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5 things we learned as Bruins slip up vs. Sabres, let Senators gain ground

03.17.15 at 10:14 pm ET
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The good news is that the Sabres won’€™t be a problem for the Bruins in the playoffs. The bad news is that the Sabres are a reason the Bruins’€™ road to the playoffs may be a little trickier.

For the third time this season, the Sabres — who entered Tuesday dead last in the NHL with just 45 points — took the Bruins to overtime. For the first time, the Sabres wound up on the winning side as the B’€™s took just one point away in a 2-1 shootout loss on a night in which the Senators continued to close in on Boston’s playoff spot.

Though the Bruins outshot the Sabres, 26-7, over the first two periods (and 38-21 in regulation), they had only Loui Eriksson’€™s first-period goal to show for their offensive efforts in regulation. The Sabres finally took advantage of the opportunity they were provided when Rasmus Ristolainen scored a power play goal 1:23 into the third period as Carl Soderberg sat in the penalty box for hooking Matt Moulson in the final periods of the second period.

With the shootout loss, the Bruins improved to 83 points this season. They sit three points behind the Capitals for the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, though the Bruins do have one game in hand on Washington.

More importantly, the Senators’€™ win over the Hurricanes Tuesday means they have 79 points on the season through 69 games and trail the Bruins by four points for the second wild-card spot with one game in hand. The teams will meet Thursday night in a contest that could play a huge role in determining which team ultimately sees the postseason.

Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:

2 Us, 2 Ks, 2 sore

… Or that’€™s how the Bruins explained it, anyway. The team recalled Jeremy Smith on an emergency basis Tuesday and did not dress Tuukka Rask for the game at all.

The Bruins shared no information on Rask’€™s status during the day (though he did partake in morning skate), but they announced early in the game that their usual starter had missed the game with “€œgeneral soreness.”€

If that simply means that Rask’€™s tired, that’€™s fair enough. Sunday’€™s start against the Capitals brought Rask to 58 games played on the season, tying the career-high he set last season. There’€™s still 12 games remaining in the season, so he’€™ll eclipse that mark easily.

That said, it was wise for the B’€™s to choose Tuesday as a day to rest Rask and give Niklas Svedberg a rare start. The team has another three-in-four coming up, as they’€™ll face the Senators Thursday, the Panthers Saturday and the Lightning Sunday.

ERIKSSON STAYS HOT

Eriksson scored the Bruins’€™ only goal of regulation, as he took a puck off an Adam McQuaid shot that bounced off Andre Benoit’€™s skate and then the end boards and jammed it past Anders Lindback.

The goal was Eriksson’€™s fourth goal in the last eight games. It also gave him 18 goals on the season. His 30-goal days may be over, but Eriksson should easily hit the 20-goal mark in his first fully healthy season with the B’€™s.

… AND SODERBERG GETS A LITTLE WARMER?

Carl Soderberg’€™s goal-less streak reached 24 games Tuesday, but he did pick up the secondary assist on Eriksson’€™s goal by winning an offensive-zone faceoff and getting the puck to McQuaid.

That assist made for just his sixth point during his current slump.

Soderberg finished the game with four shots on goal, and though he took the penalty that led to Buffalo’s third-period goal, his line with Chris Kelly and Eriksson had a dominant shift late in overtime in which the B’s had chance after chance.

BERGERON CLOSING IN ON CAREER-HIGH IN PENALTY MINUTES

With a third-period hooking penalty against Johan Larsson, Patrice Bergeron picked up his 39th and 40th penalty minutes of the season. That brings him within three of the career-high he set last season.

Bergeron’€™s penalty came at a critical time, as the B’€™s had squandered their lead minutes earlier. Furthermore, Bergeron is Boston’€™s best penalty killer not named Tuukka Rask (who was not playing) or Zdeno Chara.

Fortunately for Bergeron and the B’€™s, no damage was done on the ensuing power play. Chris Kelly hit the post on a shorthanded bid, while Svedberg made a timely save on Brian Gionta on the doorstep.

Bruins recall Jeremy Smith from Providence

03.17.15 at 4:22 pm ET
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The Bruins have called up goaltender Jeremy Smith from Providence, according to the AHL transactions page.

Niklas Svedberg was in the home net in Tuesday’s morning skate, suggesting he would be the starting goaltender Tuesday night against the Sabres. Mark Divver reported later Tuesday morning that Smith was on his way to Boston, and that the team may not dress Rask at all against Buffalo.

This marks Smith’s second callup of the season. He has yet to play an NHL game for the B’s. In 30 games for Providence this season, Smith has a .936 save percentage and a 1.96 goals-against average.

General managers propose 3-on-3 overtime

03.17.15 at 2:45 pm ET
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General managers have approved three-on-three regular-season overtime for next season, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced Tuesday. Such a change is still pending the approval of the NHL Players’€™ Association, which could take place when the Competition Committee and Board of Governors meet in June.

It is unknown how three-on-three overtime would be used, though the current AHL format would seem to be logical. Starting this season, the AHL has done four minutes of four-on-four play followed by three minutes of three-on-three. Games not settled by then go to a shootout, though the new format has settled games in overtime more often, with only 5.7 percent of games going to a shootout as of Sunday. That number is down quite a bit from 15.6 percent last season.

Such a rule change would be welcome to the Bruins, who are just 3-7 in shootouts this season. Earlier this month, Claude Julien bluntly said shootouts ‘€œsuck.’€ He followed that up last week by saying he hoped that general managers would approve three-on-three at this week’€™s GM meetings in Florida.

Also proposed by general managers is limited replay challenge, which would apply to goaltender inference and delay of game penalties.

Read More: Gary Bettman,

David Krejci could return to Bruins this weekend, Brett Connolly skating

03.17.15 at 11:50 am ET
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The Bruins got a couple of encouraging signs Tuesday morning, as Brett Connolly skated for the second straight day and David Krejci took another step forward in his return from a partially torn MCL.

Connolly (broken finger) skated by himself prior to Tuesday’€™s morning skate, with the Boston Herald noting he is doing doing minimal work with the puck and not shooting. Krejci, meanwhile, took part in morning skate and could return to the Bruins’€™ lineup this weekend, according to Claude Julien.

Connolly has been out with a displaced fracture in his right index finger since getting hit in the hand with a Dennis Seidenberg wrist shot in his second practice with the team on March 4.

The Bruins had traded for his services just two days prior, sending second-round picks in the next two seasons to the Lightning for the 2010 sixth overall pick.

Though his injury didn’€™t impact his skating, the Bruins wanted to wait until after the player’€™s surgery before he started skating. He is not expected to return until late in the regular season at the earliest.

Krejci has been skating since last Monday. He called Tuesday ‘€œanother step forward’€ but said that he isn’€™t ready to pinpoint a return date.

“I don’€™t really have a timeline,” Krejci said. “I’€™ll just take it day-by-day. Whenever it feels 100 percent, I’€™ll be back.”

Krejci has not played since suffering the knee injury on Feb. 20. He has missed a total of 31 games this season due to various injuries.

Read More: Brett Connolly, David Krejci,

5 things we learned as Capitals beat Bruins to take back first wild card spot

03.15.15 at 10:17 pm ET
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The Capitals ended the Bruins’ five-game win streak and took over sole possession of the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference Sunday. Washington now has 84 points to Boston’s 82, though the Bruins have a game in hand.

A day after shutting out the Penguins, it was the Bruins who were blanked as Braden Holtby stopped all 32 shots he saw on the night.

With the Red Wings enjoying a 5-1 win over the Penguins earlier in the day and the Bruins losing, Detroit now sits five points ahead of Boston for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.

The Senators continued their ascent up the standings on Sunday, as they remain on the outside of the playoff picture looking in but have closed to within five points of the Bruins for the second and final wild card spot.

Here are four more things we learned Sunday:

FIRST COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE

The Capitals took full advantage of the fact that they had been off since Friday, while the Bruins were playing their third game in four nights. Given that, the Bruins should have considered themselves fortunate to only allow one goal in what was a Washington-dominated first period.

Through the first five minutes, the Capitals attempted 14 shots to Boston’s two. The game stayed scoreless until 12:43, when John Carlson scored the only goal of the period on a Washington power play.

The Bruins recovered with a far more balanced effort, but a Nate Schmidt slapshot that redirected off the shaft of Gregory Campbell‘s stick sailed past Tuukka Rask at 13:37 to make it 2-0 as the Bruins failed to get one past Holtby.

HOLTBY HAS BRUINS’ NUMBER

The Bruins have faced the Capitals twice this season. They’ve been shut out by Braden Holtby both times.

Sunday’s performance gave Holtby a career-high eight blankings on the season. The B’s apparently brought out the best in Holtby, as he was yanked Friday after giving up four goals to Stars.

The teams’ next and final meeting of the regular season will come on April 8 in Washington in the Bruins’ 80th game of the season.

BUSY RASK MATCHES CAREER-HIGH

Sunday’s was the 58th game Tuukka Rask played this season, matching the career-high in games played he set last season, and the B’s still have 13 games to go.

While Rask will blow at least into the high 60s for games this season, it’s worth noting that three of his games this season have been in relief. All 58 of Rask’s games last season were games he started, whereas he has started 55 games this season.

SODERBERG STILL SLUMPING

Carl Soderberg’s goal-less streak reached 23 games with another goose-egg on Sunday. Soderberg had one shot on goal against the Capitals.

Sunday Skate Live Chat: ‘Bruins are Winning and Johnny Boychuk is rich’ Edition

03.14.15 at 10:17 pm ET
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Are the Bruins destined for bigger and better things than we thought? What happens with Ryan Spooner when David Krejci comes back? Is three-on-three overtime the wave of the future? What in the world is Johnny Boychuk going to do with all that money?

Discuss all these things and more with Pete Blackburn, DJ Bean and Joe McDonald in the Sunday Skate live chat. Click here to listen to the show from 8-10 a.m.

Live Blog Sunday Skate Live Chat
 

5 things we learned as Bruins beat Penguins to set up big meeting with Capitals

03.14.15 at 3:40 pm ET
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The Bruins won their fifth straight game Saturday to pull even with the Capitals for the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. With Boston’€™s 2-0 victory over the Penguins and and Detroit’€™s loss to the Flyers, the B’€™s now trail the Red Wings by three points for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.

The win, which came thanks to a Tuukka Rask shutout, a Milan Lucic first-period goal and a clutch empty-netter from Zdeno Chara that went the length of the ice, sets up a big meeting between the B’€™s and Capitals Sunday in the nation’€™s capital. Both teams sit at 82 points on the season, though the Bruins have a game in hand.

The Penguins had an uphill climb the whole game, as Sidney Crosby was a late scratch (see below) and Evgeni Malkin was limited to just five shifts all game due to an early injury suffered on a hit from Chris Kelly.

Here are four more things we learned Saturday:

SPOONER LINE STRIKES AGAIN

The Bruins’€™ third line of Ryan Spooner between Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak produced what was the game’s only goal until Chara’s dagger, with Lucic beating Thomas Greiss from the left circle at 9:53 of the first period.

The goal was the Spooner line’€™s sixth five-on-five goal in 10 games. It also gave Lucic eight points (four goals, four assists) since the line was united following David Krejci‘€™s knee injury.

The production for Spooner’€™s line is very encouraging and proves that the young center could very well take over for Carl Soderberg next season if the veteran center walks in free agency. The team should still prioritize returning Lucic and Pastrnak to Krejci on the first line once Krejci’€™s back, as Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak would fare far worse if given the assignments that Lucic and Krejci usually have.

RASK GETS THE SHUTOUT

Rask earned his third shutout of the season and continued a stretch of impressive play of late.

With Saturday’€™s performance, Rask has allowed two goals or fewer in seven of his last eight starts. The Bruins’€™ last loss (a shootout defeat against the Flames on March 5) marks the only time since Feb. 18 that Rask has allowed three goals.

The Bruins can do more damage in the standings with a win over the Capitals Sunday, so Claude Julien would be wise to go back to Rask in that contest.

WHERE’€™S CROSBY?

Sidney Crosby was a late surprise scratch for the Penguins and there was some confusion as to whether the Bruins could put Craig Adams in the game in his place after a lineup was submitted with Crosby playing and Adams sitting.

The change was deemed legal, as officials reviewed and approved the change. The NHL sent out the following explanation Saturday afternoon:

Sidney Crosby took pre-game warmup but determined that he could not play in the Bruins/Penguins game and was replaced by Craig Adams. Since Crosby was in the previously submitted starting line-up, this change had to be made according to Rule 7.1 which states that changes to the starting line-up must be reviewed and approved by the Referee prior to the start of the game. Proper procedure was followed by the Penguins and Adams is now in the game.

TROTMAN BACK TO PROVIDENCE

The Bruins returned Zach Trotman to Providence Saturday. The team had recalled the defenseman Friday for their two-game road trip to Pittsburgh and Washington.

With Trotman now back on the AHL roster, the B’€™s have only their six healthy defensemen for blueline options.

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