Bruins

NHL Power Rankings: Wide open East

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NHL Power Rankings: Wide open East

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

Injuries continue to wreak havoc with the power rankings.

Sidney Crosby has been out more than a month while the Penguins have treaded water, but now they've lost another of their stars (Evgeni Malkin), and this time for the entire season. The Bruins, too, will be without one of their top players (Marc Savard) for the rest of the year.

One thing is certain, though: With injuries in Pittsburgh and goaltending questions in both Philly and Washington, the East is wide open for the Bruins if they can get their act together.

1. Vancouver Canucks (34-10-9, last week: 2) The Canucks are riding a five-game winning streak, theyre owners of the tightest defense in the Western Conference as Ryan Kesler has taken it to a different level this season. The Canucks are for real.
2. Philadelphia Flyers (35-13-5, last week: 1) The Flyers are setting the pace in the East and enjoy the best depth in the NHL, but it should tell you something that theyre fooling around with signing Ray Emery.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (34-16-6, last week: 4) Evgeni Malkin is done for the season with a knee injury and word on the street is that Sidney Crosby might not be back until March. Somehow the Pens keep on winning, but they cant go on like this forever without their two big guns.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (33-16-5, last week: 5) Marc-Andre Bergeron steps into the Tampa lineup as a power-play specialist defenseman and notches two assists in his first game. Its really starting to look like their year, isnt it?
5. Detroit Red Wings (32-15-6, last week: 5) The Wings hit a skid as soon as Pavel Datsyuk returned to the lineup, and you cant make this stuff up. That should be a temporary phase for the Winged Wheels.

6. Boston Bruins (30-16-7, last week: 7) Its going to be difficult without Marc Savard, but the Bruins have found a way without him before. Theyll be able to do it again and have become much more consistent in the last month.
7. Washington Capitals (29-15-10, last week: 7) The Caps did a good job of weathering the storm against the Penguins last weekend, and dodged a bullet when hatchet man Matt Cooke couldnt quite take out Alex Ovechkin with a knee-on-knee hit.

8. San Jose Sharks (28-19-6, last week: 14) The Sharks have gone 7-0-1 in their last eight games and Logan Couture looks like hes Calder Trophy worthy this season. San Jose is finally making its move.
9. Montreal Canadiens (30-19-5, last week: 10) The Habs arent lighting anybodys world on fire, but theyve got a big Northeast Division showdown in Boston on Wednesday.

10. Nashville Predators (28-19-7, last week: 9) The Preds scored a big win over the Red Wings, and Sergei Kostitsyn has posted career highs in goals and points for Nashville. They continue to keep pace as a playoff team.
11. Anaheim Ducks (29-21-4, last week: 11) It looks like Jonas Hiller is hitting a wall as he had to be pulled from a loss to San Jose with fatigue and lightheadedness. Thats not good for the Ducks.

12. Phoenix Coyotes (27-19-9, last week: 13) The Desert Dogs have been stuck in neutral for a bit, but it looks like Ilya Bryzgalov is about to heat up between the pipes.

13. Dallas Stars (30-18-5, last week: 11) It may take the Stars to recover from the epic butt-kicking suffered at the hands of the Bruins that saw both Adam Burish and Krystofer Barch go down with fractured orbital bones in hockey fights.

14. Los Angeles Kings (29-22-2, last week: 18) Kings captain Dustin Brown is donating 50 to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles for every registered hit he records this season. Thats a pretty cool gesture from a pretty gritty forward.

15. Calgary Flames (27-21-7, last week: 21) The Flames have done an amazing job of climbing from 14th in the Western Conference all the way to a playoff position out West. Its amazing what happens when theres a Sutter surgically removed from the organization.

16. New York Rangers (29-23-4, last week: 12) The Rangers problems in a nutshell: Chris Drury is a fourth-line forward and penalty killer and he was a 7 million cap hit.17. Minnesota Wild (27-20-5, 17) I have nothing interesting or pithy to write about the Wild. I take that as a poor reflection on their team.

18. Carolina Hurricanes (26-21-6, last week: 20) If I had a nickel for every time I heard that Jeff Skinner was the NHLs version of Justin Beiber during All-Star weekend, Id be a rich man.

19. Chicago Blackhawks (27-22-4, last week: 15) The Blackhawks are on the outside looking in with 30 games left to go in the season. Time for Chicago to wake up as San Jose has done recently.
20. Colorado Avalanche (25-21-6, last week: 16) Perhaps Peter Forsberg can do something to rescue the Avs from their doldrums, but it appears their defense is the big bugaboo.

21. Atlanta Thrashers (24-22-10, last week: 22) The Thrashers have two wins in their last 10 games, and have dropped out of the Eastern playoff race for now.

22. St. Louis Blues (23-20-8, last week: 23) The Blues are 7-12-5 on the road this season, which makes then the worst road team in the NHL.

23. Buffalo Sabres (24-22-5, last week: 22) Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff are both in trouble with new ownership arriving in Buffalo. A good, old-fashioned housecleaning may be coming for Buff.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (25-22-5, last week: 23) The B.J.s are 5-2-2 in their last nine games, and are giving GM Scott Howson some food for thought with the trade deadline approaching.

25. New Jersey Devils (19-30-4, last week: 27) The winning streak for the Devils is fools gold, but the Martin Brodeur knee injury certainly wouldnt seem to hurt them very much.

26. Florida Panthers (23-23-6, last week: 25) Tell me again why Dennis Wideman is the only Panthers defenseman with a negative plusminus rating?

27. Toronto Maple Leafs (21-26-5, last week: 27) Claude Julien must be rolling his eyes at all of the Phil Kessel complaints being aired about Ron Wilson these days.

28. Ottawa Senators (17-28-8, last week: 30) The Sens have been horrible, but small consolation is that Jason Spezza is back after missing 15 games.

29. New York Islanders (17-28-7, last week: 29) Rick DiPietro should probably quit trying to be the tough-guy goalie for a while after Brent Johnson broke his face with one punch.
30. Edmonton Oilers (15-29-8, last week: 30) One win in 10 games means the great fade has begun in Edmonton, and the spare parts should be flying fast and furious sooner rather than later.

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

Grzelcyk happy to be back w/ B's and confident in his game

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Grzelcyk happy to be back w/ B's and confident in his game

BRIGHTON, Mass – It had to be a bitter pill for Matt Grzelcyk to be sent back down to the AHL after playing solidly for the Bruins earlier this season. 

The 23-year-old Charlestown native was excellent playing in place of Torey Krug in Boston’s opening night win over the Nashville Predators, but his stay didn’t last very long. The former Boston University standout was back in the minor leagues shortly afterward once Krug returned from his fractured jaw a little earlier than expected. Now Krug is again banged up again with an upper body injury, and Grzelcyk has been called up to fill in for Krug during Wednesday night’s pre-Thanksgiving road game in New Jersey against the Devils.

Once again it will be about a focus on puck-moving and power play for Grzelcyk, who is the closest thing that the Bruins have to the smaller, skilled Krug in their minor-league system. 

“I was happy with how things went before I got sent to Providence, so I’m just going to try to do the things that I was doing well before I got sent down. Mentally knowing that I can play at the NHL level [is huge], and just going through the experience was positive,” said Grzelcyk. “Mentally my first year I think I was a little too nervous and tentatively with my play, and that’s not me at all when I’m at my best. I’m confident with the puck, and confident with my speed and ability. It was just about going out and doing it on the ice.”

Grzelcyk was okay down in Providence with four assists and a plus-4 rating in 14 games, but he’s been patiently waiting for another NHL call since logging 12:11 of solid puck-moving ice time in his lone appearance for Boston this season. Now he’ll get it in a likely pairing with Kevan Miller against the New Jersey Devils

“He’s a puck-mover. He’s quick. He can get up the ice and support the rush, and he’s a good distributor,” said Cassidy of Grzelcyk. “There are a lot of natural similarities to Torey [Krug] because of their physical makeup, but they are similar [players] with Torey at this level being a bit more significant offensive player. Whether it’s in [Grzelcyk] or not time will tell, but we believe it is and we just need to get it out of him.”

Grzelcyk will get a chance to show that offensive wrinkle and more when he suits up against the New Jersey Devils for his second game of the season after paying his dues with the P-Bruins overt the last month. 

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Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

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Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

BRIGHTON -- Coming off a pair of back-to-back wins from backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are still undecided about what they’re going to do between the pipes Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils.

On the one hand, the Bruins are very tempted to ride the hot goaltending hand with Khudobin a strong 5-0-2 record on the season and a .935 save percentage that currently leads all goaltenders across the league. There’s a school of thought that the B’s should simply keep plugging Khudobin into the lineup until he actually loses a game, and begins to cool down a little bit between the pipes after stopping 63-of-65 shots against LA and San Jose.

At the same time it will be over a week since Tuukka Rask has played in a game if the Bruins go with Khudobin on Wednesday night against the Devils, and Bruce Cassidy was clear to stress that Rask is still their No. 1 guy. So that’s the dilemma the Bruins are facing with Cassidy calling it “a good problem to have” based on Khudobin’s strong play from the backup spot.

That is a far cry from what the Bruins experienced a year ago with the same goalie, and a reason for optimism that their goaltending situation will be better off throughout a long season.

“Do you go with the hot hand and leave your No. 1 sitting where he’s beginning to wonder what the hell is going on? That’s the decision,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We need to keep them both in a good place, and not lose out on [Khudobin’s] good run while keeping Tuukka focused and confident in his game. That’s what we’re battling and I talk to Goalie Bob [Essensa] about it every day. We’ll make our decision [on Wednesday] and we hope it’s the right one.

“It’s a long year so no matter who we use there are a lot of starts. I don’t think Khudobin is going to go ice cold if he use Tuukka tomorrow, and I don’t think Tuukka is going to blow a gasket if we go with the hot hand. For me I don’t think it’s that big of a decision.”

Perhaps Rask blowing a gasket wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world given the way he’s played this season.

The one underlying concern for Rask beyond the .897 save percentage this season is that his game has really been in a different place for the last three seasons. While his .922 career save percentage mark is among the best in the NHL, he has been below that mark in each of the last three seasons while struggling to maintain consistently behind a changing roster that’s turning over to youth and inexperience.

It certainly seems like the Bruins feel it’s premature to label Rask as anything but their No. 1 goaltender, but the pause they’re giving on Wednesday night’s starter speaks volumes about their current confidence level in each of their puck-stoppers.

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