NASHVILLE – The four-game win streak where he made consecutive starts was fun while it lasted for backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, but it will be back to normal when he starts on Monday night against the Nashville Predators.
It will be nine days between his start against the Predators and his Black Friday win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and presumably Khudobin has cooled off a little bit after ripping off four wins in a row. It’s really not even much in the way of hyperbole to say Khudobin’s 7-0-2 beginning to the year saved the Bruins season when Tuukka Rask was struggling to find his way, and Bruce Cassidy played his own big part in the pivotal stretch by betting on the Bruins back-up.
Now Khudobin will need to re-adjust back to going long stretches between starts and continuing to make peace with the role he signed up for when he returned to the Bruins. It isn’t always that easy, but Khudobin is hoping he can still ride out the winning streak a little bit longer.
“I still don’t want to deal with [the big breaks between games] to be honest with you. When I got to the NHL I knew I had to go through it when I got the No. 2 job, but I do everything that I’ve done for years to get ready to play whether it was more or less,” said Khudobin. “It’s just harder when you’re not playing as much to go out there and be 100 percent. It’s harder to be cold, and then go out there and play.
“I think my game is pretty good right now. The winning part is a lot better than last year. You always expect that you’re going to play really well and you expect it. I’m not going to predict anything, but hopefully [the winning streak] will continue.”
Clearly the Bruins are hoping for more of the same from an athletic, unpredictable goalie in Khudobin that’s still tied for second in the NHL with a .932 save percentage, and is likewise tied for third in the NHL with a 2.22 goals against average that’s shared with one other goaltender in Andrei Vasilevskiy. But part of the downside to getting Tuukka Rask back on track with three straight starts was the cooling effect it might have on Khudobin, who will get his chance to disprove that narrative against a red-hot Predators group that’s again playing like the Western Conference champs they were last season.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while trying to figure out when exactly I’m going to be able to go see the new Star Wars movie.
*The New York Islanders were crying in their beer over the fact that Brad Marchand side-stepped a suspension and claimed it was because John Tavares didn’t writhe around, kick and scream on the ice like a soccer player. The truth is the play wasn’t the kind of thing that’s going to injure a player under normal circumstances but was clearly a late, uncalled for hit. That’s why it got the five-minute major penalty and nothing more. Threatening to give an award-winning acting performance next time in order to try and get a suspension for an opposing player just sounds like crybaby soup from the Isles. Buckle the chin strap and get ready to play a contact sport next time, particularly if you’re Tavares, who was hacking at Charlie McAvoy’s legs with your stick like you’re Paul Bunyan chopping at a piece of wood. It works both ways, you know?
*The Winnipeg Jets continue to be one of the excellent, unsung stories of the NHL’s first half as they really take hold at the top of the Western Conference.
*Here’s a good piece on Jonathan Quick and what his good health has meant to a resurgent Los Angeles Kings team this season.
*Former Boston College standout goalie Thatcher Demko is way ahead of schedule in the Vancouver Canucks organization, but they’re not looking to rush him.
*Here’s a great video of a youngster playing the Star-Spangled Banner on the violin prior to a New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden. Well done, young lady!
*Pro Hockey Talk as the details of the Ducks and Red Wings getting into a fight on Monday night ahead of the Bruins traveling to Hockeytown for a Wednesday night showdown.
*For something completely different: A list of the 10 actors who could replace Ben Affleck as Batman now that DC has given up the charade that they’re not intending to replace him underneath the cowl.
BRIGHTON, Mass – Ryan Spooner has practiced in each of the past two days, but his status is still in question for the back-to-back Bruins games against the Red Wings and Capitals over the next couple of days.
Spooner has missed the past couple of games with a lower-body injury after playing in the previous five contests following a month-long layoff with a groin injury. The current injury is believed to be similar in nature to the original groin problem and that’s the reason the Bruins are treating it cautiously as they approach Wednesday night’s game in Detroit.
“He’s practicing fully with the team, and the long and short of it is that he’s still day-to-day. We’ll decide [on Wednesday] but we just want to keep moving forward with him,” said Bruce Cassidy, who also mentioned that Kevan Miller was missing from practice to be with his wife for the birth of their child. “We’ve had a couple of stops and starts with him, so we’re going to manage it to the best of our ability so we’re moving forward [in his recovery]. He’ll travel with the team, and if we decide that he’s in the lineup [vs. the Red Wings] then Donnie [Sweeney] and I will talk about how that’s going to affect our roster.”
Spooner has played 10 games this season, with a goal and four points in the intermittent action. It’s too bad as Spooner has been pretty good when healthy and has played with speed and a higher level of competitiveness this season when he’s actually suited up.
The problem with Spooner’s return at this point, however, is that the Bruins have a third line of Danton Heinen, Riley Nash and David Backes that’s been gaining traction in recent days and had a monster game vs. Arizona last week. A return from injured reserve for Spooner would mean that the Bruins finally have to make a tough roster choice. Either put a player such as Frank Vatrano on waivers or send a young player such as Sean Kuraly down who deserves to stay based on his performance.
With Spooner’s status in question for the next two games, here are the line combos and D-pairings from Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena with Tuukka Rask set to get the start Wednesday night in Detroit: