|01.14.15 at 1:59 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — David Pastrnak is just one of the reasons the Bruins are starting to win again. His center being healthy enough to stick in the lineup and perform is among the biggest.
After going in and out of the lineup with lower-body injuries and missing a total of 20 games, Krejci has been back in Boston’s lineup for nearly a month. Though he has since hit his stride (nine points in his last eight games) and has established quick chemistry with Pastrnak, Krejci told WEEI.com Wednesday that his injury concerns aren’t fully in the rear-view mirror.
“I feel better and better every day,” he said. “It is what it is, but yesterday I felt pretty good. As long as there’s no setbacks, that’s great news.”
Asked Wednesday if he’s had to do anything to manage the injury since re-entering the lineup on Dec. 17, Krejci said that he’s been cautious to make sure what’s been his longest healthy stretch of the season doesn’t get derailed.
“Yeah, just because this is the [fourth] time coming back,” he said. “If it was only the only the first time and I would be fine, I would be like, ‘Oh, whatever,’ but now I know that I have to stay on top of it. Yeah, it’s just because this is the [fourth] time and I don’t want to be sidelined again with that. I’m trying to take care of it every day and it’s been working.”
|01.14.15 at 11:51 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Brad Marchand did not participate in Wednesday’s practice as the Bruins prepared for Thursday’s contest against the Rangers. Claude Julien said following the skate that the veteran left wing had taken a maintenance day.
Marchand played his regular shifts in Tuesday’s win over the Lightning and spoke to the media following the game, an indication that there were no serious injury concerns. Daniel Paille practiced Wednesday in his place on Patrice Bergeron‘s lines.
Boston’s lines in Wednesday’s practice were as follows:
|01.13.15 at 9:37 pm ET|
That didn’t take long.
A day after Claude Julien downplayed whether he wanted to see how David Pastrnak would look with Milan Lucic as his and David Krejci‘s left wing, the Bruins finally gave their anticipated eventual first-line a look and it exploded in a 4-3 win over the division-leading Lightning (box).
Julien united the trio midway through the second period with Tampa holding a 2-1 lead and the payoff, in addition to being nearly immediate, was big. The line scored on its second and third shifts to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead going into the second intermission. In the line’s first shift of the third period, Pastrnak scored on a wraparound for his second goal of the game and fourth of the season.
Pastrnak has now scored a pair of goals in each of the last two games. He got his first Tuesday by taking a pass from Lucic, flying down the right wing and fending off Matthew Carle as he cut to the front of the net and tucked the puck past Ben Bishop. Lucic scored on the next shift when the rebound of his shot went off Anton Stralman and in.
Tuesday marked Pastrnak’s eighth NHL game. The Bruins can play him for one more game without burning the first year of his NHL contract. At this point, it’s hard to imagine the decision hasn’t already been made.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
LINES BACK TO NORMAL
With Julien putting Lucic with Krejci and Pastrnak, the rest of Boston’s lines reverted to normal. Daniel Paille, who had been playing with Lucic and Bergeron, went back to the fourth line, with Chris Kelly going back to Carl Soderberg’s line and Reilly Smith reuniting with Marchand and Bergeron.
As such, the lines became:
Lucic – Krejci – Pastrnak
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson
Paille – Campbell – Cunningham
NEXT CENTER UP COMES THROUGH
Claude Julien revealed recently that during delayed penalties, the Bruins’ extra attacker is always the center of the next line expected to take the ice. That worked splendidly for the Bruins on a delayed penalty late in the first period.
With Krejci’s line on the ice, Soderberg took the ice as the extra attacker. He nearly got in Torey Krug’s way at the blue line initially, but moved toward the wall, took a pass from Krug and fired a sharp cross-ice pass to Brad Marchand, who blasted a one-timer past Ben Bishop to tie the game.
Additionally, good eye by the MetroWest Daily News’ Dan Cagen, who noted that the Bruins have gotten a ton of first-period power plays of late. The B’s have had seven first-period power plays (plus the delayed penalty on which they scored) over their last three games. The Bruins have scored in the first period on either power plays or during a delayed penalty in all three.
PK BAILS OUT BRUINS
You probably don’t want to give a team with Stamkos too many power plays, but Boston took three penalties in the first 30 minutes of the game. Marchand was called for a first-period goaltender interference infraction and a second-period high-stick, while Carl Soderberg was whistled for hooking in the second.
The Bruins killed off all three penalties, with Tuukka Rask stopping Tampa’s best chance of the three, a Jonathan Drouin bid during Tampa’s first man advantage.
The Bruins killed off two more penalties on the night to hold Tampa 0-for-5 on the power play.
THINGS GET CHIPPY IN THE THIRD
Zdeno Chara racked up six penalty minutes and left the Lightning plenty bruised when a hit on Carle prompted Cedric Paquette to stand up to Boston’s captain. The two took jabs at one another, with Chara hitting Paquette in the jaw/neck area to drop the Tampa forward. Chara was given a boarding minor for the hit on Carle and a double minor for roughing. Paquette received a roughing minor.
Minutes later, Krejci and J.T. Brown got tangled up behind the play, with Krejci keeping his gloves on during the scuffle. Lucic skated back to Krejci’s aid and had to be held back from Brown. Brown was given a double-minor for roughing, with Krejci getting just a roughing minor.
With 1.7 seconds remaining in the game, Chara and Paquette met again, with each player receiving a double-minor for roughing. Brad Marchand was given a 10-minute misconduct.
|01.13.15 at 12:39 pm ET|
The Bruins, injuries and a suspension aside, pretty much had one fourth line since midway through the 2010-11 season: Gregory Campbell between Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton. Just over halfway through this season, they’ve had 15 different fourth lines by our count (see below).
As Scott McLaughlin recently pointed out, these fourth lines have mostly been ineffective. Yet with Simon Gagne recently informing the Bruins he will not be returning this season, the team can at least have a better idea of who will make up their bottom trio. Specifically, you can count on Craig Cunningham to stick on Gregory Campbell’s right wing.
In a season that has seen the Bruins struggle to get any traction with their bottom trio(s), playing Cunningham has looked to be the right idea all along. He moves relatively well, brings an element of grit, and, when given the minutes, isn’t to throw the puck on net even if it isn’t the prettiest chance.
“Any time the goalie kicks out a rebound, no one really knows where it’s going and it’s a 50-50 puck,” Cunningham said Tuesday.
Claude Julien acknowledged Tuesday that the Bruins are giving Cunningham a real shot to become a permanent member of the line, but he doesn’t feel he’s won anything yet.
“No. I don’t think so,’ Cunningham said. “For me, I’m still trying to make an impact and show that I can play at this level every night. You live day-to-day up here. For me, you never want to get comfortable. I think every day is kind of like a tryout. They’re watching you and you’ve got to bring something every single day.”
Daniel Paille moved up from the line last week as he was promoted to a new-look top-six trio with Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic. Chris Kelly and Jordan Caron have manned his left wing spot since, but that could continue to change.
As long as Campbell is in Boston, he figures to be on that fourth line, and it seems Cunningham stands a better chance than any of Boston’s youngsters of sticking on the right side. The other wing may continue to be a revolving door, but in the meantime, Campbell and Cunningham, linemates for eight games entering Tuesday night, should seize the opportunity to prove they’re the men for the job as the Bruins look to re-establish the puck-possessing, energy-providing fourth line the Bruins once had.
“I guess I was lucky — we were lucky, in a sense — to have that stability for the last four years,” Campbell said. “You kind of take it for granted, because if you look around, it doesn’t happen often where a line’s together that long where you can create that chemistry and whatever. The thing is, our role doesn’t change. We just have to take pride in that. The guys that have been on the line are more than capable of doing the job and they’re good players. We’ll make it work. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer.”
THE MANY DIFFERENT FOURTH LINES
These aren’t groups that were just used for shifts at a time. From tracking the team’s lineups throughout the season, these are the lines that the B’s have used for a game or games at a time. Some have changed from mid-game line shakeups, but that has rarely been the case.
Paille-Cunningham-Robins: Games 1, 2, 3
Paille-Spooner-Caron: Game 4
Paille-Spooner-Gagne: Game 5
Paille-Campbell-Gagne: Games 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28
Paille-Campbell-Fraser: Game 7, 34, 35, 36
Paille-Campbell-Smith: Game 12
Kelly-Campbell-Paille: Game 15
Lindblad-Khokhlachev-Fraser: Game 22
Caron-Khokhlachev-Pastrnak: Game 23
Smith-Kelly-Griffith: Game 24
Paille-Campbell-Griffith: Games 29, 30, 31
Paille-Campbell-Cunningham: Game 32, 33, 38, 39, 40, 41
Lindblad-Cunningham-Griffith: Game 37
Caron-Campbell-Cunningham: Game 42
Kelly-Campbell-Cunningham: Game 43
|01.13.15 at 11:41 am ET|
All players were present for the Bruins’ morning skate as they prepared for Tuesday night’s contest against the Lightning at TD Garden. Tuukka Rask is expected to start in goal.
The lines and defense pairings are the same as they were in Saturday’s win over the Flyers:
Marchand - Krejci – Pastrnak
Lucic – Bergeron - Paille
Smith - Soderberg - Eriksson
Kelly – Campbell – Cunningham
Chara – Hamilton
Seidenberg – McQuaid
Krug – Miller
The Lightning are coming off a 7-3 loss to the Flyers Monday night in Philadelphia in which they lost star defenseman Victory Hedman and All-Star forward Tyler Johnson to lower-body injuries. Lightning coach John Cooper told reporters after Monday’s game that there is a “good chance” that neither player will be available for Tampa against the Bruins, with Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reporting Tuesday that both players are out.
Hedman and Johnson both out tonight, neither considered long term, Johnson closer than Hedman, both may return before All Star break
— Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssonTBO) January 13, 2015
Johnson leads the Lightning with 45 points this season.
|01.12.15 at 5:17 pm ET|
The Bruins and Simon Gagne announced Monday that the veteran forward will not return to the team this season as he remains with his family following the death of his father.
Gagne, who signed a one-year deal with the Bruins in October and registered three goals and one assist over 23 games, took a leave of absence on Dec. 10 following his father’s cancer diagnosis. The Bruins have changed his status to ‘suspended player,’ a move that Gagne supported.
By suspending Gagne, the Bruins will not be charged his $600,000 cap hit.
“The last month has been extremely difficult for me with my father being sick and his passing,” Gagne said in a statement released by the team. “To play in the NHL you have to be 100 percent mentally, emotionally and physically committed to the game. At this time I know that I cannot be close to those levels.
“The Bruins organization and my teammates have been great to my family and I during this time. When I decided not to return this season, I spoke to Peter and assured him that I did not want the organization or my teammates to be impacted. Together we made the decision that my status would be changed so that the team could have a full active roster. In addition, I would like to thank the fans and the NHL family for all of the support that they have given my family and I during this difficult time. It has truly meant a lot.”
It is possible that this could mark the end of the 34-year-old’s NHL career. Gagne did not play last season but turned a professional tryout agreement into a contract with Boston after the B’s struggled offensively in the first four games of the season.
Since debuting with the Flyers in 1999, Gagne has played 822 regular-season NHL games, scoring 291 goals and adding 310 assists for 601 points.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|01.12.15 at 1:16 pm ET|
Given that Chara is not an All-Star this season, he will not participate in the hardest shot competition, which he was won five times in a row from 2007-2012. The NHL has not had an All-Star weekend the last two seasons due to the 2012-13 lockout and the 2014 Winter Olympics, so Chara is still the defending champion in the talent show.
Over the years, Chara set new records in the contest and developed a good rivalry with Nashville’s Shea Weber, who has finished second to Boston’s captain in each of the last three contests. In the last contest, Chara’s shot was clocked at 108.8 mph, the fastest on record to date.
Chara is understanding of why he won’t take part in the contest, as he noted that you need to be an All-Star first, and it would have been hard to make a case for him qualifying.
“Obviously I missed a big chunk of the first half,” he said. “It’s based on the play and performance of the players, and obviously I didn’t play most of it.”
Given that there hasn’t been one of these contests in a couple years and that Chara is now in his age 37-38 season, it would have been interesting to see if Chara’s shot still reigned supreme. Furthermore, Chara is two victories shy of tying wooden stick wonder Al MacInnis for most hardest shot crowns (seven).
Chara’s been able to step into powerful shots at points this season on goals against Buffalo on Oct. 18 and last week in Pittsburgh. Asked whether he felt his shot remains the hardest in the league, Chara thought for three full seconds before answering.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s a different thing doing the shots during the game and when you have to skate into it and wind up. I assume I could be up there, but a lot of guys have hard shots.”
Chara won’t win this season, but given that a healthy Chara should be an automatic All-Star, perhaps he’ll return to the contest in the coming seasons.
“It’s fun,” he said. “I think it was exciting for fans; it was exciting for players. We always made it kind of interesting with different players and it was always a bit hyped before the contest.”
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