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Bruins could drop ‘interim’ tag from Bruce Cassidy’s title before season ends

03.06.17 at 9:30 am ET
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The Bruins could make a decision on Bruce Cassidy before the season ends. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins could make a decision on Bruce Cassidy before the season ends. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins have wins in eight of 10 games since Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien as the team’s head coach. Still, though, the ‘interim’ tag next to head coach title remains there next to Cassidy’s name.

That’s to be expected from second-year general manager Don Sweeney.

There’s no sense in rushing to a decision before the stretch run finishes, especially given this team’s recent history, with collapses out of postseason contention in back-to-back season finales. And why make a call before you see what other names are out there for this team or before everything settles on what’s been a painfully up and down and back again season in Boston, right?

At the same time, that doesn’t mean that Cassidy will finish the season without a promotion of sorts to his name, according to Sweeney.

Not if Sweeney continues to see the positives that have come with this club’s climb back into control of their own spring destiny.

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Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid will play after taking 25 stitches to neck

03.05.17 at 8:36 pm ET
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Adam McQuaid is expected to play after taking over 20 stitches to the neck on Monday. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Adam McQuaid is expected to play on Monday after taking over 20 stitches to the neck. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

I don’t need to tell you that Adam McQuaid is a tough dude.

But it’s probably worth repeating after Saturday night’s finish to the Black and Gold’s win, where McQuaid was clipped across the throat by David Backes’ skate blade in the final few minutes of a 3-2 final.

The 30-year-old McQuaid actually stayed on the ice and finished his shift, too, and ultimately required 25 stitches after the game in what could have been a far more severe injury by mere inches.

“Definitely a really close call,” admitted McQuaid. “Couldn’t help but thank God that it wasn’t a scarier situation.”

Absent from Sunday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena and sporting a nice cut to the right side of his neck, McQuaid also confirmed that he plans to play in Monday night’s game in Ottawa.

“I should be good to go,” said McQuaid, who recently switched to wearing a visor after multiple close calls with pucks and sticks to his eye in December. “Obviously barring any unforeseen circumstances.”

“He’s a tough customer. I’m not telling you something that you don’t already know,” Cassidy, whose team has won eight of 10 games played with him as the head coach, said. “It’s a scary injury…he even stayed on the ice.”

And he’ll be right back there on Monday night.

Drew Stafford makes immediate impact in Bruins debut

03.04.17 at 11:36 pm ET
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Drew Stafford had an assist on Ryan Spooner's game-winning goal on Saturday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Drew Stafford had an assist on Ryan Spooner’s game-winning goal on Saturday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins claimed that they knew what they were bringing to their team in deadline pickup and veteran forward Drew Stafford.

But not even could B’s general manager Don Sweeney or interim head coach Bruce Cassidy have expected this production out of the gate.

A veteran of over 700 NHL games, the 31-year-old suited up in Boston colors for the first time on Saturday, skated on a line with Frank Vatrano and Ryan Spooner, and wasted no time in making a noticeable impact for the club in a 3-2 win over the Devils at TD Garden.

In just 14:07 of time on ice, Stafford put seven shots on goal, threw four hits, and came through the primary assist on the game-winning goal from Spooner, scored 8:18 into the third period.

Named the No. 1 star in the win, Stafford did even more for his new club’s eighth win in their last 10 games.

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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.

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