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Tuukka Rask returns to B’s practice on Friday 10.28.16 at 11:06 am ET
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Tuukka Rask returned to practice on Friday.

Tuukka Rask returned to practice on Friday.

BRIGHTON – The Boston Bruins saw the return of a sorely missed face to Friday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. Goaltender Tuukka Rask, off the ice since last Thursday’s win over the New Jersey Devils, rejoined his club and split crease duties with Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban.

Dealing with what’s been termed “general soreness” since an opening night win that saw Rask’s leg appear to buckle early in the game, the Black and Gold have tried to manage without No. 40 to no avail thus far.

The Bruins are winless with 18 goals against in four games without Rask, and have given up 10 goals in their last two games — both ugly losses — with the tandem of McIntyre and Subban in net.

The 29-year-old Rask has appeared in three games for the Bruins this season, with a 3-0-0 record and .947 save percentage.

B’s coach Claude Julien said on Wednesday that the Bruins were hopeful that Rask could play in Saturday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.

David Pastrnak to have hearing for hit on Dan Girardi 10.27.16 at 11:13 am ET
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David Pastrnak.

David Pastrnak.

Things could be about to get even worse for a battered Boston Bruins club.

With their straight losses to their name, a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden being the most recent one, Bruins winger David Pastrnak has found himself in some hot water for an illegal check to the head of Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, one that has earned him a disciplinary hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Friday.

The hit occurred in the neutral zone 10:55 into the second period, as Girardi looked upwards and reached up to catch and play an airborne puck when the 20-year-old Pastrnak came in with speed and drove his left shoulder up high into Girardi’s chin. Pastrnak was assessed a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head on the play, and though Girardi did leave the game briefly as part of the league’s concussion protocol, he would return.

“I’m not going to comment on any of that stuff,” Bruins coach Claude Julien, who was irate with the referees after the call, said when asked if he disagreed with the Pastrnak penalty last night. “But I think if you watched the game and watched the replay you’ll be able to figure it out.”

This will be Pastrnak’s first meeting with the NHL DoPS.

Pastrnak leads the Bruins with five goals and his eight points are the second-most on the team.

 

Injuries or no, Bruins need to start fixing this thing fast 10.27.16 at 6:33 am ET
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Claude Julien isn't to blame for this slow start. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

Claude Julien isn’t to blame for this slow start. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

It was apparent going into the 2016-17 season that the Bruins would not have much margin for error. Perched between the well-rounded contenders atop the NHL standings and the recent lottery winners fattening up on young studs (AKA Flyersland), the Bruins know they need to play solid, consistent hockey just to make the postseason.

Add in the fact that more than 20 percent of the opening night roster was making its NHL debut, and their position felt even more precarious.

But less than two weeks into the new campaign, the Bs have already been bitten by the injury bug with a JAWS-sized chomp.

In addition to injured defensemen Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid, the team started the year without its heart-and-soul as Patrice Bergeron missed the first three games with what was believed to be a nagging ankle issue. All-world goalie Tuukka Rask, seeking a bit of a bounce-back year, gave way to back-up Anton Khudobin just two games into the season with some sort of lower limb ailment before being placed on injured reserve (though he is said to be day-to-day). Burly free agent acquisition David Backes missed the last two games and will miss the next few due to a surgical procedure on his elbow. And Khudobin was lost earlier in week when he injured his hand in practice and will miss three weeks.

It’s gotten to the point where I’m half expecting to hear Radar O’Reilly working the public address system at the next home game.

The situation has required the B’s to carry their two AHL goalies from Providence and hope one emerges as a reasonable band-aid until Rask is ready to return. But in two tries, that hasn’t happened yet. Malcolm Subban, in just his second NHL start since being drafted five years ago, looked anything but ready against the Wild Tuesday (though the loss was a team effort). When former GM Peter Chiarelli picked Subban in the first round, it felt like a weird reach from a guy thinking his team would be a perennial contender. But right now, it just feels like another Chiarelli draft debacle. I wish the kid the best but he needs to get his game in order.

Zane McIntyre, who has been significantly outplaying Subban down Providence so far this year, looked more like the NHL-ready goalie Tuesday. But after a solid first period down Manhattan Wednesday night, he looked very much like a guy making his first NHL start for what is a very mediocre team right now. Quintessential rookie mistakes that can be corrected over time but they do the Bruins no favors today.

Rask is no doubt feeling pressure to return after his team got shellacked by a combined 10-2 score in their last two games. But rushing him back if he’s still hurt doesn’t help anybody.

Injuries are part of every NHL season but teams typically don’t have this kind of carnage before Halloween. So in addition to the built-in adversity they carried with them, the B’s skaters also need to rally around their green netminders to compensate, with renewed effort, for their missing top-flight goalie. They have not done that very well this week so the goalies are hardly the only ones to blame here. Injuries you can swallow, but not piss-poor efforts. And they’re getting way too many of those right now. (Any time the second and third lines want to chip in would be nice.)

If there’s one thing Claude Julien-coached Bruins teams have dealt with, to varying degrees of success, it’s in-season difficulties. Claude won’t panic because Claude seldom panics. He’s going to wring what he can from the current subpar roster and is the last guy to blame right now (though maybe he should give Matt Beleskey a whirl on the top line to maybe get him going). But the bleeding needs to stop and stop soon or the Bruins will once again be swimming upstream in search of a playoff spot before we have our second plate of Thanksgiving turkey.

5 Things We Learned as Bruins have another second period collapse in loss to Rangers 10.26.16 at 10:45 pm ET
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Bruins winger David Pastrnak scored 10 seconds into the team's win , but the Bruins stlll lost, 5-2 to the Rangers.  (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

Bruins winger David Pastrnak scored 10 seconds into the team’s win , but the Bruins still lost, 5-2 to the Rangers. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

On their fourth goaltender in as many games, the Boston Bruins needed a quick start against Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. They got one, too, as David Pastrnak scored just 10 seconds into the game. The Bruins even carried a 2-0 lead into the first intermission behind Austin Czarnik’s first NHL goal, scored 14:44 into the first.

The strong start marked the first time that the Black and Gold scored first in any of their seven games this season, and put them in a position of strength through a solid first period against a strong Rangers club.

But like it has throughout this losing streak, a trainwreck of a second period proved to be the B’s downfall, as their misery was extended to three straight losses in a 5-2 final against the Rangers.

In a second period in which the Rangers outshot the B’s 14-to-10, the Blueshirts took over this game with a dominant, 10-minute stretch that featured three goals against rookie netminder Zane McIntyre. Veteran Rick Nash opened New York’s scoring after a Torey Krug turnover left No. 61 all alone in front of the B’s net for not one but two chances on the 24-year-old McIntyre. Kevin Hayes then banked a puck off McIntyre and in at the 16:35 mark of the period, while Brandon Pirri finally put the Rangers on top with a goal scored with just 36 seconds left in the period.

The Bruins have been outscored 9-0 in the middle period of their last three games.

With the air taken out of the Bruins long before the second intermission even came, the Rangers found putaway goals just three minutes into the third period, the first on Pirri’s second of the night, while Jimmy Vesey beat every Bruin to the front of the net for an easy goal at 3:06.

McIntyre, in his first NHL start, gave the Bruins a chance to win this game for more than half of this game and that’s really all you could ask of the team’s fourth goaltender.

But the Bruins were still the team they were the night before and could not play well without the puck, and even when they did have the puck, it didn’t take long for the Rangers to take it away.

The loss dropped the Bruins to 3-4-0 on the year.

Here are four other things we learned in yet another ugly loss.

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Zane McIntyre gets call for first career start against Rangers 10.26.16 at 4:22 pm ET
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Bruins goaltender Zane McIntyre will make his first career NHL start tonight.

Bruins goaltender Zane McIntyre will make his first career NHL start tonight.

Against Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers, the Boston Bruins will counter the five-time Vezina Trophy nominee (Lundqvist took home the award in 2012) with Zane McIntyre, the No. 4 goaltender on the club’s depth chart at the start of the season, for his first career NHL start in tonight’s rivalry showdown at Madison Square Garden.

The start for McIntyre comes with the Bruins riding a two-game losing streak after last night’s 5-0 beatdown from the Minnesota Wild, with the team having scored just four goals in their last three games, and with top six forward David Backes (elbow procedure performed on Monday) out for at least the next two games. One hell of a first start.

But the 24-year-old knows that roles as a goalie can come without warning.

Like it did last night when McIntyre was summoned into the crease in relief of Malcolm Subban in the second period of the club’s aforementioned loss to the Wild.

“As a goaltender, you learn to be prepared at any point,” McIntyre, who has come off the bench in relief of Subban three times this year between the Providence Bruins and Big B’s, said last night. “I think the biggest thing was just going through my normal pregame routine, doing the things that I’ve done for countless years and trying to have the mental capacity with mental cues, things like that of that nature, to stay focused and just do my job when called upon.”

McIntyre finished his NHL debut with 15 stops on 17 shots against, and though it was far from the end result McIntyre or the Bruins wanted, the nerves of that first game are gone.

“I got a little taste of it and I think it’s good to get that experience,” McIntyre, who appeared in one preseason game last month and stopped all eight shots against but took the shootout loss in the process, said of his dip into the waters of an NHL crease. “It’s good to see that and to settle in. I think now from my standpoint, I’ve seen it, and it’s not too crazy. It’s nothing overwhelming. It’s something I think I can handle and just got to go out there and play my game – stick to what I know, and just play my game and try and do my job.”

A sixth-round (165th overall) draft choice of the club in 2010, McIntyre turned pro after a three-year standout career with the University of North Dakota, and has won 15 of 34 games with the P-Bruins, with a .903 save percentage over that stretch. McIntyre was recalled to Boston with an AHL-best .977 save percentage in three games for the P-Bruins this season.

The Bruins won one of their three head-to-heads with the Rangers last year.

Bruins recall Austin Czarnik, issue update on David Backes 10.26.16 at 11:45 am ET
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Austin Czarnik has been recalled by the Boston Bruins.

Austin Czarnik has been recalled by the Boston Bruins.

In need of an offensive spark and battered with injuries and just hours away tonight’s pivotal road game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the Boston Bruins have recalled center Austin Czarnik from the Providence Bruins.

A standout in training camp at center on the B’s third line, Czarnik recorded two goals and an assist before a cheapshot from Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas in the preseason finale left him with a concussion. The 23-year-old was cleared by the start of the though and skated in the first two games of the regular season without a point before he was returned to the P-Bruins, where he’s tallied one goal and three points in just games for the club’s AHL affiliate.

Czarnik will be available for tonight’s game against the Rangers.

General manager Don Sweeney also provided an update on the status of forward David Backes, who missed last night’s 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden with an undisclosed injury.

“David Backes underwent the removal of the olecranon bursa from his elbow on Monday, October 24,” Sweeney said on Wednesday. “His condition will be updated after the weekend.”

Often referred to as ‘liquid elbow’ and known to cause uncomfortable inflammation, the 32-year-old Backes will miss at least two games with the Bruins.

Backes has recorded two goals and four points in five games for the Bruins.

Claude Julien doesn’t blame goaltending combo for ugly loss to Wild 10.26.16 at 1:35 am ET
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The Bruins struggled to keep pace in their 5-0 loss to the Wild on Tuesday night. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins struggled to keep pace in their 5-0 loss to the Wild on Tuesday night. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

BOSTON – Bruins head coach Claude Julien did not want to assess the play of his goaltenders following a 5-0 trouncing at the hands of the visiting Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. In fact, he would not.

The near decade-long coach of the Bruins understands the unfortunate hand the team has been dealt.

“I’m just going to deal with the issue internally,” Julien said of their shaky goaltending situation. “We know that we’ve got two young goalies from the American League, so we’ve got to deal with that.”

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