|Alexander Khokhlachev hopes to stick with Bruins after latest recall||12.16.15 at 12:47 pm ET|
Zac Rinaldo’s upper-body injury prompted the Bruins to recall forward Alexander Khokhlachev, marking the 2011 second-round pick’s latest callup to Boston.
Khokhlachev, who led the Providence Bruins in points the last two seasons and expressed frustration during training camp with the B’s not giving him a full-time job in the NHL, played two games for Boston in early November. He suffered a hand injury that required surgery shortly after being returned to Providence, however, making him unavailable to the B’s when they might have otherwise used him.
“Any guy that gets injured I think is not happy with that,” Khokhlachev said Wednesday. “It’s just part of the game. I [wasn’t] out for a long time. I healed and I’m ready to play right now.”
A natural center, Khokhlachev has played mostly wing for Providence this season. He has six goals and 14 assists for 20 points in 17 games in the AHL.
At 22, Khokhlachev feels he is overdue to stay in the NHL for good. He’s done the up-and-down routine that Ryan Spooner did last season before ultimately getting a permanent job, and he hopes to have the same fate as his former Providence teammate.
“I’m pretty sure if I play really good, they will keep me,” he said. “It’s all about me, how I will play.”
|Patrice Bergeron happy for new Penguins coach Mike Sullivan: ‘You want to play for a guy like that’||12.15.15 at 6:20 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Back in the spring of 2004, Claude Julien and his seventh-seeded Canadiens upset the second-seeded Bruins, a team that surged in the regular season behind a first-year NHL coach in Mike Sullivan.
Asked what he remembered from that series, Julien offered nothing.
“I don’t remember anything; that’s too [long ago], to be honest with you,” Julien said with a grin. “That’s 12 years, right? My memory’s not that good.”
Patrice Bergeron‘s is, but then again Sullivan’s first season should mean much more to Bergeron than it should to Julien. That was also Bergeron’s first season in the NHL, one that he felt might not have even happened without Sullivan. When Sullivan, recently named the Penguins‘ head coach, comes to the Garden, he’ll be leading a team in Boston for the first time since he was fired by the Bruins in 2006.
While Sullivan’s second season as Bruins’ head coach (2005-06, the first season back from the lockout) got him fired by then-incoming general manager Peter Chiarelli, Sullivan was not a bad coach for Boston. A bad start to that season prompted general manager Mike O’Connell to trade Joe Thornton, and other players such as Sergei Samsonov followed.
Despite losing to the Canadiens, B’s fans should look back on Sullivan’s first season more fondly. Bergeron certainly does, as he is extremely grateful for what the former Boston University forward did for his career.
‘He’s the one that gave me my chance,’ Bergeron said. ‘As a rookie coming in, a second-round pick, a lot of coaches could have just sent me back to junior and not even given me a shot, [but] he did and gave me some exemption games to prove myself. I’ll always be thankful for that. He’s a great coach and it’s well-deserved, I think. It’s taken a long time for him, but he’s gotten experience over the years and that probably makes him a better coach now.’
Drafted months prior to that season in the second round, Bergeron was moved by Sullivan from center to right wing as a rookie after surprising in camp and making the team. In addition to that move allowing him to make the NHL so young, Bergeron credits it with eventually making him an Olympian years later in Vancouver.
“If you look at it, in the long run, I was able to make the Olympic team because of it because I was able to play as a wing,’ he said. ‘It’s definitely something that helped me in my career, for sure.”
Though Bergeron’s time playing for Sullivan didn’t last particularly long, one of the biggest moments of the 30-year-old’s career came in that first season, when he scored in overtime of Game 2 of the first round to give the Bruins a 2-0 series lead, albeit one they would eventually relinquish in a seven-game series defeat.
Asked if there was anything Sullivan said to the teenager before that playoff series, Bergeron said it was just more of what he had come to know from the coach, something he figures Sullivan will take to the Penguins.
“For me, as a young kid, he was always really positive,” Bergeron said. “I think that was the main thing with him. I’d had a few stretches during that year as a rookie that I was going dry a bit and not playing as well, and he would meet with me, but always in a positive way where I could learn from it and grow from it. It’s really the one thing that always stood out to me, was the confident that he had in his players and how much he believed in us as his players. You want to play for a guy like that.”
|Bruins place Zac Rinaldo on injured reserve with upper-body injury||12.15.15 at 12:40 pm ET|
The Bruins placed forward Zac Rinaldo on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. The exact nature of Rinaldo’s injury is unknown, though the fourth-liner did fight Matt Hendricks in Monday’s game.
Tuesday’s practice saw the Bruins kept the same defensive pairings that they used in the majority of Monday’s game, with the lineup in practice looking as follows:
|5 things we learned as Oilers beat Bruins in overtime||12.14.15 at 9:49 pm ET|
The Bruins forced overtime, but ultimately failed to get the second point against the Oilers for the second time this season. Andrej Sekera scored 41 seconds into the 3-on-3 session to give Edmonton a 3-2 victory for its sixth straight win.
As for the point the Bruins did get, former Bruins general manager and current Oilers president Peter Chiarelli saw one of his best contracts come back to bite him when Brad Marchand scored to tie the game in the third period on his season-high ninth shot on goal. Marchand’s snipe off the rush from the right circle pulled the Bruins even in a game in which they trailed despite holding a 49-22 shot advantage in regulation. Boston’s 49 shots on goal for the night made for a season-high.
The loss should be considered plenty frustrating for the Bruins given their inability to capitalize on the numerous chances they created, yet they should also lament the few opportunities that the Oilers did manage to convert, including backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson playing a shot off the end boards very poorly in the first period and allowing Jordan Eberle to beat him on the rebound as a result.
Here are four more things we learned Monday:
BRUINS CATCH BREAK
The Oilers would have taken a 3-1 lead early in the third were it not for an early whistle. Instead, the Oilers had to swap their goal for an unsuccessful power play.
With Jordan Eberle entering the offensive zone, Brad Marchand took some hacks at him to prompt a delayed penalty for hooking. Eberle put a backhander on net and scored on the rebound, but the whistle was blown before his rebound bid because the official did not realize that Gustavsson hadn’t covered the puck. Apparently the refs didn’t do their homework on the Bruins’ “backup.”
|Speaking of Peter Chiarelli, Bruins were smart to not fire Claude Julien||12.14.15 at 3:49 pm ET|
When Peter Chiarelli made his infamous declaration during a 2013 WEEI appearance that he would never fire Claude Julien, the then-Bruins general manager made himself and his coach a package deal.
Upon Chiarelli’s dismissal in April, the question on everyone’s minds was rather Julien would be attached to Chiarelli on the latter’s way out.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be here either,” Julien said Monday, stating the obvious.
It’s not yet known whether the Bruins made the right call in firing Chiarelli. It is clear so far that they did make the right decision by retaining Julien.
The Bruins enter Monday night’s game against Chiarelli’s Oilers as a playoff team with the second-best goal differential in the Atlantic Division. The B’s sit third in the Atlantic with 35 points in 28 games, though they’re surrounded in the standings by teams that have played more games than them (second-place Detroit has 38 points in 30 games; while Ottawa and Florida sit behind the Bruins having played 30 games each).
The concern of whether Julien was fit to lead a changing team was understandable given that the Bruins had such a similar roster for such a long time, but that line of thinking didn’t take into consideration that Julien has been one of the best coaches in the NHL for several seasons. This season has probably required more coaching than Julien’s had to do, as he’s frequently been required to shuffle both his forward lines and defensive pairings. The Bruins are also employing a different breakout than seasons past and have strived for more of a four-man attack.
If the organization and its fans wanted the Bruins to be a competitive team capable of making the playoffs this season, they should mostly be satisfied with the job Julien has done. He has not been afraid to bench younger players at times (Ryan Spooner) or make them healthy scratches (Joe Morrow, Colin Miller). He’s made such decisions in the interests of wining games rather than placing a high priority on player development. Given how he was able to bring along the likes of David Krejci and Brad Marchand over the years, he probably isn’t too worried about his methods.
A worse performance from the team would suggest that Julien would be better off playing the kids as much as possible in an effort to develop them quickly. That won’t be an option for the Bruins as long as they’re in the playoff race. In that respect, it’s also worth noting that new general manager Don Sweeney’s offseason might not have been as bad as it looked.
Defensively, this has not been a typical season for Julien and the Bruins. Given the team’s weakened back end, the Bruins sit 21st in the NHL in goals against per game after ranking in the top eight in every season since 2008-09. Julien has made tweaks recently to correct that, such as teaming Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid as the Bruins’ top pairing.
The Bruins’ offense has returned to its usual spot near the top of the league (the B’s rank second with 3.21 goals per game), implementing several new players including Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Frank Vatrano and, to an extent, Brett Connolly. Should the Bruins’ defense and penalty kill continue to trend upward, finishing the season with the No. 2 seed in Atlantic would be a realistic goal.
That’s a much more optimistic line of thinking than many had in the offseason. Given how much uncertainty surrounded the Bruins’ changing roster, radio hosts filled time by wondering whether Julien would make it to the New Year without losing his job. Such a topic wouldn’t be able to fill a segment now.
The season hasn’t reached the halfway point yet, but the Red Wings are the only one of the eight teams with new coaches this season to currently sit in playoff position. It’s probably too early to tell which of the Bruins’ decisions were correct, but keeping Julien was one of them.
|David Pastrnak open to options for conditioning, but wants to stay in Boston||12.14.15 at 12:40 pm ET|
David Pastrnak made another small step in his recovery from a non-displaced fracture in his foot when he joined his Bruins teammates for Monday’s morning skate. There is no timetable for his return, but his next steps will include longer practices with physical contact and, eventually, perhaps some games. Where those games will come is an interesting question.
The 19-year-old right wing, who suffered the injury blocking a shot in the Bruins’ Oct. 27 win over the Coyotes, was in a boot from early November until earlier this month. Though he’s been skating for a week, he says that his conditioning is the biggest thing he needs to get back after being off his feet for so long.
“Even though I was on the bike and stuff, nothing compares to skating,” Pastrnak said. “It’s hard, obviously, but I’ve been skating for a week now. There’s no timetable now. [I’ll] take it slowly and practice hard every day.”
If and when the Bruins decide to get Pastrnak into some non-NHL games to help him get his legs back, they’ll have options. One would be to send him to Providence to play on a conditioning loan. The other would potentially be to send him to Finland to play for the Czech Republic in the World Juniors, which runs from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5. Pastrnak said his priority is to play with Boston as soon as possible.
“I’m happy to be in this organization, and whatever they want me to do, I will be happy to,” he said of the idea of being sent to Providence.
The World Junior option might be more intriguing than a normal conditioning loan, as it would give him the opportunity to get up to speed while also representing his country. Pastrnak had a goal and six assists for seven points in five games for the Czech Republic at last year’s tournament. While he seemed willing to go again, he reiterated that his preference would be to stay in Boston.
“Obviously, I want to be here,” he said. “I want to help the team and [there’s] nothing else I’m focusing on right now. It’s tough, but it’s not my decision. Like I said, I want to stay here and see what the organization’s going to decide for me.”
Pastrnak has played in 10 games this season, two of which came after he blocked the shot against the Coyotes before his injury was realized to be more severe than initially suspected. The second-year pro has two goals and two assists for four points on the season.
|Milan gone: Ryan Spooner knows he must carry third line||12.12.15 at 4:17 pm ET|
Early in the season, it was about how Ryan Spooner wasn’t getting points on the power play. Despite manning the half-wall well on the league’s best power play unit, just one of Spooner’s six points came on the man advantage.
More recently, Spooner’s issue was finding points in even-strength play, as the skilled center endured a 15-game stretch without an even-strength point before registering three (two goals, one assist) in the last two games. In looking at differences between this season and Spooner’s highly productive stretch run last season, perhaps none is bigger than the fact that Spooner has seen a revolving door of linemates after playing with the same two players night in, night out late last season.
Thirteen of Spooner’s 18 points in 22 games after his late-February callup last season came in even-strength play, which saw him skating on a cleverly used line with Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak. Claude Julien formed the line by replacing the injured center (David Krejci) of his team’s second line with Spooner and using it as a third line while Carl Soderberg’s line took on the tougher assignments. Between his comfort level with his linemates over time and his usage, Spooner found 5-on-5 success that he hasn’t been able to consistently obtain this season.
This season, Spooner has had a number of different linemates, with Jimmy Hayes, Brett Connolly, Matt Beleksey, Brad Marchand, Joonas Kemppainen and Landon Ferraro. Some of those players are very good, but Spooner admitted that he feels it takes him eight to 10 games before he feels fully comfortable with a linemate, something he didn’t have to worry about by the middle of March last season.
“It’s definitely a change,” Spooner admitted. “You get used to playing with the same guys. Even last year, there were some games where we got hemmed in our own end a lot, but I feel like as a line we were, most of the games, at least creating chances. There’s been some games this year where we haven’t really created enough. That’s something that we need to work on and I feel like it’s getting a lot better, but it definitely helps to stay with the same guys and get used to what they like to do and where they like to go and stuff.”
Claude Julien doesn’t feel that Spooner’s changing linemates have hindered him in even-strength play, but he likes what he’s seen from the young forward of late.
“To be honest with you, he’s had some good players,” Julien said. “Even Connolly was on that line. Hayes was on that line. Beleskey played with him at one point, so he’s had good players. I think it’s always been about when Ryan is on his game and he’s skating and he gets involved, he can be a guy on that line that really drives that line more or less and can be the leader on that line because he’s got all kinds of skill and qualities in his game, so when you see him play like he did [Saturday], that’s the impact that he can have.”
Spooner agrees with Julien on leading the third line. Last season, his line was great because Milan Lucic was playing against scrubs. Lucic is long gone and Spooner is still coming into his own as a player. There’s no better way for the 23-year-old to do that than by providing the B’s with the third-line center they envisioned when they showed Soderberg the door in the offseason.
“Last year, we were against third and fourth lines and Looch was used to playing against first and second lines, so he was great to play with,” Spooner said. “He was great in front of the net. It definitely helped having him out there with us. This year, it’s definitely something that I need to take it upon myself to be I guess more of a leader on that line and skate and use my speed and just help out.”