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Bruins put greater emphasis on shot quality in 6-3 win over Sharks 02.09.17 at 9:40 pm ET
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The Bruins scored five goals in Bruce Cassidy's first game as the head coach. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins scored six goals in Bruce Cassidy’s first game as the head coach. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Claude Julien did not lose his room, but at the end of the day, it was his at-times-too-comfortable room that lost him his job. And it took just 52 seconds to figure out whether or not the firing of Julien on Tuesday caught the eye and rattled some cages of the Bruins’ veterans.

With their lines jumbled in search of greater balance, it was an equally jumbled line and sequence, but with three of the players that the Bruins have heavily relied upon, that delivered the quick punch in a 6-3 win over Martin Jones and the Sharks at a snowed in TD Garden.

It featured everything that interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, back behind an NHL bench as the main boss for the first time since 2003, has called for from this more-than-capable group.

Torey Krug was pinched up in the attacking zone to keep the offensive play alive, David Krejci was out for an extended shift, and it was Krejci that found a streaking David Backes for a one-time goal that beat Jones. It was the instincts of Krug, the patience of Krejci, and the no-nonsense approach of the beleaguered Backes that the B’s have longed for.

Where has this been all year?

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Zdeno Chara (illness) to miss Bruce Cassidy’s first game as Bruins host Sharks 02.09.17 at 6:49 pm ET
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Zdeno Chara (illness) will miss tonight's game vs. San Jose. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara (illness) will miss tonight’s game vs. San Jose. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

There’s a blizzard outside, but it’s game on inside TD Garden.

And a pivotal one at that, too.

Two days after Bruins general manager Don Sweeney fired bench boss of 10 years Claude Julien, the Bruce Cassidy era, currently considered interim, will begin tonight when the Bruins play host to the Sharks. But Cassidy’s Bruins will have to make do without their captain, as Zdeno Chara will miss tonight’s game with an apparent illness.

Absent from practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday and with today’s morning skate canceled due to the weather, the 39-year-old Chara did not have a chance to get on the ice this morning and apparently does not feel strong enough to play in this game tonight. He will be replaced in the lineup by John-Michael Liles, but on a pairing by Kevan Miller, who will skate with Brandon Carlo’s as the club’s No. 1 pairing.

One of the things Cassidy will try right off the bat is a more balanced forward group, headlined by a bump up to the first line for David Backes. One of the players that the Black and Gold need to get going offensively if they’re to compete for a playoff spot, Backes, with just one assist in his last 12 games, will skate with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. That moves David Pastrnak down to a second line with David Krejci and Matt Beleskey, while Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes will skate on the wings of a third line with Ryan Spooner in the middle. The fourth line will feature Tim Schaller and Riley Nash as Dom Moore’s wingers.

With that group, Cassidy will look to get the team’s most creative players in position to score dirtier goals or simply work to their strengths more than they have been this season, particularly when it comes to their decisions in the attacking zone.

“What I’m doing to do is find the balance,” Cassidy said following Wednesday’s practice. “We’d like to get the puck closer to the net where teams are scrambling to recover to d-zone coverage so we can get some goals around the net where we outnumber them. And choose the appropriate option in those situations. If you can’t escape coverage low and early, then yeah, go to high or change sides or behind the net. But if you have some time, use it. And we’ll see how it plays out.”

In other words, don’t just rely on a dropback pass to the point for an easy-to-stop wrister.

But also allow all four of your lines to feel that they have some say in the shift-to-shift offensive chances produced by the club.

“I’ve always told players everybody in the room is capable of scoring goals, even though you might not be labeled a goal-scorer,” Cassidy said of his desire to get the B’s back to a four-line club capable of secondary scoring. “And that’s the kind of mentality that I have throughout the lineup.”

The Bruins have scored the 18th-most goals in the NHL this season (141), but rank 21st in goals for per game (2.56).

Tuukka Rask gets the call in net for the Bruins. The 29-year-old Rask was yanked after allowing four goals on 14 shots against the Maple Leafs last Saturday, but comes into action with 25 wins and a .911 save percentage in 44 games this season. Rask has three wins and a .904 save percentage in six career games against the Sharks.

The Sharks counter with Bruin-For-A-Weekend Martin Jones. A loser in his last start, a 5-4 overtime loss to the Sabres in which Jones allowed five goals on 36 shots, Jones comes to Boston with 27 wins and a .917 save percentage in 46 games played. Jones stopped 25-of-29 shots against in his only prior head-to-head against the B’s in his pro career.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes

Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Riley Nash

Kevan Miller – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

John-Michael Liles – Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask

Claude Julien releases first statement since being fired by Bruins 02.09.17 at 11:12 am ET
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Claude Julien released a statement Thursday morning. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Claude Julien released a statement Thursday morning. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Fired Bruins head coach Claude Julien has broken his silence.

Relieved of his duties early Tuesday morning after a decade in town, Julien released a statement acknowledging the highs of his incredible run with the Black and Gold.

“I would like first and foremost to thank the Bruins Organisation for allowing my family and I the privilege of spending 10 unforgettable years in Boston,” Julien said. “We were proud to call this great city home for so long and will dearly miss it.

“To the players, past and present, medical and equipment staff, doctors and communication staff, all of whom worked hard for the success of our club with a team-first mentality, I cannot thank you enough for your commitment through it all. From the game day security crew to the volunteers that I was fortunate enough to meet throughout the years, I thank you as well.”

Julien, who was the fourth NHL coach fired this season and the third from the Eastern Conference, was fired with a 419-246-94 record in almost 10 full seasons with the Bruins.

“I certainly cannot sign off without thanking the people here that made this time here so rewarding- the Boston Bruins fans. Your devotion, unmistakable passion, energy and support is what makes Boston the best sports city in the entire world!”

Julien’s biggest contribution in town undoubtedly came in 2011, when he helped guide the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in almost four decades, and brought the Bruins within two wins of another championship in 2013.

“In leaving this organisation, what I’m most happy about and most proud of is being part of the team that brought the Stanley Cup back to Boston for the first time in 39 years,” Julien said. “Sharing that journey and the Stanley Cup celebrations with our players, families, staff and our fans produced so many incredible memories that I will never forget. To all that were part of it and helped along the way, I want to express a heartfelt ‘thank you.'”

Julien was the longest tenured coach at the time of his firing and leaves as the franchise’s all-time winningest coach.

Admiral’s Mailbag: What will life look like now that Claude Julien is gone? 02.09.17 at 9:12 am ET
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The Claude Julien era is over. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

The Claude Julien era is over. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

Here is the post-Claude Julien era mailbag …

Now that the Bruins finally pulled the trigger and fired Claude Julien after seemingly endless speculation, what can we expect from new head coach Bruce Cassidy? Richie, Everett, MA

Yes, our long, local nightmare has ended thanks to the Bs finally turfing the winningest coach in their history. The constant ‘will they or won’t they?’ surrounding the team has been essentially lanced so the distraction of their coach should cease being a problem.

As for interim coach Cassidy, it’s been about a decade-and-a-half since he coached the Washington Capitals for a season-plus and the NHL has changed drastically in that time. He did win at least 40 games in five of his six years as head coach of the Providence Bruins and is pretty familiar with many of the younger Bruins.

I’d expect him to goose the offense with a more up-tempo style of play that will rely on the youth more than Claude did. Every player will get a clean slate so we’ll likely see a few guys in new roles as well. Whether he can be successful enough to get this roster to the post-season is the million dollar question.

The Bruins are certainly hoping for the significant bump in play that Doug Weight brought to Long Island. But if they don’t like what see, the Bruins aren’t committed to Cassidy beyond this season right now. Of course, if he does not return for the ’17-’18 season that would be indicative of another front office problem but that’s another issue for another day.

The Bruins took a pretty bad PR hit over the last few days. But are they really “cowards”? Paul, Roslindale, MA

A rough year for the Bruins got even bumpier due to the way they handled the dismissal of Claude. Fans and social media were pissed off that the team had the “audacity” to can the coach on the same day as the duckboat parade for the World Champion Patriots (the horror!).

But cowards? That’s a bit of a stretch. The B’s apparently decided to fire him after Saturday’s ugly loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But doing it on Sunday would’ve certainly stolen some of the Patriots’ Super Bowl thunder and they likely deferred out of professional courtesy. When the Pats completed their miraculous comeback, it became a ‘damned if you, damned if you don’t’ situation for their hockey compatriots.

Rather than announce the firing on Monday and dim some of the region’s glow in the wake of the huge Super Bowl win, the Bs opted to wait for yesterday and violate the sanctity of a celebratory parade. And, boy, did they get roasted for it. But the B’s had already deferred to the Pats for two days and decided to move on with their franchise so their new coach could get a couple of practices in before his first game.

Where the Bruins do deserve criticism is for their horrible choice to hold the press conference at the exact same time as the parade. This was just a bad look. By having the presser at 11:45 a.m. while millions clogged the Back Bay a couple miles away, the team ensured that local stations would not be able to do live shots and that outlets couldn’t send additional reporters. That was weak and reeked of the early ‘90s Bruins when Harry Sinden would try to bury stories in yesterday’s trash. Just make your decision, face the music, then move on.

Ryan Spooner could be Bruins player that benefits most from Bruce Cassidy hiring 02.08.17 at 6:53 pm ET
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Bruins forward Ryan Spooner has a long history with interim Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

Ryan Spooner has a history with interim B’s coach Bruce Cassidy. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

It took all of five minutes before Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy talked about his familiarity with Ryan Spooner during Tuesday’s impromptu introductory press conference at Warrior Ice Arena.

Cassidy, the replacement for head coach Claude Julien, who was relieved of his duties after 10 years on the job, talked about his ability to hopefully get a player like Spooner going. That would be a win for not only the Black and Gold, but the embattled Spooner as well.

He would never say it directly, and even though he still won’t, but Spooner,who has just eight goals and 27 points in 54 games this season, never seemed all that comfortable under Julien and vice versa. Consider this: Even after Spooner’s best NHL season, a 2015-16 campaign in which he scored 13 goals and totaled 49 points in 80 games while playing hurt for most of the second half, Spooner lost out on his spot as the club’s third-line center this season without much of a chance at keeping it.

It’s not like he lost out on the spot to big fish free agent pickup David Backes, who has played on the right side of the B’s second line this season, either. Julien put Austin Czarnik, Riley Nash, and Dominic Moore in that spot before he put Spooner back there.

“Last season as a centerman I had some ups and downs, but as a whole I think it was a pretty good season for me,” Spooner said.


It never made a ton of sense to me, and you always got the feeling that it made even less sense to Spooner, who was pigeonholed into a top-six winger role (something he never necessarily crushed) from the start of training camp, and then benched or demoted down to the fourth line when things didn’t work out. And when that happened, Spooner would often fall back to a familiar refrain where he called the situation out for being what it is, and that he could only hope to improve to the coach’s satisfaction.

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Bruins captain Zdeno Chara (illness) misses practice again 02.08.17 at 2:31 pm ET
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Zdeno Chara has missed the last two practices with a sickness. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara has missed the last two practices with a sickness. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara has picked one hell of a two-day stretch to miss.

Absent from Tuesday’s practice because he was under the weather, Chara was once again missing from Wednesday’s practice, and his status for tomorrow’s game against the Sharks remains up in the air.

“Still under the weather,” interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Chara. “I don’t want to say anything on [Chara missing Thursday’s game] because he’s a proud guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he walked through that door tomorrow ready to play, but I haven’t spoken to Z.”

Normally this would not be a big deal, but this means that Chara, the team’s captain since 2006, has been absent for both practices led by Cassidy since the team fired Claude Julien early Tuesday morning.

Cassidy, who did run the defensive group as an assistant coach this year on Julien’s staff, obviously has familiarity with Chara, so it would not be a huge issue for Chara to just jump right into action. And the systems, at least according to those skating them, are relatively similar, so this wouldn’t be as if Chara is jumping into the mix without having any sort of prior knowledge as to what the new coach expects out of his team.

If he’s out of action tomorrow night, the Bruins will rely on a true six-defender unit, which is something they have found some success with this season, as the Black and Gold are 3-2-1 with Chara out of action this season.

The 39-year-old Chara has four goals and 15 points in 49 games this year and leads the Bruins with 23:07 of time on ice per night.

Bruins recall Anton Khudobin, assign Zane McIntyre to minors 02.08.17 at 11:43 am ET
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Anton Khudobin is back with the Bruins. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Anton Khudobin is back with the Bruins. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

It didn’t take all that long for Anton Khudobin to lose the trust of head coach Claude Julien. It was the number one reason Khudobin was waived and subsequently banished to the AHL, although Khudobin’s one win and .885 save percentage in eight games didn’t help.

But now, with Butch Cassidy the new boss behind the B’s bench with Julien relieved of his duties, it appears as if Khudobin will get another chance at claiming the backup spot as his own for the stretch run.

Summoned from the P-Bruins early this morning, and with Zane McIntyre returned the club in a directly corresponding move, Khudobin was on the ice for today’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and is expected to be available (if needed) against the Sharks tomorrow.

The 30-year-old Khudobin has been just OK at the AHL level this season, but has found results, with seven wins in spite of an .896 save percentage in 11 games. Khudobin did start last night’s P-Bruins game against the Albany Devils, and stopped 19-of-20 shots in a 4-1 win.

The Bruins are going to battle for their playoff lives over the next 27 games left on the schedule, and with starter Tuukka Rask already having played 44 games (fourth-most in the NHL) and logged 2,495:19 minutes of time on ice (sixth-most in the NHL), the Bruins will need Khudobin to regain his form as a viable option in net over this next little stretch, or at least show that his struggles remain a factor and allow the team to look outside the organization for a patchwork fix of sorts.

The B’s begin another three games in four nights stretch Thursday against the Sharks, and finish it off with a weekend back-to-back against the Canucks and Canadiens. All three games will be played at TD Garden.

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