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Waiting game officially on for Bruins, top prospect Charlie McAvoy 03.27.17 at 2:53 pm ET
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The Bruins are expected to sign Charlie McAvoy this week. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are expected to sign Charlie McAvoy this week. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney may have been the happiest person in Boston when the Boston University Terriers were bounced from the NCAA tournament by Minnesota-Duluth last Saturday.

With the Terriers eliminated, the Bruins are now free — or expected, rather — to sign top prospects Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Charlie McAvoy to their entry-level contracts and potentially have at least one of them join the organization for their stretch run to finish the season.

There was already an interest from Forsbacka Karlsson to go pro after this season according to a report published less than two weeks ago, and McAvoy doesn’t seem too far behind in regards to his interest.

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Bruins center David Krejci leaves practice with upper-body injury 03.27.17 at 2:21 pm ET
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David Krejci left Monday's practice early. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

David Krejci left Monday’s practice early. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bruins practice began with David Krejci in his usual spot in the middle of the club’s second line. But Krejci departed off the ice and back to the inner workings of the maze known as Warrior Ice Arena long before practice came to a close, and Ryan Spooner finished practice in Krejci’s spot with Drew Stafford and David Pastrnak on his wings.

That’s certainly not how Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy, whose team snapped their four-game losing streak with last Saturday’s 2-1 final over the Islanders, drew up his Monday morning plans, either.

“He’s got a bit of an upper-body issue,” Cassidy said of Krejci’s early exit. “A little discomfort, he got treatment. I believe he’ll be fine tomorrow, I don’t think it’s anything major, but I can’t speculate.”

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Tuukka Rask returns to Bruins practice, expects to play tomorrow 03.27.17 at 1:39 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask believes he'll be ready to play tomorrow. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Tuukka Rask believes he’ll be ready to play tomorrow. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins were forced to roll without No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask in last Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Islanders, but with Zane McIntyre returned to Providence late last night, and Rask back on the ice today, it’s clear how the 30-year-old Rask feels heading into the week.

“Good day back on the ice,” Rask said after Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “See what the decision is [tomorrow], but I felt good today. Got another morning skate tomorrow and go from there.”

The optics of Rask bailing out of the closest thing to a must-win game that the Black and Gold have had this season against are obviously quite terrible for the oft-criticized netminder, and that basically goes without saying (especially after he missed last year’s win-and-you’re-in finale against the Senators), but it was a decision that made sense.

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Captain Zdeno Chara named Bruins’ nominee for 2017 Masterton Memorial Trophy 03.27.17 at 11:33 am ET
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B's captain Zdeno Chara has been selected as the Bruins' nominee for the Masterton Trophy. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

B’s captain Zdeno Chara has been selected as the Bruins’ nominee for the Masterton Trophy. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Boston chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association has selected Zdeno Chara as the Bruins’ nominee for the 2017 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, the award annually awarded to the NHL player that best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.

In his 11th season with the Bruins, the now 40-year-old captain has remained a fixture on the B’s top-pairing, with eight goals and 24 points in 68 games this season, along with 23:11 of time on ice per game (the 31st-most in the NHL), and a league-leading 258:45 of total shorthanded time on ice and 3:48 of shorthanded time on ice per night for a B’s penalty kill that begins the week as the third-best in the NHL.

Chara also ranks 19th among for Corsi-For percentage among NHL defensemen with at least 1,000 minutes of time on ice this year, at 53.4 percent, and has been the Black and Gold’s best defender.

On top of being the anchor of the B’s point, Chara also has taken on a mentoring role for first-year pro Brandon Carlo.

Off the ice, Chara annually takes part in the Bruins’ Cuts for Cause to benefit the Boston Bruins Foundation and Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, as well as the Bruins Holiday Toy Delivery to local children’s hospitals. For the second straight year, Chara teamed with Cradles to Crayons, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and Department of Children and Families throughout the month of February to present the annual “PJ Drive” presented by Freihofer’s and Roche Brothers to benefit Massachusetts’ underprivileged youth. The PJ Drive provides new, unused pajamas to children in need across Massachusetts. Over 75,000 Massachusetts children have received PJ’s through the Bruins PJ drive over the past nine years.

He is also the fourth-oldest player in the NHL behind Jaromir Jagr, Shane Doan, and Matt Cullen.

The Bruins have had four Masterton winners in their franchise history — Charlie Simmer in 1986, Gord Kluzak in 1990, Cam Neely in 1994, and Phil Kessel in 2006 — and have one Masterton winner on their current roster (Dominic Moore in 2014).

The Bruins do not have a goalie controversy, but… 03.25.17 at 11:23 pm ET
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Anton Khudobin stopped 18-of-19 shots in a win over the Isles. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

Anton Khudobin stopped 18-of-19 shots in a win over the Isles. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

Let’s all take a deep breath and not lose our heads over one solid start from Bruins backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, OK?

(Proceeds to hyperventilate and immediately lose head.)

The Bruins were in a near must-win situation — much like they have been all week, and with zero wins before Saturday — but with Tuukka Rask back in Boston with a lower-body injury that flared up and kept him out of Friday’s practice, the Bruins were forced to turn to the hot-and-cold Khudobin on in Brooklyn. Khudobin has been in some pressure spots of late, sure, but nothing quite like this.

And in need of a win, Khudobin delivered just that, with stops on 18 of 19 shots thrown his way, including a perfect eight for eight mark on Islander power-play shots fired on net. It was hardly Khudobin’s hardest night in the crease from a shot volume standpoint, of course, but for the number of times it crumbled to pure chaos in front of Khudobin, letting in just one goal spoke to what has to be considered Khudobin’s best game of the year.

It’s also prompted some talk of riding the ‘hot hand’ and sitting Rask for Khudobin.

It’s actually not the worst idea, but not for the reasons you’d think.

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Unlikely heroes step up for Bruins in win over Islanders 03.25.17 at 10:17 pm ET
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Riley Nash had the third two-goal game of his career  in a 2-1 win over the Islanders. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

Riley Nash had the third two-goal game of his career in a 2-1 win over the Islanders. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

Win or lose, the Bruins could not have been eliminated from postseason contention on Saturday night in Brooklyn.

But a loss to the Islanders would have made qualifying for the postseason awfully difficult for the Black and Gold, who would officially have their fate taken out of their hands. The Bruins don’t have to worry about that just yet, though, as a 2-1 gut-it-out win over the Islanders at the Barclays Center has propelled the Bruins back into a playoff position and in the East’s second wild card spot.

Down Tuukka Rask, who remained back in Boston with a lower-body, Anton Khudobin was asked to step up to the plate with what would have to be the biggest game of his B’s tenure, and did he ever.

Peppered for 19 shots on the night — with eight coming on the Isles’ six different power-play opportunities — the 30-year-old Khudobin made saves on all but one shot fired his way, and that miss was on a goal scored by John Tavares. There were times where Khudobin was out to lunch or a little too aggressive (as is often the case with the battlin’ netminder that reminds you a lot of early Tim Thomas), but No. 35 made the stops that the club needed, especially when things would crumble in front of his crease for some net-front looks and second-chance shots on net.

And with the club’s top talents missing for large chunks of the week, especially in the attacking zone and when it comes to finishing their chances, the Bruins needed somebody to step up up front. Riley Nash, as it turned out, was that person.

After a year of misses on the club’s third line (and inadequate fill-in on the Patrice Bergeron line in David Pastrnak’s absence for a few quick minutes this season), Nash’s line has been one of the few to show up for this week’s massively important slate of games. And it was tonight that Nash came through the game-tying goal scored just 36 seconds after the Tavares tally. Nash, by the way, was one of just two B’s skaters to put a shot on goal in the Bruins’ three-shot opening frame (Frank Vatrano was the other).

Lucky to escape the period tied, Nash and the Black and Gold simply took the game over from the second period on, with a five-on-five domination and successful kill after successful kill, with a 6-for-6 mark on the penalty kill by the night’s end.

Nash played a pivotal role on that, too, with a forward-leading 6:24 of shorthanded time on ice in the winning effort.

Oh, and the game-winning goal scored 4:12 into the third period.

Make no mistake about it, this game was not one that corrects or erases all of the mistakes that the Bruins made over the course of their four-game losing streak. The club still had a rather slow start, which is concerning given the importance of this game, and their discipline was once under scrutiny (namely when David Pastrnak took a bad retaliatory penalty in the second period). But the Bruins also buckled down when needed, with a combined 13 blocked shots, 26 hits, and wins in nine of 16 d-zone faceoffs.

“Everybody paid the price to get the win,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the win. “It hurts to win. If you’re not banged up or a little sore after a game like this, you probably didn’t pay the price.”

But the B’s will take the physical bumps and bruises of a win over the emotional pain of what would have a fifth straight loss.

Bruins are in serious danger if they lose tonight’s game against Isles 03.25.17 at 7:03 pm ET
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The B's playoff hopes hinge on tonight's game in Brooklyn. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The B’s playoff hopes hinge on tonight’s game in Brooklyn. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins, with regulation losses in four straight games for the first time since the start of last year’s collapse, are back on death’s door.

A loss in Brooklyn tonight may actually walk them through that door.

According to Sportsclubstats.com, the Bruins come into this game with a 42.3 percent chance to make the playoffs. If they win tonight’s game against the Islanders, who enter play in possession of the second wild card (they have 82 points like the Bruins, but have a game in hand), the B’s playoff chances go up to 61 percent. If they lose this game, however, their chances drop down to 24.7 percent. Woof.

“I feel great personally and I hope our guys are creating some positive energy out there,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said this morning. “This time of the year you gotta have a mindset of it’s one game at a time and not look back and stay in the moment.”

The moments have been full of letdowns for the Bruins, however, with losses in back-to-back-to-back important games — and borderline must-win games, actually — which has contributed to the worries of yet another meltdown in the Hub.

Down Rask, Anton Khudobin gets the call in net for the Bruins.

Khudobin has five wins and an .897 save percentage in 13 games this season, but has played particularly well under Cassidy, with four wins and a .916 save percentage in four starts (Khudobin also added 17 stops on 19 shots in relief of Rask in his last outing, a garbage time relief against the Oilers). Khudobin made stops on 15-of-16 shots in a Dec. 20 relief appearance against the Islanders, and comes into action with one win and a .905 save percentage in six career games against the Isles.

The Isles counter with Thomas Greiss. The German netminder has been a thorn in the Bruins’ side this season, with a career-high 48 saves in his first meeting against the B’s this year, and then a 32-save shutout in their second head-to-head.

Matt Beleskey (family leave) will also miss this game for the Bruins, which means Jimmy Hayes will draw back into action.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Drew Stafford – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes

Dominic Moore – Riley Nash – Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Colin Miller – Kevan Miller

Anton Khudobin

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