Morning Skate: Tortorella takes aim at Pittsburgh Penguins

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Morning Skate: Tortorella takes aim at Pittsburgh Penguins

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while it is borderline ridiculous that Fourth of July is already this week. 


*You’ve got to love John Tortorella completely going off on a tangent aimed at the Pittsburgh Penguins after a number of comments slapped at the Blue Jackets following Pitt’s signing of defenseman Jack Johnson. Then the return volley from the Pittsburgh media aimed at Tortorella was something special as well. This should kick the Columbus/Pittsburgh rivalry up a notch this season.


*Tomas Plekanec and his trademark turtleneck will be returning to the Montreal Canadiens after this past season’s pit stop in Toronto. 


*A good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Zeisberger on the behind-the-scenes of John Tavares landing in Toronto. It certainly feels like Tavares had the Maple Leafs in mind all along, and that a team like the Bruins didn’t have any chance at all. 


*Meanwhile back on Long Island, the Islanders ownership is getting deservedly lambasted for losing their franchise player for jack squat. 


*Peter Chiarelli is up against the salary cap with a team that badly underachieved last season, but he’s still getting some love from the Canadian media. This is a massive season for Chiarelli and the Oilers, and where the direction of that franchise is headed.


*For something completely different: I’m definitely looking forward to the Ant-Man movie coming out soon. 


Bruins' David Backes barely escapes serious injury in taking skate blade to the face

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Bruins' David Backes barely escapes serious injury in taking skate blade to the face

BOSTON – It seems like David Backes has been a magnet for high sticks this season and the 34-year-old has also missed time with a concussion as well.

The bad luck streak continued for him on Tuesday night when Backes caught an errant skate blade to the face in the first period as Oliver Ekman-Larsson kicked up his skates aside the Arizona net. He immediately sprinted off the ice toward the Bruins dressing room while covering his bloody face with his hand.  

True to hockey player form, Backes returned and played 15:31 of ice time with three shot attempts, three hits and went 4-for-10 in the face-off circle while toughing it out with a face full of stitches.

“I didn’t know what happened at first, but the way [Backes] came off you figured it was worse than a high stick. Sure enough. Those are tough, up around your eyes too, but he was able to play through it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I’m sure he’ll be sore tomorrow. Charlie [McAvoy] too got a high stick under the visor, so he’s had some tough luck recently, but he’s battling through it. It was a bit like our game [against the Coyotes]. It wasn’t pretty, but we got through it.”

Backes didn’t discuss his close call with the media following the Bruins win, but was spotted walking out of TD Garden with a stitched up slice next to his nose, but thankfully far from his neck, his eyes or anywhere else where the blade could have done major damage. Instead Backes will just add to the character of a 34-year-old face that’s seen its share of bumps and bruises over the course of a long NHL career. 

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Krejci relishes his chance to produce with Bruins' top line

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Krejci relishes his chance to produce with Bruins' top line

BOSTON – All it took was a move up to the Bruins' top line in place of the injured Patrice Bergeron to ignite David Krejci’s offense and playmaking abilities.

Krejci finished with three assists in a 4-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night and is riding a four-game point streak with two goals and seven points since getting installed with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak last week in the loss to Tampa Bay.

“It’s been fun. Those are two world-class players, so I’m just happy to be on that line and happy to help the team win [some] games,” said Krejci, who has four goals and 23 points in 30 games this season. “I’m just going to try to be in the right time at the right place, so you know, they make things happen. [It’s] so much fun playing with those guys. So [I’m] just filling in for Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] and happy I can help the team win games.”

Before then, the Bruins were trying to get by with Colby Cave, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson or Joakim Nordstrom in between the two star scorers and there were mixed results with each of them.

Once it was clear something wasn’t right with the health of Jake DeBrusk, however, it became inevitable that B’s would create a super line with Marchand, Krejci and Pastrnak. And it’s coincided with the B's offense enjoying some of their best scoring games since Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron went down with injuries.

“Obviously it took a couple games, but, you know, today all we needed to do was drive to the net with [David Krejci]. He’s a great playmaker. It’s been fun tonight,” said Pastrnak, who was then asked if Krejci is a “pass-first” kind of player. “[Krejci] is a pass-first player, pass-second player, [pass] third, and then he shoots type of player.

“Bergy and Marchy like to play fast, and Krech likes to slow it down sometimes, you know, and it’s...both of [those styles] work, you know? Some nights it works better if you play fast and some nights it works better if you play slower. It’s just two star players and it’s been fun tonight, and obviously, it was a big game.”

Certainly, the chemistry is building with two Davids and a Brad Line. That was obvious by the tic-tac-toe passing that led to each of their goals with Marchand finishing on a couple of chances right around the net. The best of the bunch was the dish from Krejci through a couple of defenders to a wide open Marchand, who buried the shot and then was run over by a Coyotes defender far too late to the party.

That’s been part of the challenge the past few games for No. 46 to generate the offense, but also play the two-way game required when centering Marchand and Pastrnak. That means taking the big face-offs late in the game when there isn’t  No. 37 around to do it and pretty much doing whatever is required for the win.

“He slows the game down when he’s allowed to see the game quicker than everyone else, can make those plays when it looks like they’re closing off. He did it tonight, and we needed it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Let’s face it. We need those guys to be our best players every night and offensively they’ve come through for us as of late. He’s an offensive guy, so when the puck goes in the back of the net and they’re making plays.

“He makes nice plays, creative plays. He’s going to enjoy the game. I’ve noticed in the rest of his game he’s digging in. He knows he has to be a good defensive center for those guys. They’re creative wingers that will leak out of their spots from time to time to anticipate a play. That’s when you have to have a centreman, and that’s when Bergy’s [Patrice Bergeron] so good at putting out those fires.”

Now, it’s Krejci’s job to put out some fires and generate some offense in one of the most coveted gigs in the NHL - centering big-time scorers Marchand and Pastrnak. It’s been so far, so good with nothing but wins and offensive production in each of the three full games that the three forwards have played together since last weekend. 


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