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Bruins lose Kevan Miller to upper-body injury in loss to Penguins

12.15.16 at 12:39 am ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

As if their hands weren’t already full in a head-to-head with a Penguins team that came into action with 35 goals scored in their last six games (all wins for the defending Stanley Cup winners), a departure to the locker room by Kevan Miller dropped the Bruins down to five defensemen in the second period of an overtime loss Wednesday at PPG Paints Arena

On the ice for the Nick Bonino power-play goal, the second of four Penguins goals on the night, Miller would appear on the ice for one more shift, a 1:14 shift (his second-longest of the night), before he departed to the B’s locker room for the rest of the night for an unspecified reason.

After the game, B’s head coach Claude Julien confirmed that Miller sustained an upper-body injury.

With Miller gone for the night after just 10:33 of time on ice, Julien mixed and match his defensive pairings for the rest of the night, something that became especially difficult on the road and in an attempt to limit the potential matchups against 2012 third-round pick Matt Grzelcyk, who made his NHL debut in the losing effort.

It meant heavy deployment for the Bruins’ other big-bodied righties on the point, as Brandon Carlo and Adam McQuaid each logged 12-shift third periods, while Zdeno Chara finished the final frame with 11 shifts.

Without a solidified update on Miller’s status moving forward, and with the Bruins still down John-Michael Liles (concussion), one of Joe Morrow or Colin Miller could draw back into action for Thursday’s home game against the Ducks. Potentially both, too, depending on what the Black and Gold do with the 22-year-old Grzelcyk after his NHL debut.

The 29-year-old Miller, who signed a four-year, $10 million contract extension last May, missed the first 19 games of the season because of a left hand injury, and has zero points with 31 hits in 12 games since returning from injury.

5 Things We Learned from a Bruins overtime loss to the Penguins

12.14.16 at 10:34 pm ET
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The Bruins forced overtime but fell to the Penguins, 4-3, Wednesday night. (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins forced overtime but fell to the Penguins, 4-3, Wednesday night. (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

After finishing last week with back-to-back home losses against two of the worst teams in the entire league in the Avalanche and Maple Leafs, the Bruins have started their week with three of a possible road four points against two of the best teams in the league in the Canadiens and Penguins thanks to a 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins Wednesday.

Just as we all predicted, of course.

The Bruins opened the game’s scoring at the 10:48 mark of the first period behind a Brad Marchand shot that squeaked through Penguins netminder Matt Murray for Marchand’s ninth goal of the season.

The Penguins answered back just 2:01 later though behind a straight-up fantastic Justin Schultz shot that beat Tuukka Rask upstairs for the fifth goal of the year for Schultz, and a 1-1 tie through 20 minutes.

But not before the B’s finished the period with a minute-plus of a 5-on-3 — and with the deck loaded with Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Pastrnak, and Zdeno Chara on the ice — and found nothing behind shaky passes and one real shot, which came off the stick of No. 63 but was easily gloved by the 6-foot-4 Murray.

At the 6:40 mark of the middle period, and after a great sequence from Tim Schaller to dump the puck in and Pastrnak to get it back to him, it was David Krejci that worked some magic around the front of the net and banked home his fifth goal of the year to put the Bruins back up by a goal. But again, the Penguins answered, 3:07 later, on a Nick Bonino power-play goal good for Bonino’s fifth goal of the year (and his second goal in as many games).

In a back and forth head-to-head between the league’s black and gold brethren, the Penguins bucked the trend of these teams trading goals when Conor Sheary, who won a positioning battle with Torey Krug at the front of the B’s net, finished off a great pass from Brian Dumoulin for a 3-2 Penguins lead at the 9:02 mark of the third period.

But when Murray went for a confused stroll behind his own net 13:20 into the period and Dumoulin failed to pick the puck up, it was Pastrnak that swung in, stole the puck, spun and tucked the puck into an empty cage for his 19th of the year and 3-3 tie.

It was onto an overtime for the second time in three nights for the Bruins, and after Rask made a gigantic breakaway stop on Sheary after the ex-UMass standout treated Adam McQuaid like a pylon en route to the net.

A team with seemingly unlimited offensive weapons at their disposal, the Penguins exposed a crack in the B’s line changes in the overtime, as Schultz fed Evgeni Malkin along the wall, and Malkin then fed Bryan Rust, who was entirely too quiet all night long, for a beautiful strike on Rask and 4-3 victory for the home Penguins, their 13th in 16 games at PPG Paints Arena this year.

Here are four other things we learned in the overtime loss…

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Bruins recall Matt Grzelcyk, place Matt Beleskey on IR ahead of Bruins-Penguins tilt

12.14.16 at 7:02 pm ET
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Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk may make his NHL debut tonight as the Bruins visit the Penguins. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk may make his NHL debut tonight as the Bruins visit the Penguins. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

In one Matt comes, out goes another.

Ahead of tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry contest with the surging Penguins, the Bruins have recalled defenseman Matt Grzelcyk from the AHL while also officially placing forward Matt Beleskey on the injured reserve as he recovers from a knee injury.

Grzelcyk, a third-round choice by the club in 2012 (85th overall), is in his first professional season after four years with Boston University, and arrives to the Big B’s with one goal and 12 points in 25 games for the P-Bruins this season. The 22-year-old Grzelcyk has also put 48 shots on net, and has totaled a plus-12 rating on the farm.

His first NHL recall comes on the heels of an optional morning skate that lacked both Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid, and it’s uncertain where Grzelcyk would slot into the defensive mix if he does indeed get the go ahead from Bruins coach Claude Julien tonight.

If Grzelcyk does make his NHL debut tonight, too, it will be against a Penguins team that is straight-up rolling the competition in the month of December, with a perfect 6-0-0 record and 35 goals scored (compared to just 14 against) in their first six games this month, and with victories in all but three of their 15 home games to date.

The Penguins put a beatdown on their Coyotes in their last game by way of a 7-0 final.

Two nights after stopping 30-of-31 shots against the rival Canadiens, goaltender Tuukka Rask is expected back in net for the Bruins in this contest. The 29-year-old Rask enters play with 15 wins and a .932 save percentage in 22 games this season, and has eight wins and a .934 save percentage in 14 career head-to-heads with the Pens.

The Pens counter with Matt Murray. The 6-foot-4 Murray stopped all 32 shots thrown his way in that win over the Coyotes, and has 11 wins in 12 starts this season. Although Murray has yet to play the Black and Gold in his career, he does have some staggering numbers on home ice this year, with five wins and a .944 save percentage in five games in the Steel City.

This will be the first of three meetings between the B’s and Pens this year. The Bruins swept last year’s series.

Without a morning skate to note any full changes before Grzelcyk’s arrival, here are the expected lines and pairings

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Tim Schaller – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner – Austin Czarnik – Jimmy Hayes

Dominic Moore – Riley Nash – Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Joe Morrow – Kevan Miller

Rask

Report: Bruins d-man Torey Krug won’t have disciplinary hearing for hit on Andrew Shaw

12.13.16 at 11:07 am ET
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It took until the third of four meetings between the Bruins and Canadiens this season, but there was a first that finally showed up to the rink in what finished as a 2-1 victory for the Bruins: the pure disdain and hatred these teams have for each other.

In what was without question the most physical head-to-head between the Atlantic Division foes, the night really seemed to begin and hit its fever pitch behind a first period sequence that saw Alexei Emelin nail David Pastrnak along the wall before B’s defenseman Torey Krug returned the favor with a devastating neutral zone finish on Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw.

 

It’s a hit that will not come with any sort of disciplinary hearing, either, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.

Plastered down to the ice and down the tunnel, where he would eventually return from and finish the game for the Habs, Shaw was nailed directly in the side of the head by the 5-foot-9 defenseman, and did appear to have required some repairs to his face.

On the replay, and especially in slow-motion, the hit looks ugly.

But it’s not a hit to the head without Shaw’s last-second extension and lunge forward in an attempt to play the puck. By that point, Krug had already committed to the check and had tucked his elbow, which again, would have been anything but a hit to a head.

In this situation, the onus is without question on Shaw to protect himself.

The Canadiens tried to make Krug pay for the hit by way of a fight with forward Brendan Gallagher.

Krug has one goal and 13 points in 30 games this season.

Austin Czarnik, Ryan Spooner finally back on board for shuffled Bruins

12.13.16 at 10:20 am ET
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Austin Czarnik snapped a 16-game goalless drought in Monday's 2-1 victory over the Canadiens. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports)

Austin Czarnik snapped a 16-game goalless drought in Monday’s 2-1 victory over the Canadiens. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports)

A frustrated Claude Julien was honest about his third line following the club’s third straight loss, a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Maple Leafs, and their year-long lack of production for the club.

“We definitely need more scoring throughout our lineup, there’s no doubt about that,” the decade-long Bruins coach said. “You want to spread your scoring, our third-line needs to give us some production, doesn’t matter, it just seems whoever has been on that line we haven’t had a lot of production there. It’s got to be spread out, but at the same time I don’t care who scores them we just have to score.”

The line’s right winger, Austin Czarnik, didn’t disagree.

“I just need to bear down,” Czarnik said Saturday. “It’s just unacceptable at this level. It just needs to happen. We’re working hard as a team; we’re getting our opportunities at least. It’s not like we’re not getting them. We just need to be able to bear down and find the back of the net.”

It was entering Monday’s game with the Canadiens that the main skaters of the Bruins’ third — Czarnik, Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Riley Nash, and Ryan Spooner — had combined for just nine goals and 26 points (seven of which came on the power play) through the first 29 games of the season. Those totals aren’t horrible on the surface — but then you realize it’s by five different skaters, and that several of those players entered the week riding significant droughts.

Nash, on a 10-game pointless drought, was bumped down to the fourth line. Spooner, with just two assists in his last 13 contests, was kept on the line, and the same for Czarnik, who was without a goal in 16 games, though he was moved back to his natural center position, while it was Hayes that drew back into the lineup after sitting as a healthy scratch in the previous contest.

And naturally, it was from the third line that scored both B’s goals in a 2-1 overtime win over the rival Canadiens.

First came a goal from Czarnik, who turned 24 years old that night, at the 18:55 mark of the second period, to put the Bruins up 1-0. The goal showed off some of what earned Czarnik an NHL spot in the first place; Excellent poise with the puck, tremendous speed through the neutral zone, and a sneakily effective shot. The smile on the birthday boy’s face said it all.

“I thought he played well there in the middle and not have to battle so much with his size on the wall,” Julien said of Czarnik. “It’s nice to see he can play both, but no doubt he was a big help and probably a better player for tonight down the middle.”

Then came the game-winning overtime goal from Spooner, the perfect finish to a minute-plus of attacking zone time on a beautiful five-hole tuck through Carey Price, and good for his fourth goal of the year (and his first since Nov. 12 in Arizona).

“We need more goal scoring from a little bit of everybody,” Julien maintained after the win, which put an end to a three-game losing streak for the team. “[Monday] was a good night for that. They did a great job of giving us the goals we needed, and hopefully that continues and we get some scoring spread out a little bit more.”

It’s just a one-game sample, of course, but the instant results are more than encouraging for a Black and Gold squad that will need even more goals ahead of a Wednesday head-to-head with a Penguins team averaging a league-best 3.52 goals per night.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask struggles against the Canadiens, just not in Montreal

12.13.16 at 4:57 am ET
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Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask finally beat Carey Price in a head-to-head. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA Today Sports)

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask finally beat Canadiens goaltender Carey Price in a head-to-head Monday at the Bell Centre. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA Today Sports)

Say what you will about Tuukka Rask’s career numbers against the Canadiens. And I’ll be the first to admit that the figures Rask entered Monday’s game with — just five wins and a .909 save percentage in 24 career games against the Canadiens — look pretty indefensible. But if there’s one place where Rask has consistently flipped the script against the Canadiens, it has not been at TD Garden, or even Gillette Stadium for that matter, but rather the Canadiens’ own building.

And that road success, along with a timely overtime goal from Ryan Spooner, came through for the Black and Gold once again and was the biggest reason why they escaped their Monday in Montreal with a valuable two points in their pockets, as the 29-year-old stopped all but one of 31 shots faced en route to a 2-1 overtime win for the Bruins.

In what was the B’s first win over Canadiens netminder Carey Price since Feb. 2013 (10 starts ago for No. 31 in red), and the closing chapter of a frustrating three-game losing streak for the Bruins, it was the fiery Finnish netminder that came up with the one extra stop (and absorbed one more Torrey Mitchell check than he should ever have to) that the club needed for the victory.

“It was a duel of obviously two of the best goaltenders around, so it was nice to see [Tuukka] win this duel,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the victory. “Both goaltenders were great, and at the end, I’d like to say ours was better.”

Better than Price, even for just one night, Rask improved his Bell Centre numbers to six wins, dropped his goals against average in that building down to 1.99 and bumped his save percentage up to a .933 in 12 starts. Rask’s victory also means that he’s exited Montreal ice with a victory in five of his last eight starts in The City of Saints, with just 14 goals surrendered and a .941 save percentage over that span. He’s also put together five efforts of at least 30 saves with just one goal allowed, with Monday’s night standing as the fifth, and has allowed two goals or fewer in eight of his 12 starts in Montreal overall.

Compare those numbers to Rask’s head-to-head figures against the Habs in Boston — a seemingly impossible 0-9-3 record and  .890 save percentage with 38 goals allowed on 345 shots against since 2007 — and you’re left understandably mystified.

Why is it that Rask can’t take his Bell Centre game to the Garden? The, y’know, home rink? Where there’s 17,565 games for him opposed to the 20,000-plus that are very much against him and practically on top of him in what’s perhaps the steepest arena in the league (attend one game at the Bell Centre and you’ll get why referees make so many utterly terrible calls in the Habs’ favor).

Do the splits against the Canadiens make sense? Of course not. But maybe they don’t have to when looking at the big picture.

No matter what goaltender Rask has done or will do for the Bruins this season, it would all seem to mean squat without a victory — or at the very least, a showing, something he did not accomplish in either of the first two meetings with the Habs this year, the first due to injury and second because of a coach’s decision  — against the hated Canadiens. And as unfair as that may be — and it’s probably pretty unfair given what Rask has meant to the Black and Gold this season — that’s the plain old truth given the fact that a deep playoff run for this team likely doesn’t come without a playoff series against the Habs. Especially in the fancy, still relatively new playoff format that forces you to work through your own division through the first two rounds of postseason play.

In a hostile environment and playoff-like atmosphere Monday, too, Rask and the Bruins got just that.

Something that might just give you a little bit more confidence if these teams are to meet sometime this spring.

And maybe even leave you hoping for a home ice advantage that favors the Habs, as unconventional as that may sound.

5 Things We Learned as Bruins snap three-game slide with overtime win over Canadiens

12.12.16 at 10:30 pm ET
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The hate was back in the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry Monday night at the Bell Centre. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports)

The hate was back in the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry Monday night at the Bell Centre. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports)

It took two overtime goals just to get one, but the Bruins finally have a win against Canadiens netminder Carey Price — for the first time since Feb. 6, 2013 — behind a 2-1 overtime final at the Bell Centre.

Squared up with the Habs with the third of just four meetings between the longtime rivals slated for this season, a 60-minute war of attrition solved nothing between the two, not after birthday boy Austin Czarnik’s late second period goal (and his first in 16 games), was answered by Paul Byron at the 16:48 mark of the third period.

Onto a three-on-three overtime for the second time in their last four games, the Bruins appeared to have scored when David Pastrnak was hooked and went crashing into Price before David Krejci slid in and tucked the puck home.

But an official review determined that while the puck did go into the net before the whistle was blown, that it was Pastrnak’s collision with Price that took No. 31 out of the play allowed Krejci to collect what would have been his fifth goal of the new campaign.

But instead of cowering after denial by the officials in a hostile environment, the Black and Gold responded with extended zone time that hemmed the Canadiens in their own zone, and eventually crack behind a Ryan Spooner breakaway that finished the Habs off behind a brilliant move that saw No. 51 beat Price through his sweeping five hole and into the net.

And after yet another review, this one counted, and gone was the Bruins’ three-game losing streak.

Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask made 29 saves in the winning effort, while Price stopped 27-of-29 in defeat.

Here are four other things we learned in a spirited affair at the Bell Centre…

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