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Bruins must find way to steal game from The Hamburglar

03.18.15 at 5:30 pm ET
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Andrew Hammond has a .956 save percentage. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Andrew Hammond and his .956 save percentage are providing a threat to the Bruins’ playoff chances. (Harry How/Getty Images)

In the Bruins’€™ biggest game of the season, they’€™ll have to go against someone they have, for the most part, never seen.

As the legend of Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond a.k.a. “The Hamburglar” continues to grow, the 27-year-old netminder, who has earned points in all 12 of his starts (11-0-1) is just that to most Bruins: a legend — someone of whom they’€™ve heard, but actually haven’€™t actually witnessed in person.

When the teams last met on March 10, Ottawa started Craig Anderson in Boston’€™s 3-1 win.

By this writer’€™s count, only Torey Krug, Reilly Smith and Matt Bartkowski have played against Hammond (all in college against Hammond’€™s Bowling Green squad). Smith scored six goals against the Hamburglar in seven games over a three-season stretch, while Krug racked up four assists over seven games. The icing on the cake? Bartkowski, who has zero goals in 119 career regular-season games in the NHL, scored on Hammond back on Jan. 8, 2010 and added an assist against the Hamburglar the next night.

With the way Hammond’€™s playing now, however, one shouldn’€™t expect a multi-goal performance from Smith or, unfortunately, a single-goal performance from Bartkowski. The undrafted Hammond, who began the season in the AHL but whose contributions since his callup earned him a card that gets him free McDonald’€™s for life, has allowed just 15 goals in his 12 starts. He’€™s given up just one goal in each of his last three starts and has never given up more than two in an NHL start.

“We’€™ve got an opportunity to hand this guy his first loss,” Claude Julien said Wednesday. “It’€™s up to us to make that happen.”

Making that challenge harder is the fact that the Bruins aren’€™t exactly the goal-scoring type these days. They’€™ve put just two pucks past goaltenders over the last three games, with Zdeno Chara adding an empty-netter Saturday in Pittsburgh. Overall, the B’€™s rank 19th in the NHL with 2.60 goals per game.

Assuming Ottawa, who continues to nip at Boston’€™s heels for the second wild card spot, does start Hammond, the Bruins will need to find a way to beat him — either with a balanced scoring effort or, more realistically, a lights-out performance from Tuukka Rask — to avoid a scary stretch run. The Senators trail the B’€™s by just four points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but they also have a game in hand. The Bruins do have more regulation and overtime wins (33 to Ottawa’€™s 29), so if Ottawa does match the Bruins’€™ point total, Boston would likely hold the tie-breaker.

Still, it shouldn’€™t have to get to that for the Bruins. Their roster, as we’€™ve documented perhaps too many times, is better than it’€™s performed. Despite the injuries with which they’€™ve dealt, the Bruins should easily be a playoff team, but Ottawa’€™s recent run presents a very realistic threat.

Mostly because of Hammond’€™s play, the Senators have are 12-1-1 over their last 14 games. Their only regulation loss in that span is the aforementioned contest earlier in the month in which the B’€™s faced Anderson.

Fortunately for the B’€™s, despite the fact that they’€™re facing a hot team and goaltender at a time in which they’€™re struggling to score, they have a goaltender of their own who can steal a game.

“€œIt’€™s always slim,” Rask said Wednesday of his margin for error. “It doesn’€™t matter if it’€™s the hottest or coolest goalie in the league. I know that I try to keep the goals against as low as possible, but lately, a few games, we haven’€™t scored as many goals. Obviously you know that most likely you can’€™t let in too many.”

Hammond’s play has inspired a fan to throw a McDonald’s burger on the ice after a win. Rask quipped Wednesday that the strangest thing he’s seen thrown on the ice was a milk crate. The Bruins can only hope there’s no reason for either to be thrown on Thursday.

Read More: Andrew Hammond, Tuukka Rask,

David Krejci skates at right wing as David Pastrnak misses Bruins practice

03.18.15 at 12:05 pm ET
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David Pastrnak

David Pastrnak

WILMINGTON — The Bruins swapped out one David for another in Wednesday’€™s practice, as David Krejci took part in the skate while David Pastrnak was the only absence.

Krejci also participated in Tuesday’€™s non-contact morning skate, but Wednesday marked his first full practice with the team since suffering a partially torn MCL on Feb. 20. He is not expected to return to game action until this weekend at the earliest, with Claude Julien saying Krejci will travel with the team for their upcoming three-game road trip.

Julien said that Pastrnak was given a maintenance day. The 18-year-old played through overtime of Tuesday’€™s 2-1 shootout loss to the Sabres and did not appear to suffer any injuries.

With Pastrnak’€™s absent, Krejci skated in his place in line rushes. The lines in practice were as follows:

Marchand-Bergeron-Smith
Lucic-Spooner-Krejci
Kelly-Soderberg-Eriksson
Paille-Campbell-Talbot-Ferlin

All six defensemen practiced, while Jeremy Smith joined goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Niklas Svedberg after being recalled and dressing as the team’s backup Tuesday. Rask missed the game with what the team called “general soreness.” Julien said all three goalies will travel.

Read More: David Krejci, David Pastrnak,

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.

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