Bruins

Khudobin's on horse, not under it, after first win of season

bruins_anton_khudobin_101417.jpg

Khudobin's on horse, not under it, after first win of season

GLENDALE, Arizona – Anton Khudobin loves to win hockey games.

The Bruins backup goalie loves when his team comes out as a winner, and he’s even more enthused when it’s him at the heart of a winning effort with a good performance between the pipes. So Khudobin was overjoyed after helping lead the Bruins to a 6-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes in his first start of the season.

MORE:

While it’s true that Khudobin wasn’t severely tested in a game that the Bruins dominated from the second period through the final horn, it was still a win for a goalie that didn’t get his second ‘W’ of last season until very late in the year. So the 31-year-older Russian netminder wasn’t about to mince words when it came to the importance of winning to him.

“The ‘W’ is always great. No matter what the score, whether it’s 8-6 or 9-7. If you win then you win. Nobody talks about losers. Everybody talks about winners, right?” said Khudobin. “If you win, then you’re on the horse, and if you don’t then you’re under it. It’s great to get one at the start of the season, and so now hopefully it’s not going to roll like it did last year.”

Khudobin was likely at his best early in stopping 9-of-10 shots in the first period when it was still a hotly contested hockey game. That solid performance early allowed the Bruins to shake off the cobwebs and get into the rhythm of their game, and that began happening with much more snap and precision starting in the second period.

The plan all along was for Khudobin to get one of the two back-to-back games this weekend, but there was never any certainty it was going to be Arizona until Bruce Cassidy made that call at the end of this week. Clearly it was the right call and now sets things up for Tuukka Rask to answer with his own strong performance in Vegas on Sunday night, and get the Bruins goaltending picture up where it should be all season.

“He did his job and that’s what we want. He gave us a chance to win,” said Cassidy. “He got some run support tonight, but he doesn’t know that after the first period…so good for him. He battled and he always does. We needed it.”

Khudobin battled, he managed to stay on his horse and he got the all-important win for his Bruins. It sounds like a pretty solid all-around night for a backup goalie that the Bruins are going to need to play like that for 20-25 games this season while supporting starter Tuukka Rask. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

ap_17300000189894.jpg

Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s still early in the careers of all the young Bruins rookies making their way this season, it sure looks like 22-year-old Danton Heinen is among the B’s youngsters that are here to stay. The former University of Denver standout didn’t make the cut at the end of training camp this season and he failed early last year when it was clear he wasn’t ready during an eight-game audition with the big club.

But Heinen continued to look ready while scoring a pair of goals and three points in the three games on a pivotal road trip through California last week, and is now tied for fifth on the Bruins in points despite missing four games in the AHL. In all, Heinen has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 rating in 15 games this season, and is on pace for a really strong 21 goals and 52 points in his first full year.

This has been a really nice step forward for Heinen after being a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring.

MORE:

“Last year’s playoff did a lot for him. When I saw him playing there, he was a different player than when he’d left [Boston],” said Bruce Cassidy. “There was a willingness to stay in the battle and his growth when it comes to winning pucks…you’ve seen it here. A lot of the things he’s down well are his second and third efforts on the puck where last year I thought he was pushed off the puck pretty easily [at the NHL level].”

There could be a period when his offense slows down or some other part of his game drags his minutes down, but right now he looks like he’s well on his way to establishing himself in a key role with the Black and Gold. The difference has been Heinen increasing his speed and also adding a little more tenacity to the skill and offense package that he was always bringing to the table.  

“I don’t want to say that because when we get our guys healthy then we’ll see where we’re at,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Heinen was a keeper at the NHL level at this point. “But I think he’s certainly shown he’s a much more consistent player than he was last year. He’s probably a bit ahead of the other younger guys because he has gone through a bit of it [at the pro level]. The fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of different situations, play left or right wing, and moved up in the lineup while being very effective with [Sean] Kuraly and [Tim] Schaller down in the lineup, as a coach it’s to have a guy like that who can move around and fit in a lot of different places.

“So he’s certainly helped himself [to stay in the NHL]. I think it’s too early to say if he’s here for good, but I don’t envision him leaving [Boston] anytime soon with the way that he’s played.”

Only time and consistently good play will allow the playmaking Heinen to truly lock up his spot on the NHL roster, but it’s increasingly difficult to envision any scenario where the fifth-round pick isn’t playing an increasingly important role for the Bruins. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

bruins_david_backes_031517.jpg

Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

BRIGHTON -- In a development that was certainly much sooner than originally anticipated, David Backes has returned to the ice just a matter of weeks after having 10 inches of colon removed during surgery for diverticulitis. It remains to be seen how gradual a process it will be for the 33-year-old to actually return to game action given his original timetable for recovery was eight weeks following the early November procedure, but it seems like it might end up being ahead of the two months Backes was initially expected to be sidelined. 

For his part, Backes was happy to be back skating with his teammates and pushing his recovering body after feeling pretty sluggish for the first few days following surgery. He confirmed he’d been skating for a couple of days while the team was on the West Coast, but Monday was his first team doing anything post-surgery with the rest of the team. 

“It’s good to be back with the guys and to be around the room, and to have seen the kind of resiliency that these guys showed on the road trip. The back half of the road trip was impressive,” said Backes, who has an assist in five games with the Bruins before succumbing to the surgery. “To be on the ice and moving around after sitting around doing nothing for too long where you don’t think you’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels good. 

“The doc’s advice is that if it doesn’t hurt then I can keep moving forward and add more of a workload on, so that’s the update for today. It’s still non-contact, but we’ll keep moving along and hopefully I’ll be back doing what I love to do on a regular basis. I haven’t been notified that the timeline has changed at all, so I’m just going to keep putting in the work. The more I seem to do the work the better it is, and I seem to be able to do a little more each day. So those are all positive signs.”

For the Bruins it’s clearly a morale booster to see the big power forward back doing regular hockey activities, and serving notice that he’ll be bringing his size, strength, leadership and physicality back to a B’s team that definitely needs him. Clearly the return of another high-end forward would also immensely help a Bruins team that’s still very undermanned up front, but it would appear there will be some other B’s forwards getting back prior to Backes. 

Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner appear poised to return to full practice on Tuesday with a possible return to the lineup not too far beyond that after all three injured forwards took part in Monday’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE