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Slow-moving NHL labor discussions to resume this week

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Slow-moving NHL labor discussions to resume this week

The good news is that the NHL is going to start up talks again this week. The bad news is that both the NHL and NHLPA dont appear to be in any major hurry.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, NHL Exec Director Donald Fehr and lead counsel Steve Fehr will firm up plans to meet this week with early indications the meeting will take place on Wednesday in New York City, four days after the regular season was supposed to begin.

The delay might be partially caused by the Monday observation of Thanksgiving in Canada, but the inability of the two sides to get together until midweek is a little frustrating for hockey fans that want something done now. This weeks round of meetings were set up by a surprise meeting at the NHLPA offices in Toronto last week that emboldened some to think progress was being made.

It didnt appear that any new ground was broken during last weeks CBA discussion, and some of the same issues remain.

Theres a clear dislike for the NHL litigators among the NHL players that has begun to affect the tenor of the negotiations between the two sides, and thats degenerated into a very real lack of trust given the leagues long history of locking out its players.

The NHLPA has submitted progressive, thoughtful proposals that have the long term health of the league in mind, and taper the Hockey Related Revenue share down to 5050 over the length of the deal. But the NHL hasnt responded favorably to those deals, and continues to push for salary rollbacksescrow that would drop the players share under last years 1.87 billion piece of the revenue pie.

Dropping the players share below last years total is something thats a non-starter for the NHLPA, and that might be whats stalled talks over the last few weeks over core economic issues. Theres a very real aggravation among the players that theyre being asked to take a 10-20 percent pay cut on their salaries when the NHL is generating revenue at record-breaking totals.

Meanwhile, on the NHL side, several sources have indicated to CSNNE.com that theres plenty of wariness about Fehrs leadership of the players union. The Board of Governors are very hesitant to adopt anything significant that the NHLPA leader proposes for fear it will eventually turn out to be a deal thats more advantageous to the players. They know his reputation as a brilliant, tough negotiator from his days in the Major League Baseball Players Association, and many NHL owners are afraid to allow him too much slack during the negotiations.

Theres also a wide-held belief among the league owners and officers that Fehr got involved in the NHLPA for kicks, and that he is the only person that has nothing to lose if the NHL loses an entire season to a work stoppage. The belief here is that Fehr has already made his reputation leading the baseball players union, and nothing that happens during this labor negotiation will significantly help or hurt his legacy. That feeling isnt unanimous among the NHL owners, of course, as the idea of locking the players out doesnt appear to be the favored course of action for each of the 30 members of the Board of Governors despite a much-hyped "unanimous vote" to institute the work stoppage.

One of the keys to real hardball negotiations is to make the other side feel a little pain, and that discomfort will prompt more willingness to compromise from each sides stance. The pain and agony will start this week with hockey revenue and NHL pay checks gathering cobwebs while the best hockey league in the world keeps its doors shuttered rather than opening the regular season on Oct. 11.

There is no hope of an NHL return this week during Canadian Thanksgiving, but perhaps there is still a shred of hope that things will be looking better by the time of U.S. Thanksgiving more than a month from now. That should give both sides ample time to find some middle ground if they continue inching along at the current snails pace of CBA negotiations.

David Krejci, Adam McQuaid forced out of Bruins win with injuries

David Krejci, Adam McQuaid forced out of Bruins win with injuries

BOSTON – The Bruins returned Patrice Bergeron and David Backes to good health and their lineup on Thursday night, but they also saw a few more players get banged up in their win over the Vancouver Canucks. 

David Krejci exited Thursday night’s 6-3 win over the Canucks with an upper body injury after scoring a power play goal, and Adam McQuaid also had to leave the game after dropping to one knee to block a shot with his right leg. McQuaid was also already banged up after taking a shot off his knee in last weekend’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, so taking another shot off the leg certainly wasn’t a helpful development. 

“He blocked a shot, so he’ll get evaluated tonight or tomorrow. I don’t know how serious – he blocks a lot of shots. This one stung him obviously so we’ll see how it turns out. Adam [McQuaid] has been doing that for years around here. He’s one of the unsung heroes in that locker room. Doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does, the tough parts of the game, blocking shots, sticking up for your teammates,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He actually manages the puck very well. He’s not a flashy player. He’s not a guy that just throws it away either. He makes good decisions with it, and every team needs an Adam McQuaid. We’re certainly fortunate to have him.”

With Krejci it appeared that he suffered some back spasms after getting cross-checked, and that’s what ended up forcing him out of the win. Cassidy doesn’t foresee it being a long-term thing with Krejci, who finished with a goal and two points in 8:21 of ice time centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak.  

“He has an upper body; he had to leave. He wasn’t feeling too terrific today, and then he got, I think there was a cross-check there. He tried it, but couldn’t continue [playing]. I think he had some spasms, but I don’t think there’s anything long-term there at all.”

It remains to be seen if either McQuaid or Krejci will miss any time with the bumps and bruised suffered on Thursday, but it goes without saying that the Bruins hope they can stay in a lineup that’s beginning to take shape with the full group. 

Haggerty: Patrice Bergeron returns as game-changing force for Bruins

Haggerty: Patrice Bergeron returns as game-changing force for Bruins

BOSTON – To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the presence of Patrice Bergeron is a major game-changer for the Boston Bruins. 

Bergeron finally felt good enough to return to the B’s lineup after missing the first five games of the season with a lower body injury, and the impact was immediate and unmistakable with a goal and four points in a 6-3 win for the Bruins over the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden. It was also a far-reaching impact with the Bruins center pumping life back in the B’s power play with a return to his bumper position, returning a top penalty killer to the Bruins rotation, bringing normalcy back to the forward group by slotting fellow forwards back into their rightful spots and simply giving the B’s their best all-around player back. 

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Clearly it was a joyous moment for Bergeron to get back on the ice and play after getting a couple of good days in on the practice ice leading up to Thursday night. 

“It’s hard no matter what it is. You know, when you’re missing games, when you’re missing time, it’s… you miss being out there with the guys and battling with them and going through what we have to go through as a team. It’s good to be back,” said Bergeron. “You don’t know what to expect obviously [after a long layoff]. You’re trying to hope for the best. I don’t want to say I was surprised [at his high level of play] because you want to be at your best every time you step on the ice.”

Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork finally skated together for the first time after building chemistry all throughout training camp, and they finished with four goals, 10 points, a plus-6 rating and 13 of Boston’s 35 shots on net for the game. It was the way that the Bruins roster was drawn up headed into the season before they had a five-game detour due to the injuries, and the hope is that’s the way it will continue to look for the Black and Gold moving forward. 

“I mean it’s pretty evident, you know, the way [Bergeron] played out there. He just, it’s incredible the way he came back and dominated the game after being out for that long, you know?” said Brad Marchand, who finally has his longtime partner-in-crime back. “He’s just such a big part of the group. He’s able to calm things down in the room, on the bench, and he leads by example. He just does everything that a top guy does.”

Perhaps most striking of all was the emotion and organization that the Bruins played with having Bergeron and David Backes back in the lineup. The breakouts, reloading counter-attacks and defensive zone coverage all had more noticeable structure, and the Bruins were able to get the wave after wave attack from their forward groups that spurred on goals both during 5-on-5 play and when special teams were involved. 

Some of that is getting two highly talented players like Bergeron and Backes back from injury, and some of it is getting an important, tone-setting leader like No. 37 back for everything he does off the ice as well. 

Bergeron set up the important answering goal in the first period by firing a puck that created a rebound for Bjork to clean up, he did the same for David Krejci’s power play to close out the first period scoring, he created the turnover that led to Marchand’s goal in the second period and then he sniped home his own goal from the bumper spot to finally clinch things in the third period. It was clear that Bergeron is still navigating through discomfort and some level of injury while playing at this point, but his hockey IQ and his gritty toughness are allowing him to still be a highly effective player. 

“I think it was self-evident out there that the play on the ice, first of all, built a matchup against whoever we really want. The Power play obviously [was a] big impact there. I think it’s just morale as much as anything, on the bench and in the room,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Those intangibles, leadership, first shift of the game, he’s standing up. They had scored a goal and [he’s] kind of settling the troops down, talking about the details of the game. 

“[He’s talking about] finishing your routes on the fore-check and reloading all the way to our zone.

[It’s the] stuff that coaches preach a lot, but goes in one ear and out the other sometimes. When you hear it from the leaders of the group, it means so much more. To have that back in the room and along with David Backes, those are guys that are just vocal players that bring a lot in that aspect. It’s generally, a quiet group. That doesn’t mean you can’t be effective and win as a quiet group, but it just helps sometimes to have a little bit of that energy.”

While it was a clearly a feel-good story to see Bergeron back in his proper environs on the ice, it was also just as apparent there’s still some lower body discomfort with the Bruins center. He looked like he was in pain or laboring at times out on the ice, and admitted after the game that the lower body injury might be something he’ll need to manage for the time being. That would tend to mean that once again this isn’t something that’s going to go away anytime soon, and Bergeron will again need to grind his way through the pain. 

“That’s the million dollar question, right? I don’t know what to say to that. I guess yeah, I mean I’m feeling good,” said Bergeron. “But there’s… we might manage a little bit for quite a while. But I’m feeling good and tonight was no issue.”

Clearly Bergeron and the Bruins will gladly take it if he can be a difference-maker like he was on Thursday night with a four points, eight shot attempts and plenty of hard-working shifts in his 20:58 of ice time for the game. They’ll just need to keep their fingers crossed that No. 37 can keep suiting up and playing at a high level, and that the 32-year-old can avoid any further problems after already sitting out the first five games of the regular season.