Bruins

NHL players flocking to Europe a reality of lockout

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NHL players flocking to Europe a reality of lockout

Some might find it scary that Bruins players are beginning to scatter to the four corners of the Earth or at least Europe, anyway -- to play hockey while the NHL figures itself out.

Or perhaps its simply just things getting real with an NHL lockout that clearly looks like its going to wipe out the first few months of the season.

But the signings of David Krejci and Andrew Ference to Czech Republic teams in recent days and more immediately Thursdays news that Tyler Seguin has signed on with a Swiss League team are more a function were not going to see NHL hockey before December.

It should tell hockey fans that the players dont see NHL hockey coming back to North America for at least a few months as the sides continue to freeze each other out in formal negotiations.

The exodus to Europe is more necessity for players that require game intensity to remain sharp and keep ready for the NHL season when it finally does open. Ference explained that dynamic earlier this week to CSNNE.com after learning from the last NHL lockout.

During the last lockout you saw some guys that stayed behind when others went to Europe or played in the AHL," Ference said. "Those guys fell a step behind the other players when the NHL got started again, and they had a really difficult time catching up to the pace. Im in the last year of my deal and I cant afford to just sit around and allow the intensity to dial down in my workouts.

Its also a statement of leverage to the NHL that many of the worlds best players have other options. They can make money playing a kids game elsewhere if the league decides to keep padlocks in place until the NHLPA budges on the 20 percent salary rollbacks that have been proposed thus far.

The NHL wants to crush players, I think, said one source on the playersNHLPA side of things. It could get real ugly, and damage to the NHL Brand could be huge.

What young European or Russian Player will come over to punitive Rookie contract (5 years mandatory) when he can stay over there and do well? Maybe something good will develop but I see no sign of optimism at this point.

Dennis Seidenberg has also now officially signed with Mannheim in Germany as well, and will similarly be headed to his home country in Europe. Zdeno Chara wasnt in any hurry to head back to Slovakia with his daughter enrolled in Boston schools for this semester. But the 6-foot-9 captain is rumored to already have something in place with HC Slovan Bratislava to reunite with former Bs teammate Miroslav Satan -- when he does decide to head back to his home country as well.

On Friday it was announced the Swedish Elite League would also begin allowing NHL players on its rosters, so theres yet another option for the players currently skating circles in their NHL cities.

Theres always the chance any of these players could sustain injuries once the adrenaline levels go up in the European games, but they wont be paid by their NHL clubs if they come back to Boston unable to play. Its the reason why each player takes out a pricey insurance policy (at a cost of roughly 10,000-25,000 per 1 million of their contract according to one US underwriter that furnished nearly 100 policies during the 2004-05 lockout) prior to suiting up for their first European game

So thats probably going to keep many of them from diving to block shots at any given moment.

For many of these players its a rare chance to play at home when theyve been traveling to North America away from friends and family for their entire lives. For players like Ference and Seguin its similar to a student taking a semester abroad in Europe: a different experience in an exotic locale where theyll be furnished with free apartments, food, cars and other fringe benefits while also getting paid to play.

There should be a scary element to life going on for NHL players while their league goes under water due to pure, unadulterated greed, but thats the Russian Roulette game Gary Bettman and the owners are playing with their fans. Unlike potential work stoppages by the NFL and Major League Baseball, elite hockey players have options when the best league in the world locks their doors.

The players are simply exercising those options with the hope theyll be back in their familiar environs in time for the Holidays.

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.

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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. 

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