Bruins

Khudobin continues brilliant season while stepping in for Rask vs. Habs

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Khudobin continues brilliant season while stepping in for Rask vs. Habs

BOSTON – Bruce Cassidy normally announces his starting goaltender a day or more in advance, but he didn’t do that ahead of Saturday’s regular season finale against the arch-rival Montreal Canadiens. It was slightly eyebrow-raising coming off a Thursday night performance where Tuukka Rask had a dreadful first period despite eventually earning the win, and amidst a six game stretch where Rask has amassed a yuk-worthy .888 save percentage.

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As it turns out Rask is nursing a “very, very minor injury” according to Cassidy, and that meant backup Anton Khudobin would get the assignment on Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens. As he’s done pretty much all season, Khudobin responded with a fantastic performance in going save-for-save with a brilliant Antti Niemi while waiting for the Bruins offense to catch up to him in a comeback 2-1 overtime win vs. the Canadiens at TD Garden.

“You’ve got to give their goalie credit,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I thought, for a 1-1 game, both goaltenders were – I don’t know if they were one and two star -- but damn close if they weren’t. I thought it was a really well played game as far as the goaltending.”

The Bruins outshot the Habs by a 50-28 margin and dominated long stretches of the game, but the Canadiens certainly got some high quality chances against a B’s team that was skating five D-men after the first period injury to Charlie McAvoy. After getting beaten by a Brendan Gallagher snipe off a Kevan Miller turnover halfway through the first period Khudobin was perfect after that while keeping the Bruins in a game where they trailed by one goal for almost 40 minutes.

One more mistake could have sunk the Bruins, and Khudobin never made it while shutting down odd-man rushes and making flashy glove saves. He did just that in the second period shutting down Logan Shaw on a 2-on-1 while aggressively attacking the shooter, and then later snatching a sizzling Alex Galchenyuk one-timer with a big glove hand.

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In all Khudobin stopped 27 shots and improved to 14-4-4 in what’s been his best NHL season that continues to onward and upward as Rask’s oft-used backup.

“They are a pretty fast team but they played back to back so maybe, I don’t want to say that we were frustrated in the offensive zone and that’s why it happened, but [the odd man rushes] happened,” said Khudobin. “Sometimes you have games like this that you’re probably going to see more odd man rushes than just straight shots. It just happens like that.”

“It’s a 1-1 game going to overtime and the other goalie was playing really well and I was just hoping that we were going to score that’s all. It’s never too easy when you’re just standing there and you have a couple of great scoring chances and one of them can go in and you’re like one chance and there goes the game. I’m glad we won the game and it went our way.”

With a .921 save percentage that’s better than Rask’s this season and a comparable 2.34 goals against average this season, a lot of things have deservedly gone Khudobin’s way during a brilliant season with the Black and Gold. There should be no hesitation with calling Khudobin’s number on days like Saturday where the Bruins are trying to keep their No. 1 goalie fresh and rested during the stretch run.

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Bjork nearing game action, but is it too late for an NHL spot?

Bjork nearing game action, but is it too late for an NHL spot?

BRIGHTON, Mass  -- It’s been a bit of a slow go of it for Anders Bjork in Bruins training camp this fall while coming back from shoulder surgery, and that’s beginning to make an impact on the youngster’s chances of cracking the NHL roster at the start of the season.

It’s no fault of Bjork’s obviously as returning from shoulder surgery is no easy feat in a game where heavy contact to the shoulders is an everyday experience. But as the former Notre Dame standout hasn’t been fully cleared by the medical staff to play in games, he’s fallen behind peers like Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato in the battle for a couple of open top-9 winger spots among the forward group.

Bjork did take some contact in 3-on-3 drills at practice on Sunday at Warrior Ice Arena and is expected to have a doctor’s appointment this week where he could get clearance to play in games.

That’s a better place to be in than Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Fitzgerald, Sean Kuraly, Martin Bakos and Jakub Zboril all currently sitting out practice with injuries, but the odds are getting more likely his season will start in Providence.

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“He’s kind of been in the practices and held out here or there. If I’m not mistaken he’s got an appointment tomorrow that might clarify a little more of where the next step is for him,” said Bruce Cassidy, who did have Bjork skating in a pretty good spot on the right side with Jake DeBrusk and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson at practice on Sunday. “Hopefully that leads to some games for him because it’s tough to make the team if you don’t play any exhibition games if you’re in his position. [Bergeron] is a different animal and [Torey Krug] too because they’ve both been here, but for Bjork he’s probably going to need to play some games. Hopefully he gets that opportunity.”

Bjork was keeping a pretty good approach to the slow, deliberate approach to this fall’s training camp, but undoubtedly knows he’s got a couple of big games at the end of this week to show what he can do before the roster gets cut down.

“I’m feeling good. I’m still technically not cleared for games at this point, which is a little bit frustrating to be honest with you,” said Bjork, who had four goals and 12 points in 30 games last season. “I think the doctors have experience with this and they’re smart, so I have trust in them and trust in the coaching staff as well. It’s good to get a little antsy to play, and that’s building up with me for sure. We’re in the thick of camp, so I’m excited to get things going.”

For a player like Bjork that’s still developing, it might not be the worst thing in the world to start at the AHL level and get plenty of playing time rather than be a 22-year-old playing a potentially sporadic role at the NHL level. 

Morning Skate: Just how good is Tavares going to be in Toronto?

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Morning Skate: Just how good is Tavares going to be in Toronto?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while my fantasy football team is horrendous right now after Yahoo! gave me an “A” for my work on draft day. Damn you, Yahoo!

*It’s really interesting to think about just how impactful the arrival of John Tavares is going to be with the Maple Leafs. Does his arrival automatically catapult Toronto past the Bruins in the Atlantic Division standings? Will his leadership and intangibles takes Toronto’s young guns to an even higher level? Will the Leafs still be held back by their question marks on defense? Those questions won’t be answered until the regular season, but needless to say the media folks in Toronto are a wee bit giddy about the whole thing.

*Speaking of Toronto media watching Tavares, Steve Simmons has done his share and it sounds like he’s sold on the massive impact the former Islanders star will have.

*Interesting piece about how nutrition is becoming the next horizon in pro sports, and specifically in the NHL, where teams will be looking for competitive advantages.

*Former Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec is calling it a career after 11 seasons in the NHL where he was certainly a No. 1 goalie, but never quite the guy that was going to take his team over the top.

*Jason Spezza wants to actually accomplish something on the ice for the Dallas Stars this season, which would certainly be helpful for them after a rough season.

*For something completely different: I wouldn’t plan on Chevy Chase hosting Saturday Night Live again anytime soon.

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