Bruins

Spooner on last season: 'I looked at my game and I wasn't happy with it'

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Spooner on last season: 'I looked at my game and I wasn't happy with it'

Ryan Spooner didn’t know what to expect this offseason, and the speedy center certainly had his doubts about whether he’d be back with the Bruins this season. The 26-year-old really struggled down the stretch last season following a concussion and was a healthy scratch for the last couple of playoffs in the first round against the Ottawa Senators.

So the former second round pick became a potential trade chip over the summer as the Bruins attempted to upgrade their defensemen corps, and the B’s signed a potential young replacement in Boston University standout Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. Still, Spooner ended up staying with the B’s after he was protected in the NHL expansion draft and now finds himself again as the odds-on favorite to be the third line center for Boston to start the season.

Clearly the tumult and the playoff benching did some good for Spooner, however, as it spurred on some soul-searching about his own game after he realized that he’d be getting one more chance with the Bruins.

“I wasn’t sure [about the future]. I heard a lot of the media stuff that I wasn’t going to be back, but I tried not to pay attention to a lot of that. It’s hard, though, because I had a lot of my friends and family telling me what they hard, but I do feel like I’ve got something to prove now,” said Spooner. “I really took it heart at the end of the year when I didn’t play [in the playoffs]. I kind of looked at my game and I wasn’t really happy with it. There are a lot of things that I need to work on.

“The offensive side for me is always something I’ve been good at, but in terms of the face-offs and the defensive side of the game I need to be a lot better at that. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.”

Spooner worked hard over the summer to gain some much-needed size and strength and finds himself all the way up over 190 pounds – 192 pounds to be exact -- for the first time in his pro hockey career. He hopes the added weight will allow him to play stronger on the puck and be a tougher player to play against after taking a half-step back last season.

“I tried to put on five points, but I ended up putting on seven or eight…so that’s good,” said Spooner, who dropped to 11 goals and 39 points along with a minus-8 last season after posting 13 goals and 49 points the year before. “Just given how the season ended, I was also looking more at the mental side of the game for me. I just looked at the things that I need to work on. This is the year where I kind of need to work on some things, or I’m not going to be here anymore. I just want to focus on the things that I can get better at and then go from there.

“I think I can be a much harder player to play against, and if I can do that then it’s going to help me out a lot. That’s the flaw in my game that I see.”

One thing Spooner isn’t worried about with the added bulk is losing the skating speed that’s his bread and butter. He made certain to skate and keep up the conditioning while upping the calorie intake over the summer, and it should make him a speedy, stronger competitor more able to engage in the one-on-one battles necessary for success at the NHL level.

That’s something that could really add to his offensive game during 5-on-5 play where he hasn’t always been as productive as he his masterfully working the half-wall on the power play.

“I was 182 or 183 pounds [last season] and now I’m up to 192 [pounds], so hopefully that can help me out in the corners and on the compete side of things. I’ve just got to keep the cardio side of things and I’ve been doing that, so hopefully it works out for me,” said Spooner. “I did it slowly and made sure I was still skating and doing the cardio at the same time. So I’m satisfied with the [skating] speed. Sometimes it can be a bit of a concern when you’re up seven or eight points that you can get a low slower [on the ice].”

Spooner was also crystal clear he knows that this season represents his last chance with the Bruins based on the one-year deal he received as opposed to a multi-year contract. That being the case, this season should be the absolute best that Spooner has to offer knowing that his future with the Bruins, and perhaps long term in the NHL, hangs in the balance.  

Sean Kuraly, Bruins fourth line 'trying to get back to what makes them a good line'

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Sean Kuraly, Bruins fourth line 'trying to get back to what makes them a good line'

BRIGHTON, Mass. — While there are obviously plenty of things that have gone right for the Bruins given their standing in first place in the Atlantic Division, their fourth line hasn’t really been one of them.

A big part of it, obviously, is the number of injuries suffered early in the season with left winger Joakim Nordstrom out of the mix for 11 games, so the continuity wasn’t there early in the season with a number of different faces on Boston’s energy line.

But the regular trio has been together for the last few weeks, and still hasn’t completely found the footing that made them one of the most effective fourth lines in the NHL last season. They have combined for just four goals in the first 20 games this season, and both Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly have been minus players this season.

The good news is that some offensive opportunities are beginning to come their way, enough so that Wagner has been unsuccessfully tapped for the shootout in each of the last two instances where the Bruins made it to the extra season.

But it’s also clear to Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy that his fourth line needs to get back to basics and do what they do best in playing with speed and physicality, shutting down top lines and occasionally popping in secondary offense when chances present themselves. Right now they are doing some of that, but clearly haven’t hit the high levels they were at a little more often last season.

“I think [Kuraly] is losing sight a little bit of what makes them a good line, and what makes him a good player. He’s visibly frustrated when he’s not finishing, which I get. Guys want to score. But that shouldn’t then affect the rest of his game, and I think it has a little bit. We’ve pulled them aside as a line, especially the assistant coaches, and have gone through things when they’re solid,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I think the puck is finding Sean and the rest of their line; they just have to finish. But he really has to make sure what his primary role is and that’s been our message to him.

“That’s being a shutdown guy and making life miserable for one of their top two lines, and then get the job done on the penalty. I don’t want to say the offense is gravy, but you’ve just got to play through that part of it and not let if affect you mentally.”

Kuraly himself admitted that it hasn’t been an easy go of it this season and understands exactly what needs to be done to get them back to their high level of play.

“My details can be better and that’s my focus. I want to be top end at the little things and the details,” said Kuraly, who has been a minus-3 with just five shots on net in the last five games for the Bruins. “I think some of that might have slipped lately and my focus is going to be getting that back to what it was. It’s realizing when I do that, I give the team a good chance to win — and when I don’t, it can hurt us. A lot of that can fall on me.”

Maybe what the B's fourth line needs is simply to play crash-and-bang hockey with some responsible defense thrown in for a couple of games. Once they have become difficult to play against once again, then the offense will follow afterward.

It remains to be seen exactly when the B’s energy line is going to make the expected turnaround, but it sounds like everybody is on the same page as to how exactly that’s going to happen, when it does happen.

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Bruins' Jake DeBrusk, Brett Ritchie trending toward return vs. Devils

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Bruins' Jake DeBrusk, Brett Ritchie trending toward return vs. Devils

BRIGHTON, Mass. — The Bruins should get at least a couple of pieces of their team back from injuries for Tuesday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Jake DeBrusk (lower body) and Brett Ritchie (upper body) both skated without restrictions in Monday morning’s practice at Warrior Arena, and it sounded like they would play against the Devils barring any setbacks following practice. For DeBrusk, it will be a welcome return after a five-game absence and he’ll hope to pick up where he left off with goals in each of the two games before he got hurt early in the first period against the Canadiens on November 5.

“I’m feeling good,” said DeBrusk, who has three goals and six points in 15 games this season. “I’ve obviously been missing the game, so it was great skating with the boys today. I scored in back-to-back games before Montreal, so I used the time [out with injury] to reflect on things and rejuvenate myself in a way. It was different things that were getting to me a little bit. I used the time to be more mature with my approach [to the game] coming back whenever that is going to be.”

Patrice Bergeron (lower body) didn’t skate with the Bruins on Monday and will be a game-time decision against the Devils while planning to travel with the team to New Jersey. Torey Krug (upper body) skated ahead of practice on Monday and could be nearing a return to the lineup as well, but he won’t be playing against the Devils.

“Ritchie and DeBrusk both skated and no residual effects right now, so we anticipate they’re going to play,” said Cassidy. “We’ll put them as game-time decisions. “Krug skated. He’s not available [against the Devils] so he’ll be available a little later as well.”

As far as other injured Bruins are concerned, Kevan Miller has had a couple of days off the ice, “won’t play this week” but is looking at a possible return to game action next week after he was not on the ice with the team on Monday morning. John Moore (shoulder surgery) did skate with the main group and continues to make progress in his recovery from offseason surgery.

Tuukka Rask will get the start against the Devils on Tuesday night, and both Brendan Gaunce and Urho Vaakanainen were called up to the Bruins ahead of Tuesday’s trip to New Jersey. It didn’t look like Gaunce will be playing against the Devils, however, unless somebody expected to play isn’t able to at game time.

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings for Tuesday night’s game vs. the Devils based on practice:

PROJECTED LINES

Brad Marchand David Krejci David Pastrnak
Anders Bjork Charlie Coyle Danton Heinen
Jake DeBrusk Par Lindholm Brett Ritchie
Joakim Nordstrom Sean Kuraly Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk Brandon Carlo
Urho Vaakanainen Connor Clifton

STARTING GOALIE

Tuukka Rask

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