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Let’s Be Frank featuring Josh Dolan and Bruins’ Frank Vatrano 11.07.16 at 4:15 pm ET
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In the bowels of Warrior Ice Arena, WEEI’s Josh Dolan recently caught up with Boston Bruins forward Frank Vatrano for a segment aptly titled Let’s Be Frank.

The East Longmeadow, Mass., native and Josh talked all things 90s, growing up in New England, and, well, some problems that may separated the two from their paths along the way.



Bruins set to begin grueling week tonight vs. Sabres 11.07.16 at 2:32 pm ET
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Monday marks the start of a grueling five games in seven days for the Bruins. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Monday marks the start of a 5-game-in-7-days stretch for the Bruins. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

An extra hour of sleep, courtesy of daylight savings time, could not have at a better time for the Boston Bruins.

Set for the first leg of a back-to-back and the second leg of their first of 16 sets of three-games-in-four-nights, and with five games in the next seven days overall, Bruins coach Claude Julien knows that he has to manage what he can ahead of tonight’s head-to-head with the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden.

“Obviously it’s not an easy schedule,” Julien said after the club’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “And you have to manage it the best you can.”

The massive workload was a known byproduct of a 2016 World Cup of Hockey that delayed the start of the NHL season by at least a week and with a bye week set for February (a new addition to the schedule for all 30 NHL teams), this was not something that’s necessarily blindsided the club, but something they’re not exactly accustomed to either. Not this early in the year, anyways.

And after a Sunday away from the rink, and with no set plans for Wednesday in Boston (the Bruins play at home tonight and then travel to Montreal for a Tuesday night head-to-head with the Habs), the Bruins have to be honest when weighing the pros and cons of more time on ice.

“We need to conserve our energy for the games right now,” admitted Julien.

But at 6-5-0 through 11 games and just one point out of the cellar of the Atlantic Division, the B’s bench boss knows that he needs to a 20-man effort to validate those days off.

“The better we play as a team, the easier it’s going to be because we’ll be able to utilize everybody,”  Julien said of this stretch. “If we have some guys that aren’t going well and you have to shorten up your bench, that’s when eventually it catches up to you.”

Julien has repeatedly noted the boost the Bruins have received from the Patrice Bergeron line and the Dominic Moore line, but has continued to stress the need for production from his second and third groupings. Most notably, the third line of Matt Beleskey, Riley Nash, and Austin Czarnik, which has a combined two points (Czarnik and Nash each have one) between the three players.

But on the heels of his first point of the season — a shorthanded assist recorded on a David Pastrnak goal in the third period of Saturday’s loss to the New York Rangers — Nash hopes that the monkey is finally off his back and that the offensive game will follow.

“Hopefully it helps [my confidence] grow,” Nash said of getting on the board with his first point in a B’s uniform. “I thought last game as a line we played pretty well and had some chances. Hopefully we keep playing with the puck more and getting more chances.”

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is expected to get the start tonight. Rask took his first loss of the year behind Saturday’s 19-of-24 showing, but is 6-1-0 with a .932 save percentage in seven games this season. Rask has nine wins and a .925 save percentage in 17 career games against Buffalo.

Forward Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Joe Morrow are the expected scratches.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins tonight.

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner – David Krejci – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – Riley Nash – Austin Czarnik

Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

John-Michael Liles – Colin Miller


Slumping Matt Beleskey bringing his game back to basics for Bruins 11.07.16 at 12:46 pm ET
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Matt Beleskey is still looking for his first point of the season. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Matt Beleskey is still looking for his first point of the season. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

This is not the first prolonged scoring drought of Boston Bruins forward Matt Beleskey’s career. It’s not even the first extended cold spell of his tenure with the club, actually. The odds suggest that it won’t be the last one, either.

But when the 28-year-old had a chance to step back from the ice — not by choice — as a healthy scratch in the club’s 4-3 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning last Thursday, he made damn sure he responded in his next on-ice chance. And though it did not come with what Beleskey would like more than anything right now (a goal, an assist, or a point in any fashion), the Bruins felt as if effort level from No. 39 was more in line with that of the player that set a career-high in points (37) last season.

Credited with six hits and four shots on goal in 17:56 of time on ice, Beleskey tried his best to engage in any possible way — an engagement plan that included an attempted fight with the Rangers’ J.T. Miller to which Miller (perhaps wisely) declined — and the Bruins noticed it.

“I think Matty seemed to be a little bit more on top of his game the way we’re used to seeing him,” Bruins coach Claude Julien noted. “That was encouraging for us, but at the same time I think the Bergeron line has been giving us lots of momentum and our fourth line, the Moore line, has.”

Still, and understandably so, the Bruins want to see even more from the group.

“Those two other lines have to give us a little bit more,” Julien, who scratched the line’s other slumping winger, Jimmy Hayes, on Saturday, said. “We can’t continue to rely upon just a couple of lines. We have players on other lines that are very capable of giving us more.”

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5 Things We Learned as Rangers’ penalty killers wreck Bruins 11.05.16 at 9:32 pm ET
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The Bruins went 0-for-3 on the power play and allowed two shorthanded goals in a loss to the Rangers on Saturday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins went 0-for-3 on the power play and allowed two shorthanded goals in a loss to the Rangers on Saturday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

The Boston Bruins power play is so bad — how bad is it? — that the team has now allowed as many shorthanded goals against as they’ve scored power-play goals on the year.

In what’s emerged as a year-long struggle for a man advantage that’s scored on just 3-of-38 chances after tonight’s 0-for-3 mark on the power play, Saturday was undoubtedly the low point of the Bruins’ stumbling power play, as the New York Rangers struck for two shorthanded goals, both on odd-man rushes, in a 3-1 Bruins loss at TD Garden.

In a 1-1 tie with goals from Patrice Bergeron and the Rangers’ Nick Holden, the Blueshirts jumped ahead at the 17:59 mark of the first period when Derek Stepan finished off a shorthanded 2-on-1 with Michael Grabner, and Bergeron as the lone line of defense in front of Rask.

The Rangers then added their second shortie of the night just 2:18 into the second period — on a 3-on-1, again (and somehow) while down a man — scored just moments after Bruins defenseman Torey Krug missed a wide open net with the help of a diving Dan Girardi and Antti Raanta.

Up by two through 40, the Rangers added an insurance marker from Pavel Buchnevich’s first NHL goal, a power-play goal scored 13:37 into the third period, to put the Rangers up by three.

The Bruins countered Buchnevich’s goal with a David Pastrnak shorthanded tip 1:06 later.

But when David Krejci turned the puck over at the redline, the Rangers were once again there, as Grabner stormed in all alone and beat Rask for the Rangers’ fifth and final goal of the night.

Raanta, peppered all night long, finished the night with 35 stops on 37 shots against.

With two losses and with just one more game left between the two Original Six rivals, the Bruins have now lost the season series with the Rangers in six of Claude Julien’s 10 years in Boston.

Rangers throw a Block Party at TD Garden

Head coach John Tortorella may be gone from behind the Ranger bench, but the Blueshirts are still very much a team that prides themselves on their ability to block shots.

After the first period of play, the Bruins had 11 shots on goal, but Rangers nearly matched their offensive pushes with 10 blocked shots. By the end of the second period, they had 14 blocks. The Rangers were especially strong in blocking blasts from the B’s best — or strongest, at the very least — point shots in captain Zdeno Chara and third-pairing puckmover Colin Miller.

Speed, pressure of Rangers still too much for Bruins to handle

As they did in the first head-to-head between these two, the Rangers really forced the Bruins into bad mistakes and ugly-looking retreats with a relentless speed game that they simply could not match. Led by the play of wingers like Jesper, Fast, Chris Kreider, and Grabner, the Rangers routinely forced the Bruins into bad plays and turnovers in the neutral zone and made ’em pay. It was a style eerily similar to that of the Pittsburgh Penguins during their Cup run last spring, which can really only mean good things for the Rangers if it holds up through the year.

Backes returns from five-game absence

By now it’s known what Bruins center David Krejci likes on his right side: a big-bodied, right-shooting winger that can retrieve pucks and score in a variety of ways. It’s what he had during the club’s Stanley Cup window in Nathan Horton, and what he had in a Presidents’ Trophy winning 2013-14 season that featured Jarome Iginla to his right. Saturday came with a return of that kind of presence with David Backes’ return to the B’s lineup. Together for just two games this season, the Krejci-Backes connection still looked to be in its beginning stages of growing as a unit, but the duo did seem to have some chemistry, at least when it came to their rushes into the attacking zone. Consistency will be the biggest key for the Krejci line, and especially for No. 46 to get going, as the Czech pivot has centered five completely different combos of wingers just 11 games in.

Jimmy Hayes scratched from game versus younger brother

Even a game-winning goal in the 10th round of a shootout in the B’s last game, a 4-3 final over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, could not save Jimmy Hayes from a seat in the press box as the team’s healthy scratch up front. Against his younger brother’s team. With friends and family — likely more than usual, too, because of his brother’s attendance as well — in the stands. Oof.

Message sent. Right to the heart of Dorchester.

B’s coach Claude Julien certainly has a point, though, as Hayes is still without .. well, a point. It’s now been 26 consecutive games in which No. 11 has failed to hit the scoresheet — and no, shootout goals do not count — and the Black and Gold are really out of answers.

And it’s only fair that if Matt Beleskey became a healthy scratch after nine games without a point, that Hayes becomes one after 10 games without a point.

The Bruins are back in action on Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres.

10-for-10: A statistical look at the Bruins’ first 10 games of year 11.05.16 at 2:57 pm ET
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The Bruins are 6-4-0 through their first 10 games of the season. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are 6-4-0 through their first 10 games of the season. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Ten games into the year, and on a three-game winning streak, the Boston Bruins sit at a respectable 6-4-0.

It hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s still far, far from the worst case scenario for a Black and Gold group that’s yet to have their full lineup — be it because of injury, suspension, or both — in any one of their 10 games this season.

Ahead of a Saturday night showdown at TD Garden between the B’s and visiting New York Rangers, here are 10 stats through the first eighth of the season.

10. Four

The number of goaltenders used by the Bruins this year. Just 10 games into the year, it’s the most since a 2011-12 season that saw Tuukka Rask, Tim Thomas, Marty Turco, and Anton Khudobin take turns in the Boston crease. Two of the four — Rask and Khudobin — are part of this year’s four, joined by Providence Bruins platoon Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban.

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David Backes expected back in Bruins lineup vs. Rangers 11.05.16 at 12:46 pm ET
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David Backes will miss make his return to the B's lineup tonight. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

David Backes will miss make his return to the B’s lineup tonight. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Back in Boston, winners of three straight games (all against Atlantic Division playoff teams from a year ago) — and after surviving about four different injury scares to date — everything’s finally coming up Milhouse for the Bruins. The club’s good fortune rolled on into their Saturday morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena, too, with a full participation from top six forward David Backes.

Absent from the last five games after a minor elbow procedure (called “liquid elbow” because olecranon bursa doesn’t really roll off the tongue all that well), the Bruins expect to have the 32-year-old in the lineup for tonight’s game against the New York Rangers and on the right side of the club’s second line with David Krejci at center and Ryan Spooner at left wing. 

“He should be good,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of Backes’ availability tonight.

With two goals and four points in five games for the Bruins this season, Julien expects more of the same with No. 42’s return to the lineup, even after a bit of a layoff.

“He’s a big body, he’s an experienced guy, he’s strong on the puck,” Julien said. “I think he brings a lot [to the lineup] and brings a good presence to our hockey club.”

A stranger to missing time — Backes has missed just 25 games in total since 2007 — the 6-foot-3 forward has had to play a frustrating waiting game with the healing process.

“It’s feeling well,” Backes said of his elbow. “I think physically it felt well maybe a couple of days ago, a week ago, but you gotta let everything calm down and let the smart guys that went to all the schooling advise on when it’s medically advisable to get back in the game.”

Described as a lingering injury, Backes felt the elbow get worse in his last game played, a 4-2 loss to the Canadiens on Oct. 22, and the decision to undergo surgery — Backes’ first in his 11-year professional career — was made by the team’s medical staff following a difficult Monday practice in which the injury got “angrier and angrier” according to Backes.

“You don’t want systemic infection and things like that to spread and all of sudden something that you could have squashed in 10 days, be back and not think about it again becomes a couple-month ordeal or season-ending [injury],” Backes admitted of the decision to take care of the ailment. “Who knows what happens if it gets in your bones or all those other things?”

The injury will not require Backes to wear any special gear with the exception of a “small piece of foam” as he described, but will continued to be monitored by the Black and Gold’s medical staff.

Canadiens give up 10 goals to Columbus Blue Jackets in epic loss 11.05.16 at 2:55 am ET
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The Montreal Canadiens lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets by ten goals on Friday night. (Russell LaBounty/USA TODAY Sports)

The Montreal Canadiens lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets by ten goals on Friday night. (Russell LaBounty/USA TODAY Sports)

The Boston Bruins have had some ugly losses in 2016. But there’s one thing the Bruins can hang their hat on through 10 games: they still have not allowed 10 goals in a single game like their bitter rivals, the Atlantic-leading Montreal Canadiens did to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.

The Blue Jackets came at Habs netminder Al Montoya with three goals in the first, five in the second, and another two for insurance (’cause eight through 40 minutes wasn’t enough), as Montoya took one for the team — or just starter Carey Price, which I suppose really is the team when you talk about the Canadiens — with a 30-of-40, full night in the Montreal crease. In doing so, Montoya became the first Habs goaltender to allow 10 goals in a single game in 24 years.

Columbus had points from 16 different skaters in the blowout win.

The loss was the fourth time in franchise history that the Habs have lost by a 10-0 final, their worst shutout against deficit, and their first such defeat in 74 years, which came against the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 4, 1942. It’s the first 10-0 final in the NHL since 1996.

Of course, all of this happened on Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien’s 53rd birthday, too.

Such a loss has yet to happen in B’s history. The closest the Bruins have come to matching a 10-goal defeat has been eight different nine-goal losses, the last of which coming in a 9-0 loss to the Atlanta Flames on Mar. 9, 1976. The Bruins have been the Jackets before, though, with four 10-goal wins to their name, but none since Dec. 20, 1979’s 10-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Don’t laugh too hard though, as the Canadiens, at 9-1-1, still lead the Atlantic by five points.

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