Bruins

Bruins penalty-kill unit on top of its game vs. Jets

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Bruins penalty-kill unit on top of its game vs. Jets

BOSTON -- Certain players and teams lost aspects of their game during the lockout. The Boston Bruins are no exception to that.

But now with a 2-0 start to the shortened season, the Bruins still have one thing they know they never lost: their identity.

For a refresher course, prior to the lockout, the Bruins were a strong defensive team, committed to keeping the shots to the outside, allowing their goaltender to see those shots cleanly. And with that solid defense came offensive opportunities.

Through two games, the Bruins still play with that identity. And that defense-first style has translated into a penalty kill unit that's aggressive and instinctive, quick to prevent the opposition's power play to set up shop and get the shots or passes through the slot that they yearn.

Forget about the power play. If you can keep the other team from scoring on their man-advantages, and carry that defensive identity into even-strength play, you can win in this league. Just ask the core group of this Bruins team who hoisted the Stanley Cup back in 2011.

That said, the Bruins don't get a banner raised for opening this season 2-0. But they are showing that they're in a good place, especially if their penalty-kill unit plays like it did on Monday afternoon, in a 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

"That's what made the difference today," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the win. "And I thought our penalty kill has been good the first two games. A 5-on-3 last game against the Rangers, and then two 4-on-3's today. Especially in overtime, it was a tough call on Zdeno Chara, obviously, and to have to kill that to finish the game, our guys did a great job, the two D's that were out there, but also Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly were switching over up front. They were breaking up a lot of plays once they got over the blue. So, again, that's probably a good reason why we're sitting here today with a win."

The Bruins killed off all four Jets power plays, with two coming at crucial points in the game.

Johnny Boychuk was called for high-sticking with 1:11 left to play in regulation with the game tied at 1-1. That resulted in the Bruins having to be down 4-on-3 for the first 49 seconds in overtime (the overtime period is 4-on-4 at even strength).

The B's killed that off, but then Zdeno Chara was called for a holding penalty with 1:28 left in overtime. It was a questionable call for sure, as Chara chased Blake Wheeler down the right side of the ice. Wheeler attempted to cut hard inside to the net with the puck, and Chara put a body on him. Wheeler tripped and went flying into the net, and the refs gave the Jets a 4-on-3 power play for the rest of the game.

But the Bruins also killed that one off, and then won the game in a shootout.

"It's important that we do the job on the PK, especially in overtime like that," said Patrice Bergeron. "It happened twice, and we found a way. So give credit to everyone that was on the ice, but also Tuukka Rask. He made some great saves for us."

The Bruins also referenced the chewed up ice at the end of the game, as being a reason for the penalty-kill success in overtime. But through the first two games, it's clear that their success stems from more than just a slower surface.

"I think we were pretty aggressive right away, right off the bat," said Bergeron. "We didn't give them time to set up, and I don't think they got the plays they wanted because we were so aggressive.

"I think we all know where to be. We communicate a lot on the ice. Also, coach does a great job to make it more, I guess, black and white. Then it's about instincts and just making sure you do the right plays."

It's their identity.

Rask out tonight as he recovers from practice collision

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Rask out tonight as he recovers from practice collision

BRIGHTON, Mass – The string of injuries for the Bruins continues as Tuukka Rask (upper body) is out for tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden after getting trucked by Anders Bjork in practice Wednesday.

Rask was wobbly-legged while being helped off the ice after the violent collision and the 21-year-old Bjork looked like he’d also needed a couple of stitches on his chin after bloodying his practice jersey.

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The big concern is Rask still being evaluated by Bruins medical personnel for a possible concussion. It will be Anton Khudobin stepping in place for him against the Canucks with Providence Bruins netminder Zane McIntyre serving as his backup.

“Tuukka is out tonight. He’s going to get reevaluated today and we’ll have a better idea tomorrow,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Anton will start [against the Canucks].”

Clearly, Khudobin didn’t like seeing his goaltending partner get drilled in a spirited practice, but the 32-year-old is clearly feeling confident after a strong camp and a winning season debut last week against the Arizona Coyotes.

“You don’t want to see that, but at the same time we’ve got to keep moving forward and hopefully he’s going to get better soon,” said Khudobin, who stopped 29-of-31 shots in the win over Arizona last weekend. “I feel good. Camp was good and everything is fine, and I’ve started better than last year. My role is just day-to-day. Today is a game day and hopefully, you get a good result, and then tomorrow is another new day.”

Otherwise, it looks like the Bruins will at least be getting some of their healthy bodies back with David Backes in the lineup and Patrice Bergeron a game-time decision against the Canucks. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on Wednesday’s practice:

Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork
DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak
Schaller-Kuraly-Backes
Beleskey-Nash-Agostino
 
Chara-McAvoy
Miller-Carlo
Krug-McQuaid

Khudobin 

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Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

BOSTON — As soon as the American League Championship Series ends, the Red Sox could make a move for their manager.

Industry sources continue to expect Astros bench coach Alex Cora will be the Sox’ pick. No offer had been officially made as of midday Wednesday, one source close to the situation said. But the belief is such an offer waits out of respect to the Astros-Yankees ALCS that can end no later than Saturday if the series goes a full seven games. 

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“Not a doubt it is him,” the source said.

Sunday and Monday would both be off days ahead of the Tuesday night start of the World Series. That leads to the potential for at least a Red Sox announcement of Cora, if not a press conference, before the Fall Classic begins. (If the Astros advance to the World Series, it may be harder to have Cora in Boston for any length of time.)

All those who know Cora praise his ability to connect with players. The former Red Sox infielder is good friends with Dustin Pedroia. Cora’s previous knowledge of the Boston market works in his favor, as well, as does his mettle handling the media. Some question his readiness as a first-time manager, considering he would be taking over a team with great win-now expectations and complicated clubhouse dynamics.

Nothing takes the place of experience and there is such a thing as being too close to players. Ultimately, if the Sox do land Cora, 41, they would be adding the hottest up-and-coming managerial prospect who’s available on the market. The everybody-wants-him reputation could give Cora added cachet with players and certainly becomes a public-relations win for those fans following the search.

The Sox interviewed Ron Gardenhire on Wednesday. Gardenhire was the third candidate the Sox talked to and could well be the last. Cora met with the Sox on Sunday, followed by Brad Ausmus on Monday.