Bruins

Pandolfo excited to see first game action

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Pandolfo excited to see first game action

WINNIPEG -- Jay Pandolfo grew up as a Bruins fan while blossoming into a bona fide Massachusetts hockey stud playing for Burlington High School and Boston University.

So its a special kind of pride for the 38-year-old local product as he makes his Boston Bruins debut Sunday afternoon against the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre in place of Milan Lucic.

I havent played a game in a while so Ill be a little anxious. But once you settle down it will be fine, said Pandolfo. Anytime you grow up somewhere watching a team your whole life its special when you get a chance to play for themyou take a little extra pride in it. Im appreciative that I have this chance and Im looking forward to it.

The former New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders winger hasnt played an NHL game in roughly nine months, and wasnt sure if this day would come again coming out of the lockout. He skated with the Bruins for over a month on a professional tryout agreement before signing a one-year deal with Boston earlier this week, and will get his opportunity after Lucic had to leave the team for personal reasons.

Pandolfo will skate on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton while Daniel Paille moves up in the lineup. Nobody should expect much offensively from a guy that totaled three points in 60 plus games for the Isles last season, and his coach expects him to keep things simple as a longtime veteran would in this particular situation.

It goes without saying that youll keep an eye on him, but hes been through this enough times that hell know how to handle his shifts, said Claude Julien, who previously coached Pandolfo in New Jersey. Hell keep things short, and hes a smart player thats been in this league a long time. So I dont think youll see anythingstupid, if I can use that termcoming out of his game.

He never gave up. We certainly never guaranteed him anything. We thought he could be a possibility, but he kept a great attitude and he slipped in there easily with his teammates. Hes a guy that gives us some really reliable depth.

Pandolfo may get some penalty killing time, but otherwise probably wont play much more than five or six minutes in his Boston debut. But thats more than enough for the two-time Stanley Cup that wondered openly if his NHL career was over when he didnt have a roster spot guaranteed coming out of the lockout.

Instead he found the perfect situation with the Bruins after patiently waiting for it to materialize, and that era in his career begins Sunday in Winnipeg.

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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