Bruins

NHL playoffs are brand new for some Bruins

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NHL playoffs are brand new for some Bruins

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON, Mass. Claude Julien pointed out after Wednesdays practice that guys like Gregory Campbell, Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton arent necessarily devoid of playoff experience.

Theyve all participated in playoff games during junior hockey, and have an inkling of what its all about.

There are some guys for us that dont have that NHL playoff experience, but they did in junior and its not like its something theyve never done before, said Julien. We just hope theyre on top of their game, and that they play well for us.

But with all apologies to the Bruins coach attempting to remove a modicum of pressure away from some of his key players, potting 9 goals in 15 playoff games for the Oshawa Generals -- as Horton did during his final year in the Ontario Hockey League -- isnt exactly the same thing as getting that first taste of Bruins-Canadiens in the postseason.

Its also the first time many of these guys will be taking a stab at the traditional playoff beard preferred by hockey players everywhere.

Im looking forward to letting it grow, said Horton. Hopefully it gets really big.

All beards aside, it perhaps bodes well for the Black and Gold that Horton at least rose to the postseason occasion in juniors before spending six years in puck purgatory with the Florida Panthers. But things will be different when Horton takes the ice with his teammates.

Horton, 25, scored 6 goals in the last 10 regular-season games while getting into his playoff mode.

You can really feel it, said Horton. Its hard to explain how you feel, but Im excited to get going and play in my first playoff game. I dont talk a lot about it, but when I do talk to the guys about it they say that its just a big step up from the regular season.

Every game means something and youre playing in the moment. Thats what they say. This is what we play for as a hockey player. To be in this situation and a be a part of this is pretty special and everybody enjoys it.

The big right winger isnt the only one to get his feet wet this particular postseason, however. Campbell was his fellow compatriot in Florida, and hes also dreamed long and hard of fulfilling all those Stanley Cup dreams he had as the young son of a larger-than-life NHL personality in Colin Campbell.

You look at Steve Yzerman, who played 15-some odd years and finally got a chance to win it, and you look at guys like Ray Bourque and Rob BrindAmour and how happy they were to win it. Its something that just brings so much joy, said Campbell. You can have a Hall of Fame unbelievable career like those guys, but unless you win a Cup you always feel like something is missing.

Seguin and Marchand are the true rookies in the Bs mix, and Marchand is perhaps the biggest wild card among any players on the Black and Gold roster given the edge hell have to play with in the postseason. But Marchand knows he needs to be mindful of the line as a first-year player still earning his stripes as a playoff performer.

I know where the line is, and its about keeping control out there, said Marchand. You want to get guys angry and hang in there if you have to. Guys get angry and come after you, and thats a part of it. Im more emotionally involved and into the game if Im playing that way, and it makes me more effective. I have to know where the line is when each game is so important and every little mistake is magnified.

At the end of the day, however, its all about maintaining and elevating the way youve played in the regular season. Horton has done that over the last month of the season, and hes showing the way for Campbell, Seguin and Marchand to similarly shine know that the postseason has arrived. It starts with treating the playoffs in the proper level of importance after working so diligently to arrive as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Its a different world here than playing in Florida, said Horton. Its a different atmosphere and its in the past. Im happy to be a part of this. Its pretty special and I think everybody enjoys it. For me its really been about bearing down and really staying in the moment. Youve got to treat each game like its your last game, and never look too far ahead.

The enjoyment starts for Horton and Co. on Thursday night against the Canadiens, and itll be pretty easy to see who has nerves and whos enjoy the bright lights and big moments of the postseason.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Rask out tonight as he recovers from practice collision

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Rask out tonight as he recovers from practice collision

BRIGHTON, Mass – The string of injuries for the Bruins continues as Tuukka Rask (upper body) is out for tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden after getting trucked by Anders Bjork in practice Wednesday.

Rask was wobbly-legged while being helped off the ice after the violent collision and the 21-year-old Bjork looked like he’d also needed a couple of stitches on his chin after bloodying his practice jersey.

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The big concern is Rask still being evaluated by Bruins medical personnel for a possible concussion. It will be Anton Khudobin stepping in place for him against the Canucks with Providence Bruins netminder Zane McIntyre serving as his backup.

“Tuukka is out tonight. He’s going to get reevaluated today and we’ll have a better idea tomorrow,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Anton will start [against the Canucks].”

Clearly, Khudobin didn’t like seeing his goaltending partner get drilled in a spirited practice, but the 32-year-old is clearly feeling confident after a strong camp and a winning season debut last week against the Arizona Coyotes.

“You don’t want to see that, but at the same time we’ve got to keep moving forward and hopefully he’s going to get better soon,” said Khudobin, who stopped 29-of-31 shots in the win over Arizona last weekend. “I feel good. Camp was good and everything is fine, and I’ve started better than last year. My role is just day-to-day. Today is a game day and hopefully, you get a good result, and then tomorrow is another new day.”

Otherwise, it looks like the Bruins will at least be getting some of their healthy bodies back with David Backes in the lineup and Patrice Bergeron a game-time decision against the Canucks. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on Wednesday’s practice:

Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork
DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak
Schaller-Kuraly-Backes
Beleskey-Nash-Agostino
 
Chara-McAvoy
Miller-Carlo
Krug-McQuaid

Khudobin 

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Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

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Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

BRIGHTON, Mass – It would appear that Bruce Cassidy is ready to start shuffling the deck up front after a slow start to the season.

With the Bruins ranking among the league’s worst both offensively and defensively just a handful of games into the season, they are both introducing a few new forwards to the mix while hoping for full health to a couple of other ones. 

First off, the Bruins appear that they might get David Backes back for Thursday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after his bout with diverticulitis, supplying some badly needed size, strength and net-front tenacity on the wing. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) might not be too far behind after going through a full practice wearing a no-contact jersey. The return of No. 37 would help in any number of different areas once he’s good to go, and would have a cascade effect on the rest of the forwards.  

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Getting both players back in short order would give the Bruins a toughness around the net that was certainly missing against Malcolm Subban and the Golden Knights, and hasn’t been there consistently this season with No. 37 and No. 42 out of commission.

“[Bergeron] is progressing. In the past we’ve ruled him out ahead of time, but we’re not ruling him out for [Thursday vs. the Canucks]. Backes looks closer to being ready to play,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Some of the games that have gotten away from us, those guys are glue guys that really add that element to us to keep us on the rails without the game getting away. Some nights you just need their offense or some hard defending, and you miss their leadership obviously. They’re all good players, but most of them you know they’re bringing that North/South game and a few good shifts here or there could have got us back on track.

“[Bergeron] is underrated in his ability to get to the front of the net especially with Marchand and Pastrnak on his wings. So we miss that part of it: Getting there on time, making plays and finishing off plays. Backes is just a big body there and you certainly miss that part of it. With Vegas the other night that was one of the biggest things we were missing was getting second chances, shooting for second chances, hitting the net and getting those rebound chances against a team that was harder to get inside on.

A few moves on Wednesday might also suggest some on-the-fly changes with some forwards that haven’t been working out with the Black and Gold. Ryan Spooner suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday night against Vegas, and it sounds like it might not be a short-term injury for the center with just one point in his first five games. Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano also haven’t produced much in the first couple of weeks of the season, and could be in danger of losing roster spots to Providence call-ups Kenny Agostino and Peter Cehlarik.  

Both players were late cuts from training camp and were showing the blend of size, strength, skill, experience and production that Boston needs more of as they search for answers among their forward group. Beleskey, Spooner and Vatrano have combined for one point, a minus-6 rating and just 12 shots on net in a combined 14 games this season, so clearly that is one of the first spots to look for upgrading the roster from within.

“[A tryout period] is a good way to put it. We talked about that in training camp when we had a long look at guys, but not Cehlarik because he didn’t get a chance to play [because of shoulder surgery]. He obviously piqued our interest last year and did a lot of good things for us,” said Cassidy, who has been in a state of constant flux putting forward lines together due to injury and ineffectiveness. “We just went in a different direction at the trade deadline, but we brought him up to give him a look. We have a decision tomorrow and I’m not going to say whether [Cehlarik] is in or out.

“He’s really played well in Providence, and we just thought he might be able to help us. Some of it may depend on the health of the other guys as far as who’s in and who’s out. If both Cehlarik and Agostino are both in the lineup there’s a chance [they might play together]. They were with [Riley] Nash today in the middle, and he has some of the same qualities as JFK down in Providence. But until we sort through who’s in for tomorrow, and that starts at the top with Bergeron and Backes, then stuff will fall into place for all of them.”

Depending on how Don Sweeney plays with his 23-roster spots, perhaps the time has come to put one of those players on waivers for a trip to the AHL. Simply based on merit it would be Vatrano and the total nothingness he’s shown in his first four games this season, but there would also be a legitimate concern they’d lose the 23-year-old Massachusetts native on waivers for nothing.

For their part, players like Agostino and Cehlarik ripped up the AHL while teamed with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson in Providence, and were just looking for their chance to carve out a role in Boston. Now they may get their chance based on others not really grasping their opportunity, and they’re ready if that’s the case.

“It’s encouraging for me, but I’m just taking things day-by-day. I’m not looking past anything and I’m looking in the past. I just take things as they come here,” said Agostino, who leads the Bruins two goals and seven points in three games thus far. “This isn’t my first time [up at the NHL], so I’m just going to do whatever I can to make the best impression possible.”

What if Agostino and Cehlarik, a career AHL player and a former third-round pick, can’t make the impact that the Bruins are looking for?

Hopefully by then the Bruins will at least have their top two lines healthy and firing on all cylinders, and can continue to mix and match things in the bottom six until they find a combination of forwards that work. But it may come to a point where the Bruins need to look outside the organization for an impact forward or two, or at least find somebody that can make an impact on the ice rather than will themselves invisible.

Only Beleskey has been at all effective this season as he’s dropped the gloves and played physical at times, and certainly can still be an effective third or fourth liner with the right players skating alongside him. For those reasons along with the massive contract money still owed him, Beleskey should be given every opportunity to succeed in Boston. But one thing is clear at this point: There is too much dead weight on the Bruins roster right now at the forward position, and something needs to be done about it if they hope to pull themselves out of their early-season funk.   

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