|Patrice Bergeron nominated for Masterton Trophy||04.01.15 at 7:01 pm ET|
Patrice Bergeron was voted by the Boston chapter of the Pro Hockey Writer’s Association as the Bruins’ nominee for the 2015 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The award is given each year to “the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I did not vote for Bergeron, who I felt was something of an interesting choice. My vote went to Loui Eriksson, who has bounced back nicely in his second season with the Bruins after scoring only 10 goals over 61 regular-season games in a trying first season with the B’s. Eriksson scored his 20th goal of the season Tuesday and leads all Bruins forwards in time on ice this season.
Recent Masterton winners include Dominic Moore (2014), Josh Harding (2013) and Max Pacioretty (2012). Both Pacioretty and Harding came back from physical ailments, while Moore returned to the NHL after caring for his wife, who died from liver cancer last January.
|Brett Connolly says he’s ready to play, hopes to make Bruins debut vs. Red Wings||04.01.15 at 1:01 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — After taking contact for the first time since suffering a broken finger last month, Brett Connolly said he is ready to play.
Connolly, who broke his right index finger in his second practice with the B’s on March 4 and underwent surgery, participated fully in Wednesday’s practice. Exactly four weeks from the date of the injury, Connolly skated on the fourth line (something that would seemingly be temporary as he eases his way back) and took turns on Boston’s second power play unit.
Following the practice, Connolly said he hopes to play Thursday night against the Red Wings.
“Obviously you want to get in right away,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what’s going to happen here. I feel I’m ready. Again, [I’m] excited. With everything that happened, coming in here and getting hurt, obviously you’re very disappointed.
“It’s been a hard three weeks, not being around the guys on the road and just little things like that, that for a new guy coming in, it’s tough. But the guys have been great to me coming in here. I’m as comfortable as I’ll ever be and I’m excited to get in and help the team win.”
Connolly took part in Tuesday’s warmups, which he would not have been allowed to do if he were on injured reserve. Claude Julien clarified after Wednesday’s practice that the team never placed Connolly on IR, but that doctors have yet to give Julien the OK to play the 22-year-old right wing.
“I’m not going to write him off for [Thursday] but I’m certainly not going to say he’s in for sure.”
If Connolly were to play on Boston’s fourth line Thursday, Wednesday’s lines suggested he could potentially play with Chris Kelly and Max Talbot. That could certainly change, but Connolly is more focused on when he’ll play than with whom he’ll play.
“For me, I’m just looking to come in here and help the team win,’ he said. ‘Wherever they put me, that’s where I’ll be.”
|David Krejci moves to line with Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson in Bruins practice, Brett Connolly takes contact||04.01.15 at 11:45 am ET|
WILMINGTON — David Krejci may be making the move back to center and Brett Connolly may be closing in on his Bruins debut.
After four games at right wing on Patrice Bergeron‘s line, Krejci was in the middle of Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson in Wednesday’s practice. Reilly Smith moved back to Bergeron’s line.
The lines in practice were as follows:
The line moves Soderberg to left wing, where he has not played since last season.
These lines may not last long, as Connolly continues to progress. He took contact in Wednesday’s practice and took turns on the Bruins’ second power play unit. His return will lead to further changes in the lineup.
The Bruins will play Thursday night in Detroit. The B’s trail the Red Wings by a pair of points with five games remaining, while the Red Wings have six. If the Bruins are to catch the Wings, they would take over the third spot in the Atlantic Division.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|5 things we learned as Bruins come from behind to beat Panthers||03.31.15 at 9:35 pm ET|
The Bruins were a period away from letting the Panthers back into the race for the last playoff spot, but once again Ryan Spooner’s line came through late. David Pastrnak had the game-tying goal, while Milan Lucic netted the game-winner with 1:09 remaining for a 3-2 victory.
The win improved the Bruins to 91 points on the season with five games left in the regular season. Florida, which entered the game trailing Boston by four points and fewer regulation and overtime wins, now is six points out of a playoff spot with five games remaining. The Senators came back to beat the Red Wings in a shootout later Tuesday night, meaning the B’s still have a three-point lead over Ottawa. The Senators have six games left.
Tuesday marked the second straight game in which a member of Spooner’s line netted the game-winning goal. David Pastrnak scored the deciding goal in overtime of Saturday’s win over the Hurricanes.
With Florida holding a 2-1 lead midway through the third period, Spooner threw the puck toward the net from along the wall, with Pastrnak redirecting it past Roberto Luongo in front of the net. Lucic would later walk into the offensive zone and fire a shot past Luongo from the high slot to give Boston the win.
The line’s third period was a nice response after being on the ice for a second-period Brad Boyes goal. With the goal for and goal against, following is the line’s updated production:
Detroit’s overtime loss means the Bruins are within two points of the Red Wings for the third spot in the Atlantic Division, the Red Wings have a game in hand. The two teams will meet Thursday.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
ERIKSSON HITS 20
Loui Eriksson made a heck of a play during a first-period four-on-four to give Boston the only goal of the first period. Eriksson buzzed around the offensive zone before jumping on an Aleksander Barkov turnover and escaping Aaron Ekblad and Dmitry Kulikov in the slot. He then got Luongo to bite on a deke before roofing the puck with a backhander.
The goal was Eriksson’s 20th of the season, giving the 29-year-old five such campaigns. He had 10 goals over 61 games last season for Boston.
|Former Bruins Jaromir Jagr, Steven Kampfer working out better with Panthers||03.31.15 at 3:48 pm ET|
Thanks to Shawn Thornton, it’s always a reunion when the Panthers come to town. Yet it’s a pair of other former Bruins that have found new success in their respective careers by going to Florida.
Jaromir Jagr and Steven Kampfer have both turned heads since joining the Panthers. Since being acquired by the Panthers prior to the trade deadline, Jagr has done much more than he did down the stretch with the Bruins in 2013. Kampfer, a former Bruins prospect who played 38 games in their Cup-winning 2010-11 season, has resurfaced in the NHL after years of struggling with injuries and inconsistency in the AHL.
The Bruins traded a conditional second-round pick and prospects Lane MacDermid and Cody Payne to Dallas for Jagr in 2013. The pick became a first-rounder when the B’s reached the Eastern Conference finals, but Jagr did not score a postseason goal for the Bruins. He played well as a third-liner before spelling Tyler Seguin on Patrice Bergeron‘s line, but the team parted with him at season’s end.
Two years later, Jagr was flipped from New Jersey to Florida after the Panthers had moved Sean Bergenheim to Minnesota. Florida gave up a second-round pick in 2015 and a conditional third-rounder in 2016.
If the Panthers make the playoffs, Jagr will be a primary reason as to why. Playing on Florida’s first line, Jagr has four goals and eight assists for 12 points in 14 games. Florida general manager Dale Tallon said recently that the team is interested in re-signing the 43-year-old after the season.
“He’s done everything we expected,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said Tuesday. “He’s [gone] out and played with those two young kids, and the line’s played very well since he’s been here and our team’s played very well since he’s been here, so it’s been real positive.”
The aforementioned kids are 21-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau and 19-year-old Aleksander Barkov, both of whom were top-three picks in their respective drafts.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Huberdeau said Tuesday. “We were saying he won a Stanley Cup when I wasn’t even born.”
Age gaps aside, Jagr has fit with the two youngsters. He still plays keep-away with the puck, and it’s paying off.
“He’s a first-line player, for sure,” Huberdeau said. “Even when we played against him in New Jersey, I thought he was really good. He’s so good at protecting the puck and stuff. Just playing with him, it creates more space [for] me and Barkov. I think we’re just taking advantage of that.”
As for Kampfer, Florida has become a home for the Michigan native (whose parents actually live in Florida, come to think of it) after his 2012 trade from the Bruins to the Wild led to two seasons of AHL play.
Kampfer’s stint in the Wild organization wasn’t ideal. In addition to concussions and knee injuries, he never really got a shot to play NHL games. His only games with the big club came in the 2011-12 season, when he replaced Boston acquisition Greg Zanon.
“It taught me a lot to grow up as a person, more so than anything,” Kampfer said. “It was different because they had their six guys that they were going to roll there, so you knew you were just going to go down, you were going to be a depth guy and play in the minors, but it was good. The coaches down in Houston during the lockout year were awesome. Then last year, it was just trying to play hard and hopefully you get a chance, but they had their six guys that they were just going to keep rolling.”
Kampfer signed with the Rangers in the offseason, but was traded to Florida after Matt Hunwick beat him out for the final spot on Alain Vigneault’s blue line. After starting the season in the AHL, the now-26-year-old has played 23 games for the Panthers, even seeing time at forward Sunday against Ottawa.
It would seem that Kampfer now has a future with the Panthers, as he was given a two-year contract extension earlier this month.
‘I’m feeling good,” he said of his Panthers experience. “Obviously feeling good and our team’s doing well, that’s the most important thing. Good experience, good locker room, great organization.”
|Austin Czarnik becomes latest Miami player to join Bruins||03.31.15 at 3:12 pm ET|
The Bruins haven’t drafted particularly well over the years, but undrafted free agents can help a team trying to groom NHL players. Torey Krug is Exhibit A around these parts.
On Tuesday, the Bruins signed another highly sought-after former college player in Miami (Ohio) center Austin Czarnik. The Michigan native was a linemate of Reilly Smith’s in his freshman year, a Hobey Baker finalist as a sophomore and captain of the RedHawks in his junior and senior seasons.
Like Krug, size may have been what allowed Czarnik to slip under the radar as a teenager. Czarnik is listed at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. Miami coach Enrico Blasi says he makes up for it.
“As a smaller smaller guy, you’ve got to play hard and not [be afraid] to get in nasty areas,” Blasi told WEEI.com Tuesday. “He certainly does that. He’s got real good skill and and good vision for the ice.”
Added Blasi: “He’s always been told that he can’t play at that next level and he likes to prove people wrong. It wouldn’t surprise me if he made it.”
Playing with Smith in 2011-12, Czarnik scored 10 goals and added 27 assists for 37 points as a freshman. He had 40-plus points in each of his final three seasons with Miami, giving him 36 goals and 123 for 159 points over his college career.
The Senators were among the other teams reported to be vying for Czarnik’s services after Providence ended Mimai’s season in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Smith, who turned pro after his junior season and Czarnik’s freshman season, said he kept in touch with Czarnik throughout the process.
“I kept in touch with him a lot during this year, just kind of picking his brain as to what he thought he was going to do and how the year was going,” Smith said. “It’s good to see there’s light at the end of the tunnel. He played really good hockey at the end of the year, so it’s no surprise that something’s happening for him this quickly.”
The Bruins signing Czarnik keeps the RedHawks-Bruins connection alive. The Bruins are clearly fond of Blasi’s work, as they were high on Smith in the 2009 draft before eventually trading for him, and had also signed Smith’s former linemate in Carter Camper back in 2010. Before Czarnik got to Miami, Smith and Camper made up one the best lines in college hockey with eventual Hobey Baker winner Andy Miele.
Smith said he’s glad to have a former teammate and linemate join the organization, while Blasi feels his players are in good hands when they go to the Bruins.
“Great organization, great people working there,” Blasi said of the B’s. “[I have the] utmost respect for everyone with the Bruins organization. They’re first-class. I talked to Don Sweeney the other day, and just the way they conduct themselves in the process is first-class.”
|Brett Connolly will be in Bruins lineup once he’s ready||03.31.15 at 12:57 pm ET|
Brett Connolly is not yet ready to play. Once he is, he will play, Claude Julien said Tuesday.
Connolly, who continues to skate with the Bruins, traveled with the team for Sunday’s game against the Hurricanes, marking the first trip he’s made with the team. He is getting more confident in his puck-handling and shooting as his surgically repaired right index finger. He hopes to begin taking contact soon, which is the biggest remaining hurdle.
Wednesday will mark four weeks since the injury, which the team said at the time would keep him out six weeks.
“I know they said six weeks, but four-to-six weeks I think is kind of where I’m aiming for,” Connolly said Tuesday. “I’m really excited, obviously. It’s getting better every day. Some days it feels a lot better, so that’s encouraging.”
The Bruins are currently playing David Krejci at right wing on Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand‘s line. Once Connolly is ready, however, the team could move Krejci back to center and build a line around Krejci and Connolly.
When Connolly broke his finger in his second practice with the B’s, he was skating on a line with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. Julien said it’s too soon to say where Connolly will slot into the lineup, but he clarified that it’s their intention to get put him in as soon as he’s ready.
“I think when the time comes, we’ll definitely put him in,” Julien said. “He’s a good player. In my mind, there’s no doubt we missed him through this stretch. When the time comes I’ll make that decision but certainly not open to talking about it right now.”