Bruins

Return imminent for Bruins' John Moore (shoulder) after missing first two months

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Return imminent for Bruins' John Moore (shoulder) after missing first two months

BRIGHTON, Mass. — After missing the first two months of the regular season with his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, the return of defenseman John Moore is imminent for the Boston Bruins.

The 29-year-old Moore won’t be in the lineup against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night at TD Garden after skating with the group at morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena, but Bruce Cassidy pointed toward Thursday night against the Blackhawks as a likely spot for Moore's season debut.  

Moore had an assist and a plus-2 night for the P-Bruins in his one-game LTI conditioning stint in the AHL over the weekend, and was immediately recalled with the idea that he’s just about ready to begin playing again. Needless to say, Moore was excited about playing in the American League for one game to knock the rust off, and he’s more than excited to return to the B's lineup after a lengthy six-month rehab.

“It was a long recovery. You learn a lot about yourself and you learn about who is in your fox hole. I’m really happy that there’s a shining light at the end of the tunnel for me,” said Moore, who has missed the first 27 games of the season and counting coming back from the shoulder procedure. “I have a lot of respect for guys that go through injuries and come back. That was my first major surgery. It’s hard every day when your entire goal is to raise a stick two degrees [more] over your head. To celebrate that takes a special mindset.

“It was my first hockey game in six months. I was so excited to go to the Bojangles Coliseum and play in front of 400 people. I wanted to get my feet under me. I really wanted to play and I’m really happy I did that.”

The question now becomes about what the Bruins are going to do with their current roster of eight defensemen once Moore jumps back in to most likely supplant Connor Clifton among the top-6. There’s no move that has to be made currently and it remains to be seen if an injury Tuesday night against the Hurricanes opens up a roster spot on Boston’s back end.

But with Clifton now requiring waivers after playing in his 60th NHL game, all signs point toward Steve Kampfer being the guy sent to Providence when the Bruins need to open up a roster spot among their glut of defensemen. Kampfer has played serviceably as a seventh defenseman for the last couple of seasons, but there’s much less of a chance that he’ll be snatched up on waivers rather than the young, inexpensive Clifton.

As for other health updates, Patrice Bergeron has skated on his own ahead of B’s practice the last few days and Brett Ritchie (upper body) has ditched the no-contact sweater and is ready to return when a spot opens up for him among the forward group. Jaroslav Halak will get the start on Tuesday night against the Canes for his 500th career NHL appearance.

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings against Carolina based on Tuesday’s morning skate:

FORWARD LINES

Brad Marchand David Krejci David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk Charlie Coyle Danton Heinen
Anders Bjork Sean Kuraly David Backes
Joakim Nordstrom Par Lindholm Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk Connor Clifton

STARTING GOALIE

Jaroslav Halak

Where Bruins stand in latest Stanley Cup odds>>>>>

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NHL Top 10: Who are the league's best defensemen right now?

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NHL Top 10: Who are the league's best defensemen right now?

Being an NHL defenseman is not an easy task. There are the obvious responsibilities at the defensive end where these players must block shots, win battles, break pucks out cleanly and efficiently and keep the puck out of their net at all costs. 

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Then there are the requirements for the truly special D-man that also impacts the game at the offensive end. That's what separates John Carlson, Roman Josi and Alex Pietrangelo from the run-of-the-mill NHL defensemen. The top four or five names on this list should be the names you see on the Norris Trophy ballots as they check off just about every box and that makes them the league's best defensemen right now.

NHL trade targets: Four physical players Bruins could pursue before deadline

NHL trade targets: Four physical players Bruins could pursue before deadline

The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 24, so there's a little more than a month for the Boston Bruins and other contenders to make roster upgrades for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Bruins enter the weekend leading the Atlantic Division and rank among the top Stanley Cup contenders in the league. Despite having a deep roster loaded with postseason experience, the Bruins could certainly use a little more physicality in their lineup, particularly up front. The playoffs often are a grind, where the game slows down and physical play can really wear on players over a seven-game series.

With that theme in mind, here are four players the Bruins could target before the trade deadline to upgrade their physicality (All salary information via Cap Friendly, advanced stats via Natural Stat Trick).

Chris Kreider, LW, New York Rangers
2019-20 stats
: 46 GP, 16 G, 15 A, 111 SOG
Contract: $4.625 million salary cap hit, UFA after 2019-20, modified no-trade clause

Kreider, in many ways, is the ideal target for the Bruins ahead of the trade deadline. He's a skilled offensive player, he plays a power forward kind of game, and he's a Massachusetts-born player who played at Boston College. Kreider has great hands, good speed, and plenty of effective dangles in front of the net. He's also not afraid to go to the dirty areas around the crease for rebound goals and to set screens. His offensive talents would upgrade Boston's power play, too.

The Rangers are six points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and must soon decide if they'll become sellers at the trade deadline. Kreider is able to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and if there's a chance New York could lose him, it makes sense to deal him to a contender. Kreider would give the Bruins' top-six or third line an injection of speed, offensive skill and impressive size (6-foot-3 and 215 pounds).

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Miles Wood, LW, New Jersey Devils
2019-20 stats
: 46 GP, 7 G, 9 A, 94 SOG
Contract: $2.75 million cap hit through 2021-22

Wood is not a rental and signed through the 2021-22 campaign. The 24-year-old forward is capable of scoring between 25 and 30 points over a full season, while also throwing his weight around with a power forward-style of play. The best attribute of Wood's game is his fantastic speed, which would give the Bruins' bottom-six additional energy and another dimension for opponents to tackle.

Craig Smith, C, Nashville Predators
2019-20 stats
: 46 GP, 10 G, 10 A, 123 SOG
Contract: $4.25 million cap hit, UFA after 2019-20

Smith would add depth down the middle for the Bruins and give them a physical player who loves battling in front of the net. The 30-year-old center has 10 goals this season, and eight of them have come in the last 14 games. Smith has played his entire nine-year career in Nashville, but if the Predators don't feel like they can (or want to) re-sign him as a free agent this summer, getting some value for him ahead of the trade deadline would be the smart move. The Predators enter Friday six points out of the second wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference standings.

Josh Manson, D, Anaheim Ducks
2019-20 stats
: 28 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 39 SOG
Contract: $4.1 million cap hit through 2021-22, also a modified no-trade clause

How tough is Manson? Well, he fought Milan Lucic during the preseason in 2015, a few weeks before his first full season with the Ducks.

Manson isn't going to provide a ton of offensive production, but his teams have established puck possession at a high rate most of his career. In four of his five pro seasons the Ducks have earned a Corsi-For percentage above 50 at even strength, and in the 2019-20 campaign, Anaheim has a plus-28 edge in shot attempts, a plus-10 advantage in shots on goal and a plus-15 margin in scoring chances at 5-on-5 when Manson has been on the ice. 

The 28-year-old defenseman also is fully capable of logging 20-plus minutes per night. He has experience filling a top-four role for Anaheim, but he probably would be a third-pairing defenseman on Boston's blue line. Manson's willingness to block shots and go into the corner to fight for pucks also would make him a valuable penalty killer for the B's. He's averaged 2:10 of shorthanded ice time per game for the Ducks this season.

The Ducks have the worst record in the Western Conference entering Friday. They should be sellers ahead of the deadline. Manson is not a rental, however, and he's on a pretty manageable contract for a 28-year-old defenseman. There's no rush to trade him from Anaheim's perspective, but he definitely is a good target for contenders that want to toughen up their blueline.

Side note: Manson already has an idea of Boston's hockey culture from his three seasons playing for Northeastern University.

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