Bruins

Spooner, Knight factor into P-Bruins win while getting feet wet

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Spooner, Knight factor into P-Bruins win while getting feet wet

MARLBOROUGH Bruins fans got their first look at top forward prospects Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner on Wednesday nights preseason opener at the New England Sports Center, and the dynamic duo didnt disappoint.

Both 2010 second round picks were held off the scoreboard, but both Spooner and Knight were considerable factors in Providences 4-1 thrashing of the Springfield Falcons. Spooner showed off his speed and puck-handling skills throughout the game, and thats something the gifted center has had throughout his short career in the Bs organization. Its easy to spot his Krejci-like ability to slow the game down, and create offensive plays with a sound hockey mind and a good pair of hands.

Playing summer hockey you just float around a little bit, but its eye-opening when youre going into the corner and taking contact again for the first time in a while. It felt good to be playing games again, said Spooner. Its motivation when you know youre being watched by the front office and coaching staff. You want to play well, and the biggest thing for me is to show consistency.

Everybody could get sidetracked by the lockout if they wanted to, but Im not dwelling on any of the negatives. Im just going to take the chance Ive been given down here and Ill run with it.

In the second period Spooner fed Jamie Tardif with a nifty cross-ice pass that the P-Bruins forward couldnt convert on, but it looked like any preseason butterflies were gone by that point.

Knight, on the other hand, showed plenty at both ends of the ice in spurts of activity. Knight managed only one shot in the game, but his smothering forecheck helped set up Providences first goal.

Knight also smoked a shot off the crossbar in the second period after a flashy backhand-to-forehand move set up the scoring chance.

Even more impressive than the scoring chance, which Knight will have to bury with regularity if he wants a job in the NHL, was his commitment to defense.

Theres little doubt that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli along with assistant GMs Don Sweeney and Jim Benning and assistant coach Doug Jarvis all noticed Knight hustle back into defensive position. Then Knight dropped to one knee high in the slot area and blocked a shot headed toward the net.

The willingness to block shots early and often is part of a renewed effort by the young Bs winger to pay attention to the little details on the ice. The goal is pretty simple: to become a factor on the ice even when his shot isnt finding holes.

Its something I got away from a little bit a couple years ago while I was playing in London, so its something I really reconnected with last year, said Knight. You want to show that youre serious and committed to sacrificing your body to help the team. Ill block pucks with my face if I think its going to help us win.

While thats probably not something Chiarelli wants to see, it says something that Knight showing the willingness and grit to throw his body in front of the puck during a preseason game where hes essentially guaranteed a spot on the roster. But perhaps just as impressive is the fact that he didnt allow himself to get fazed by ringing the post at the offensive end of the ice.

Too often younger players can dwell on something bad that happened at the offensive end of the ice, and allow it turn into a scoring chance in their own zone. The Bs youngster didnt let that happen, and thats something his coach noticed after Knight had been relatively quiet in both intra-squad scrimmages over the weekend.

I liked Knight tonight. In the scrimmages I thought he was just okay', but I thought he attacked well off his off wide. Thats an NHL-type play when you beat a guy wide, use your body to create separation and then go backhand-to-forehand off the bar, said Bruce Cassidy. Thats the kind of play hell have to make when hes playing in Boston, and it was good to see that.

Defensively I thought he was fine: gets in shooting lines and has a good stick. He played for Dale Hunter with the London Knights so thats to be expected. Its obvious that hes learned well. Its what youve got to do these days and thats something Claude Julien will expect if hes playing in Boston. So thats what we have to expect down here in the AHL as well.

Its a good sign when the P-Bruins were able to win so convincingly when arguably their two most offensively skilled forwards were kept off the scoresheet, but that wont happen too many times this season. They didnt score in their first time out, but its already clear that Spooner and Knight belong in the professional hockey ranks with nowhere to go but up.

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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