|Capitals lineup changes bring familiar faces vs. Bruins||04.19.12 at 1:38 pm ET|
WASHINGTON — Nicklas Backstrom will be out of the lineup for Game 4 after being suspended by the league for cross-checking Rich Peverley in the face. The Bruins know that, and they also know the guy jumping into the lineup in his place.
Former Bruin Mike Knuble, who had the first of his two career 30-goal seasons while playing for Boston in 2002-03, will enter the Capitals’ lineup Thursday skating on the Washington’s fourth line.
Knuble, 39, finally saw his production and playing time fall off this past season with the Caps. After totaling at least 40 points in eight straight seasons (with at least 53 in five of them), Knuble had just 18 points and a minus-15 rating in 72 games this season. He’d also scored 20 goals or more in his past eight seasons before scoring just six during this past regular season.
Based on Washington’s morning skate Thursday, Knuble will play on a line with Keith Aucoin and Joel Ward.
Knuble’s presence in place of Backstrom isn’t the only lineup change anticipated for the Capitals. Defenseman John Erskine has skated on Washington’s third pairing with Dennis Wideman in place of Jeff Schultz for the last two days, suggesting the 6-foot-4, 224-pounder should be in the lineup for the first time since Feb. 12.
The Bruins — and Milan Lucic in particular –also know Erskine well, as Lucic has fought Erskine twice in his career. Erskine pummeled Lucic on Jan. 3, 2008, which was Lucic’s ninth NHL fight. The two had a much more evenly matched bout last season.
‘It brings some toughness,” Capitals defenseman Mike Green said of having Erskine in the lineup. “You’ve seen him play. What you see is what you get. He brings a sense of humbleness to the other team. And that’s what we need.’
All in the all, the changes to Washington’s lineup means the Capitals will ice a grittier team Thursday night at the Verizon Center. Knuble obviously brings the wisdom of years, while Erskine brings a little more sandpaper. The Caps could use that vs. a very physical Bruins team, and if the series is to see its first fight Thursday, Erskine could be a likely participant.
|Tuukka Rask will remain out for Game 4||04.19.12 at 1:04 pm ET|
WASHINGTON — Everyone was on the ice for the Bruins in Thursday’s morning skate, and the lineup appears unchanged heading into Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Capitals.
Tuukka Rask appears to be getting closer for the Bruins as he continues to see an increased workload in practice, but coach Claude Julien said after the morning skate that the Finnish goaltender is not yet ready to return from his abdomen/groin injury.
The lines are as follows:
Milan Lucic ‘ Patrice Bergeron ‘ Rich Peverley
Brad Marchand ‘ David Krejci ‘ Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot ‘ Chris Kelly ‘ Brian Rolston
Daniel Paille ‘ Gregory Campbell ‘ Shawn Thornton
|Adam McQuaid still not skating||04.18.12 at 4:36 pm ET|
ARLINGTON, Va. — Adam McQuaid still isn’t skating, Bruins coach Claude Julien said Wednesday. The defenseman did not travel with the team to D.C., though the team still considers him day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
McQuaid originally suffered his injury on March 29 in a game against the Capitals. A hit from Jason Chimera behind the net left McQuaid with a cut around his eye that swelled and kept him out of action until April 5. He played in only seven minutes that game before leaving in the second period. The team began calling his injury an upper-body injury prior to the playoffs.
|Claude Julien responds to agent Allan Walsh’s tweet about player safety||04.18.12 at 4:01 pm ET|
ARLINGTON, Va. — In a postseason in which the hits have been dirtier, the play has gotten more out of control and the suspensions have been more common (nine already after there was a total of seven suspensions in the entire 2011 postseason), everyone’s looking for answers.
People want the players to police themselves more in hopes that more respect on the ice will mean less players being forced off it.
On Tuesday, agent Allan Walsh tweeted the following:
“This has spiraled from out of control to total chaos. Do we really need a player to die on the ice for this insanity to stop?”
When asked after Wednesday’s practice about cleaning up the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien mentioned Walsh and noted that less criticism and more education could solve the problem.
“I read something about an agent, it was Allan Walsh made a comment about that stuff,” Julien said, “but they’re the ones that are representing these players. These players are all apart of the [NHL Players Association] and the fact is, I can tell you right now and I’ll say it again, there’s not a coach in this league, not one, that is going to tell his players to target somebody’s head.
“Concussions are a serious and sensitive thing and I think we all respect that, so anybody who thinks otherwise is totally wrong. ‘¦ Somewhere along the line everybody’s got to try and educate the players to be a little bit more careful that’s what we keep trying to do. There’s not a game in this world that is faster than ours right now. It’s always easy to criticize but it’s sometimes tough to make those split second decisions and sometimes it will happen and the guys knows and he regrets it and he apologizes and he’s sincere, but the damage is done. Somehow we’re all trying to figure out a way to minimize that and instead of criticizing and attacking that we should all be working together in order to make it better. I think if coaches, players, general managers, the organizations and the league ‘ if we all work together including the PA that’s the best way to resolve it.”
|Bruins respond to ‘ludicrous’ accusations from Dale Hunter||04.18.12 at 3:27 pm ET|
ARLINGTON, Va. — Responses are usually saved for the ice in hockey, but on Wednesday the Bruins had to answer to something pretty serious.
On Tuesday, Washington coach Dale Hunter suggested the Boston players had been targeting the head of Nicklas Backstrom, who missed 40 games during the regular season with a concussion.
Backstrom was suspended for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals for cross-checking Bruins forward Rich Peverley in the face after the Bruins’ 4-3 victory in Game 3. Hunter said on Tuesday that because of how the Bruins had been playing against him, Backstrom had to “protect himself.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Wednesday’s practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “I don’t know any coach that would tell his team to go after somebody’s head. It speaks for itself.”
Added Julien: “It’s ludicrous. It’s ridiculous. There’s always going to be emotions in games, and there’s things that are happening. Like I said [after Game 3], there was three cross-checks. They penalized one and they suspended one. We’re not whining about the refs and we need to win the series and what’s going on here. That’s where are focus is on. That’s what it should be.”
Bruins center Patrice Bergeron has returned from two major concussions in his day, and last season missed two playoff games with a concussion. He said he hasn’t gotten a sense that players target the heads of players returning from head injuries, and certainly hopes that id doesn’t happen on any team.
“I think we’re just playing playoff hockey,” Bergeron said. “We’re not worrying about who’s out there. I certainly would be the last guy to do something like that. I’ve been through it, so I don’t really worry about that, to be honest with you.”
Shawn Thornton doesn’t pay attention to other teams, whether it be their place in the standings, the scores of their games or the words that they say. One thing Thornton is sure of, however, is that Hunter’s accusation had nothing to do with a mere fourth-liner.
“I’m not on the ice against that guy anyway,” Thornton said of Backstrom, who once had 101 points in a season, “so I really don’t have to worry about it.”
|Capitals release statement disagreeing with Nicklas Backstrom suspension||04.18.12 at 1:30 pm ET|
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Capitals released the following statement Wednesday on the suspension of Nicklas Backstrom. The center was suspended for Game 4 after his cross-check to Rich Peverley‘s face at the end of Game 3.
“We disagree with the NHL’s decision to suspend Nicklas Backstrom. This has been a competitive and physical series, and we do not understand why a suspension was imposed in this case while other incidents in this series have not been reviewed. Our singular focus is on Game 4, and we look forward to the energy that our great fans provide.”
|Bruins keep new lines as they prepare for Game 4||04.18.12 at 1:24 pm ET|
ARLINGTON, Va. — It appears the Bruins will stick with their newly tweaked lines, as the team took the ice for practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex with Patrice Bergeron between Milan Lucic and Rich Peverley, with David Krejci centering Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin. Here are the lines:
Mike Mottau and Jordan Caron appear to remain the healthy scratches. Game 4 will be played Thursday at Verizon Center. The B’s lead the series, 2-1.