Bruins

Bruins drop second straight to Avalanche, 6-3

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Bruins drop second straight to Avalanche, 6-3

DENVER -- Alexander Kerfoot scored his first NHL goal with some part of his lower leg.

Doesn't really matter which part - a first goal is a first goal and it's a "great feeling," he said.

Kerfoot's goal and two more by Sven Andrighetto, the second an empty-netter with 1:34 remaining, helped the Colorado Avalanche to a 6-3 victory over the Boston Bruins in their home opener Wednesday night.

It was the second meeting between the teams in three days. The Avalanche beat the Bruins 4-0 in Boston on Monday.

Colorado broke things open in the second period, with Nail Yakupov, Andrighetto and Matt Duchene all beating goalie Tuukka Rask, who was replaced by Anton Khudobin for the third period.

Trailing 4-1 midway through the third, the Bruins made things interesting with goals from Tim Schaller and Torey Krug in a 1:27 span. Andrighetto and Tyson Jost responded with empty-net goals to seal it.

"Fun game," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. "I know our players had fun playing it. The crowd was fantastic."

In the second period, there was a scary scene for the Avalanche: Jost crawling toward the bench after taking a hit from Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid. Jost slid hard into the boards and McQuaid was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking.

Moments later, Andrighetto scored to make it 3-1. And when McQuaid stepped out of the box, Colorado defenseman Nikita Zadorov was there waiting to fight. They each landed several punches before being sent to the box.

Jost later returned to the game with his usual burst.

"It was just a dangerous play," Bednar said. "Fortunately, he's not hurt. To see him bounce back, our guys are pretty excited to see him come back out there."

Semyon Varlamov stopped 20 shots to help the Avalanche start on the right foot at the Pepsi Center. The team went a dismal 13-26-2 at home a season ago when it finished with an NHL-worst 48 points.

Yakupov had three goals in the two games against the Bruins. A former No. 1 overall draft pick, Yakupov is trying to resurrect his career in Colorado.

Brad Marchand also scored for Boston, which has dropped two of three to start the season.

"We didn't get anything going. We woke up a little too late, when it was 4-1," Rask said. "Very tough game."

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy seconded that sentiment.

"They were better than us again, the second time in three days," he said.

Kerfoot scored at 8:19 of the opening period when a pass from Tyson Barrie appeared to bank off his leg and bounce over Rask. The 23-year-old Kerfoot signed a two-year deal with Colorado after becoming a college free agent in August. He was a co-captain for Harvard last season.

"To get a goal is pretty special," Kerfoot said.

Duchene set up Kerfoot's goal with a feed out front to Barrie. Duchene has two goals and three assists this season as he tries to keep his focus on the ice with his name being mentioned in trade talks since last season.

"Same message I've preached all camp and all season so far - I'm just here to be the best I can be for this team," Duchene said after the morning skate.

Bednar will gladly take more of this from Duchene.

"I haven't thought about Matt's situation, his circumstances, whatever you want to call it, since we opened training camp, to be honest," Bednar said. "He's anchoring that line with Kerfoot and Yakupov, and they're good every night. As long as they stay competitive and keep working like that, that's all I care about."

NOTES: C Patrice Bergeron missed a third straight game with a lower-body injury. Bergeron's next one will be his 900th game with the Bruins. ... RW David Backesremains out with diverticulitis. ... Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon had two assists in the second period.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Play the second contest on a three-game trip in Arizona on Saturday.

Avalanche: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Friday before traveling to Dallas on Saturday.

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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Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

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Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

BRIGHTON, Mass – It would appear that Bruce Cassidy is ready to start shuffling the deck up front after a slow start to the season.

With the Bruins ranking among the league’s worst both offensively and defensively just a handful of games into the season, they are both introducing a few new forwards to the mix while hoping for full health to a couple of other ones. 

First off, the Bruins appear that they might get David Backes back for Thursday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after his bout with diverticulitis, supplying some badly needed size, strength and net-front tenacity on the wing. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) might not be too far behind after going through a full practice wearing a no-contact jersey. The return of No. 37 would help in any number of different areas once he’s good to go, and would have a cascade effect on the rest of the forwards.  

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Getting both players back in short order would give the Bruins a toughness around the net that was certainly missing against Malcolm Subban and the Golden Knights, and hasn’t been there consistently this season with No. 37 and No. 42 out of commission.

“[Bergeron] is progressing. In the past we’ve ruled him out ahead of time, but we’re not ruling him out for [Thursday vs. the Canucks]. Backes looks closer to being ready to play,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Some of the games that have gotten away from us, those guys are glue guys that really add that element to us to keep us on the rails without the game getting away. Some nights you just need their offense or some hard defending, and you miss their leadership obviously. They’re all good players, but most of them you know they’re bringing that North/South game and a few good shifts here or there could have got us back on track.

“[Bergeron] is underrated in his ability to get to the front of the net especially with Marchand and Pastrnak on his wings. So we miss that part of it: Getting there on time, making plays and finishing off plays. Backes is just a big body there and you certainly miss that part of it. With Vegas the other night that was one of the biggest things we were missing was getting second chances, shooting for second chances, hitting the net and getting those rebound chances against a team that was harder to get inside on.

A few moves on Wednesday might also suggest some on-the-fly changes with some forwards that haven’t been working out with the Black and Gold. Ryan Spooner suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday night against Vegas, and it sounds like it might not be a short-term injury for the center with just one point in his first five games. Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano also haven’t produced much in the first couple of weeks of the season, and could be in danger of losing roster spots to Providence call-ups Kenny Agostino and Peter Cehlarik.  

Both players were late cuts from training camp and were showing the blend of size, strength, skill, experience and production that Boston needs more of as they search for answers among their forward group. Beleskey, Spooner and Vatrano have combined for one point, a minus-6 rating and just 12 shots on net in a combined 14 games this season, so clearly that is one of the first spots to look for upgrading the roster from within.

“[A tryout period] is a good way to put it. We talked about that in training camp when we had a long look at guys, but not Cehlarik because he didn’t get a chance to play [because of shoulder surgery]. He obviously piqued our interest last year and did a lot of good things for us,” said Cassidy, who has been in a state of constant flux putting forward lines together due to injury and ineffectiveness. “We just went in a different direction at the trade deadline, but we brought him up to give him a look. We have a decision tomorrow and I’m not going to say whether [Cehlarik] is in or out.

“He’s really played well in Providence, and we just thought he might be able to help us. Some of it may depend on the health of the other guys as far as who’s in and who’s out. If both Cehlarik and Agostino are both in the lineup there’s a chance [they might play together]. They were with [Riley] Nash today in the middle, and he has some of the same qualities as JFK down in Providence. But until we sort through who’s in for tomorrow, and that starts at the top with Bergeron and Backes, then stuff will fall into place for all of them.”

Depending on how Don Sweeney plays with his 23-roster spots, perhaps the time has come to put one of those players on waivers for a trip to the AHL. Simply based on merit it would be Vatrano and the total nothingness he’s shown in his first four games this season, but there would also be a legitimate concern they’d lose the 23-year-old Massachusetts native on waivers for nothing.

For their part, players like Agostino and Cehlarik ripped up the AHL while teamed with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson in Providence, and were just looking for their chance to carve out a role in Boston. Now they may get their chance based on others not really grasping their opportunity, and they’re ready if that’s the case.

“It’s encouraging for me, but I’m just taking things day-by-day. I’m not looking past anything and I’m looking in the past. I just take things as they come here,” said Agostino, who leads the Bruins two goals and seven points in three games thus far. “This isn’t my first time [up at the NHL], so I’m just going to do whatever I can to make the best impression possible.”

What if Agostino and Cehlarik, a career AHL player and a former third-round pick, can’t make the impact that the Bruins are looking for?

Hopefully by then the Bruins will at least have their top two lines healthy and firing on all cylinders, and can continue to mix and match things in the bottom six until they find a combination of forwards that work. But it may come to a point where the Bruins need to look outside the organization for an impact forward or two, or at least find somebody that can make an impact on the ice rather than will themselves invisible.

Only Beleskey has been at all effective this season as he’s dropped the gloves and played physical at times, and certainly can still be an effective third or fourth liner with the right players skating alongside him. For those reasons along with the massive contract money still owed him, Beleskey should be given every opportunity to succeed in Boston. But one thing is clear at this point: There is too much dead weight on the Bruins roster right now at the forward position, and something needs to be done about it if they hope to pull themselves out of their early-season funk.   

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