Bruins

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.

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Sweeney says Kovalchuk would be 'nice addition' to Bruins

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Sweeney says Kovalchuk would be 'nice addition' to Bruins

As the free agency period of July 1 inches closer, the hype machine for 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk will grow more and more frenzied for teams like the Bruins.

And coach Bruce Cassidy gladly added to it on Tuesday in Las Vegas, telling reporters assembled for the NHL Awards that the Russian winger would be “a nice fit” for the Black and Gold. 

“Yeah, that would be interesting . . . you never want to speculate,” Cassidy said to reporters in Vegas during his press availability as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. “You can’t get too far ahead . . . he’s a top-six guy, he can play left and right wing, he’s a big body. He’d be a nice addition. I am sure any team would say that right now. 

“He’s going to make your team better, and I think that’s what you always look at as a coach, and fitting [talented players] in is the easy part. The tough part is getting those types of players.”

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The Bruins will be among a handful of teams vying for Kovalchuk, who spend the last five seasons playing in the KHL after bolting the New Jersey Devils and the NHL after the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season. Even at his advanced NHL age, the expectation is that Kovalchuk can still have an impact offensively even if he’s not exactly the same player who posted 37 goals and 83 points in his last full season in Jersey six years ago. 

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound winger still has the big shot, the scoring ability, the size and the game-breaking skills that made him a former first overall pick in the NHL draft, and it may just be that he has more left in his tank than the younger Rick Nash. Clearly there was a concussion that played a big part in Nash’s time in Boston, but he also didn’t look like the explosive scoring ability was still there like it was in the Columbus/New York power forward’s younger years. 

The Bruins haven’t yet locked in a time when they’ll make their pitch to Kovalchuk’s camp, but it’s expected to happen ahead of the July 1 opening of free agency. Kovalchuk's representatives have already had meetings with teams on the West Coast like the Kings and Sharks. It’s expected that Kovalchuk, 35, be looking at a shorter-term deal making something close to the $6.67 annual salary he was being paid by the Devils when he departed the NHL. 

If Kovalchuk were to land in Boston, he’d fill a need for secondary scoring behind the big guns of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.He would allow the Bruins to keep their top forward line intact while filling a hole on the second line right wing alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. 

With the news that next season’s salary cap is going to be in the $79-80 million range, the Bruins will also have somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million in cap space for their offseason shopping list. That should give them plenty of room to sign Kovalchuk to a short-term deal and still address the other openings on their NHL roster, including third-line center and a backup goaltender. Still, Kovalchuk would be the big fish, and that’s why the talk about him is front and center.

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Bruins open home season with a day game against Ottawa

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Bruins open home season with a day game against Ottawa

The Bruins normally start the home portion of their schedule with a festive Opening Night celebration. But not this year.

This year, it'll be an Opening Day ceremony.

The Columbus Day matinee makes it a rare day opener for the B's. But they'll have had a normal Opening Night before that, and what a night it figures to be:

(The Caps say Banner 'Day' since they'll be raising their Stanley Cup championship flag, but since Oct. 3 is a Wednesday -- and since this is opening game of the entire NHL schedule -- the assumption is it'll be played at night.)

The NHL will release the full schedule tomorrow, but teams are being allowed to Tweet out the dates of their home openers. So, in addition to the season opener in Washington and the home opener against the Senators, we know two other game dates for the Bruins:

And tomorrow, we'll know the whole thing.