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Report: Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk willing to consider Bruins 01.24.17 at 5:35 pm ET
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The Blues may be shopping Kevin Shattenkirk. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

The Blues may be shopping Kevin Shattenkirk. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Somehow lost in the hoopla of the Bruins potentially firing head coach Claude Julien last week was a rumor that connected the team to one of the stars of the trade market, Blues defender Kevin Shattenkirk.

(It was actually featured in the same TSN segment that talked about Julien’s future and indicated ‘credible threats’ and the potential ‘sense of impending doom’ for the B’s coach of a decade.)

A likely goner this summer like former teammate and current Bruins forward David Backes, the Blues may look to maximize the return (the return being anything versus letting him walk for nothing as a free agent), with Shattenkirk with the possibility of a trade-and-extend involving the talented puck-mover before the deadline emerging.

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Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (migraines) returns to ice 01.24.17 at 2:16 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask was back on the ice Tuesday. (Gregory Fisher/USA Today Sports)

Tuukka Rask was back on the ice Tuesday. (Gregory Fisher/USA Today Sports)

Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask had a better head on his shoulders at Warrior Ice Arena this morning. Or a clearer head, at the very least.

Two days after the franchise netminder lifted himself out of the game with a migraine in what finished as a 5-1 loss to the Penguins (Rask exited in the second period after stops on 20-of-22 shots), and one day after missing practice because of the same, the 29-year-old was back on the ice for the club’s (somewhat optional) morning skate, and labeled himself as ready to go for tonight’s game against the Red Wings.

Comments backed up by B’s coach Claude Julien.

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Colin Miller, Kevan Miller both expected back for Bruins vs. Red Wings 01.24.17 at 1:10 pm ET
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Colin Miller is expected back in the lineup tonight. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Bruins defensemen Colin Miller and Kevan Miller are both expected back in the lineup tonight. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Reinforcements are on the way for the Bruins.

The Miller defensemen, Colin, who has missed the last six games with a lower-body injury, and Kevan, out since Jan. 14 because of a concussion and then a virus, are expected to return to action tonight when the Bruins host the still-somehow-not-dead-yet Red Wings.

And their returns can’t come soon enough for Claude Julien’s club, losers in four games in a row and eight of their last 11 games.

The B’s have a 19-12-3 record with No. 6 in action this season, versus a 4-9-3 record when he is watching as a scratch or injured talent. And though Miller has yet to emerge as a point-producing dynamo just yet (Miller has three goals and six points in 34 games this season), his stabilizing and crafty presence on the team’s third pairing has meant a lot to a Bruins team that’s been short on puck-movers this season.

“We’ve seen some good sides to his development,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Miller. “I think when you look at the way he can skate, the way he can carry the puck out of your own end, the way he moves it, he’s got a lot of great attributes.”

The 24-year-old Miller is still a work in progress for the B’s, too.

“There’s other parts of his game we gotta continue to work with,” Julien admitted. “Every once in awhile he gets real busy, so we’re trying to get him to calm down in certain areas and do the right thing. But he’s been good for us and that’s why he’s back in.”

Kevan’s return to the lineup comes after a 48-hour virus that put a hold on what would have likely been a return last weekend against the Blackhawks and Penguins. Miller has 51 hits and 36 blocked shots in 26 games played this year.

Their returns are also expected to send both John-Michael Liles and Joe Morrow to the press box as healthy scratches.

This is the third of four meetings between the B’s and Wings this season.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara wants to keep locker room message internal 01.24.17 at 4:18 am ET
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The Bruins had a video-intensive day. But don't expect Zdeno Chara to let you know much about it. (Charles Leclaire/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins had a video-intensive day. But don’t expect Zdeno Chara to let you know much about it. (Charles Leclaire/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins were scheduled for a 10:30 a.m. practice at Warrior Ice Arena Monday. They did not hit the ice until almost an hour had gone by. It was an intense video session in which Bruins coach Claude Julien showed his struggling team why they were… well, struggling.

“Sometimes you have to go back to the drawing board,” Julien said, “you’ve seen enough of different things and we decided that maybe a little eye-opening moment could be what we need.”

There’s enough video of this slump, which reached four straight games behind Sunday’s 5-1 blowout loss to the Penguins, to make anybody on the Bruins want to look away. But the Clockwork Orange approach has become a necessity for the Black and Gold to grow and work their way out of the hole that will surely show up on their doorstep by the time the rest of the Atlantic Division catches up to them in games played.

“We’ve had other video sessions, but you can see it hasn’t done us a ton of good right now,” Julien said. “This was a team one.

“Desperate times require desperate measures.”

Julien has spun it a number of ways to this point, but it was on Sunday that he admitted that this team just is not talented enough to have roster-wide nights off. And that’s brought his focus back to the little things that the B’s need to not snowball against them.

“Showing details that we were doing good early on in the season when we were having success and little things we got away from,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said of the video focus. “It’s a game of little details and we need to make sure we do them right.”

As for the tone of Julien, who has seemingly tried every approach possible with this game, Chara remained mum.

“I can’t tell you,” Chara said. “It’s an internal thing. What’s going on internally you know I can’t tell you.”

At the same time, the 39-year-old didn’t shy away from the reality of where the Bruins are right now.

“It’s a grind and it’s gonna be a grind,” continued Chara, “but we have confidence that we can do this together.

“We need to play with desperation. We know where we’re at.”

Something that doesn’t take an inside-the-room set of ears and eyes to notice.

Tuukka Rask absent from Bruins practice Monday 01.23.17 at 1:50 pm ET
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Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask was absent from Monday's practice. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask was absent from Monday’s practice. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins, with losses in four straight games and all but three of their last 12 games, are dangerously close to falling off a cliff. Another Tuukka Rask absence would slam their skates on the gas pedal.

Lifted from the second period of Sunday’s loss to the Penguins with a migraine, Rask was not on the ice for Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and his status for tomorrow’s head-to-head with the Red Wings is completely unknown to B’s head coach Claude Julien.

“He’s seeing the doctors as we speak, obviously dealing with the migraine issues,” Julien said after practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “That’s basically all it is and hopefully we get some good news here.”

This is not the first that Rask has battled migraine issues (the last issue came a few seasons back), and the biggest problem that’s come with them has been his ability to see, as clearly referenced to Julien yesterday when he made his way back to the B’s bench.

If Rask is unable to go, Zane McIntyre would suit up as the team’s de facto No. 1 netminder. In a tough spot to come into a game cold against a white-hot offense, McIntyre allowed three goals on 13 shots against. The 24-year-old, in just his second pro season and his first real taste of the NHL, has an 0-3-1 record and .860 save percentage on the year.

And if Rask is unable to go, the Bruins would still need to bring a backup netminder into the picture behind McIntyre.

In Providence, Khudobin has four wins and a .910 save percentage since in six games since clearing waivers and being assigned to the P-Bruins, but was pulled from yesterday’s game against the Wolf Pack after he allowed three goals on 13 shots. The other option for a call up, Malcolm Subban, has five wins and a .909 save percentage in 19 AHL games this season.

Overall, the Bruins are 1-9-2 in games decided by a goaltender other than Rask.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask leaves game because of migraine 01.22.17 at 7:23 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask left Sunday's game with a migraine. (Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports)

Tuukka Rask left Sunday’s game with a migraine. (Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports)

As has been the case the entire season, things didn’t truly go to hell for the Bruins in their latest defeat, a 5-1 loss to the Penguins, until goaltender Tuukka Rask was no longer in the B’s crease.

With stops on all but two of 22 shots thrown his way by the Penguins through 31 minutes of action, the 29-year-old Rask went to the bench to talk to Bruins trainer Donny Del Negro. Rask ended up back at the bench a few moments later, declined a water and/or Gatorade, told Bruins head coach Claude Julien something while also pointing to his eyes, and then made his way off the ice in favor of Zane McIntyre.

In relief of Rask for the second time in just over a week, McIntyre allowed three goals on 14 shots against, but the focus remained on the mystery surrounding the franchise netminder’s impromptu exit.

But after the game, Julien confirmed that Rask’s departure was illness related, and that he was suffering from migraines.

Rask has missed three games this season due to a lower-body injury, and has missed two games to illness since 2014.

The Bruins are 1-9-2 in games decided by any other goaltender this season.

Bad ice, bad luck, bad breaks: Bruins blown out by Penguins 01.22.17 at 6:04 pm ET
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The Bruins allowed five goals in a loss to the Penguins. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins allowed five goals, including three in 2:57 in the third period, in a loss to the Penguins. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

With just over six minutes left in the first period, both the Bruins and Penguins were sent to their respective dressing rooms because the PPG Paints Arena had some bad ice. Some jokes just write themselves.

After you chuckled, you realized that this was just another ‘bad’ to add to the list for a struggling Bruins team that came into action with losses in four of their last five games. During their stretch of frustration, the Bruins have fired bad shots. They’ve had some bad goaltending and some bad luck. And, of course, another bad loss, as the Bruins had their heads kicked in by the Penguins by the tune of 5-1 Sunday.

But this wasn’t the decimation that you’d expect from a Penguins attack that entered play with the league’s most goals scored.

The Bruins actually gave themselves a fighting chance in this loss.

In an 0-2 hole 9:06 into the second period, the Bruins first responded with a David Krejci goal that brought them within one.

They also continued to pour shots on net against Penguins netminder Matt Murray and their best chance at an equalizer came when David Backes got behind both Pittsburgh defenders for a breakaway. In alone on Murray, Backes missed, and the puck went up and out of play. The play epitomized the B’s year-long struggles for timely tallies, and proved to loom large in the third period.

With a bullet dodged, the Penguins responded with three goals in 2:57 early in the third period, and made this a laugher.

And that is the difference between a team like the Penguins — a team riding high in the NHL and with the league’s best home record (today’s win improved the club to 20-2-2 on home ice this season) — and a team like the Bruins. When the Penguins got a lucky break, they took advantage of it almost immediately and made the Black and Gold pay. The Bruins, however, crumbled in spite of a 45-shot effort. It was the team’s seventh loss when putting at least 40 shots on net.

At the end of this day, this was another game in which the Bruins put forth an admirable effort. But it still wasn’t enough. It’s been repeated at again and again, but this comes back to talent and execution. This team is not talented enough to just show up and win like they were from 2010 to 2014, and it’s showing up in season-long struggles from their bottom six.

The system, believe it or not, is working. The players, who could honestly all get in one big room and be identified as the 20 most frustrated humans in the world by a complete stranger, are trying their best. But it’s just not enough. And it’s hard to imagine this road getting any easier for the club unless the front office steps in and tries to give this team another weapon to work with.

More bad luck emerged for the Bruins when Tuukka Rask, who had stopped 20-of-22 shots, left the game in the second period with an apparent illness, too, and made way for Zane McIntyre, who allowed three goals on 14 shots in relief.

Just add it to the list.

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