Bruins

Bergeron carrying the load for shorthanded Bruins, and it may prove too heavy

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Bergeron carrying the load for shorthanded Bruins, and it may prove too heavy

The Bruins continue to suffer through an unprecedented deluge of injuries, and that was once again the case when Bruce Cassidy ruled out both Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork from the first two games of their three-game road swing through California.

Perhaps they will be able to return against San Jose this weekend or will be ready to go on the night before Thanksgiving against the Devils in New Jersey, but that’s a different story for a different day. The bottom line is that the Bruins are missing half the top-six forwards they were counting on at the start of the season. Only Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and rookie Jake DeBrusk are currently playing.

That group has had exactly one game together this season when both Bergeron and David Krejci were both healthy, and that was a 6-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 19.

“I would really like to have all [top-6 forwards] at my disposal, and then we could sort it all out,” Cassidy said wistfully. “The message going forward is to play well and to play hard. Control the things that we can control like effort and execution. In terms of effort I think it’s been pretty good, but the execution is coming on even though it’s hurt us in certain games.”

The Bruins will have DeBrusk, Sean Kuraly, Jordan Szwarz, Danton Heinen, Kenny Agostino and Peter Cehlarik all in their lineup on Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks, and expecting six rookies to help stabilize things on a California road trip usually spells doom. Certainly things will be helped by a potential return from Krejci over the next few games, but the Bruins are going to struggle to merely be competitive down so many players from their regular lineup.

Another less obvious consequence resulting from the injuries is the enormous burden being placed on Bergeron’s shoulders since he returned from his lower body injury. The 32-year-old has four goals and 11 points in 11 games, but he’s also averaging a career-high 21:28 of ice time per game and topping the 20-minute mark for the first time he was 22. Similarly, Brad Marchand is averaging a career-high 21:30 of ice time per game, which is two minutes more per game than he’s ever played in his NHL career. Perhaps it shouldn’t be all that surprising that Marchand is now banged up after being used so much, and the same fate may break Bergeron down again if the Bruins aren’t careful.

After all, it’s Bergeron and Marchand that play the heaviest of the shifts pulling massive weight at both ends of the ice while also playing in every situation against the other team’s best players. It’s a situation that Cassidy is keenly aware of, but it’s difficult to navigate while also trying to win.

It was watching Bergeron wear down under heavy usage a couple of seasons ago that spurred the Bruins to signBackes in the first place (and that certainly hasn’t gone according to plan, either).

“We’ve got to be careful because we play the next night [in Los Angeles],” said Cassidy. “You want to stay in the moment and you want to win games, but you also want to make sure you’re not overtaxing [players]. So how do you juggle all that? That’s the challenge that we have as a staff right now, and that’s what is in front of us.

“That’s when it helps when a guy like Szwarz comes up and gives us some good, solid minutes. That’s when it helps when a guy like Riley Nash has to step up in penalty kill, shut-down situations. Sean Kuraly, I think, has done a pretty good job. Earlier in the year he was having a tough time, but now he’s settled in, he’s giving us some good energy and has chances to score most nights. So we’re relying on those guys a little more than you normally would, and that’s the hand we’ve been dealt.”

“Careful” was the right word used by Cassidy when it comes to the heavy workload that Bergeron is carrying right now, and there’s really no other choice for the Bruins until the healthy bodies starting returning to the lineup. The question is just how much No. 37 is going to have left in the tank when it matters most at the end of season after doing the yeoman’s work in the first few months.

Bruins featured prominently on NBC national schedule

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File Photo

Bruins featured prominently on NBC national schedule

The Boston Bruins are coming off back-to-back playoff seasons, so they won’t be any strangers to the national television audience in the upcoming NHL season.

The Bruins are set to be on NBC or NBCSN 14 times in nationally televised games during the 2018-19 season including the Jan. 1 Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks at Notre Dame, and their Oct. 3 season opener against the reigning Cup champion Washington Capitals in DC. The 14 games are tied with the New York Rangers for the fifth-most in the NHL behind only the Blackhawks, Capitals, Flyers and Penguins.

The B’s season opener vs. the Caps will actually kick off NBC’s NHL coverage for the regular season, which is set to include a whopping 109 televised games.

MORE BRUINS

Other highlights from the NBC Networks broadcast schedule include a home game against the Atlantic Division rival Montreal Canadiens on Monday, January 14, a road game against the defending Western Conference Champion Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday, February 20, and a home tilt on Thursday Feb. 28 against the Tampa Bay Lightning team that eliminated them in the playoffs.

Here’s the rest of the national television 2018-19 schedule for the Black and Gold that certainly has some games to circle on the ole hockey calendar:  

Bruins Games Broadcast on NBC and NBC Sports Network (all times Eastern):

Wednesday, October 3: Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN

Wednesday, October 17: Boston Bruins at Calgary Flames, 9:30 p.m., NBCSN

Tuesday, January 1: Boston Bruins at Chicago Blackhawks (Winter Classic), 1 p.m., NBC

Monday, January 14: Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN

Wednesday, January 16: Boston Bruins at Philadelphia Flyers, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN

Sunday, February 3: Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals, 12:30 p.m., NBC

Wednesday, February 6: Boston Bruins at New York Rangers, 8 p.m., NBCSN

Tuesday, February 12: Chicago Blackhawks at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m., NBCSN

Monday, February 18: Boston Bruins at San Jose Sharks, 10 p.m., NBCSN

Wednesday, February 20: Boston Bruins at Vegas Golden Knights, 10 p.m., NBCSN

Thursday, February 28: Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN

Sunday, March 10: Boston Bruins at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN

Wednesday, March 27: New York Rangers at Boston Bruins, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN

Sunday, March 31: Boston Bruins at Detroit Red Wings, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Morning Skate: Mikita's legacy extends beyond the ice

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Morning Skate: Mikita's legacy extends beyond the ice

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while the fog officially rolled in this morning.  

*NBC Sports announced their 109-game schedule for the NHL season, and it all starts with the Bruins season opener on Oct. 3 against the Washington Capitals. The Wednesday Night Rivalry games will be done away with and in its place Wednesday Night Hockey is going to feature a more diverse collection of teams and locations featuring non-traditional markets. It’s a great idea and completely called for given the emergence of teams like the Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights.

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Tracey Myers on the lasting legacy of the recently passed Chicago Blackhawks great Stan Mikita when it comes to his work in the community.

*Dylan Larkin got a pretty good deal from the Detroit Red Wings that was deserved given his youth and his production to this point. So why on Earth are we writing 1,000 word think pieces on this? Yeah, I don’t know either.

*Speaking of the Red Wings, it sounds like Henrik Zetterberg may be a giant question mark for this upcoming NHL season based on his health. While it’s a big blog to the Red Wings competitiveness for next season, it might be the best thing for a team that’s still nowhere near competing for a Stanley Cup at this point.

*Three big questions facing the Edmonton Oilers as they ready for a massive season that will undoubtedly have jobs on the line based on an expected return to the playoffs.

*For something completely different: Well, this is one way to discourage cruise ships from going by your coastal home.