Bruins

Morning Skate: Kessel frustrated with Penguins? Should Bruins trade first-rounder?

Morning Skate: Kessel frustrated with Penguins? Should Bruins trade first-rounder?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing I could hang out with the Ryan Brothers down in Nashville.  

*Is Phil Kessel feeling frustrated with the Pittsburgh Penguins? Do we breathe air? Is water wet? These all seem to be fairly obvious questions. 

*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s a look at Felger and yours truly discussing the Bruins potentially trading the No. 18 pick in the first round. In what’s almost universally agreed upon as a weak 2017 NHL Draft class and with a number of potentially good veteran D-men available on the trade market, this would be a time when moving a first rounder would make sense for a Black and Gold team that covets their draft picks and development system. But feat not: Don Sweeney isn’t going to simply throw a first round pick into any deal, and a first rounder in this draft might not hold the kind of cachet that it usually does most seasons.  

*Carrie Underwood and Mike Fisher are the NHL’s ultimate power couple bringing celebrity and hockey to the table together. 

*Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee has the attention of every NHL team, including the Buffalo Sabres, as he looks to wheel and deal ahead of the expansion draft. 

*Evgeni Malkin was a bit overheated at the end of a disappointing Game 3 in Nashville as raving Predators fans were throwing towels at the Pens players as they came off the ice. 

*Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan is exactly the kind of bench boss that can help the Pens pull out of their one-game tailspin. 

*We only get four or five minutes of Don Cherry during Coach’s Corner during every Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. So it’s a special treat when we get a whopping 9 1/2 minutes of Grapes during an NHL Network broadcast. 

*For something completely different: A good piece here on the 15th anniversary of Season 4 of the Wire that focused on kids in the Baltimore school system.  

With no Chara, it's a desperate situation for injury-plagued Bruins

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File photo

With no Chara, it's a desperate situation for injury-plagued Bruins

Some Bruins fans lament that 41-year-old Zdeno Chara isn’t quite what he used to be as a shutdown defenseman in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career.

Well, they’re about to find out exactly how valuable he still is after he was sent home from their lengthy Western trip just one game into the four-game sojourn that will lead up to Thanksgiving. The 6-foot-9 captain was sent back to Boston on Thursday after suffering what looked like a left knee injury in the loss to the Colorado Avalanche and he’s going to be re-evaluated by Bruins doctors while the team still has three games to go in Dallas, Arizona and Detroit.

So, the Bruins will be without Chara for at least the next three games and probably longer if there’s a sprain or worse to the big D-man’s knee. They got a picture into life without Big Zee when a 3-1 lead was erased by five consecutive Avs goals without Chara on the ice and three-power play goals allowed in the final 40 minutes as they attempted to stem the defensive bleeding.

Certainly, Chara's skating has slowed a bit and isn't as much of a factor in the overall offense and on the power play these days. There won’t be any more Norris Trophies or All-Star berths likely in his future, but he’s still the best, most intimidating defensive stopper in the league who uses equal parts size, strength, toughness and a tremendously long reach with his stick to frustrate even the best opponents.

He’s also the most valuable penalty killer who's been the backbone of a consistently effective PK for the Black and Gold.

The Chara injury forced rookie Jeremy Lauzon into almost three minutes of PK time and pushed small puck-movers Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk into power-play time as well. That’s where the trouble begins for the Bruins. 

Now, it will force rookie Jakub Zboril into the lineup for the Bruins and has pushed minor league D-man Connor Clifton into his first call-up to the Bruins from the AHL. It’s unlikely that any of the injured Bruins D-men will be able to return for tonight’s game against the high-powered Dallas Stars, so that would leave Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller, Chara, Urho Vaakanainen and Charlie McAvoy out of the lineup.

Check out the defensive pairings from the morning skate in Dallas:

Clearly, that’s a lot of young, puck-moving talent missing. That’s been reflected in an inconsistent Bruins offense, but the missing bodies also feature the iron of Boston’s defense and penalty kill.

Chara is the beating heart of all of that for the Black and Gold.

The Bruins are having enough issues right now ranked 24th in the NHL in the penalty kill while closing out just 76.3 percent of the power plays that they face, but they’ve been strong defensively in allowing only 2.61 goals per game. That could all change starting tonight in Dallas with no Chara and with a rag-tag group of blueliners full of rookies, power-play specialists and AHL call-ups expected to stop the NHL’s best offensive players.

Some Bruins fans have been looking forward to the day when the Bruins can move past a 41-year-old who's perhaps slowed down just a little bit. They also might come to regret that notion after watching the Bruins struggle through life without Chara until they get their big defensive stopper back.   

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Re-setting the Bruins' blue-line depth

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Re-setting the Bruins' blue-line depth

The Bruins' already-thin blue line depth took another body blow Wednesday when captain Zdeno Chara left the first period of a loss to Colorado with an apparent knee injury. The big man is headed back to Boston for further evaluation, and as Joe Haggerty notes, any extended time away from the team by Chara could be a coup de grace.

How dire could this picture look without Chara? Here's what the defenseman depth looks like at present:

WHO'S OUT

Zdeno Chara - The captain is heading back to Boston after injuring his knee in Wednesday night’s loss in Colorado. It’s unknown how long he’ll be out for, but as Joe Haggerty writes, any long-term absence could be quite costly.

Kevan Miller - On the IR with a hand injury, Miller hasn’t appeared in a game since Oct. 18, but traveled with the team for this road trip. He won’t be eligible to play until Nov. 21 against the Red Wings, however.

Charlie McAvoy - Out since Oct. 18 with a concussion, he’s skating again, but did not travel with the team for this road trip.

Brandon Carlo - He’s out on the IR with an upper body injury, having not played since Saturday’s 5-1 win over Toronto.

Urho Vaakanainen - He didn’t make the trip to Colorado, out with a concussion, but he could join the team before the road trip concludes next week in Detroit.

WHO'S HERE

Matt Grzelcyk - He’s been on the top D-pairing with Chara and is averaging nearly 20 minutes of ice time this season, with 1-7-8 totals in 16 games.

Torey Krug - The left-shooting puck-mover figures to join Grzelcyk on the top pairing. He started the year off on the mend, making his season debut Oct. 30, with six assists in the seven games since.

Steven Kampfer - Sitting on the third D-pairing with call-up Jeremy Lauzon on Wednesday, Kampfer is at a minus-1 for the season.

Jeremy Lauzon - The third-line rookie notched his first career goal in Sunday’s 4-1 win over Vegas.

John Moore - The well-traveled veteran has been logging heavy minutes of late, averaging 20:06 of ice time this month — including a season-high 25:53 in an overtime win over Dallas on Nov. 5. He has just two points in 18 games.

Jakub Zboril - The 21-year-old Czech is understandably thrilled about his first call-up from Providence. In 13 games for the P-Bruins, the former first-round pick has 2-2-4 totals with 16 penalty minutes.

Connor Clifton - The former Quinnipiac star was called up from Providence Thursday on an emergency basis. In 14 AHL games this season, he has four assists.

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