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Kevan Miller: ‘I need to be better’ 11.13.15 at 1:26 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

WILMINGTON — Call it being overused, call it a player still finding his footing after missing half of last season, but Kevan Miller hasn’€™t gotten off to the start he’d hoped for this season.

Miller has played in each of the Bruins’€™ first 15 games after missing the last 26 games of last season due to shoulder surgery. Miller, whose shoulder also kept him out for a stretch earlier in the season, hasn’€™t had a particularly pleasant return to game action. Used frequently as Zdeno Chara‘€™s partner, the 27-year-old has struggled both with the puck and without it, occasionally leaving shooters too much space as they enter the offensive zone. Thursday night’€™s game saw him turn in a costly turnover when he coughed the puck up in the defensive zone, leading to a Colorado goal.

“It’€™s a work in progress. You want to get better as you go,” Miller said of his start to the season. “This is my third year, but this is 100-something games. I’€™m trying to get better every game. There’€™s going to be ups, there’€™s going to be downs and we’€™re going to learn from that, but you want to make sure you’€™re consistent every night. I need to be better.”

Undoubtedly factoring into Miller’€™s struggles is the fact that he’€™s been used in a bigger role this season, something that perhaps could change once Dennis Seidenberg is up to speed. Miller has been given 20:21 of ice time per night, up over two minutes from last season’€™s 18:02 average.

Miller has also had much tougher zone starts than in either of his previous two seasons, as shown in this war-on-ice usage chart showing each of Miller’€™s three NHL seasons.

miller usage 2
When asked about Miller, Claude Julien‘€™s words sounded like they could have been applied to many of his defensemen, as Miller is certainly not alone in making costly errors.

“Right now, it’€™s not about how much leeway we give players,” he said. “It’€™s about how accountable you want to be as a player. You’€™ve got to work through those kind of things. You’€™ve got to minimize it. If you’€™ve been injured, and you don’€™t think your game is at its best, let’€™s keep it simple. Let’€™s do the right things here and try and make the right decisions.

“Again, it’€™s puck management. It doesn’€™t have to be complicated. It just has to be a simple game, and a lot of times, less is more. That’€™s what we have to understand.”

Now that Seidenberg is back in the lineup, the Bruins could view Miller as a potential option to spent the occasional game in the press box. Joe Morrow has been a healthy scratch the last three games, while Zach Trotman has sat in 12 of 15 games this season.

Miller still provides value, however, as he can kill penalties and be used on the left side in a pinch. He’€™ll just need better games ahead of him if he wants to solidify his spot.

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All things considered, Bruins fortunate with result of Gabriel Landeskog hit on Brad Marchand 11.12.15 at 11:27 pm ET
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Brad Marchand chose his words carefully after Thursday night’s loss to the Avalanche. He was visibly angry — perhaps because the Bruins had just turned in yet another bad performance at home, but more than likely because he took an unnecessary hit to the head in the second period.

Marchand was the recipient of a hit to the head from Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who flew into the Colorado zone and caught Marchand in the head with his shoulder after the veteran Bruins winger had released a shot from above the left circle. Though Marchand took a few seconds to get up, he promptly skated to an ongoing scrum and delivered a sucker-punch to Landeskog’s mouth. Landeskog, who was assessed a match penalty for his hit, automatically has a hearing with Department of Player Safety. Marchand reportedly does as well.

“I tried to let up and then I tried to skate up and apologize and tell him I didn’t mean to come across and he — obviously he wasn’t hurt, with that sucker punch,” Landeskog said after the game. “I’m happy he didn’t get hurt. I feel like the principal point of contact was shoulder, and like I said I’m happy he didn’t get hurt.”

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5 things we learned: Bruins start strong doesn’t last in loss to Avalanche 11.12.15 at 9:44 pm ET
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Half a period does not a game make. Speaking of which, the Bruins lost.

With goals from Zdeno Chara and Ryan Spooner in the first 5:51 of the night Thursday, the Bruins appeared well on their way to blowing out the struggling Avalanche at TD Garden. That would prove to be the extent of their scoring on the night, however, and Colorado’€™s pushback was enough to net them the game’€™s next three goals and a 3-2 victory over the B’€™s.

The Bruins’€™ biggest blown opportunity of the night came in the second period, when the Bruins had a three-minute power play as a result of a Colorado major penalty and Boston minor penalty. Spooner’€™s first-period goal came on the power play, extending the B’€™s streak of games with a power play goal to eight games.

The Bruins have now lost three of their last four games and are 7-7-1 on the season. They’€™ll continue their five-game homestand when they host the Red Wings on Saturday at the Garden.

Here are four more things we learned Thursday.

LANDESKOG TOSSED FOR CHEAP SHOT ON MARCHAND

How Brad Marchand was able to get up (albeit slowly) and then go punch Gabriel Landeskog in the face after the hit he took in the second period will forever be a mystery.

After releasing a shot from above the right circle, Marchand was trucked by Landeskog, who came from a mile away and delivered a hit to the head. Marchand fell to the ice in ugly fashion and, upon getting up, skated to the scrum and punched the Colorado captain in the face.

While Landeskog hit Marchand with his shoulder rather than his elbow, the play was still dirty and easily avoidable. Landeskog was given a match penalty (therefore tossed from the game) on the play for an illegal hit to the head.

Marchand, meanwhile, stayed in the game after serving a roughing minor for his retaliatory punch to Landeskog. The Bruins dodged a bullet there, as Marchand missed two games in October due to a concussion suffered in the second game of the season.

SEIDENBERG MAKES RETURN

Thursday marked Dennis Seidenberg‘€™s first game since April 11, as he missed all of training camp and the first 14 games of the season recovering from back surgery.

Seidenberg was paired with Colin Miller for the game, with Zach Trotman and Joe Morrow serving as healthy scratches on defense.

Any plans of Seidenberg easing his way back in physically were dashed in the first period when he took a big hit in the defensive zone by Avalanche forward Cody McLeod. Tyler Randell reacted swiftly, fighting McLeod and earning a takedown in the game’€™s only fight.

Seidenberg also delivered a huge hit on former teammate Carl Soderberg in the second period, drawing large cheers from the Garden crowd.

MCQUAID ICING, KEVAN MILLER TURNOVER COSTLY

Tuukka Rask was more a victim of bad luck than anything else on Colorado’€™s second goal of the game. A funny bounce caused him to miss the puck, but then again the Avalanche shouldn’€™t have even been in Boston’€™s zone.

Adam McQuaid unnecessarily iced the puck in the final minute of the period, resulting in an offensive zone faceoff for Colorado. After Matt Duchene won the draw against David Krejci, a point shot from Francois Beauchemin went off Joonas Kemppainen, changing both speed and direction as it went past Rask, who was reacting to the shot’€™s initial speed and therefore swung and missed at the puck with his glove hand.

The goal itself was ugly, but tough to pin on Rask. It was easy to pin on McQuaid.

That wasn’€™t the extent of Boston’€™s flubs on defense Thursday. Kevan Miller coughed up the puck to Mikhail Grigorenko on a third period play, with Grigorenko setting up a Matt Duchene goal to break a 2-2 tie.

SODERBERG’€™S REVENGE

Soderberg tried to explain a 24-game goal-less stretch last season by saying he was ‘€œnot a sniper.’€ Perhaps that was all an elaborate ruse to trick the Bruins into letting him score on them Thursday night.

Soderberg, who inked a very generous five-year contract with the Avs worth $4.75 million in June, scored his second goal of the season when he took a pass from Blake Comeau and fired a wrist shot from the right circle past Tuukka Rask.

It wasn’€™t all good news for Soderberg. He received a big hit from Torey Krug in the first period and was absolutely crushed by Seidenberg on the aforementioned second-period hit.

Bruins sign Jake DeBrusk, Zachary Senyshyn, Jeremy Lauzon to entry-level contracts 11.12.15 at 6:33 pm ET
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Jake DeBrusk

Jake DeBrusk

The Bruins announced Thursday that they have signed 2015 draft picks Jake DeBrusk, Zachary Senyshyn and Jeremy Lauzon to entry-level contracts.

With Jakub Zboril and Brandon Carlo having already inked their entry-level deals, the Bruins have now signed five of their six picks over the first two rounds from June’€™s draft. The only player not to sign yet is second-round pick Jakob Forsbacka, who is currently playing college hockey at Boston University and would forfeit his NCAA eligibility if he signed an NHL contract.

DeBrusk, the 14th overall pick of the draft, played 14 games for Swift Current of the WHL before suffering a lower-body injury that currently has him sidelined. The left wing has six goals and 14 assists on the season.

Senyhsyn, a right wing who was a surprise pick at No. 15 overall, has 10 goals and four assists for 14 points through 18 games for Saul Ste. Marie of the OHL.

Lauzon, a defenseman for Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL, was drafted 52nd overall in June. He has three goals and 22 assists for 25 points through 18 games this season.

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Torey Krug, Dennis Seidenberg game-time decisions for Bruins Thursday 11.12.15 at 10:41 am ET
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Torey Krug

Torey Krug

Torey Krug was back skating with his teammates at Thursday’€™s morning skate after spending the last three days off the ice. The Bruins will host the Avalanche Thursday in the first game of a five-game homestand.

Krug’€™s return, in addition to Dennis Seidenberg‘€™s progress, gave the Bruins four defensive pairings in the morning skate, with Seidenberg taking rushes with Adam McQuaid. Seidenberg had back surgery seven weeks ago, and though his recovery was expected to take eight weeks, it appears he’€™s close to getting into games. Claude Julien said that both Seidenberg and Krug are game-time decisions for Thursday night.

The Bruins’€™ lineup in morning skate was as follows:

Beleskey-Bergeron-Connolly
Vatrano-Krejci-Eriksson
Marchand-Spooner-Hayes
Rinaldo-Kemppainen-Randell

Chara-Colin Miller
Seidenberg-McQuaid
Krug-Kevan Miller
Morrow-Trotman

Rask

The Bruins currently have 22 players on their roster not counting Seidenberg, so they would not need to make any additional roster moves if they were to activate him.

Dennis Seidenberg ‘getting close’ to returning to Bruins’ lineup 11.11.15 at 3:23 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — While the Bruins shared some bad injury news regarding their forwards, they seem pretty close to getting some help on defense.

Dennis Seidenberg, who missed all of training camp after having back surgery on Sept. 24, is closing in on a return. Nearly seven weeks into an anticipated eight-week recovery (Thursday will mark seven weeks), Seidenberg is taking contact and participating in battle drills with teammates.

“It’€™s getting close. Closer,” Seidenberg said after taking part in 3-on-3 battle drills in Wednesday’€™s practice. “It’€™s tough to say, but I’€™m feeling better on the ice. I’€™m feeling strong in the battles. It’€™s about being more comfortable skating, and that’€™s getting better.”

Seidenberg has insisted that pain is not an issue, nor is his back. He says that he’€™s comfortable taking contact but is still monitoring how his lower-body strength is coming along since being back on the ice.

“The physical part is not the thing I have to worry about. It’€™s all about the lower leg and the strength and being able to sustain whatever challenge I have out there,” he said. “That’€™s the main thing I have to look at.”

Claude Julien said that Seidenberg is ‘€œbeing evaluated every day because he is getting closer’€ to returning to Boston’€™s lineup. It seems unlikely he would play on Thursday against the Avalanche, but it’€™s safe to say the team expects him to play at some point during the team’€™s upcoming homestand.

While the Bruins will welcome Seidenberg’€™s return if and when it comes, they’€™re also managing their expectations in the early going. Seidenberg struggled last season in his first campaign back from a torn ACL, and though he came into informal practices in the summer eager to bounce back, the fact that he hasn’€™t seen game action for roughly seven months suggests it could take time for him to hit his stride.

“When a guy hasn’€™t had a training camp and hasn’€™t had a game this year, you can’€™t expect him to come back and all of a sudden be firing on all cylinders,” Julien said. “When he does come back, we realize that we may have to monitor his ice time and who he plays against, and so on and so forth. Those are things that we’€™re prepared for the minute he’€™s good to go.”

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Alexander Khokhlachev out 4-6 weeks after finger surgery 11.11.15 at 1:04 pm ET
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Alex Khokhlachev

Alex Khokhlachev

WILMINGTON — David Pastrnak isn’€™t the only young Bruins forward who has received bad injury news this week, as B’€™s general manager Don Sweeney said Wednesday said that Providence forward Alexander Khokhlachev will miss approximately four to six weeks with a finger injury.

After jumping out to lead the AHL in points through 10 games, Khokhlachev was called up for a two-game stint with the B’€™s last week. He suffered his injury in his first game back with Providence on Saturday, requiring surgery.

“He went up to Utica and fell on his hand, and he had a fracture, a small crack in his little finger, so he had surgery to put a pin in and stabilize that,” Sweeney said. “His timeframe — everybody’€™s different, but it’€™s probably four to six.”

This marks an undoubtedly frustrating development for a player who has been open with his frustrations with his role in the Bruins organization. Khokhlachev, 22, vented in the preseason about the Bruins not giving him the chance to be an NHL player. With this injury, he’€™ll have to wait even longer.

Khokhlachev, a second-round pick of the Bruins in the 2011 draft, is in the final year of his entry-level contract. He has led Providence in points in each of the last two seasons.

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