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Craig Cunningham in thoughts of former Bruins teammates

11.22.16 at 1:46 pm ET
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Craig Cunningham spent four years in the Bruins organization. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Craig Cunningham spent four years in the Bruins organization. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

When one of hockey’s good guys, journeyman sparkplug Craig Cunningham, collapsed before a Saturday night in an AHL game, the hockey world seemed to have collapsed with him.

Crumbled onto the ice with an apparent cardiac episode, the 26-year-old Cunningham was escorted off the ice on a stretcher, the game was postponed, and Cunningham was rushed to a nearby hospital. Within minutes of the news reaching those in the National Hockey League, Cunningham’s teammates past and present took to social media to express their concern and say their prayers.

But there’s considerable familiarity with Cunningham in the B’s dressing room, as Cunningham, a fourth-round draft pick (97th overall) of the club in 2010, made many friends during his four-year run with the organization from 2011 to 2015.

“[Cunningham]’s an incredible person,” Brad Marchand said after Tuesday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever had the fortune to play with. It’s terrible to see what’s happened to him, what he’s going through, and what his family has had to go through.”

A true glue-guy that developed into a legitimate leader for the Providence Bruins and an energetic fill-in for 34 games with the Big B’s, there’s not a bad thing that could been said about Cunningham both as a player and as a person during his tenure in Boston.

“If you read what’s been written about him, it’s what everyone is going to say about this guy, he’s a class act,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Cunningham. “You really couldn’t find a better individual as far as a teammate, a player to coach, on the ice he’s just one of those guys that leaves it all out there. Quality, quality person.”

With the Coyotes organization since they nabbed him away from the Bruins via the waiver wire on Mar. 2, 2015, Cunningham is still thought of in the B’s room, especially through his latest fight.

“In the room, we’re constantly thinking about him and praying for him,” Marchand admitted.

Cunningham is in critical but stable condition, according to the Coyotes.

Bruins’ David Pastrnak out for third straight contest while Frank Vatrano returns to ice

11.22.16 at 12:47 pm ET
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Frank Vatrano

Frank Vatrano

In search of their fourth straight victory at home with tonight’s head-to-head with the St. Louis Blues, the Bruins will once again be down their top goal scorer, as David Pastrnak is still not fully healed from an upper-body injury that’s put him on the shelf for the last three games.

“I just think he’s at the point where he’s not ready to play yet,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of Pastrnak following the team’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “When he is, he’ll be back in the lineup.

“He’s progressing, but he’s still day-to-day.”

The Bruins are 3-1-0 with Pastrnak out of action this season, and won their last sans Pastrnak contest, Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the Jets at TD Garden. No. 88’s spot on the right side of the Bruins’ first line will continue to be occupied by versatile forward Riley Nash.

In other injury news, winger Frank Vatrano was on the ice well after the morning skate ended in what was his first on-ice session since undergoing foot surgery on Sept. 26. The surgery was expected to come with a three-month long recovery according to Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, which would put Vatrano in line for a return in late December.

An undrafted talent out of UMass-Amherst, the 22-year-old Vatrano scored eight goals and 11 points in 39 games for the Bruins last year, and tallied an AHL-leading 36 goals in 36 games for the Providence Bruins a year ago.

Ex-Bruins draft bust Zach Hamill signs in Sweden

11.22.16 at 8:08 am ET
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Zach Hamill

Zach Hamill

The European tour of Zach Hamill, a former first-round pick (seventh overall) of the Bruins in 2007, will continue on for yet another season.

After a 2015-16 season spent between HC Fribourg-Gotteron and Ambri-Piotta of the Swiss League, and then finished with the Iserlohn Roosters of the DEL (Germany), the 28-year-old Hamill has officially signed a contract with IF Bjorkloven (Sweden).

IF Bjorkloven is part of the Swedish Allsvenskan, their second-tier division of pro hockey, one step below the Swedish Elite League as it’s known in North America.

It’s just the latest stop in an undeniably weird pro career that saw Hamill flame out in both the B’s, Capitals, and Canucks organizations before he packed his bags for life overseas.

In Boston, Hamill will always be known for being selected by the Bruins just one pick before Logan Couture, a now five-time 20-goal scorer, was selected by the Sharks. Other names taken shortly after Hamill include Ryan McDonagh, Lars Eller, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Max Pacioretty.

Hamill tallied four assists in 20 NHL games, all with the Bruins, from 2010 to 2012.

Of the six picks made by the Bruins in the 2007 draft, only second-round choice Tommy Cross remains in the organization.

Bruins’ Anton Khudobin inches closer to return with weekend in AHL

11.21.16 at 11:58 pm ET
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Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin has not played an NHL game since Oct. 22. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin has not played an NHL game since Oct. 22. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins have survived — actually, they’ve thrived — because of the play of goaltender Tuukka Rask through their opening month plus.

The Bruins know they can’t rely on Rask to steal the show every single night if he’s to be any good for the team when it really matters, though, which is the big reason why the Black and Gold brought Anton Khudobin back to Boston on a two-year deal in the first place.

But since Khudobin landed on the injured reserve with an upper-body injury following a practice on Oct. 24, the Bruins have leaned on Rask in a big way, having turned to Rask in all but three of their last 13 contests (and Rask has started all but one game, a 3-2 loss to the Canadiens on Nov. 8, since a return from an injury of his own).

And after a weekend with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League, a return to the NHL ice does look to be around the corner for the 30-year-old Khudobin.

With the P-Bruins on a conditioning assignment, Khudobin started back-to-back games for the club over the weekend. In his first game, the 5-foot-11 netminder stopped 34-of-38 shots against in a shootout win over the Springfield Thunderbirds, and then took a shootout loss the following night with a 22-of-25 performance versus the Hartford Wolf Pack.

In total, Khudobin’s minor league weekend ended with one win and stops on 56-of-63 shots against (an .889 save percentage).

Sent to the last Saturday, Khudobin can be on a conditioning loan for no more than 14 days, and with the Bruins skating in three games within the next four days beginning tomorrow (and six games in the next nine days overall), it’s likely that Khudobin (if ready) will find himself back in NHL action for the Big B’s for one of those nights.

Khudobin has zero wins and an .849 save percentage in two games for the B’s this season.

Ryan Spooner’s bizarre year continues for Bruins

11.21.16 at 4:08 pm ET
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Ryan Spooner has three goals and seven points this season. (Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports)

Bruins forward Ryan Spooner, moved to the fourth line on Saturday, has three goals and seven points in 17 games this season. (Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports)

On the wing of a second line with David Krejci and David Backes, Bruins forward Ryan Spooner entered Saturday’s game against the Jets with points in four of his last six contests.

But by the night’s end, even in a 4-1 win in which the Bruins held the Jets to just 12 shots on goal, Spooner ended his night demoted down to the center spot on the fourth line.

It’s worth noting, however, that Spooner was not the only piece shuffled about. His spot on the B’s second line was filled by Matt Beleskey, who scored his second goal of the season in the win, while Schaller moved to the third line on Beleskey’s spot on the left wing, while everyone else remained in their respective spot.

“Moving parts around and having people respond,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of the decision to finish Spooner’s night on a line with Sean Kuraly and Jimmy Hayes. “First shift of the third, Schaller who moved up, scored a goal and I thought Spoons did a great job with that line of spending some time in the offensive zone and sometimes he moved pucks around and that’s things that made me happier with or want to see something different. I think that with the score the way it was, it was an opportunity to see something different.”

So it was a demotion that wasn’t a demotion?

Read the rest of this entry »

Patrice Bergeron’s slow start won’t last forever

11.21.16 at 11:24 am ET
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Patrice Bergeron should pick things up soon. Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

Patrice Bergeron should pick things up soon. Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

Patrice Bergeron has had an unusually slow start to the 2016-17 campaign, notching just 2-2—4 totals in 14 games. Both assists came in the game at Tampa on Nov. 3, while he scored in his first game on Oct. 20 vs. the Devils then again on Nov. 5 against the Rangers.

Throw in scoreless streaks of five and recently six games and it’s clear that Bergeron is scuffling a bit when it comes to contributing offensively.

Still, it’s nothing to really be alarmed about.

Bergeron and his linemates Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have held onto the puck more than any other trio in the league. Bergeron was getting over four shots per game during his recent scoreless slump. Opportunities haven’t been the issue as much as puck luck — Bergeron’s shooting percentage of 5.1 percent is well below his career average of 10.1.

It’s not like the perennial Selke candidate just lost it a year after reaching his career high of 32 goals. The heart-and-soul of the B’s just needs to keep doing what he’s doing and the points will return because the chances are there. But the sooner that is the better it will be for the Bruins.

– Injuries are part of life in the NHL but the last week was unusually rough even by NHL standards. The league lost Steven Stamkos, Taylor Hall, and Johnny Gaudreau in the blink of an eye. You hate to see guys end up on the shelf, especially talent of this magnitude. But the losses are just a reminder that hockey doesn’t discriminate when it comes to injuries. Still, the league will go on as it always does.

– After a torrid start to the year, the Oilers have wafted back down to Earth. The Connor McDavid-led squad has lost five straight and will drop from the top eight teams in the West if they don’t stop the bleeding soon. Both conferences are so ridiculously tight right now that a team can go from the top of the standings to on the outside looking in very quickly as the Oilers have shown. We’ll get a good look at just how the young captain McDavid handles the adversity in fixing his team.

– Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov are currently tied for the NHL lead with 22 points apiece, just like everybody predicted back in October.

– Old friend Tyler Seguin’s 7-14—21 is good for third place and he will surely be in the run for the Art Ross Trophy once again. Jimmy Hayes and Joe Morrow, what the Bruins have left to show for the trade, have zero points in 19 combined games.

– After two straight 100-point seasons, the Islanders have really struggled out of the gate. They’ve won just five of 17 games and their 14 points has them tied with the cellar-dwelling Buffalo Sabres. New ownership isn’t happy with the underachievement and coach Jack Capuano is feeling the heat. The eight seed currently has 20 points so the Isles can get right back in it by running off a few wins in a row. But if they don’t turn it around soon, the season can slip away from them real quick.

Read More: Patrice Bergeron,

Video: Facebook live chat with Bruins’ Austin Czarnik

11.20.16 at 11:53 am ET
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WEEI’s Josh Dolan sat down with Bruins forward Austin Czarnik after Sunday’s practice to talk about Saturday’s win over Winnipeg, his rookie season, Thanksgiving and more. Watch it here:

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