|Anton Khudobin shines vs. Senators||04.05.12 at 10:05 pm ET|
The Bruins didn’t have all their stars on the ice, but they still beat the team they are likely to face when the playoffs begin next Thursday. Led by goaltender Anton Khudobin, the B’s defeated the Senators, 3-1, in Ottawa on Thursday night.
Khudobin made 44 saves, allowing only a Jason Spezza goal in the second period. The Bruins jumped out to a two-goal lead on tallies from Benoit Pouliot and Greg Zanon before Spezza made it a one-goal game in the second period. Milan Lucic gave the B’s some insurance by scoring his 26th goal of the season in the third period.
Ben Bishop took the loss for Ottawa, allowing three goals on 27 shots.
The Bruins were playing without Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Johnny Boychuk, all of whom did not make the trip to Ottawa. The B’s will wrap up the regular season Saturday against the Sabres.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– The chances that he could play in the postseason are slim, but it was a very encouraging sign for the Bruins to see Khudobin turn in a plus showing. Tuukka Rask has been skating since Monday, but if he isn’t ready for the playoffs, Khudobin will have to be Thomas’ backup. Khudobin last played in the NHL two seasons ago, and in his career he now has played seven games at the NHL level.
– Though he wasn’t directly responsible for them, Erik Karlsson was on the ice for all three of the Bruins’ goals. Karlsson leads all NHL defensemen with 78 points this season, but he might have a hard time beating Shea Weber or Chara for the Norris this year. Karlsson is a great player, but is he a great defenseman?
– Zanon’s goal was his first tally since joining the Bruins in a Feb. 27 trade. It was also his second point as a member of the B’s. Zanon put a shot on net from the point in hopes that it could get redirected past Bishop, but he put enough on it to beat the Senators’ goalie unencumbered.
Zanon was also credited with a game-high nine blocked shots, all of which came in the first two periods.
– The Bruins improved to 38-0-0 in games in which they held a two-goal lead at any point.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Adam McQuaid left the game in the second period and did not return. The Bruins issued no update on McQuaid during the game aside from saying that the defenseman was “doubtful” to return. He did not.
|Chris Kelly thinks 82 ain’t nothing but a number||04.05.12 at 2:32 pm ET|
Claude Julien and the Bruins have shown that when the end of the regular season rolls around, they are far more concerned about getting ready for the playoffs than wrapping up personal accomplishments. They don’t care about the number of games played, as long as they play a lot of them in the postseason.
Take Dennis Seidenberg last year, for example. The defenseman had often missed time in previous seasons due to injury, but was finally on pace for an 82-game season in 2010-11. It didn’t end up happening, as the Bruins gave him the 81st game off to get him some rest.
After the team left Patrice Bergeron, who is one of two Bruins to play the first 80 games of the season, back with Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara for Thursday’s game against the Senators, Chris Kelly will be the only Bruin left to play in each game this season. The team could give him Saturday off, or they could play him and give him his fourth career 82-game season. Never one to worry about his accomplishments, Kelly says he’ll let the team make the choice for him.
“Whatever they decide, whatever’s best,” Kelly said. “I’m easy either way. Eighty, or 82 or 81, it doesn’t really matter, to be honest. Whatever they feel is best for the team.”
Kelly’s other 82-game seasons came with the Senators, with the most recent one coming in 2008-09. His only game missed last season was the result of a visa issue following his trade to Boston.
“It’s your job to play,” he said. “Sometimes certain circumstances don’t let you play all 82. Injuries, the flu, personal issues, visas don’t allow you too. I think at the end of the day, it’s your job to play unless you’re told different.”
While Kelly may or may not play 82 games, there’s no disputing that this had been a career-year for the 31-year-old. He’s scored 20 goals for the first time in his career, and his 39 points are also a personal best. Fan voting allowed Tyler Seguin to win the Seventh Player award this week, but even Seguin hinted that Kelly may have been robbed.
Not surprisingly, Kelly responded to that by singing Seguin’s praises and pointing to others for his success.
“Obviously it’s nice to score goals and contribute offensively. I’ve been really lucky to play with some great linemates in my time here — last year and this year,” he said. “Ziggy’s a really deserving player of that award. Obviously he’s leading our team in goals, points, he’s up there in plus-minus. That’s a rare thing to see, a young player [with a good] plus-minus. So it’s a great choice, and I think it’s that much more special when the fans decide on it.’
|Claude Julien: Nathan Horton ‘not close’ to returning, but Tuukka Rask is progressing||04.04.12 at 1:34 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins saw both Nathan Horton and Tuukka Rask take the ice prior to Wednesday’s practice. For Rask, it means things are continuing to progress. For Horton, it’s a small step in the right direction.
Rask has been skating since Monday, as he aims to make a return from his abdomen strain/groin strain by the playoffs. The Bruins have Anton Khudobin up with the team now, and it’s likely that he’ll start Thursday’s game against the Senators. That should give Khudobin a little more NHL experience (he’s played six games for the Wild) before the playoffs start if he’s needed as Tim Thomas‘ backup, but in a perfect world the Bruins would have Rask back.
“Tuukka’s been skating for a few days, and he’s coming around,” coach Claude Julien said after Wednesday’s practice. “We hope to have him with us soon, at least in practice.
“With Nathan, it’s just going out there — nothing more than just skating and trying to get a feel of how things are. Nothing more than that. He’s not close to joining us as we speak. Still keeping our fingers crossed that it’s going in the right direction.”
Horton has not played since Jan. 22, when his second concussion in less than seven months forced him out of the lineup. His attempt at a comeback has been shaky this season, as he suffered a setback after trying to skate in February.
The Bruins don’t know whether they’ll get Horton back at any point in the playoffs, as the postseason can last up to two months. He’s a longshot to return soon, but Julien says Horton is in good spirits.
“He’s in a good spot emotionally,” Julien said of Horton. “I haven’t talked [to him] about anything related to hockey and him coming back. The last thing he needs is for his coach to start asking those kind of questions. That’s not my job and it’s certainly not something that would be a positive thing to do.
“I leave him be. Everything I do with him is small talk — how are you doing today — and he’s looking good color-wise. He seems to have good color, and we see he’s happy. Those kind of things are encouraging.”
|Bruins leave Johnny Boychuk, Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas and Patrice Bergeron back in Boston||04.04.12 at 1:02 pm ET|
WILMINGTON – Tim Thomas, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara all stayed out on the ice for extra work after Wednesday’s practice, and all three players will join Johnny Boychuk in staying behind when the team travels to Ottawa for Thursday’s game against the Senators. Of the four players, all but Boychuk will simply be given the game off for rest.
Boychuk left Tuesday night’s loss to the Penguins in the third period with a leg injury, but Claude Julien offered no update on the status of the defenseman aside from the fact that he won’t be making the trip.
Thursday’s game will be the first this season in which Bergeron has not played, and it will leave Chris Kelly as the only Bruin to play in each contest. It will be Thomas’ second straight scratch as the team aims to keep the reigning Conn Smythe winner fresh for the playoffs.
|Nathan Horton, Tuukka Rask skate prior to Bruins practice||04.04.12 at 11:14 am ET|
WILMINGTON — In an encouraging sign, Bruins forward Nathan Horton and goaltender Tuukka Rask skated for 40 minutes with strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides prior to Wednesday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. Neither players was not on the ice as the team began their practice Wednesday.
Horton has been out since Jan. 22, when he suffered his second concussion in seven months. He tried skating in February, but had a setback and was shut back down. Wednesday marks the first time he has skated since then.
Whether Horton returns to the Bruins at any point in the postseason remains unclear. In 46 games this season, he has 17 goals and 15 assists for 32 points.
Rask suffered an abdomen strain/groin strain on March 3. He said recently that he hopes to return in time for the postseason.
Johnny Boychuk, who left Tuesday night’s game in the third period, did not practice, while Jordan Caron returned to the ice after staying away from the team Tuesday with flu-like symptoms.
|Sidney Crosby leads Penguins past Bruins||04.03.12 at 10:08 pm ET|
The Penguins jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Crosby and Paul Martin, but Benoit Pouliot made it a one-goal game late in the period by beating Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson with a nifty backhander. Milan Lucic tied it just 18 seconds into the second, but the Penguins cashed in on a 5-on-3 by getting power-play goals from James Neal and Crosby to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead. The Pens would add to it when Aaron Asham scored his fifth of the season in the third period to make it 5-3, and though the Bruins responded with Rich Peverley‘s 11th goal of the season, they were unable to make it any closer.
Turco took the loss for the Bruins, stopping 22-of-27 shots and falling to 1-2-0 since signing with Boston last month.
The Bruins will play their likely first-round playoff opponent Thursday when they travel to Ottawa to face the Senators.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
— Johnny Boychuk left the game with just over 13 minutes remaining in the third period. Boychuk appeared to injure his knee while going for an open-ice hit on Asham, and he remained on the ice and was joined by trainer Don DelNegro before being helped off the ice by Brian Rolston and Chris Kelly. He did not return to the game.
— The Bruins fell victim to a couple of bad calls in the second period that both resulted in Penguins goals. Seconds after Daniel Paille was sent off for charging for his hit on Matt Niskanen, Peverley was given a high-sticking penalty on a play in which Kris Letang clearly embellished. Neal scored his 40th of the season with the Penguins on the 5-on-3, and Crosby made it 4-2 with Peverley still in the box. Peverley’s stick did not touch Letang’s face, but the Pittsburgh defenseman whipped his head back, resulting in the call.
— Patrice Bergeron‘s line had been playing well for the Bruins in recent games, but the line was a minus-2 after two periods. Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin managed to put pucks on net, including a Seguin shot on a 2-on-0 in the second period, but the line failed to produce a goal and was on the ice for two Pittsburgh tallies, while Bergeron was on the ice for the Penguins’ first four goals. In addition to failing to cash in on the 2-on-0 with Marchand, Seguin was stopped by Johnson on a pair of breakaways.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
— Pouliot’s goal, his 15th of the season, gave him a career-high 31 points this season. Aside from last season’s 79-game campaign with the Canadiens (13 goals, 17 assists, 30 points), Pouliot has spent much of his career unable to play a full season at the NHL level due to either injury or performance. He’s been able to put together a solid season in Boston, coming three goals short of Michael Ryder‘s production in Ryder’s last two seasons with the Bruins.
— Though he was the recipient of a debatable charging penalty, Paille was extra physical Tuesday night. He also put a big hit on Asham that nearly sent the Penguins forward into the Bruins bench in the second period.
— The B’s top line of David Krejci between Lucic and Peverley was productive for the B’s, producing two goals. Krejci had a nice backhanded dish to Lucic to set up the Bruins’ second goal, and the center picked up helpers on both of his line’s goals. All three players finished with multiple-point nights, as Lucic and Peverley each had a goal and an assist.
— Good on defenseman Andrew Ference for not only taking on but taking down a much bigger opponent in Neal. The two fought in a spirited bout in the second period, with Ference getting the decision.
|Bruins-Penguins Live Blog: Marty Turco gets the start||04.03.12 at 7:42 pm ET|