Bruins

Kelly wants to return to Boston, but will it happen?

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Kelly wants to return to Boston, but will it happen?

There is plenty of unknown for the Boston Bruins as they stagger into the offseason well short of their season-long goal.

Perhaps the biggest name in question for next year and beyond is third line center Chris Kelly. The ultra-dependable working mans pivot enters the offseason unsigned after the player and team agreed to set aside contract talks late in the regular season.

Kellys camp and the Bruins both had opening discussions right around the time fourth line enforcer Shawn Thornton signed his contract extension with the team in late February. While the team and one of their longtime fourth line leaders quickly found some common ground, Kelly didnt want the talks to become distracting as the team concentrated on finishing strong before entering the playoffs.

As it turns out none of that mattered very much, but Kellys heart was in the right place, as it normally is.

They were talking a bit and we stopped obviously. I thought it was the best thing for me and for the team, so we could focus on playing. As much you dont want to let contract stuff become a distraction while its going on, it is always in the back of your head, said Kelly. Hopefully my agent and Peter Chiarelli will talk and get something done. Ive made it clear I like it here and Im not just telling you that. I really do like it here.

Some guys just say that, but everything about Boston has been a pleasant surprise. From the team, the coaching staff, the management all the way down to the city. I didnt know anything about the city after coming here last year, but my wife and I and my family have really grown to love it here.

Now that its over, Kelly becomes perhaps the most difficult call for Chiarelli among his unsigned incumbent players. Tuukka Rask and Benoit Pouliot are restricted free agents, and that would point toward both players coming back with the Bruins. Of the two, Rask is a dead-lock definite that could be in line for a multi-year contract extension as the heir apparent to Tim Thomas.

Defensively-challenged Joe Corvo wont be back, and both Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell could be moving on after the Bs fourth line was pretty badly outplayed by the Washington Capitals fourth line of Joel Ward, Keith Aucoin and Mike Knuble during the playoffs.

But Kelly left his indelible mark as a team leader and needed dressing room voice, and also managed to enjoy a career year by hitting the 20 goals scored mark for the first time. The Bruins were 18-0-0 this season when Kelly scored a goal during the year, and he also finished tied for third in the NHL with Zdeno Chara with a plus-33.

For a 31-year-old two-way center that had been traded to Boston for a second round pick just a season earlier, Kelly reached new individual heights with the Bruins and enters free agency poised to earn the best player contract of his pro hockey career.

The center must weigh doing whats right financially for his family with his desire to remain in Boston as a third line center behind Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Thats heady stuff for a player thats earned everything he will get this summer, and can now choose the exact path he wants to walk down.

Kelly is not really much of an optimist by nature, but he is hoping things do work out with the Black and Gold.

I seem to be the kind of guy thats glass half-full rather than half-empty, dont I? Im hoping that we get something done, said Kelly. I will always weigh every option and possibility. Thats my job as a player and as a guy with a young family. Thats my responsibility. But if we can get something done here then Id like to stay here.

I know being on a good, winning hockey team is an important thing for me and it always has been.

The biggest question: will another good, winning hockey team recognize how much Kelly brings to the table on and off the ice and send him an offer over 3 million per season that the Bruins shouldnt prudently match within their salary structure?

Perhaps Kelly is that valuable to his former team in Ottawa with a host of young players that could benefit from his leadership with Daniel Alfredsson possibly moving on to retirement.

It might happen and if it does Kelly might just be moving on next season no matter how much he loved and enjoyed his time in Black and Gold. But that would appear a long way off now either way with negotiations not expected to heat up until after the Stanley Cup Finals in June.

DeBrusk providing an offensive spark for Bruins since scratch

DeBrusk providing an offensive spark for Bruins since scratch

BOSTON – Give Bruins rookie Jake DeBrusk credit.

The 21-year-old rookie said that he didn’t want to go through the experience of being a healthy scratch again, and he has played like it ever since.

DeBrusk finished with a pair of assists in the Bruins 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, and is now riding a four-game point streak with two goals and five points in his last four games. He came up with the primary assist on Boston’s first goal when he fed David Krejci all alone cutting to the net, and then again fed Krejci in the slot on the play where the puck found Matt Grzelcyk for his first career NHL goal in the second period.

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In all DeBrusk finished with the two points in 18:46 of ice time, and had good skating legs while collecting four shots on net and a couple of hits in stringing together another solid game as a first-year player.

“It goes back to the mentality of playing fast. I think that was one of the focuses. And ever since I got scratched, I think that I’ve had some jump in all the games or at moments. I think that level of confidence and I’m also playing with great players,” said DeBrusk. “They open up a lot of space for me. And on that example, [David] Krejci’s goal, I’ve seen him do that 100 times. It’s nice to get a reward and it’s nice to get on the board, especially twice, in a game like this. I thought that we were coming along and we’re just looking to build on it.”

DeBrusk is currently on a pace for 20 goals and 48 points while battling through the natural highs and lows of being a rookie at the NHL level. The first-year winger hasn’t yet mastered the consistency component quite yet as a young player making his way through the league, but there’s little doubt DeBrusk will keep getting the chance to find that level while producing offense with his passing, skating and shooting in a key top-6 spot.

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Bruins 'feeling pretty good' riding a four-game win streak

Bruins 'feeling pretty good' riding a four-game win streak

BOSTON – It was hard to imagine this could have been possible a couple of weeks ago when injuries were ripping through the roster amid a very challenging stretch of hockey, but the Bruins have managed to survive and thrive within the adversity. With several regulars still missing from the fold including leading scorer Brad Marchand, the Bruins won their fourth game in a row taking a strong 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The win allowed the Bruins to push into the third spot in the Atlantic Division and lay claim to one of the playoff spots on the day after Thanksgiving, a milestone that usually portends good things for hockey clubs sitting in that position.

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Given the winning streak and Boston’s ability to get busy living rather than getting busy dying amid the trying stretch, confidence is at the high mark just a couple of months into the regular season.

“I still think that collectively as a group, there are still things that we need to build on. But obviously, we can’t complain with four straight wins,” said Jake DeBrusk, who has two goals, five points and a plus-4 in the four-game winning streak. “It’s our first win streak of the season and everyone’s feeling pretty good right now. We’re doing everything we can to keep things going.”

There have been different components to the four-game streak that have made it possible. Young players like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Charlie McAvoy have stepped up and brandished their offensive skills while making things happen for a team missing some of their offensive playmakers, and the energy has been contagious. The Bruins have learned how to become closers in the third period where they’re squeezing the life out of opponents rather than giving them hope for stealing the game.

Anton Khudobin has ripped off win after win after win after win, and has made all the important stops to ensure that the Bruins take points out of each and every game. His .944 save percentage over the winning streak is exactly the level of goaltending needed for the Bruins to execute their game plan, and it’s why they have played with a lead for all but a couple of minutes in those wins over Los Angeles, San Jose, New Jersey and Pittsburgh.

The quick starts have allowed the Bruins to play with the kind of controlled aggression that brings out their best and quit chasing the game while closing things down in the final 20 minutes. It’s much closer to the way things were drawn up by the coaching staff prior to the start of the season before their personnel group was ripped apart by injuries. Friday’s performance was what Bruce Cassidy is looking for from his young, excitable Bruins team on a big stage against a high quality Eastern Conference opponent.

“I mentioned [the magnitude of Friday] before the game, because I think it’s exciting. You’re on NBC, you’re playing against the Stanley Cup Champions, and everyone is watching. . . let’s put our best foot forward. I know it’s one of 82, but it’s a bigger one of 82 the way I look at it,” said Cassidy. “I think they felt the same way coming out [of the starting gate]. Now, I also think with a young group you’re always a little more juiced up at home; they’re still in that stage of their career. So, I think that explained a lot of their start, and why we were better early on.”

So now the beat goes on for the Bruins amid their best stretch of hockey this season at a very opportune time. Perhaps now the B’s start wondering just how good they can be once they finally get their full lineup together for the first time during this entire hockey season. 

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