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Dallas brings back memories for Loui Eriksson 01.16.14 at 2:41 pm ET
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Loui Eriksson

Loui Eriksson

DALLAS — Bruins leading goal-scorer Reilly Smith sat by himself next to a massive scrum for Loui Eriksson after Thursday’s morning skate at American Airlines Center.

“Smitty,” Matt Bartkowski called from across the Bruins’ dressing room. “Did you used to play here?”

“No,” Smith responded with a deadpan delivery. “Loui did, though.”

That’s the way it is. Smith, a 2009 third-round pick of the Stars who played in Dallas last season before being shipped to the Bruins in last summer’s trade, doesn’t hold a candle popularity-wise to Eriksson, who had 150 goals and 207 assists for 357 points over seven seasons in Dallas.

In fact, a picture of Eriksson still hangs in the press dining room at American Airlines Center. Dallas still has memories of Eriksson, and Eriksson still has memories of Dallas.

“You have a lot of memories from playing so many games here, a lot of good memories,” Eriksson said. “I think it will be a little bit weird tonight to go out and play in this building, but it will be fun. I’m looking forward to it.”

It obviously hasn’t been an easy first season in Boston for Eriksson, who was a durable player in Dallas (he missed just three games over the previous five seasons) but has missed 20 games due to a pair of concussions. As such, he’s struggled to really hit his stride as some of the 26 games in which he’s played have been spent trying to get comfortable.

Claude Julien was asked by a Dallas reporter after Thursday’s morning skate about what Eriksson has brought to the team.

“A lot of injuries,” Julien replied. “It’s been unfortunate with the concussions, and I said that sarcastically because he’s a good player and when he’s been at the top of his game, you can see the smarts, you can see why he’s a good two-way player, but unfortunately those injuries he suffered were pretty serious injuries. There’s no doubt it’s set him back and we haven’t seen the best out of Loui yet. There’s still half a season left, and hopefully he stays healthy and we see the best of him in that second half.

“If that’s the case, then that will be great, but the other guy, Smith, has been outstanding for us. We’ve been pretty happy with both players, just disappointed in the fact that he’s suffered so many injuries. It’s been tough on him, and it’s obviously taken away a lot from our hockey club.”

Eriksson has spent the last two games (his first back from a Dec. 7 concussion) playing on the third line with Ryan Spooner and fellow Swedish winger Carl Soderberg. That line, like Eriksson’s season with the Bruins, is a work in progress with high ceilings.

“Hopefully I can score some goals here tonight and get some confidence after that,” Eriksson said. “They’re a good team to play against, so it’s going to be a good game tonight.”

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Zdeno Chara to leave Bruins early to carry Slovakia’s flag in Olympics 01.16.14 at 1:28 pm ET
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DALLAS — Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will carry Slovakia’s flag in the Olympics next month, a major honor for a player who had previously been named the captain of the team his country will send to Sochi.

The one drawback for the Bruins is that the opening ceremonies are on Feb. 7, and given that the Bruins have games on Feb. 6 (Blues) and Feb. 8 (Senators) leading up to the Olympic break, he is likely to miss two contests for the Bruins.

Claude Julien said on Thursday that he and Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli gave Chara their blessing to miss some time in order for him to get to Sochi early.

“He talked to us about that, came to Peter and I and addressed it,” Julien said. “Peter approved it and [he] certainly [had] my support. When you look at what he’s done with this club, I think it’s an easy decision to make. You’re carrying your country’s flag at the Olympics and, and even if he misses a game, maybe two, I think that’s the least we can do for a guy who’s given us so much since he’s been here.”

This will be Chara’s third time competing in the Olympics.

For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.

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Chris Kelly doesn’t want to rush comeback 01.14.14 at 1:01 pm ET
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Bruins forward Chris Kelly skated again Tuesday as he continues his recovery from a broken right fibula. He has been skating since last week, and though he is unsure whether he’ll travel with the team to Dallas and Chicago and Claude Julien has said he isn’t close to returning, Kelly remains encouraged by the progress he’s been able to make.

“Every day it gets a little better,” Kelly said. “You want to come the next day and it feels 100 percent, but that’s not the case. It’s not realistic. As long it’s feeling a little bit better every day then that’s a positive.”

Added Kelly: “I hope I’m on the second half of this stretch and not the first half, so you can see light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what they keep telling me, so I’m going to go by what they’re saying.”

Kelly has been out since suffering the injury on a second period slash from Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis. He remained in the game and played the third period before the team learned of his injury. He was expected to miss 4-6 weeks, and despite beating his recovery time on last season’s broken tibia (he returned in a little less than a month when the team thought he’d miss 4-6 weeks), he reiterated Tuesday that this injury has been tougher to recover from.

“Certain injuries you’ve got to take time with, and certain ones you can rush back,” Kelly said. “For whatever reason, this one you need to take time and make sure it’s fully healed. The last thing I want to do is reaggrevate it and be out even longer.”

In the meantime, Kelly will continue to skate and try to remain patient, as tough as it may be.

“You try to do what you can, and it’s just one of those things where you can only do so much,” Kelly said. “I can only drink so much milk. ‘€¦ It’s just time, and obviously I don’t have a ton of time.”

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Dougie Hamilton out with concussion 01.14.14 at 11:43 am ET
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Dougie Hamilton

Dougie Hamilton

Dougie Hamilton is out with a concussion, Bruins coach Claude Julien revealed after Tuesday’s morning skate.

Julien termed the concussion “mild” and said that the team doesn’t expect Hamilton to miss too many games. Hamilton had returned earleir this month from a lower-body injury that had kept him out 10 games. He skated in five games before missing Monday’s practice.

“He’ll be out for a little bit,” Julien said, “but we don’t anticipate it being too, too long.”

Hamilton did not play the final six minutes of the team’s 1-0 win over the Sharks on Saturday, but Julien said it had “nothing to do” with the concussion. Given that Hamilton showed up Monday, didn’t go on the ice and was examined by team doctors, it’s likely that he was dealing with headaches (like Daniel Paille was last month) rather than being diagnosed right at the time of the concussion.

With Hamilton out, Kevan Miller will play in his place. The Bruins now have only six healthy defensemen on their roster. Given that they’ll leave for a two-game road trip Wednesday, the team might recall a blueliner from Providence.

For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.

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Putting Tuukka Rask’s slump in perspective 01.13.14 at 9:33 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask's Vezina campaign took a hit recently. (AP)

Tuukka Rask‘s Vezina campaign took a hit recently. (AP)

Tuukka Rask had never had a stretch in the NHL like the one he had prior to Saturday’s shutout. He’s sure he’ll one day have another, but for the Bruins and his Vezina campaign’s sake, he’s hoping it won’t be for a while.

Rask, who leads the league with five shutouts and is fourth with a .930 save percentage, had a woeful go of it from Dec. 28 to Jan. 9, getting pulled after allowing three goals in a little over one period losses to the Senators and Kings and allowing five goals apiece to the Islanders and Ducks. He picked up just win over the five game stretch, allowing one goal in a 4-1 win over the Jets.

As alarming as those numbers were, it’s worth noting that great goaltending performances — even Vezina ones — see dark times. Here are a few:

- In 2011, Vezina winner Tim Thomas gave up 14 goals over three starts from Feb. 11-15 while also allowing a goal in a period of relief in that stretch.

- The following season, Vezina winner Henrik Lundqvist allowed at least three goals in five straight games from March 3 to March 11.

- 2007-08 Vezina winner Martin Brodeur had a shaky stretch very early on the season, allowing at least three goals in five straight from Oct. 10 to Oct. 18 and giving up at least four in three of those starts. He also gave up 23 goals over a six-game stretch the previous season, which also saw him win the Vezina.

“It happens,” Rask said of such stretches Monday. “It’s hockey and the more you play, the odds are that it’s going to happen. You just have to work through it, and it’s tough but it’s reality. It’s going to happen again — hopefully not this year, but in the coming years and you just have to work through it and hope for the best.”

It wouldn’t be a leap to point to the fact that Rask’s rough patch began in the Bruins’ first game following Dennis Seidenberg‘s season-ending ACL/MCL tear. That wasn’t the only reason for the slump, but the B’s clearly looked to be a work in progress as they grid to acclimate to life without Seidenberg.

“We’re adjusting. I think it’s new for everybody when you miss a guy like that,” Rask said. “He’s a regular guy that plays a lot of minutes, so getting new pairings and stuff like that. As long as we put our minds into it defensively, it will be good. We’ve got some younger guys who are growing into their roles and it’s a learning curve, but we’re working [in] the right way.”

This will be another busy year for Rask, as he will follow last season’s 75-game workload with a full NHL season, the Olympics in the middle and hopefully a long playoff run in the spring.

Though he joked that he “always feels like [droppings]” when asked about how his body is holding up, Rask says that fatigue hasn’t been a major factor for him this season and doesn’t see it becoming one.

“Not too much,” he said. “I think everybody’s feeling somewhat of the schedule being so heavy, but I haven’t felt too tired. It’s draining mentally when you travel a lot and play every other day for weeks, so it can be draining, but I think we can keep things light when necessary.”

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More uncertainty awaits Jordan Caron with Bruins forwards now healthy 01.13.14 at 2:06 pm ET
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Jordan Caron

Jordan Caron

WILMINGTON — A former first-round pick with just one goal through 23 games this season is an easy target for criticism, but Jordan Caron — given his role — hasn’t been as disappointing as it might seem.

Caron hasn’t done anything offensively this season and that is undoubtedly his Achilles’ heel. Four partial seasons into his NHL career, he seems to be a bottom-six player rather than a top-six guy for that reason.

Yet for as offensively invisible as he’s been, the defensively responsible Caron has been sound in his own zone and has been a useful penalty killer when called upon. Often times, young players see offensive results — a goal here, an assist there — quicker than they can be trusted on the PK, but Caron is the opposite. The Bruins don’t need to worry about him on the ice — something that’s been the case for young players over the years — but they shouldn’t expect him to light up the score sheet.

As such, it’s been a very unglamorous season for Caron (one goal and no assists) but he hasn’t been a liability or the awful player impatient fans might make him out to be.

“Obviously I’d like to produce more offensively, but [I've been] doing a good job on the PK and stuff like that,” Caron said Monday. “I’m just trying to be good defensively and working hard. The offensive part’s going to come.”

When or where the offensive part comes remains to be seen. The healthier Bruins lineup means that he’s back to 13th forward duties, and if the Bruins reach the point at which they would want to send Caron down, he would need to be placed on waivers first. In such a scenario, Caron could be claimed by another team and the Bruins would lose their 2010 first-rounder.

“I mean, if it happens, it happens,” Caron said with a shrug Monday. “I’m not too worried about it.”

Caron has been dealing with a bad back for about a month, and it forced him to miss at least three games recently, with him also missing Saturday’s game with the returns of Loui Eriksson and Shawn Thornton. Caron still isn’t 100 percent, but the team is unlikely to need to need him unless another forward gets injured.

“Of course you never want to be the one sitting out, so it’s always the same story,” Caron said. “We have a lot of depth on our team, and it’s always a tough lineup to crack, and with my little injury, it didn’t really help. I’ve just got to stay positive and make sure I’m ready.”

Always the same story is right. Over the past four seasons, Caron has had little consistency regarding his role. He began the 2010-11 season as a healthy scratch, but soon became a second-line player for the Bruins. From there, he’s been up and down between Boston and Providence numerous times and has moved around the lineup filling in for different players.

You can call that a chicken-egg situation and say that Caron would have more of a defined role if he played better, but it’s hard to define a role when in as uncertain situations as the ones Caron has faced. Despite playing in only 23 of the Bruins’ 45 games, Jordan Caron has had eight linemates, which is second only to Carl Soderberg for most on the Bruins this season.

“I’ve said it before: This is a guy who’s been bounced around from line to line, from right to left, from left to right,” Claude Julien said. “At [some] point you have compassion for a guy like that who never gets to be on a steady line and build chemistry with his teammates. It’s pretty easy from the outside to want to criticize him, but I think you need guys like that on your roster to go wherever you tell him to go.

“He hasn’t a guy who has generated a ton offensively, but he’s done his job along the walls, he’s been pretty reliable and he’s done exactly what needs to be done as far as that’s concerned. If you look at his stats, not impressive, but at the same time you have to understand what he has to go through.”

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Dougie Hamilton misses Bruins practice with undisclosed ailment 01.13.14 at 1:10 pm ET
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Dougie Hamilton

Dougie Hamilton

WILMINGTON — Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton was absent from Monday’s practice, but Claude Julien was in no rush to reveal why.

“He’s being looked at right now,” Julien said after the practice. “We’ll leave it at that. We’ll give you more tomorrow.”

Hamilton did not play the final six minutes of the Bruins’ 1-0 win over the Sharks Saturday night and finished last among defensemen with a season-low (excluding the Dec. 8 game he left with a lower-body injury) 15:20 of ice time.

The second-year blueliner missed 10 games with the aforementioned lower-body and returned to the lineup on Jan. 2 against the Predators. Asked whether Hamilton’s absence from Monday’s practice was in any way related to that same injury, Julien replied, “I’ll talk to you guys tomorrow.”

If Hamilton is unable to play Tuesday against the Maple Leafs, Kevan Miller could remain in the lineup after playing Saturday’s game in place of Johnny Boychuk, who was back in Boston as he and his wife awaited the arrival of twins. Boychuk was back at practice Monday after the twin girls were born early Monday morning.

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

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