Cassidy: Heinen 'fighting it a bit' in rookie's first real slump

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Cassidy: Heinen 'fighting it a bit' in rookie's first real slump

BRIGHTON, Mass – As the rigors of the 82-game regular season wear on and the late-season schedule for the Bruins, in particular, takes its toll, it’s not surprising that some of Boston’s younger players are struggling to maintain consistency.

One of those players is Danton Heinen, 22, who has been excellent all season as a third-line scoring winger who plays a 200-foot game and brought consistency with him in his rookie NHL season. Heinen has just one point in his past nine games and has seen his ice time drop to below 13 minutes the past couple of games. Heinen was skipped over for a few shifts in the middle of the 4-3 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night in order to double-shift Brad Marchand. Bruce Cassidy said that was in recognition that they may need to throttle down on Heinen’s usage just a little bit.

“[It] looks like Danton is fighting it a bit right now. We’ve talked about some of our younger guys [with] peaks and valleys, and he’s in one of those ruts that we’re trying to help him through yet still win hockey games,” said Cassidy. “[You] send your message and try to play Brad a little more to get him going. The first period, we got into some penalty trouble. He took one. So, at the end of the day, those are coaches’ decisions, and you hope the player is better off for it in the long run.

“Sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t. We’ll always keep talking to Danton. He’s a good, solid player for us. But right now, he is slogging his way through this time of the year. We need to get his energy level up. Some of that might be less playing time, etc. There are different avenues, and [against Carolina] that’s one of them we chose.”

Clearly, it’s something that Heinen is going to have to work through and the hard work hasn’t changed his compete level, even as he wasn’t able to generate any shots on net in the past two games. It’s simply a rookie wall of sports that Heinen is going to have to bust through, and he’ll need to do it with a different center now that Riley Nash is filling in for an injured Patrice Bergeron on the top line. Newly acquired Tommy Wingels centered Heinen and David Backes Tuesday night. 

It’s not going to get any easier as the schedule keeps ramping up for the Bruins in the final six weeks of their season, but Heinen is too good of an offensive catalyst, too hard of a worker and too smart of a player to not regain things well ahead of the playoffs that await 21 regular season games down the road.


Krug steps up as Bruins stars go down

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Krug steps up as Bruins stars go down

The Bruins have managed to take three of a possible six points since Zdeno Chara went down in the third period of last week's comeback win over the Carolina Hurricanes, and they've done it completely without their top pairing since Charlie McAvoy has also been out all this time.

There are a number of factors behind the ability to withstand the injuries, of course, and the entire defense corps was stellar at both ends in the shutout win over Tampa Bay last weekend.


But it's Torey Krug who's really stepped up his game. He had three assists and 15 shots on net in those three games, and was immense in the win over the Lightning.

Krug has surpassed the 50-point plateau for the second straight season, a major accomplishment for a defenseman who prides himself on his puck-moving and power-play work.

"You know, he has [stepped up]," coach Bruce Cassidy said of Krug, adding: "Torey is always going to get his numbers, but he's really added to it 5-on-5 . . . [It] was comforting to see that [without Chara and McAvoy] we shut out one of the best teams [in the NHL], at home, that was rested. You've got to take something out of that. It was one of 82 [games], but that was a real positive for our guys."

For Krug, the challenge of stepping up and being a leader in the team's time of need is the kind of thing he takes pride in responding to with an elevated level of play.

"I'm in the business of winning hockey games and helping my team win," said Krug. "It falls on my shoulders to produce some offense from the back end. And [when] we're missing a couple of guys from the back end that do that push the pace, then you've got to step up and make some plays. When you play with a lot of great players then you'll get your points, and you just need to worry about the defensive zone first.

"We're confident in everybody in this room. A lot of people think that the guys on our back end can't get the job done, so for us to step up [is a good thing]."


The biggest sign of Krug's increased responsibility? He topped 26 minutes of ice time in two of the three games since Chara was injured. Only once before, when he was on the ice for 27-plus minutes against the Rangers in early November, has he played more than that.

The loss of Chara and McAvoy has forced Krug to go above and beyond his normal range of duties and he's stepped up and embraced it. That's what good players on good teams do, and it's something Krug has consistently done in the big moments since arriving in Boston five years ago.


Erik Karlsson and wife Melinda mourn death of their son

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Erik Karlsson and wife Melinda mourn death of their son

The Ottawa Senators announced Tuesday that team captain Erik Karlsson and his wife Melinda lost their son one month before his due date.


"The collective thoughts and prayers of the Ottawa Senators organization, the city of Ottawa and entire hockey community rest with Erik and Melinda Karlsson following the loss of their son.

We ask that you respect the family's wishes for privacy during the grieving process."

The couple announced via Instagram in November that they were expecting, and the CBC reports the baby was due in April.

Sens head coach Guy Boucher spoke about the tragedy after Ottawa's game vs the Panthers on Tuesday (1:36 mark in video below).

Karlsson, a rumored Bruins target before the trade deadline, received heartfelt condolences from the hockey world on Twitter:

Our thoughts too go out to Erik and Melinda during this incredibly difficult time.