Bruins

Rask out tonight as he recovers from practice collision

bruins-tuukka-rask-032316.jpg

Rask out tonight as he recovers from practice collision

BRIGHTON, Mass – The string of injuries for the Bruins continues as Tuukka Rask (upper body) is out for tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden after getting trucked by Anders Bjork in practice Wednesday.

Rask was wobbly-legged while being helped off the ice after the violent collision and the 21-year-old Bjork looked like he’d also needed a couple of stitches on his chin after bloodying his practice jersey.

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The big concern is Rask still being evaluated by Bruins medical personnel for a possible concussion. It will be Anton Khudobin stepping in place for him against the Canucks with Providence Bruins netminder Zane McIntyre serving as his backup.

“Tuukka is out tonight. He’s going to get reevaluated today and we’ll have a better idea tomorrow,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Anton will start [against the Canucks].”

Clearly, Khudobin didn’t like seeing his goaltending partner get drilled in a spirited practice, but the 32-year-old is clearly feeling confident after a strong camp and a winning season debut last week against the Arizona Coyotes.

“You don’t want to see that, but at the same time we’ve got to keep moving forward and hopefully he’s going to get better soon,” said Khudobin, who stopped 29-of-31 shots in the win over Arizona last weekend. “I feel good. Camp was good and everything is fine, and I’ve started better than last year. My role is just day-to-day. Today is a game day and hopefully, you get a good result, and then tomorrow is another new day.”

Otherwise, it looks like the Bruins will at least be getting some of their healthy bodies back with David Backes in the lineup and Patrice Bergeron a game-time decision against the Canucks. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on Wednesday’s practice:

Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork
DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak
Schaller-Kuraly-Backes
Beleskey-Nash-Agostino
 
Chara-McAvoy
Miller-Carlo
Krug-McQuaid

Khudobin 

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Bruins' Torey Krug isn't changing his playing style despite unknown future

Bruins' Torey Krug isn't changing his playing style despite unknown future

There are certainly some guys around the NHL who can become preoccupied with their contracts when it comes to their free agent seasons.

Some like Loui Eriksson seem to take it to another level when there’s potential money on the line in a walk year before sinking down to a lower level of play the rest of the time, and others that can become overwhelmed by the unknown right in front of them.

Some can even change their games and play safer knowing an injury or high-risk/high-loss performances could end up hurting them at the negotiating table.

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Bruins defenseman Torey Krug is absolutely none of those things, however, and showed exactly why in Wednesday’s 3-2 round robin loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Arena in the Toronto bubble. Krug ended up with an assist while playing a team-high 22 minutes of ice time in the game against Tampa Bay, but it was a play toward the end of the first period that showed what the puck-moving defenseman is — and always will be — about.

Blake Coleman took a blindside shot at Brandon Carlo at the defensive blue line after the B’s defenseman got rid of the puck, and Krug too umbrage to his longtime ‘D’ partner getting targeted.  

Krug immediately made a straight line toward Coleman and dropped the gloves with the Lightning agitator acquired at the trade deadline. It was a brief bout that Krug joked on a Zoom call with NBC Sports Boston was more like “throwing pillows”, to be sure.

But the fisticuffs also showed Krug has no intentions of changing the fiery, competitive way he plays, or even worse playing it safe, even with just a few months left on his Bruins contract.

Maybe he stays with the Bruins after this season and maybe there’s just not enough salary cap space to match the big money he’d command on the free agent market, but Krug isn’t ever going to let his individual future get in the way of serving as an on-ice leader for the Bruins.

“To be honest, I never thought twice about [fighting Coleman]. I’ll block a shot with my face if I have to in order to win a Stanley Cup with this group,” said Krug, of the lessons in winning hockey passed on to him during his time in Boston from past B’s defensemen like Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk as well as current veteran leaders like captain Zdeno Chara. “I’m the type of guy that you get what you see. I’m going to give 110 percent, as much as I can. And the group knows it.

That’s why this group is special in the first place because we expect it out of each other regardless of everybody’s individual situation. Regardless of how long somebody has been in the league, we all have each other’s backs and we go to work for each other. We have our own individual contracts and we all do things our certain way, but at the end of it, we all bond and play for each other. That’s what makes a team successful.

One other thing: It seems pretty clear there aren’t going to be any Bruins contract extensions with Krug while the Stanley Cup Playoffs are ongoing.

He said his focus is on the task at hand in the postseason and he’ll think about his contract, his future and the status of his tenure with the Bruins when the current Stanley Cup run has come to either a happy or unfulfilled conclusion.

“I’m not even thinking about [free agency]. My focus right now is on helping the Boston Bruins win hockey games. I really, really enjoy being part of this group. I have lifetime friends on this team. I’m just trying to embrace the opportunity we have here,” said Krug during an exclusive Zoom call with NBC Sports Boston. “It’s unique in a sense that I get to do it in a bubble and we get to hang out every day and enjoy each other’s company. I’m just trying to embrace it. I’ll think about all that other stuff after the season.”

There is still some question about just how much COVID-19 and the significant economic aftershocks of it on the NHL are going to impact player contracts this offseason, and for a few more seasons beyond next one as well.

It may mean that Krug’s seven-year career might be over with the Bruins in the next few months because they simply can’t afford the $7-8 million per season he’ll command amidst the salary cap crunch.

But Krug’s selfless physicality served as the spark plug catalyst for Boston’s improved play in the tight round-robin loss to Tampa Bay, and he showed with his actions that he’s not about to change the feisty spirit to his game — regardless of what the future holds.   

Torey Krug admits lineup questions could be keeping Bruins in preseason mode

Torey Krug admits lineup questions could be keeping Bruins in preseason mode

The risk of asking a professional athlete a "why is your team bad right now?" question is obvious: You upset the player, they don't want to talk to you, etc.

Yet when offered a theory as to why the Bruins have been so disappointing in the round robin (0-2-0, losing the No. 1 seed), Torey Krug more or less validated it.

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If you kept an eye on the Bruins this season, you should have been concerned about their chances of a deep run despite them having won the Presidents' Trophy. They don't have a set middle six after Patrice Bergeron's line, and they've spent the first two games of the round robin trying out combinations.

So, when speaking to Krug with Joe Haggerty Thursday, I posited that the Bruins are unable to play like a postseason team because they know they don't know what they have, which is a preseason problem.

"It can be tough, for sure," Krug responded. "Heading into a normal playoff season, what you typically have is a group of players that have established roles and they understand what they're bringing to the lineup on a nightly basis.

"When you're tinkering with the lines and you're trying to figure out who's fitting where, guys, maybe they're not comfortable or they don't know exactly what they're asked to do on a nightly basis. In a normal season, I think we'd be comfortable with certain matchups. Guys would understand, 'Hey, when I jump over the boards, this is what I'm accomplishing on every shift I'm going out there.'

"Maybe right now it's kind of a preseason feel that you suggested. Maybe there's some truth to that. We're working on it and we'll get there."

Here's how the Bruins' middle six has looked in each of their two games:

vs. Philadelphia (4-1 loss)

DeBrusk-Krejci-Studnicka
Bjork-Coyle-Kuhlman

vs. Lightning (3-2 loss)

Ritchie-Krejci-Kuhlman
Bjork-Coyle-DeBrusk

Charlie Coyle's line was actually the only one to show up for the Bruins against the Flyers; David Krejci's was rough.

Krejci should be offended that he was expected to do anything with Nick Ritchie and Karson Kuhlman as his wings against Tampa. Predictably, the line was arguably Boston's worst Wednesday, while Coyle's line treaded water.

An eventual return of Ondrej Kase could restore some order, but the Bruins haven't been able to see the right wing do anything competitively in months. Boston's middle six is a major problem.