Bruins

Chara, Bergeron headline the Bruins group who'll skip China trip

Chara, Bergeron headline the Bruins group who'll skip China trip

BOLTON, Mass. – The Bruins will be sending a large contingent of their NHL roster over to China for a week-plus trip that will include a couple of preseason games against the Calgary Flames September 15 and 19. Still, there will be several notable absences from the traveling contingent.

The B's 41-year-old captain Zdeno Chara will stay behind in Boston along with Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug, Anders Bjork and Noel Acciari, who will stay behind with the Bruins training staff to rehab injuries. Sean Kuraly and Danton Heinen will also remain in Boston after they manned the Bruins goodwill trip to China earlier this summer.  

Bergeron (groin surgery), Krug (fractured ankle), Bjork (shoulder surgery) and Acciari (sports hernia surgery) may not be ready to play preseason games at the beginning of the schedule, so it didn’t make sense for the Black and Gold to truck them all the way to China.

“Chara isn’t going...Noel Acciari...Torey Krug. [Bergeron, Acciari and Krug] are injury-related. We knew they’d be skating now and we’d assume they’ll all be ready, but if they’re not able to play games it’s a long way to go,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “I’m not saying they will or won’t be able to play games, but [that was the thinking] when we made this decision a month ago. Kuraly and Heinen won’t go simply because they went in July and to save on the wear and tear [of travel].

“But we’re bringing the three young centers [Jack Studnicka, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Trent Frederic] because we’d like to see them over there. That’s the reason we’re taking them; we think there’s going to be some internal competition for that third line center position. [Kuraly] and Chris Wagner will certainly be in that mix as well, so that’s the five guys that are regulars.”

As for Chara, the idea of traveling from a European time zone to East Coast time and then zipping over to China for the roughly 12-hour time difference wasn’t something he was particularly looking forward to at the start of an 82-game season. So the 6-foot-9 D-man will instead stick behind and lead the young crew expected to work under the watchful eye of assistant coach Joe Sacco while Cassidy, Jay Pandolfo and goaltending coach Bob Essensa all head to China with the rest of the team.

“I was asked early in May or June if I would like to go, and I said I wouldn’t mind it. But now it’s just kind of that I’m totally okay staying back. I’m not sad or upset about it,” said Chara, who seemed to pretty clearly prefer staying behind in Boston. “I’m kind of glad I’m staying back. I don’t have to deal with the travel and the different time zones. I’ve just come back from Europe, so I know the guys will be dealing with quite a few time differences when they go out there and then when they come back.

“I can always enjoy some more time being in Boston. There is plenty of time to [visit China] later on so I’m not worried about it.”

Given Chara’s clear preference, it does beg the question as to how such a globe-trotting trip is going to impact the Black and Gold early in the season. The good news is that two of the most important Bruins -- Bergeron and Chara -- will be skipping all of the festivities, but that isn’t going to save the rest of the team from potential early-season fatigue after returning home a couple of weeks before the October 3 season-opener in Washington.

The Bruins began a partnership with Beijing-based O.R.G. Packaging in 2015. They first hosted Chinese youth hockey players for clinics in Boston in 2016 and had a contingent, including David Pastrnak, travel to China that same year to conduct clinics there. Last year, Torey Krug joined Pastrnak and other Bruins past and present who held clinics in Beijing and Shanghai. 

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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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