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Bruins survive trap game effects for win against Devils

03.04.17 at 9:49 pm ET
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The Bruins and Devils concluded their season series tonight. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins and Devils concluded their season series tonight. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins were intent on not allowing Tuesday’s home game against the woeful Coyotes to become a trap game. So much so that they allowed the first two periods of Saturday’s game against an equally disastrous (and actual painfully boring) club in the Devils become one.

In Boston without their best defenseman and team captain Andy Greene, the Devils came into the Garden with a five-game losing streak and just 12 wins in 32 games away from the home on the year.

Their opponent, the Bruins, were coming into play still hot from a frustrating loss to the Rangers on Thursday, but with wins in seven of their last nine games (also known as when the club made the switch from Claude Julien to interim head coach Bruce Cassidy).

In essence, this game should have been 3-0 for the B’s after 20. Not 3-2 after 60 for the club’s eighth win in their last 10 games.

But a scoreless first in Boston was cause for concern and set the tone for a bizarre night in Boston.

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Drew Stafford to make Bruins debut on line with Ryan Spooner, Frank Vatrano

03.04.17 at 6:04 pm ET
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Drew Stafford will make his Bruins debut tonight. (Bruce Fedyck/USA Today Sports)

Drew Stafford will make his Bruins debut tonight. (Bruce Fedyck/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins have found Drew Stafford’s initial spot in their lineup.

Acquired from the Jets on Wednesday, and in his first practice with the club in a Friday optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena, the 31-year-old will make his Bruins debut tonight against the struggling Devils as the right winger of 10 NHL seasons will skate on the B’s third line with Frank Vatrano on the left and Ryan Spooner at center.

It was the most likely starting point for the veteran Stafford, who comes to Boston with four goals and 13 points in 40 games for the Jets this season, and as another shoot-first option for their bottom-six.

And it’s on that line where the Black and Gold believe they can get the most bang for their buck out of Stafford’s game.

“He’s a guy that finishes well. He goes to the net. He can make plays. I think on  paper he could be a good fit for that line,” Cassidy said. “He’ll go to the net, which I think is important. Frankie goes to the net, clearly, but if Frankie’s shooting, we need someone there, and Spoons is usually the guy that’s dishing. I think it could be a good fit for him. It’s a way to get him in the lineup.”

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Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin expected to get nod vs. Devils

03.04.17 at 5:11 pm ET
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Anton Khudobin will get the start against the Devils. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

Anton Khudobin will get the start against the Devils. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins were in conversations to find a goaltending upgrade during the final few days of the trade deadline. They ultimately did not make a move, and have instead decided to trust Anton Khudobin after what’s been two straight wins for Khudobin for the first time since Jan. 2015.

The decision to believe in Khudobin is a bold move for the Bruins, a team whose backups have combined for a 3-10-2 record on the season — and with Khudobin earning all three of those wins… but also dropping six games with an .896 save percentage on the season — and shows that the B’s are committed to the idea that they will be OK giving the 30-year-old some meaningful starts down the stretch run.

“Had some discussions along those lines, acknowledging that Anton [Khudobin] has played better in his last two starts,” B’s general manager Don Sweeney said after the deadline. “Where we are, he’s the backup, so hopefully, he continues to play that way.”

The first of those starts will come tonight, too, as the 30-year-old is expected to get the nod against the Devils at TD Garden.

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Admiral’s Mailbag: Who are these Bruins?

03.04.17 at 9:22 am ET
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Bruce Cassidy has helped turn around the Bruins' fortunes. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Bruce Cassidy has helped turn around the Bruins’ fortunes. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The deadline’s done and the Bruins are winning. Perfect time for a mailbag …

Who is this team in black and gold on my TV? Ricky, Cambridge, MA

The difference between the Bruins in the last days of Claude Julien and under nine games of Bruce Cassidy has been night and day. Even Claude’s bum-kissers in the media have to concede that canning the NHL’s longest-tenured head coach was the correct and overdue call. Ryan Spooner, David Krejci, and Colin Miller have each noticeably stepped up their play under Cassidy and simply loosening the reins has worked wonders for the Bs. In three weeks, they went from a bubble team that might become sellers to a squad that controls its own fate and holds a sizable tie-breaker lead over Toronto in the Atlantic. The bet here is they stay in the top three in division.

What’s the deal with Drew Stafford? Good pick-up or no? Brian, Canton, MA

Yes, Drew Stafford is a nice deadline pick-up for the Bs. Despite subpar numbers this season, due in part to injuries, the right wing has cracked 20 goals four times in 10 seasons with a high of 31 in 2010-11. He can play up and down the line-up, kill penalties, log power play time, and score. For a conditional sixth-rounder (that could become a 4th), it was an easy call for GM Don Sweeney. Regardless of where he gets plugged in, the ripple effect will make the forward group that much better.

Who made out the best at the deadline? Jerry, Manchester, NH

Considering they landed the biggest fish in pending UFA Kevin Shattenkirk, it’s the Washington Capitals. Their already high expectations got even loftier by acquiring the most-sought after D-man on the market. He’ll make a solid D.C. back end that much better. Add in the Caps top flight goalie and regular season success, if they don’t make the Stanley Cup Final this season, then it’ll be considered the latest spectacular failure for Caps hockey.
The Bs division rivals each made adds.The Ottawa Senators added notorious biter Alex Burrows and Viktor Stalberg to solidify their forwards (though they lost Curtis Lazar in a trade with Calgary). Toronto landed local guy Brian Boyle and Eric Fehr to bring in some much needed veteran leadership for a young squad. The Habs picked up agitator Steve Ott, Dwight King, Nikita Nesterov, and Jordie Benn. But if they continue to struggle on offense, their run could be a quick one.

Why have the last few trade deadlines been duds compared to prior years?  Tommy, Dennis, MA

This year’s Deadline Day was like watching “The English Patient” – general boredom with the occasional eyebrow raise. After Twitter’s rumor mill produced its annual BS, not much transpired per usual. The draft and the weeks surrounding it have become the Moroccan street market for blockbuster deals in recent years. GMs don’t set aside deadline day like fans do. If a deal becomes available well before then, a front office obviously isn’t going to wait to just provide a deadline buzz. It seems like the market has become artificially inflated in February because of some GM demands that seem to come down by the time the draft rolls around. Also, teams needed to be properly stocked for an expansion draft and that no doubt had an effect on the lack of moves.

After chaotic travel day, Drew Stafford finally joins Bruins

03.03.17 at 9:57 pm ET
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Drew Stafford joined the Bruins on Thursday night and skated on Friday. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Drew Stafford joined the Bruins on Thursday night and skated in a practice with the club on Friday. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Trade deadlines are rarely fun for the actual participants.

Drew Stafford, acquired from the Jets in exchange for a conditional sixth-round draft pick in 2018 by the Bruins on Wednesday, knows it.

“It’s crazy, I mean, anybody you talk to that goes through it, it’s the same kind of thing. You find out, nowadays, with social media,” Stafford said of the trade process that landed him in Boston. “The TSN guys are sitting in the room there for however long, looking at their phones, and you find out on Twitter or whatever.”

The 31-year-old Stafford was spared the trouble of finding out his fate on his Twitter, though, as it was his agent that broke the news to him.

Nevertheless, you’ve been traded. No big deal. Now imagine having to immediately pack your life in Winnipeg up into a suitcase, catch a connecting flight in Minnesota, saying hi and then bye to your wife, and arrive in Boston just before a game starts. Oh, and your wife, who is back home in Minnesota — which is an hour-plus flight from Winnipeg but much more Boston —  is 33 weeks pregnant and thus unable to actually fly with you and join you here.

Welcome to Stafford’s journey to the Hub.

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Bruins center Patrice Bergeron feeling OK after injury scare

03.03.17 at 2:39 am ET
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Patrice Bergeron blocked a shot with his hand but returned to action. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Patrice Bergeron blocked a shot with his hand but returned to action in a 2-1 loss to the Rangers. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The list of significant injuries Bruins center Patrice Bergeron has played through in his NHL career is probably as long as his list of professional accomplishments. That’s saying something, both about Bergeron’s on-ice value to the Black and Gold and his pain tolerance.

So when Bergeron grimaced and made his way down the runway and back to the dressing room after a blocked shot in the second period of Thursday’s loss to the Rangers, you couldn’t help but hold your breath.

But after a quick absence — with Ryan Spooner moved to the middle of the first line in his place — Bergeron returned and finished the night with five shots on goal and two hits in 18:58 of time on ice.

After the game, the 31-year-old, who missed the first three games of the season, talked about the run-in with what would have been major trouble for the Black and Gold’s stretch run.

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Bruins unhappy with late penalty drawn by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist

03.02.17 at 11:12 pm ET
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The Bruins did not agree with the late goaltender interference penalty drawn by Henrik Lundqvist. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins did not agree with the late goaltender interference penalty drawn by Henrik Lundqvist. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who celebrated his 35th birthday in Boston behind a 32-of-33 performance against the Bruins on Thursday, should not expect a gift from the Black and Gold.

He can’t lose any sleep over that, though, as the New York star of over a decade received the perfect gift from referee Tim Peel late in the third period of a 2-1 Rangers win over the B’s at TD Garden.

With the Bruins down by one and the pressure cranked on Lundqvist’s net in search of the game-tying goal with 2:22 left in the third period, Bruins forward David Backes cut across the front of the net, where he was met by Lundqvist’s extended arm. Upon contact, Lundqvist flung himself down to the ice, and a penalty was whistled against Backes.

The penalty put the Bruins on a two-minute kill, which was made, but effectively left the club with just 22 five-on-five seconds to score.

After the loss, a frustrated Backes assessed the incident with the raw emotion of a player that knew the B’s let this game slip.

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