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Bruins GM Don Sweeney: Bruins ‘more likely than not’ won’t make deadline deal 02.24.17 at 4:09 pm ET
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The Bruins are not expected to make a big trade before the Mar. 1 deadline. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are not expected to make a big trade before the Mar. 1 deadline. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Things have changed drastically and somehow stayed the same all at once for the Bruins under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.

The Bruins have wins in five of their last six games, and although they are also just four points out of first place in the Atlantic Division, they are currently still on the outside looking in of the playoff picture.

But there is a noticeable jump to the B’s game under Cassidy, who has focused his energy on creating a more balanced four-line attack than the Bruins had under Claude Julien at any point this season. And their defense — and I include the stingiest defense-first defenders like Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller, who have frequently jumped into rushes in the attacking zone in this group — has activated on a consistent basis and their production is at a season high. It’s a small sample, sure, but there’s no doubt this is the spark the club hoped for when they first made this switch less than three weeks ago.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney wanted to see the pace in their game. He’s seen that. He wanted to see energy. They have it, although some actual rest for the first time all year has probably helped that area of their game quite a bit. And most importantly, Sweeney wanted to see something that would help guide him the right way before the league’s Mar. 1 trade deadline.

And on Friday, the second-year GM gave the media an insight as to his deadline day plans.

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Report: Blues d-man Kevin Shattenkirk refused trade to Eastern Conference team 02.24.17 at 5:32 am ET
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Kevin Shattenkirk denied a sign-and-trade to an Eastern Conference team, according to a report. (Billy Hurst/USA Today Sports)

Kevin Shattenkirk denied a sign-and-trade to an Eastern Conference team, according to a report. (Billy Hurst/USA Today Sports)

Burned by countless free agents that walked for nothing during their Stanley Cup window, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong wants to trade defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk before the Mar. 1 trade deadline.

But Shattenkirk isn’t exactly making his GM’s job any easier.

According to a report from the St. Louis Dispatch, the 28-year-old pending unrestricted free agent recently nixed a sign-and-trade that would have sent him to an Eastern Conference team. The extension that Shattenkirk would have signed as part of the deal was believed to have been for around $42 million over seven years ($6 million per season), and that the deal would have been with the Lightning.

The mutual interest between the Bolts and Blues in a Shattenkirk deal is well documented at this point, as it was more than common to see the Blues’ director of player personnel (former Bruin Rob DiMaio) at Lightning games last year and this year, with the Blues having interest in the (since untradeable) Jonathan Drouin, then Tyler Johnson, and now maybe even hometown kid Ben Bishop.

It is allegedly the second time that Shattenkirk has refused a sign-and-trade in the last year alone, according to the Dispatch.

And this latest report by all means confirms the belief that Shattenkirk is intent on skating as a ‘rental’ for any team that acquires him and that he is zeroed in on hitting the free agent market this summer as a marquee talent.

Even so, Armstrong’s desired return in a Shattenkirk deal remains astronomically high.

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Anton Khudobin comes up with big effort for victory over Kings 02.24.17 at 1:50 am ET
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Anton Khudobin has won consecutive games for the first time all season. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Anton Khudobin has won consecutive games for the first time all season and for the first time since Jan. 2015. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

For the first time in over two calendar years, and thanks to a 4-1 final in Los Angeles tonight, Bruins netminder Anton Khudobin has won consecutive games. And for everything thrown his way in the first 40 minutes of tonight’s game, there’s little doubt that he earned it.

In net for a pivotal start that would have allowed the Bruins to leave their daunting California swing with either two, three, or four of a possible six points, the 30-year-old Khudobin was not exactly put in the greatest of situations when it came to this start.

Not only was Khudobin tasked with the aforementioned fate of the road trip’s success being in his glove and blocker, but this game was to be played in a building that’s been short on luck for the Black and Gold, with losses in three straight games at Staples Center. The Bruins were also on the second leg of a back-to-back — they entered with the second-worst record in the NHL in those situations — and the club was in need of a statement game to prove that Bruce Cassidy’s first loss behind the bench was a mere blip on the radar and not a sign of a comedown the team can’t afford.

None of those things mattered, though, as Khudobin was every bit the goaltender the Bruins needed in this game.

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Anton Khudobin gets call in net as Bruins finish Cali trip vs. Kings 02.23.17 at 8:51 pm ET
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Anton Khudobin will get the start vs. the Kings. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Anton Khudobin will get the start vs. the Kings. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins could have and should have won last night’s game. But, as the Ducks’ Rickard Rakell had his say with just 2:34 left in the third period of a 3-3 game, the Bruins have been left to travel to the Staples Center for tonight’s head-to-head against the Kings with the chance for four out of a six points on this California swing versus the sweep.

It’s far from the worst situation for the B’s to be in, though, as their recent history on this trip indicated that the Bruins would not only lose all three of these games, but that they wouldn’t be close either.

So the best the Bruins can do one night to the next is apply the takeaways from the Anaheim game — Cassidy called it an ‘autopsy’, which does seem oddly fitting as the Bruins basically died on the table — and turn them into lessons learned against the Kings.

“At the end of the day, we had some coverage issues late and some not being hard enough on the puck,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, who suffered his first loss behind the B’s bench with last night’s 5-3 final in Anaheim, said following Thursday’s optional skate. “I think that’s the two biggest areas we need to improve on around the front of our net, it cost us late night, and that’s stuff we’ll continue to address and hopefully correct going forward.”

And they’ll attempt to correct them with some slight tweaks to their roster.

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Does Ron Hainsey trade set prices on potential d-man rental for Bruins? 02.23.17 at 5:11 pm ET
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The Bruins are believed to be looking for a potential top-four defenseman. (James Guillory/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are believed to be looking for a potential top-four defenseman. (James Guillory/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are not keen on moving more assets for a short-term fix.

Not after moving two draft picks for Lee Stempniak, and another two draft picks and a prospect for John-Michael Liles last season. But it does remain an option for second-year Bruins general manager Don Sweeney just six days away from the NHL trade deadline.

And the first significant trade of trade season — a Thursday move that saw the Hurricanes send Ron Hainsey to the Penguins for a second-round draft pick and minor-leaguer Danny Kristo — has given the Bruins and the rest of the league an idea of the market’s prices.

Granted, the utter devastation to the health of the Pittsburgh defense corps upped general manager Jim Rutherford’s need to acquire a defenseman, but it’s still a sign of what it will cost your team to make an upgrade to your roster between now and Mar. 1.

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Forward Austin Czarnik, defenseman Joe Morrow assigned to Providence Bruins 02.23.17 at 4:32 pm ET
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Joe Morrow is one of two players assigned to the P-Bruins. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

Joe Morrow is one of two players assigned to the P-Bruins. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

The second week of vacation is over for two B’s, and it’s Los Angeles to Providence for forward Austin Czarnik and defenseman Joe Morrow, who were reassigned to the Providence Bruins today.

The assignment for Czarnik is to get the 5-foot-9 forward back into game-shape after having missed the last five games with a lower-body injury. Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy noted that Czarnik, who was practicing with the club, was getting closer to a return. And with the P-Bruins having a weekend slate of games on deck Friday through Sunday, it can get Czarnik back into the mix without the pressure of meaningful NHL games through the stretch run.

The 24-year-old Czarnik has scored five goals and 13 points in 47 games for the Big B’s this season, and one goal and two helpers in three AHL games this season. And though the Michigan native had roles for the B’s this year on both the power play and fill-in winger, you have to wonder if the development of Peter Cehlarik and seemingly solidified revolving door of more natural-fitting bottom-six forwards have taken him out of an NHL job for the time being.

On a one-way contract, the assignment for Morrow has been labeled a conditioning one.

Morrow has not played in a game since Jan. 22, and has played just eight times since Dec. 1.

It’s unlikely that you will see Morrow draw back into NHL action any time soon, either, as he’s behind Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, and even John-Michael Liles on the club’s left-side defensive depth chart.

Morrow has one assist and a minus-4 rating in 17 games for the Bruins this season.

Loss to Ducks shows that Bruins are once again struggling to lose the right way 02.23.17 at 4:33 am ET
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The Bruins lost another game late on Wednesday. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins lost another game late on Wednesday. It was their ninth loss in such a fashion this season. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins really can’t afford to lose many more games.

But if they are going to lose, which is inevitable despite what the first four games of the Bruce Cassidy era told us, they’re going to have to figure out how to lose the right way. And just what is considered the right way? Taking advantage of the league’s ridiculous ‘loser points’ handed out like candy this time of year, which is something they haven’t done this year. Or any year of recent recollection.

Just take a look at Wednesday’s disaster at the Honda Center.

After the Bruins fought so hard to tie things back up, and did with Frank Vatrano’s goal scored just over the halfway mark of the third period, the Bruins were hemmed in their own zone and allowed the Ducks’ Rickard Rakell to score what would be the game-winning goal with just 2:34 left in the third period.

If there’s any consolation for the Black and Gold, it was the gutpunch that the B’s have been tagged with repeatedly in what’s become a rope-a-dope season. Flip-side: There’s no consolation to be had given what was at stake for the club in that game.

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