

Marchand has been trying to stir things up like its old times, but admitted that the whole Cup thing has created some kind of malaise thats difficult to bust out of.

Maybe we were on such a high with all of the Stanley Cup stuff and coming back in with all the hype surrounding us, it might have been tough to get up for a few of the games weve played so far, said Marchand. Thats our job and we have to do a better job of being prepared for these games and having better starts.

The players look and sound like they understand whats going on, but now its time to simply man up, roll up the sleeves and start going to work with the shift-by-shift work ethic that bred so much success last season. When a team sleepily ambles out of the game against young and hungry NHL clubs like the Avalanche and Hurricanes, its not inspiring much of anything from anybody.

Clearly this isnt the end all be ball of hockey games, but the Big Bad Bruins havent dropped the gloves with a single team in the first four games. While Shawn Thornton has invited several players to fight looking for that emotional spark in some of these sleepy games, its indicative of a team that yet properly focused.

Slow starts have characterized these games where the Bruins havent been emotionally locked into playing hockey, and thats where the change needs to be made for tone-setting catalysts like Milan Lucic.

They get up on us and were trying to scramble to recover, and thats our responsibility as players to prepare ourselves a little bit better as players to get ready for games, Lucic said. We need to set the tone early, and then carry it on the second shift to keep things going through the game. Its our responsibility as players to be ready to go when the game starts.

Dips in the season like this one currently experienced by the Bruins are where a veteran leader like Mark Recchi could circle the wagons, utter some magical words that only a future Hall of Famer could and set things off in a better direction. But Recchi is retired now and still trying to get the Bruins Starter jacket off after squeezing into it at the banner raising ceremony.

Its up to the current players in the dressing room that learned their lessons well during the Cup playoffs to straighten out this teams path.

Its on us. We have to find it in ourselves and recreate that emotion with every guy in here, Lucic said. It doesnt have to be up to Zdeno Chara because hes our captain or up to the other guys because theyre our alternate captains. Its on us as players to get more emotionally involved.

It almost seems like were focusing on the big picture you know, wins and losses rather than the little things like period-by-period and shift-by-shift like we did so well last year.

The Bruins know what the problem is, and they know that the Cup is now last years news. The turnaround should start with emotional catalysts like Shawn Thornton, Lucic and Marchand -- through actions on the ice that speak louder than words -- to bring each member of the team into a season thats already well underway without them.

Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

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Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

BRIGHTON -- Tuukka Rask is quickly making his way through the concussion protocol and may return to action this weekend.

The Bruins netminder skated with the other injured players ahead of Monday’s main team practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and is on track to rejoin the team at regular practice on Tuesday barring any setbacks in his concussion recovery. That would leave Rask with just a couple of games missed after getting trucked by Anders Bjork at practice last week, and it would give the Bruins back their No. 1 goaltender after Anton Khudobin let in five goals vs. the Sabres on Thursday night.

“He’s in the protocol and progressing well,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’ll probably join us [on Tuesday] for the next step if there are no ill effects from today. That’s a positive. If there are no setbacks, I think Saturday is a more realistic [timetable for a return].”

The hope would be that Rask could start elevating his game when he does return, and play better than the goalie that’s posted the 1-3-0 record, 3.30 goals against average and .882 save percentage thus far this season. But first things first with the recovery to his first career concussion as an NHL goalie, and the set of hurdles that must be passed before Rask is again allowed to jump back into game action as early as this weekend.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Bruins practice with Rask, David Krejci and Noel Acciari all skating prior to practice, Patrice Bergeron staying off ice with a maintenance day and Kevan Miller skating in main practice with a maroon, no-contact jersey:

Marchand-Schaller-Bjork
DeBrusk-Backes-Pastrnak
Agostino-Nash-White
Beleskey-Kuraly-Vatrano

Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Miller-Postma

Khudobin

Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

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Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

BRIGHTON -- Injuries, and some really tough losses, have put a bit of a damper on the start to the Bruins season. But there've also been a couple of unquestioned bright spots.

And one of them is Tim Schaller, who's been a strong, consistent performer in the first couple of weeks of the season. The New Hampshire native -- and lifelong Bruins fan -- was penciled in as a fourth-line winger throughout most of training camp, but he’s played everywhere as injuries have ravaged the B's roster.

The high point was probably centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak (and notching an assist) in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Sabres, and filling in for a late-scratched David Krejci with a very different set of skills. Certainly he’s been a standout for the Bruins with his physicality, including stepping up and fighting man mountain Erik Gudbranson after Gudbranson's nasty boarding hit on Frank Vatrano last week, and he’s also kicked in a couple of goals and three points in seven games thus far this season.

“It’s a reactionary thing, and that’s just in a person,” said Bruce Cassidy of fighting Gudbranson. “It’s a character thing because you don’t have a lot of time to think about it. Good for Timmy. That earns a lot of street cred not only in your own locker room, but the other teams notice it. too.

"We know with the goals that he can obviously chip in [offensively] and he’s doing a great job for what we’re asking him to do. He’s probably going to take ownership if he’s out there with some young guys on a line, and if he can be a leader and get that line playing the right way every night that is very valuable to us.”

Schaller’s game to this point is a continuation of what he showed in his first season with the Bruins last year, when the 26-year-old posted 7 goals and 14 points in 59 games while becoming a staple in Boston’s bottom-6 group. He’s once again shown pretty good straight-ahead speed for a big man, and a willingness to take his 6-foot-2, 219-pound frame straight to the net.

“I’ve been moving well and I’ve got the two goals, so personally I’m happy [with my game],” said Schaller. “Hopefully others can feed off what I’m trying to do out there, and we get a more well-balanced game [as a team]. I had a good season last year, and what was really good was that I knew that I had more to give. That’s what I’m trying to do this season.

“I can obviously produce more. I had a good start to last season and then I kind of fell off a little bit. So hopefully I can be a little more consistent for this entire year.”

That would be a very good thing for a Bruins team that can use him in a bottom-6 energy role when its roster is healthy, and will fully utilize his versatility in times of injuries and adversity.