Acciari throwing his weight around at just the right time

Acciari throwing his weight around at just the right time

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari might just be in the proverbial right place at the right time for the Bruins as he's stepped up in the big moments this week as a fourth-line role player.

Acciari, 25, potted a breakaway goal to kick off the scoring in Boston's 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden, and has two goals in the last three games after going scoreless in the first 43 games of his NHL career. For a guy with just six career points, this week stands as a certifiable offensive explosion in some of the most important games of the season.

"The feedback I got back down in Providence is they liked everything about Noel's game," said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. "They just wanted to build his puck skills that side of the game, the offensive side of it. We're starting to see some of the results of his hard work he's put in there. He's got a couple goals for us and he's got some plays around the net, so if he can give us periodic timely scoring, get that out of our fourth line, that's awesome.

"Dom Moore is giving it to us this year. [Riley] Nash has seen more of it lately and become more of a threat, you know, throughout the lineup. Because they're going to play against good lines most nights . . . . if you're able to finish some plays against the other team's top line, it makes them that much more dangerous."

The other side of Acciari's game was on display on Saturday afternoon, as well, when he crushed Keith Yandle on the forecheck and drew a roughing penalty when Yandle's D-partner, Alex Petrovic, came after him following the punishing, purely clean body check. The 5-foot-10, 208-pound Acciari prides himself on playing a heavy, clean game based on maximum effort and massive open-ice hits, and all the better if his honest, hard game gets under the skin of opponents.

It's certainly not the way Brad Marchand has traditionally agitated opponents with well-aimed chirps and borderline activity designed to infuriate, but it accomplishes the same agitating objective.

"I don't intend to be an agitator out there, but if the way I play is agitating, it's not going to change my game," said Acciari. "I just do whatever I have to do. I'm going to get that [reaction] from time to time whenever I throw a hit, so I've just got to be ready for it. They're just being good teammates for their guys. I'll answer whatever I need to.

"Playing a heavy [style] is part of my game, and our line, and, you know, we're going to continue to do that and open up space for each other. We're going to capitalize when we can, and it's working really well right now."

Acciari said he's made a renewed commitment to the hard-hitting aspects of the fourth line job since returning to Boston, and it's something that has allowed him to be a difference-maker as the big hitter alongside Moore and Nash. The fact he also understands and excels at making clean hits that keep him on the right side of the law, and out of the penalty box, makes it all that much more effective.

"I don't think he's ever crossed [the line], to be honest with you," said Cassidy. "He hits guys looking them in the eye. He hits like a football player to me. It's always shoulders squared and going right at the guy. Very rarely do I ever remember him blowing a guy up from behind in a dangerous manner. I don't think he's ever looked for this type of hits.

"He looks for the hits in open ice, which is rare nowadays to even be able to do that. He sneaks up on people and they don't think he's there, and then, bang, he's right in their face. He's just so solid on his skates so he can do it, and if you can do it then, why not [do it]?"

Clearly, a workmanlike player such as Acciari won't be scoring twice every three games. But his heavy, physical presence in the lineup is making the B's tougher to play against. And that's the name of the game at this time of year, when teams need to fight for every last inch,.

Acciari is more than willing to join the fray.

Cassidy eyeing possible Bergeron return this weekend

File Photo

Cassidy eyeing possible Bergeron return this weekend

Bruins star center Patrice Bergeron has been dealing with a fractured foot injury since late February. He sustained the injury while blocking a shot in the loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Coach Bruce Cassidy is predicting a return for Bergeron this weekend against the Minnesota Wild if he is medically cleared. He will be evaluated tomorrow.

Depending on the results from the evaluation, there might not even be a need to rush Bergeron back with the Bruins clinching a playoff berth in a 2-1 OT loss to the Blues yesterday evening.

MORE BRUINS: Bruins clinch playoff berth in 2-1 OT loss to Blues​

The Bruins currently sit two games behind the Tampa Bay Lighting for first place in the Atlantic Division. Ten games currently remain on the B’s schedule with the Presidents' Trophy also hanging in the balance.

If the B’s decide to make a run for the Presidents' Trophy, Bergeron would definitely provide a boost in play in addition to leadership for the final stretch of the regular season.


Now that they're officially in, Bruins need to get healthy

Now that they're officially in, Bruins need to get healthy

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 2-1 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night at the Scottrade Center:

1) This team is now bona-fide playoff material. 

We knew this was coming for months after the Black and Gold went on an epic three-month hot streak that catapulted them to second place in the Atlantic Division and within a couple of wins of catching the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now that the Bruins have hit the 100-point mark and clinched the playoffs with the overtime point they got Wednesday, it’s now going to be about positioning for the postseason. That means giving all their injured players ample time to heal and be as close to 100 percent as possible and perhaps even eventually giving up on catching the Lighting for the No. 1 overall seed if it means sacrificing anything for full readiness in the postseason. But that’s a story for the first few weeks of April. On this Thursday, let’s just appreciate a Bruins team that’s clinched a playoff berth weeks ahead of time and is considered one of the odds-on favorites to go on a run this spring. Whether it’s fighting through the adversity of  injuries, getting major contributions from perhaps the best rookie class in the history of the Black and Gold or showing the heart of a champion in many, many memorable comeback wins, the Bruins have shown an “aura of greatness” this season. Not the greatness that comes along with being a longstanding dynasty, but the greatness that comes along with the promise they hold for doing great things in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This Bruins team is worth your time and interest and could very well produce the best sports experience for a Boston fan this spring. All of those bode very well for where the Bruins are headed.

2) How about that Ryan Donato? 

Two goals in two games is pretty darned good for the 21-year-old and he once again showed his nose for the net and his excellent shot while burying a puck on edge in the slot area thanks to a bad decision Alex Pietrangelo. All that being said, Donato was very quiet after that point in a heavy, physical game and didn’t do much after Dmitri Jaskin blasted him into the side boards in the second period. Clearly, Donato is courageous for a young guy and has the willingness to go to the scoring areas, but it will be instructive to see how he responds to the heavy, hard-hitting treatment he’s going to get in the NHL. As he scores and gets notoriety, there is going to be more punishment and hard hits thrown his way and it’s going to be up to him to adjust and continue to be as effective. Donato will get that chance, but he now knows it’s not going to be as easy as it looked on that first night at the Garden.

3) The Bruins could use some good health soon.

With Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes and Rick Nash among others missing from the lineup, the Bruins become a much smaller, weaker team that’s increasingly easy to pick on. That’s exactly what the Blues did after falling behind early. There were heavy St. Louis hits thrown all over the ice, including the culmination when Brayden Schenn drilled David Krejci in the corner of the rink. The Bruins never really responded to any of it and instead just kept taking hits and eventually got totally worn down in the third period and overtime when they were just hanging on for their playoff point. Certainly, they can survive in games here or there playing that way, but more Bruins are going to get hurt if opponents are allowed to simply tee off on them as they did on Wednesday night. That won’t be good for anybody associated with the Black and Gold.


*Anton Khudobin was blaming himself for the two goals allowed after the game was over, but the truth is that the Bruins wouldn’t have even got their playoff-clinching point if Khudobin hadn’t stopped a Dmitri Jaskin shot with his goalie mask in the closing seconds. Khudobin was the losing goalie, but he made the big save when the Bruins needed him on Thursday night.

*Donato scored the only goal of the night for the Bruins on a loose puck in the slot that was on edge. He now has two goals and
four points in his first two NHL games. Donato was pretty quiet after that, but how much can you really expect out of the 21-year-old at this point?

*All of the St. Louis offense was supplied by Jaden Schwartz, who beat the Bruins with a wrist shot from the top of the face-off circle in the third period and then went on a breathtaking one-man rush in OT for the game-winner. Schwartz stepped up with Vladimir Tarasenko down and injured right now.


*One shot on net for David Pastrnak in 20-plus minutes. He did alter the path of the Alex Pietrangelo clearing attempt that turned into Ryan Donato’s goal, but was otherwise quiet in a very physical game.

*Nick Holden played almost 25 minutes of ice time and blocked four shots in the absence of Boston’s top three defensemen and was, by and
large, pretty good throughout the game. But he did back off and give Schwartz way too much room to work with on the tying goal. It was also a tough line change as well, but somebody needs to step up and slow down the Blues there.

*Danton Heinen was called for slashing in the second period on a play that was literally a one-handed tap with the stick on a completely
inconsequential play. The NHL really needs to take a chill pill with these slashing calls. That one was bogus.