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Tuukka Rask absent from Bruins practice Monday

01.23.17 at 1:50 pm ET
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Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask was absent from Monday's practice. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask was absent from Monday’s practice. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins, with losses in four straight games and all but three of their last 12 games, are dangerously close to falling off a cliff. Another Tuukka Rask absence would slam their skates on the gas pedal.

Lifted from the second period of Sunday’s loss to the Penguins with a migraine, Rask was not on the ice for Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and his status for tomorrow’s head-to-head with the Red Wings is completely unknown to B’s head coach Claude Julien.

“He’s seeing the doctors as we speak, obviously dealing with the migraine issues,” Julien said after practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “That’s basically all it is and hopefully we get some good news here.”

This is not the first that Rask has battled migraine issues (the last issue came a few seasons back), and the biggest problem that’s come with them has been his ability to see, as clearly referenced to Julien yesterday when he made his way back to the B’s bench.

If Rask is unable to go, Zane McIntyre would suit up as the team’s de facto No. 1 netminder. In a tough spot to come into a game cold against a white-hot offense, McIntyre allowed three goals on 13 shots against. The 24-year-old, in just his second pro season and his first real taste of the NHL, has an 0-3-1 record and .860 save percentage on the year.

And if Rask is unable to go, the Bruins would still need to bring a backup netminder into the picture behind McIntyre.

In Providence, Khudobin has four wins and a .910 save percentage since in six games since clearing waivers and being assigned to the P-Bruins, but was pulled from yesterday’s game against the Wolf Pack after he allowed three goals on 13 shots. The other option for a call up, Malcolm Subban, has five wins and a .909 save percentage in 19 AHL games this season.

Overall, the Bruins are 1-9-2 in games decided by a goaltender other than Rask.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask leaves game because of migraine

01.22.17 at 7:23 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask left Sunday's game with a migraine. (Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports)

Tuukka Rask left Sunday’s game with a migraine. (Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports)

As has been the case the entire season, things didn’t truly go to hell for the Bruins in their latest defeat, a 5-1 loss to the Penguins, until goaltender Tuukka Rask was no longer in the B’s crease.

With stops on all but two of 22 shots thrown his way by the Penguins through 31 minutes of action, the 29-year-old Rask went to the bench to talk to Bruins trainer Donny Del Negro. Rask ended up back at the bench a few moments later, declined a water and/or Gatorade, told Bruins head coach Claude Julien something while also pointing to his eyes, and then made his way off the ice in favor of Zane McIntyre.

In relief of Rask for the second time in just over a week, McIntyre allowed three goals on 14 shots against, but the focus remained on the mystery surrounding the franchise netminder’s impromptu exit.

But after the game, Julien confirmed that Rask’s departure was illness related, and that he was suffering from migraines.

Rask has missed three games this season due to a lower-body injury, and has missed two games to illness since 2014.

The Bruins are 1-9-2 in games decided by any other goaltender this season.

Bad ice, bad luck, bad breaks: Bruins blown out by Penguins

01.22.17 at 6:04 pm ET
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The Bruins allowed five goals in a loss to the Penguins. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins allowed five goals, including three in 2:57 in the third period, in a loss to the Penguins. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

With just over six minutes left in the first period, both the Bruins and Penguins were sent to their respective dressing rooms because the PPG Paints Arena had some bad ice. Some jokes just write themselves.

After you chuckled, you realized that this was just another ‘bad’ to add to the list for a struggling Bruins team that came into action with losses in four of their last five games. During their stretch of frustration, the Bruins have fired bad shots. They’ve had some bad goaltending and some bad luck. And, of course, another bad loss, as the Bruins had their heads kicked in by the Penguins by the tune of 5-1 Sunday.

But this wasn’t the decimation that you’d expect from a Penguins attack that entered play with the league’s most goals scored.

The Bruins actually gave themselves a fighting chance in this loss.

In an 0-2 hole 9:06 into the second period, the Bruins first responded with a David Krejci goal that brought them within one.

They also continued to pour shots on net against Penguins netminder Matt Murray and their best chance at an equalizer came when David Backes got behind both Pittsburgh defenders for a breakaway. In alone on Murray, Backes missed, and the puck went up and out of play. The play epitomized the B’s year-long struggles for timely tallies, and proved to loom large in the third period.

With a bullet dodged, the Penguins responded with three goals in 2:57 early in the third period, and made this a laugher.

And that is the difference between a team like the Penguins — a team riding high in the NHL and with the league’s best home record (today’s win improved the club to 20-2-2 on home ice this season) — and a team like the Bruins. When the Penguins got a lucky break, they took advantage of it almost immediately and made the Black and Gold pay. The Bruins, however, crumbled in spite of a 45-shot effort. It was the team’s seventh loss when putting at least 40 shots on net.

At the end of this day, this was another game in which the Bruins put forth an admirable effort. But it still wasn’t enough. It’s been repeated at again and again, but this comes back to talent and execution. This team is not talented enough to just show up and win like they were from 2010 to 2014, and it’s showing up in season-long struggles from their bottom six.

The system, believe it or not, is working. The players, who could honestly all get in one big room and be identified as the 20 most frustrated humans in the world by a complete stranger, are trying their best. But it’s just not enough. And it’s hard to imagine this road getting any easier for the club unless the front office steps in and tries to give this team another weapon to work with.

More bad luck emerged for the Bruins when Tuukka Rask, who had stopped 20-of-22 shots, left the game in the second period with an apparent illness, too, and made way for Zane McIntyre, who allowed three goals on 14 shots in relief.

Just add it to the list.

Bruins assign forward Anton Blidh to P-Bruins

01.21.17 at 5:19 pm ET
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Anton Blidh

Anton Blidh

Stuck in the mud of a three-game losing skid and with losses in seven of their last 10 games, the Bruins have made a move. But it’s far from the blockbuster trade or coaching change that’s lit up sports talk radio, though, as the Bruins have assigned forward Anton Blidh down to the P-Bruins.

A healthy scratch in Friday’s loss to the Blackhawks, the move to return Blidh to the AHL, where he’ll get playing time and further his development as an effective energy player/agitator makes sense in the now.

It’s worth noting that Blidh did help provide some life to the Black and Gold on a nightly basis, especially in the absence of Matt Beleskey, with 41 hits and 26 shots on goal in just 19 games, but with the numbers game working against him this move was simply an inevitability for the energetic Swede.

But it will be interesting to see how Blidh handles this demotion, as he basically forced his way back to the NHL on his first assignment back down to the farm, with one goal and six shots on goal upon his return to Providence.

A sixth-round draft choice of the Bruins back in 2013 (180th overall), Blidh returns to the AHL where he’s tallied six goals and 10 points in 21 games this year, has one goal and two points, along with seven minutes in penalties, in 19 career NHL games.

Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller (concussion) also dealing with virus

01.21.17 at 2:52 pm ET
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Kevan Miller has missed the last three games with a concussion. (Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today Sports)

Kevan Miller has missed the last three games with a concussion, but is also dealing with a virus according to Claude Julien. (Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today Sports)

There’s bad luck. And then there’s Kevan Miller luck.

Plastered into the boards on a dangerous hit from Jakub Voracek in a Jan. 14 win over the Flyers, the 29-year-old Miller has missed the last three games with a concussion. Overall, Friday against the Blackhawks was the 23rd contest that the Bruins have played with the physical third-pairing defender this year, as Miller missed the first 19 games of the season with a hand injury and another one due to an illness.

It’s the return of an illness, too, that’s put Miller back in bed.

“Kevan was actually feeling really well, then he got hit by a virus,” Bruins coach Claude Julien confirmed following another Miller-free practice in Brighton.  “That’s kept him in bed for the last two days.”

Julien went on to add that the virus has nothing to do with the original injury and that Miller was nearing a return from that concussion, but that this virus has put those plans on hold for the time being.

Miller, in the first year of a four-year, $10 million extension signed last May, has three assists in 26 games this season.

Bruins coach Claude Julien addresses rumors: ‘I’m not quitting on anybody’

01.21.17 at 2:06 pm ET
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Claude Julien won't quit on this Bruins team. (USA Today Sports)

Claude Julien won’t quit on this Bruins team. (USA Today Sports)

Not even 12 hours after Bruins head coach Claude Julien opted not to comment on his job security or future, noting that he’s not a fan of ‘shock-journalism’, the embattled man behind the B’s bench for the last 10 years decided to entertain the question when it was asked Saturday.

“My job is coach a hockey club. Am I worried about my job? No I’m not, because it’s not my job to worry about it,” Julien commented. “My job is to fix things like I mentioned. I think my job is to coach this team and try to do everything I can. And if I become one of the reasons that we’re not doing well, well then I think management has to make that decision. It’s not my decision to make.”

Even if it was his decision to make, Julien would not bail on this situation for the potential greener pastures of a new start elsewhere.

“I’m not quitting on this team,” the former Jack Adams winner affirmed, “I’m not quitting on management.”

With a cooler head than the one he came into the TD Garden press room with last night, and the raw emotion of the club’s third straight loss (a 1-0 final to the Blackhawks decided with just 1:26 left in the third period) behind him, Julien in detail his willingness to work through the struggles experienced by this growing club on a night-to-night basis and his belief in the process.

“I’m willing to go through the hard times, and I said that at the end of last year. If it’s deemed my fault, then I shouldn’t be here,” Julien, the franchise’s all-time winningest coach, admitted. “That’s all I can say. But that’s not my decision to make. And if we’re going with what we said we’d go with and saying there’s going to be some growing pains along the way, so be it.”

A team with losses in seven of their last 10 games, the pressure on the Bruins to make a change is obvious. But it’s not going to change the way that Julien, who admitted that he’s tried to find new ways to come to the rink with new energy and mindsets amid the struggles, coaches or prepares for the mission he had at the start of the year.

“We put ourselves in a position early in the season to maybe be one of those teams that all of a sudden we believe we’re a playoff team, absolutely. I still think we’re a playoff team,” Julien continued, “whether we can do it or not, we’ll know at the end of the year, but my job is still to do everything I can to get us into the playoffs and that’s what I’m gonna do.”

As for the rumors, Julien knows that they are out there, and that they will continue be there.

“But I don’t worry about [rumors], because worrying is wasting a lot of my time. My time is about trying to fix things here.”

Bruins did almost everything right in loss to Blackhawks, but it still wasn’t enough

01.20.17 at 11:26 pm ET
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The Bruins held Chicago's most dangerous weapons off the scoreboard. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins held Chicago’s most dangerous weapons off the scoreboard. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins played a near perfect game against the Blackhawks.

A visibly frustrated Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was held to zero points. Same for superstar Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook. Artemi Panarin, held to just one shot and two attempts in 22:49 of time on ice, was practically smothered to death by the Bruins.

For 58 minutes — no, strike that, a full 60 minutes — the Bruins did everything they had to do and more to shut the Hawks’ top talents down. But sneakily buried on the Blackhawks’ third line, it was Marian Hossa that made something out of nothing with a game-winning goal scored with just 1:26 left in the third period of a 1-0 final.

“I think we competed hard but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains and we had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and it’s in our net with a minute-and-a-half left,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the loss. “We have to stand there again, take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first whatever – 58 minutes. I thought we played pretty well against a good team.

“We had contained the guys that we needed to contain.”

It just so happened that Hossa’s goal was the worst possible break for the Bruins in that it was a three-on-four effort that sees a puck goes through three Bruins players en route to the back of Tuukka Rask’s net. It’s a script so bad it could only fit this year’s Bruins team as a team that’s become the embodiment of the anything that can go wrong will go wrong philosophy.

“They were playing faster, and a play at the end ends up in the back of our net with a minute left and a disappointing finish to, you know, what we thought we played a pretty solid game all around,” Torey Krug, one of the players on the ice for the goal, said. “But time and time again — we’re not in it for moral victories. We’ve got to start plucking points if we want to stay in this thing.”

And that’s what this really comes back down to for the Bruins.

This team is beyond the point of moral victories. They exited when 2016 became 2017. This is a Bruins team that’s in a straight-up dogfight for a playoff spot, and things are not looking good, especially with losses in seven of their last 10 games.

“These are the kind of games you kind of have to learn to win,” Rask, who made 21 saves in the loss, said. “When it’s a low-scoring game in the third period, and it’s just one of those things. They made a nice play at the end and got rewarded, and we didn’t.

“But we just have to stick the course, and keep plugging away.”

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