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Tuukka Rask (maybe) expected in net for Bruins vs. Canadiens

11.08.16 at 6:45 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask should be in the net for the Bruins on Tuesday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports)

Tuukka Rask should be in the net for the Bruins on Tuesday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports)

On the second leg of a back-to-back that began with last night’s 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres in Boston, and on the second day of a week featuring five games for the team, the Bruins — as expected — canceled their Tuesday morning skate at the Bell Centre.

As is often the case when a morning skate gets canceled or becomes optional, only the club’s recent scratches — forward Jimmy Hayes, defenseman Joe Morrow, and backup goaltender Zane McIntyre — were found on the ice. Hayes had been a scratch for the previous two games (but will draw back into the lineup tonight with an injury to fourth-line forward Noel Acciari), Morrow has not played since Oct. 22, and McIntyre has been Rask’s backup for over a week plus.

And it’s McIntyre’s presence at the skate that’s led to the rampant speculation. With McIntyre’s on-ice participation this morning, reasoning would indicate that Tuukka Rask, in net last night for a sensational 32-save shutout, his second in the last five games, will be in the crease for tonight’s head-to-head with the Montreal Canadiens for his second start in as many nights.

The second leg of a back-to-back? Against the Canadiens, no less?

Despite Rask’s early season success, the 29-year-old has just five wins and a .910 save percentage  in 24 career head-to-heads with the Canadiens. (It is worth noting, however, that all five of those wins have come at the Bell Centre, where Rask has a .930 save percentage in 12 games.) And back-to-backs have not necessarily been Rask’s go-to, as he comes into play with a 2-8-2 record and .914 save percentage on zero days rest over the last two seasons.

Even so, it’s a start that Rask, who is still battling through some pain (Rask did say he would feel well enough to play in back-to-back nights) but in the midst of a stellar campaign with seven wins and a .941 save percentage in eight games played, would not want to miss.

“It’s not mine,” Rask said last night when asked of the decision to start against the Canadiens. “It’s one of those games I don’t think any player really wants to miss because it’s a big rivalry and they’re a great team. Definitely don’t want to miss that but we’ll see.”

Whoever gets the call in the Boston net will be opposed by Carey Price.

Price is perhaps the only goaltender in the league that’s outplayed Rask this season, with seven wins and a .952 save percentage on the year, and No. 31 enters tonight’s contest with a ridiculous 23-8-3 record against the B’s in his NHL career.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins.

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner – David Krejci – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – Riley Nash – Austin Czarnik

Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Jimmy Hayes

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

John-Michael Liles – Colin Miller


Bruins forward Noel Acciari out of lineup vs. Canadiens

11.08.16 at 3:14 pm ET
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Noel Acciari will miss tonight's game with an undisclosed injury.

Noel Acciari (undisclosed) will miss tonight’s game to injury.

The feared five-games-in-seven-nights stretch for the Boston Bruins has claimed its first victim: fourth-line winger Noel Acciari.

Injured in the third period of last night’s 4-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden after just eight shifts and 6:03 of time on ice, Acciari did not travel with the team and has obviously been ruled out of tonight’s road game with the Montreal Canadiens.

A fixture on the club’s successful fourth line with winger Tim Schaller and veteran center Dominic Moore, Acciari has recorded two assists, eight shots on goal, and 26 hits in 12 games for the Bruins this year.

An undrafted talent out of Johnston, R.I., Acciari has competed in 31 NHL games overall dating back to last season, with three points to his name.

With Acciari on the shelf, Jimmy Hayes, the lone extra forward with the club right now, will draw back in the lineup after back-to-back games as a healthy scratch.

The 26-year-old Hayes has zero points, 15 shots, and a minus-8 rating in 10 games this year.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. live from the Bell Centre.

Bruins’ Tuukka Rask moves into third place on club’s all-time shutout list

11.07.16 at 11:51 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask recorded his 32nd career shutout on Monday night. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

Tuukka Rask recorded his 32nd career shutout on Monday night. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

BOSTON — It’s actually impossible to overstate what Tuukka Rask has meant to the Boston Bruins this season.

Even after yet another milestone was met by the Finnish netminder.

On the heels of a brilliant performance in the B’s crease — a 32-save shutout over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Monday — the 29-year-old Rask has officially moved into sole possession of third place, a spot he shared with former teammate Tim Thomas for all of three games, on the franchise’s all-time shutout list, with 32.

“Obviously it’s a very long history with this organization so it’s good to have your name in the record books – when you retire you’re going to look at those,” Rask said of the climb up the club’s all-time ranks. “Until then it doesn’t really matter.”

What has mattered, however, is Rask’s start to the season.

Now with seven wins in eight games played, Rask’s save percentage was bolstered yet again on Monday night, as it jumped from a .932 to a .941. With the exception of a slight blip on the radar — Saturday’s 19-of-24 effort against the New York Rangers, a game in which the Boston defense really left Rask out on an island with multiple odd-man rushes against — Rask has been dynamite.

“If you look at the stats probably, it’s got to be one of the best starts,” Rask acknowledged in a somewhat casual-yet-joking manner. “Usually I think the starts are the worst part of my season.

“That’s at least something I can look back at the year-end meeting and say I was good at.”

But with the Bruins set for the second leg of a back-to-back tomorrow night in Montreal, the next test for Rask comes with the potential of a second start in as many nights, and against a team he’s had a straight-up miserable time against throughout his professional career.

“It’s not mine,” a chuckling Rask said of the decision to play in tomorrow’s night game. “It’s one of those games I don’t think any player really wants to miss because it’s a big rivalry and they’re a great team. Definitely don’t want to miss that but we’ll see.”

Rask has five wins and a .910 save percentage in 24 career games against Montreal.

5 Things We Learned as Bruins fire up their power play in win over Sabres

11.07.16 at 9:43 pm ET
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Brad Marchand scored a power-play goal in the B's win over the Sabres on Monday night. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Brad Marchand scored a power-play goal in the B’s win over the Sabres on Monday night. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

BOSTON — Let’s just say it: the Boston Bruins power play, as a whole, has been an absolute nightmare this season.

The team actually went into the minus category in the man advantage last game, too, with two shorthanded goals against (the first time that’s happened to the franchise since Feb. 2015). Bruins head coach Claude Julien was so frustrated with the group that Monday’s morning skate came with personnel changes to both units.

But it looked like it’d be much of the same for the Black and Gold through one period, though, as the team stumbled on their lone opportunity of the opening 20. But a complete meltdown of penalties from the Buffalo Sabres in the second period allowed a B’s power play that had gone just 3-for-39 to cook something up against an overwhelmed Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner in a 4-0 final for the Bruins.

“[We] Just worked on it this morning and gave them the due responsibility, as some of the best players on our team that they had to step it up so they did that tonight,” Julien said of his team’s power play focus in the win. “A little practice this morning and obviously some pride tonight in making sure that they were the difference makers instead of ending up on the negative side.”

The Bruins first answered with Marchand’s power-play goal at 5:44 of the period, which saw way too many Buffalo PKers standing around wondering where to go.

Then came the Sabres’ self-inflicted deathblow.

With a high-stick on Zemgus Girgensons and a Jake McCabe tripping (and subsequent unsportsmanlike on the way to the box) just 1:26 after that, the Bruins were left with 2:34 of a 5-on-3 to make something happen. Insert David Krejci’s one-time bomb.

On a terrific dish from Torey Krug, No. 46 hammered home his first goal of the season, and gave the Bruins a 2-for-6 mark on the man advantage through 40 minutes of play.

“After a few games when you don’t score, you start squeezing your stick and every time you have a good scoring chance and you don’t put it in the net, you get a little frustrated,” Krejci admitted of his early-season struggles to find goals. “So, it was nice to get the first one and hopefully I can build a little more confidence and help the team with offense.”

The Bruins later added a third power-play goal midway through the third period thanks to David Pastrnak’s eighth goal of the season, and finished the night with three power-play goals on eight opportunities. It was the team’s first three power-play goal night since Feb. 20, 2016.

The 3-for-8 night bumped the power play up from a woeful 7.9% on the year to 13%, which depending on the finals around the league tonight, could move them from 29th to 23rd.

B’s goaltender Tuukka Rask stopped all 32 shots thrown his way for his second shutout of the season, and the victory was Julien’s 400th behind the Boston bench.

Brad Marchand turns on jets in impressive outing

When Brad Marchand gets going like he did in Monday’s 4-0, it’s not about stopping him. ‘Cause you can’t. It’s about merely limiting the damage No. 63 can inflict on your team. And Monday night at TD Garden may have honestly been Marchand’s best night to date. It did not come with the gaudy numbers that his opening night against the Blue Jackets did, of course, but every time the puck was on Marchand’s stick — and in every zone of the rink — he made something happen.

A player that was once considered just a solid enough complementary piece on Bergeron’s left, the 5-foot-9 Marchand has emerged into one of the game’s most exciting talents. At this point, the gasps from the Garden crowd with each juke and crafty deke say all any of us really could.

The Bruins are still undefeated in games in which Marchand scores at least one goal.

Patrice Bergeron comes up with massive first period shift

Whistled for a hook for the first penalty of the game, Dominic Moore’s sentence to the box put the Bruins down one of their go-to centers behind Patrice Bergeron before the Buffalo power play even began. But as it would turn out, Bergeron was the only center the B’s would need for that kill.

In a two-minute kill that saw the Bruins nearly score on two separate occasions, No. 37 skated as the club’s main PK forward for the entire penalty against and then another 12 seconds.

It was a monstrous shift that didn’t come without some fumes coming off Bergeron’s blades, however, as the Sabres continuously tried to take advantage of a winded Bergeron with pucks constantly funneled in between the circles, but Bergeron — with help from the defense — did not break for what would have been an early and big lead for a road-loving Sabres group.

Third line shows signs of life, plus more, in winning effort

Bruins head coach Claude Julien has been adamant that the Bruins need contributions from everybody in their lineup if they’re to make it out of this brutal five-games-in-seven-nights stretch. But when he says that, he’s really looking at a third line that entered play with just two total points (one of which came with that player, Austin Czarnik, playing on a different line entirely) to their name in 2016-17 . Dependable bottom-sixer Riley Nash got off the schnide with a point — a shorthanded assist on a David Pastrnak goal — in Saturday’s loss, and tonight it was Beleskey that followed his lead with a power-play assist for his first point of the year.

Nash would also add a goal of his own in the second period for his first with the Bruins.

Czarnik jumped on the board in the third, too, with the primary assist on the Pastrnak goal.

Two power-play assists from the wingers and a goal from the center.

That’s more than enough when you talk about production from a third line.

Now comes consistency.

Bruins-Sabres rivalry shows glimpses of what once was

Tonight was the first of just four head-to-heads between the Bruins and Sabres. They don’t meet again ’til Dec. 3, and their season series is actually done before the calendar hits 2017. No, really.

That’s a definite downer. OK, so the Bruins-Sabres rivalry is not what it once was when the teams met the 2010 playoffs or when Milan Lucic trucked Ryan Miller, but it’s a shame to see what used to be must-watch TV turned into just another matchup. Of course, the Sabres’ recent tank-jobs and the B’s status in the league’s purgatory of mediocrity over the last few years has played a part in the fall of a rivalry, but I can’t help but feel that the decrease in overall matchups has played a part in crushing the straight-up hatred these two had for one another just three years ago.

But there was hatred tonight.

First came a Derek Grant collision into Rask that drew the ire of everyone involved. It carried on into the third period, too, as Beleskey finally had enough of Grant’s antics before he decided to drop the gloves and get a few shots in before Grant won the battle via a takedown.

I’ll happily take one less meeting with the Minnesota Wild or Arizona Coyotes if it means one more game against the Sabres. It’s time to Make Rivals Hate Again.

The Bruins are in action tomorrow night when they visit the Montreal Canadiens.

John-Michael Liles remembers teammate, friend Marek Svatos

11.07.16 at 5:28 pm ET
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John-Michael Liles skated with the Colorado Avalanche from 2003 to 2011. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

John-Michael Liles skated with the Colorado Avalanche from 2003 to 2011. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

A veteran of over 800 NHL games, Boston Bruins defenseman John-Michael Liles has proven capable of handling almost every single thing life in the pros can throw one’s way.

On Saturday, however, the 35-year-old Liles skated with a heavy heart.

It was not because of a bad game, a rough morning skate, or any of the serious-but-actually-meaningless stresses placed on the back of a professional athlete’s day to day life.

But rather a phone call from his wife, in tears, following a morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena, that informed Liles of the passing of his former teammate with the Colorado Avalanche, Marek Svatos, who was found dead in his Lone Tree, Colo. home at 34.

“[Saturday] was a tough day for me,” an emotional Liles, a teammate of Svatos from 2003-04 to 2010, admitted. “We were really close. We came in together as rookies. He was just a great guy.”

Both late-round draft picks by the Avs (Liles was drafted 159th overall in 2000 while Svatos was selected with the 227th overall pick a year later), an unlikely friendship between the Indiana-born Liles and Slovak Svatos developed as the two grew up together in Colorado sweaters.

“We had a really good tight-knit group in Colorado and having spoken with a lot of the guys we played with, it’s been tough,” Liles, who still calls Colorado his home in the offseason, said. “We have a great group back there in the summers that have either played college hockey at Denver, Colorado College, or have played there [for the Avalanche], so most of the time you get to spend a good amount of time with these guys and come close and your families become close.”

Two days after finding out about his death, Liles, who let out a bittersweet laugh when asked if there was a specific Svatos story that stuck out to him during their time together, struggled to talk about his former teammate in the past tense.

“It was just a tough pill to swallow,” Liles noted. “He was such a great guy and had a very dry sense of humor, just really a guy you enjoyed being around and I spent a lot of time with him over the five or six years we spent together and to hear that news was heartbreaking.

“I was pretty numb for a good part of the day.”

A reminder of life’s fragility, Svatos’ passing has given Liles an extra squeeze in his embraces.

“I definitely hugged my wife a little tighter and gave my daughter a big kiss,” Liles said.

“You just hope his wife and little ones are doing OK.”

Svatos, who recorded 172 points in 344 NHL games, is survived by his wife and two children.

Let’s Be Frank featuring Josh Dolan and Bruins’ Frank Vatrano

11.07.16 at 4:15 pm ET
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In the bowels of Warrior Ice Arena, WEEI’s Josh Dolan recently caught up with Boston Bruins forward Frank Vatrano for a segment aptly titled Let’s Be Frank.

The East Longmeadow, Mass., native and Josh talked all things 90s, growing up in New England, and, well, some problems that may separated the two from their paths along the way.



Bruins set to begin grueling week tonight vs. Sabres

11.07.16 at 2:32 pm ET
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Monday marks the start of a grueling five games in seven days for the Bruins. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Monday marks the start of a 5-game-in-7-days stretch for the Bruins. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

An extra hour of sleep, courtesy of daylight savings time, could not have at a better time for the Boston Bruins.

Set for the first leg of a back-to-back and the second leg of their first of 16 sets of three-games-in-four-nights, and with five games in the next seven days overall, Bruins coach Claude Julien knows that he has to manage what he can ahead of tonight’s head-to-head with the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden.

“Obviously it’s not an easy schedule,” Julien said after the club’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “And you have to manage it the best you can.”

The massive workload was a known byproduct of a 2016 World Cup of Hockey that delayed the start of the NHL season by at least a week and with a bye week set for February (a new addition to the schedule for all 30 NHL teams), this was not something that’s necessarily blindsided the club, but something they’re not exactly accustomed to either. Not this early in the year, anyways.

And after a Sunday away from the rink, and with no set plans for Wednesday in Boston (the Bruins play at home tonight and then travel to Montreal for a Tuesday night head-to-head with the Habs), the Bruins have to be honest when weighing the pros and cons of more time on ice.

“We need to conserve our energy for the games right now,” admitted Julien.

But at 6-5-0 through 11 games and just one point out of the cellar of the Atlantic Division, the B’s bench boss knows that he needs to a 20-man effort to validate those days off.

“The better we play as a team, the easier it’s going to be because we’ll be able to utilize everybody,”  Julien said of this stretch. “If we have some guys that aren’t going well and you have to shorten up your bench, that’s when eventually it catches up to you.”

Julien has repeatedly noted the boost the Bruins have received from the Patrice Bergeron line and the Dominic Moore line, but has continued to stress the need for production from his second and third groupings. Most notably, the third line of Matt Beleskey, Riley Nash, and Austin Czarnik, which has a combined two points (Czarnik and Nash each have one) between the three players.

But on the heels of his first point of the season — a shorthanded assist recorded on a David Pastrnak goal in the third period of Saturday’s loss to the New York Rangers — Nash hopes that the monkey is finally off his back and that the offensive game will follow.

“Hopefully it helps [my confidence] grow,” Nash said of getting on the board with his first point in a B’s uniform. “I thought last game as a line we played pretty well and had some chances. Hopefully we keep playing with the puck more and getting more chances.”

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is expected to get the start tonight. Rask took his first loss of the year behind Saturday’s 19-of-24 showing, but is 6-1-0 with a .932 save percentage in seven games this season. Rask has nine wins and a .925 save percentage in 17 career games against Buffalo.

Forward Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Joe Morrow are the expected scratches.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins tonight.

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner – David Krejci – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – Riley Nash – Austin Czarnik

Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

John-Michael Liles – Colin Miller


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