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Malcolm Subban becomes next man up for Bruins after Anton Khudobin leaves practice with injury 10.24.16 at 2:11 pm ET
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Anton Khudobin left Monday's practice with an undisclosed injury.  (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

Anton Khudobin left Monday’s practice with an undisclosed injury. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

BRIGHTON – Less than two weeks into the season, the Bruins may be down to their third goaltender.

The Bruins took to the ice for a Monday practice at Warrior Ice Arena already down starting netminder Tuukka Rask (“general soreness”). Out for the third straight skate, Rask’s absence put Anton Khudobin in the starter’s crease and forced the Bruins to summon Malcolm Subban up from the Providence Bruins. But when practice finished, it was Subban that was the only goalie left standing.

Injured as the rest of the team hit the ice, Khudobin dropped his blocker and went to the B’s bench for further examination by the training staff. In what appeared to be a hand/wrist issue, the 30-year-old looked to be in great discomfort before he exited back to the locker room and did not return.

“I have no update on him yet,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Khudobin after practice. “I have not heard, obviously. He got injured and couldn’t practice. I haven’t heard anything back yet.”

With the 22-year-old Subban at the other end by himself, and the loss of Khudobin, who has two losses and an .849 save percentage on the year, the Bruins are undoubtedly short on goaltenders.

“This is hockey. We deal with it on a day to day basis,” Julien said of the mounting goaltending injuries ahead of tomorrow’s game against the Wild. “If we have to make some adjustments and we have to have different personnel, we’ll deal with it when we have more of an update.”

The club is still without an update on Rask, too, according to their coach.

“He’s still day to day, so nothing’s changed there,” Julien confirmed of Rask. “I don’t know what his situation is for tomorrow. I can’t give it to you because no decision has been made on him.”

If both Rask and Khudobin are unable to go tomorrow, Subban, despite the slow start of an 0-3-1 record and .878 save percentage in four AHL games this year, including a 30-of-34 performance in an overtime loss against the Albany Devils on Sunday, would be the next man up for the club.

“Not the way you want to start the season,” Subban admitted of his start with a new-look, more inexperienced P-Bruins team this year. “But to be honest, last game I felt a lot better. That game didn’t go to the way I wanted to, but we were playing a hot team and I thought I played pretty well.”

Subban, whose 2015-16 season was cut short by a fractured larynx, finished this past preseason with two wins and a .904 save percentage in three games for the Big B’s, and feels his effort is there.

“I feel pretty good. I feel like I’m battling,” Subban said of his mindset throughout the slow start. “I feel like the biggest thing right now is just to battle. It’s not the first time I’ve faced adversity, and it’s not gonna be the last time, so I don’t feel to down on myself right now, to be honest.”

And in their final home game before a four-game road trip with stops in New York, Detroit, Florida, and Tampa, the Bruins are not going to look for style points from their third goaltender if called upon.

“We’re in a situation here where we’ll see what happens here,” Julien said of Subban’s recall and availability for tomorrow. “If he’s going in goal, he’ll go in goal. It’s as simple as that.

“As a coach, there’s one thing that worries me: stop the puck, I don’t care how you do it, just stop it,” Julien continued. “I’m not a goalie coach, so as a coach I’m demanding on [the goalie] making the saves, and the goalie coach can work on the techniques.”

Subban has posted a 45-31-15 record, with a 2.46 goals against average and .916 save percentage in 99 career games in the American Hockey League.

A first-round draft pick (24th overall) in 2012, Subban has skated in one NHL game to date, a Feb. 20, 2015 loss to the St. Louis Blues, a game in which he received an early hook after he allowed three goals on just six shots against in 31 minutes of action.

Ryan Spooner skates at center, Malcolm Subban recalled from AHL as Bruins return to practice 10.24.16 at 11:36 am ET
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Malcolm Subban was recalled from Providence for Monday's practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

Malcolm Subban

BRIGHTON — Two days after Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien said he needed time to “digest” the group’s 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden before he considered any line changes, Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena brought about just that for a slumping forward group.

Forward Ryan Spooner, a healthy scratch against the Devils last week and one of two scorers last game (a power-play goal scored with No. 51 back on the first unit), found himself back in a gray sweater in the middle of the team’s third line for the first time since last season. The 24-year-old Spooner tallied 13 goals and 49 points as the team’s third line center a year ago, 32 of which came at even strength, and has recorded one goal and one assist with 11 shots on goal in four games played on the wing this season. Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes, both of whom are pointless with a minus-5 and a combined 15 shots on net, remained on the wings.

Riley Nash, who has manned the third-line center spot for the last three games, was also on the ice and in a gray jersey as well, though it was Spooner that took the first line rushes with the group.

Spooner’s move back to his natural position for practice plugged first-year pro Danton Heinen, a scratch on Saturday, back to David Krejci’s left as the winger opposite David Backes on the right.

Heinen has yet to record a point and has two shots on goal in four NHL games played.

Patrice Bergeron’s line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak remained intact, as did the fourth line with Dominic Moore between Noel Acciari and Tim Schaller.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was not on the ice for the Bruins for the third straight skate.

With Rask out and Zane McIntyre returned to the Providence Bruins late last night, Bruins prospect Malcolm Subban was recalled this morning and was on the ice with the big club. Subban has posted an 0-3-1 record and .846 save percentage in four games with the P-Bruins this year.

Subban would last as the only goaltender as Bruins practice, too, as Anton Khudobin left the ice and did not return after he appeared to injure his right hand/wrist. 

Bruins need help, answers from third line 10.24.16 at 12:06 am ET
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Claude Julien needs production from his third line. (USA Today Sports)

Claude Julien needs production from his third line. (USA Today Sports)

Even after a 4-2 loss to their archrival Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden on Saturday, things are far from terrible for the Boston Bruins through the first week and a half of the season. One game above .500 with their 3-2-0 record on the year, the Bruins have found success behind strong goaltending from Tuukka Rask (the 29-year-old has posted a .947 save percentage and has been in net for all of the B’s wins but missed the last game with “general soreness”), while their offense has been powered by a top-heavy first line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak between Patrice Bergeron.

But there is one kinda, sorta big problem for the Bruins through five games: they have struggled mightily (and that may be an understatement) to find secondary scoring.

Of the 15 goals scored by the Bruins to date, 13 have been scored by their forwards. Eight have come from by a member of the first line, with four from Pastrnak, three from Marchand, and one from Bergeron. David Backes scored both of his two goals this season in the season opener, which of course came while he skated in Bergeron’s spot between the dynamic Marchand and Pastrnak combo. Ryan Spooner scored his first of the season, a power-play goal, in Saturday’s loss to the Habs, while fourth-line forward Dominic Moore has scored two goals on just eight shots on goal.

There are three names you won’t find in any game’s scoring log. They are the B’s third line of Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, and center Riley Nash. And with another no-show to their name with a Saturday night showing that featured just one shot from the entire line (a second period shot from Hayes), Bruins coach Claude Julien was honest in regards to the line’s production, or lack thereof.

“You need something out of them besides minuses,” Julien said of the line, which was on the ice  for Montreal’s second goal of the night and has two minus-5 players on the year in Beleskey and Hayes, following Saturday’s loss. “I think they’re minus-five or six right now, and when you don’t produce, that’s what ends up happening, and we expect more. There’s no doubt, and we had, more or less, three lines that are creating some sort of momentum. We need them to step up there and help us out.

“That would make a huge difference to our team.”

With the Nash line, Julien can expect smart, strong d-zone play from Nash, and a strong forechecking presence from both Beleskey and Hayes, but there’s not much beyond that. The style routinely displayed by the line is more that of a physical, tone-setting fourth line (something the Bruins already have in the Moore line with Noel Acciari and Tim Schaller on the wings), than a third line meant to provide a complementary scoring presence that feasts on defensive mismatches in the offensive zone.

The Bruins had that when Carl Soderberg manned the pivot on the third line from 2013 to 2015. And the 24-year-old Spooner, with 13 goals and 49 points (32 of which were scored at even strength), provided that same presence for the Black and Gold last season. And with Spooner shifted to the wing, Julien had hoped for the same from training camp standout Austin Czarnik.

But when the 23-year-old Czarnik’s hot camp was derailed by a concussion sustained on a cheapshot from Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas in the preseason finale, and a quiet one shot on goal and minus-3 in two NHL contests followed upon his return, Czarnik was scratched and later returned to the Providence Bruins, where he’ll get ice time, and, more importantly, his timing back. That forced Nash, whose career high in points at the NHL level is 25 (set in a 68-game run with the Hurricanes in ‘14-15), into a role as the club’s third-line center and with the task of developing chemistry on the fly.

After three games together as a line, it’s clear that little has worked for the trio.

This is not an entirely new problem for the Bruins, though, as the Bruins had a disastrous third line combo with Hayes and Brett Connolly between Spooner to begin the 2015-16 year before Julien pulled the plug amid mounting losses and little offensive contributions in their 0-3-0 start to the year.

But in the now, the team is short on options.

Winger Frank Vatrano (foot), a player who wowed with his shoot-from-anywhere mentality and 44 goals and 66 points in 75 games between the AHL and NHL last season, is out of action until December. First-year pro Danton Heinen, who began his career on a line with David Krejci, has struggled to find his NHL footing. The aforementioned Czarnik is back in Providence and if he’s coming back, somebody is out of the mix as a healthy scratch. And the Bruins seem somewhat committed to having Spooner, the man in the middle of the club’s third line for almost all of last year, on the wing.

“I haven’t thought about next game yet,” Julien said on Saturday when asked about making line changes up front. “I’m going to digest this one first before I start making decisions.”

With a Sunday off from the practice rink, Julien and the Bruins will have one practice and a morning skate to digest their options before it’s back to work with a Tuesday tilt against the Minnesota Wild.

Torey Krug not happy with his early-season play: ‘I have no consistency to my game at all’ 10.23.16 at 12:06 am ET
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Torey Krug came down pretty hard on himself Saturday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

When there was talk before the season about the possibility of Chris Kelly’s old alternate captain’s letter being moved to a new jersey, one of the players consistently mentioned was Torey Krug, thanks in large part to his honesty and the way he holds himself accountable.

Krug hasn’t worn a letter yet and may not at any point this season, but it’s clear he’s going to set an example for his teammates regardless.

After Saturday night’s 4-2 loss to the Canadiens, a game in which Krug was a minus-3 and had a bad misplay lead to a shorthanded breakaway goal, the 25-year-old defenseman came down hard on himself in one of those interviews that makes you realize no one’s going to be more critical of his play than he is. But at the same time, he also sounded confident that he’ll figure things out.

“I have no consistency to my game at all,” Krug said. “I make a good play, then next shift a poor play. It’s something I’m not proud of at the moment. I’ll work through it. I always have. There’s always times throughout the season when you play poorly. You have to work through it. Unfortunately for me, it’s the start of the season. I’ll get back to a place where my teammates can count on me, where every time I jump over the boards they know what they’re going to get. It’s not there right now, but it will be.”

Reporters mentioned two possible mitigating factors to Krug — the fact that he’s been paired with young defense partners in Rob O’Gara and Joe Morrow, and the fact that he had offseason shoulder surgery and may not be 100 percent just yet — but he refused to take the bait.

“I was injured, but I had time to work and make sure I was ready for the season,” Krug said. “I’m not going to use that as an excuse. The doctors cleared me to play, so I’m ready to play. For whatever reason, I’m not there right now.” Read the rest of this entry »

5 Things We Learned as Carey Price, Canadiens beat Bruins 10.22.16 at 9:54 pm ET
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Brendan Gallagher scored the game's first goal as Montreal beat Boston, 4-2.  (Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Brendan Gallagher scored the game’s first goal as Montreal beat Boston, 4-2. (Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

BOSTON – Another night, another game in which the Bruins surrendered the first goal.

It’s been the theme of the B’s season just nine days into it, and it was a second period goal by Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher that ensured that it happened to the Bruins for a fifth straight contest. It’s something the club survived on nights against goaltenders like Columbus starter Sergei Bobrovsky and Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck, but it’s awfully difficult to put yourself in a hole when you’re going up against the best goaltender in the world, Montreal’s Carey Price.

“I hope it’s not a habit,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of the group’s inability to score first. “It’s certainly not what we’re looking for. In five games played, we haven’t scored first, and we talked about that this morning, trying to get that first goal, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

In a two-goal deficit through 40 minutes with goals from Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault, the Bruins clawed back with goals from Dominic Moore and Ryan Spooner in the third period, but each time the Bruins came back with a goal to bring themselves within one, the Canadiens re-established their two-goal edge.

First came a Paul Byron shorthanded breakaway for Montreal’s third goal of the game, which made it a 3-1 affair, and then a Torrey Mitchell unassisted dagger, on a delayed penalty with Mitchell’s face clipped by a high stick, put the B’s down 4-2 with 7:13 to go.

The Bruins had chances with a late-game power play, but were unable to find any further holes in Price’s game, as the Montreal netminder won his 23rd head-to-head meeting against the Bruins (35 games), and his 11th win in 18 career games at TD Garden behind a 19-of-21 effort in net.

Bruins netminder Anton Khudobin made 25 stops on 29 shots against in defeat.

“It’s just a tough loss, to be honest,” a dejected Khudobin, who has been in net for both of Boston’s losses on the year, said after the game. “I felt pretty good all game. It’s just … four goals against. I’m not really happy about them.

“I don’t like to lose. It’s the worst feeling.”

With the loss, the Bruins failed to move into first place in the Atlantic Division, and have not beat the Canadiens at home since Jan. 12, 2012, a seven-game losing skid to their archrivals.

Here are four other things we learned from Boston’s 4-2 loss to the Habs.

Spooner responds to healthy scratch in positive way

If you’re looking for positives from the Black and Gold, the play from Ryan Spooner after he was scratched for the home opener has to be high on the list. Reunited on a Bruins second line with David Krejci at center and David Backes on the right wing, the 24-year-old Spooner opened the first period as one of Boston’s best skaters and created countless opportunities for his line.

Spooner found paydirt in the third period, too, as he received a gorgeous cross-slot from Backes on the power play, and struck with his first goal of the season.

Although Spooner’s goal came on the man advantage, it’s clear that this is a player that’s developed some on-ice chemistry with Backes, especially at five-on-five, and it may explain some, but not all, of Spooner’s struggles in the first three games of the season. It was then that Backes was centering the top line in place of Patrice Bergeron while first-year pro Danton Heinen skated as opposite winger on the Krejci line.

“He was better,” Julien said of Spooner after the loss. “He was better.”

Gallagher still supreme pest, Bruin killer

Defenseman P.K. Subban, a player who drew the ire of the entire Garden crowd every single time he touched the puck during his tenure with the Canadiens, calls Nashville home these days. Dale Weise, after a quick stop in Chicago last trade deadline with the Blackhawks, now skates for the Flyers. But the Habs still have a thorn very much pricked into the B’s side, and his name is Brendan Gallagher.

In his 17th career game against the Bruins, the 5-foot-9 winger scored his third goal of the season, and his fifth goal and 18th career point overall against the Bruins. But Gallagher’s impact went beyond a goal that proved pivotal for the Habs in their seventh straight victory on Garden ice.

From the onset of the game, Gallagher was in the Bruins’ heads.

Even when he took a four-minute penalty for a high-stick on B’s rookie d-man Brandon Carlo, Gallagher went right over to a down Carlo, had some choice words, and was greeted by an irate Zdeno Chara. Gallagher received slashes from Colin Miller and the rest of the Boston defense at every stop and any time he even went near Khudobin, and defenseman Torey Krug, sans helmet, did everything he could to try and get Gallagher to drop the gloves with him in the second period.

Second period struggles doom Bruins

The Bruins really lost this game with a nightmarish second period.

On the heels of a strong first period that while scoreless, came with six shots on goal and 22 attempts overall for the Bruins, the Black and Gold fell flat on their face in a middle frame that came with two Montreal goals, bad giveaways, poor coverage, and three penalties against.

“Terrible,” Julien said of the team’s second period. “The second period came back to haunt us.

“We were flat coming out, we didn’t make good outlet passes, and we spent way too much time in our end.”

Habs remain opportunistic bunch

Down by a goal late in the second period, defenseman John-Michael Liles went in on a well-time pinch into the offensive zone. The only problem? He totally, completely missed the puck.

That gave the Canadiens a two-on-one rush the other way, with Miller the lone B’s defenseman between Alexander Radulov and Phillip Danault, and it was Danault that struck as Matt Beleskey did everything but get the puck on his furious backcheck into the defensive zone.

When teams talk about playing the Canadiens, they always mention how the Habs are a team that loves to take advantage of the opposition with their odd-man opportunities. (Who doesn’t?) And though the Habs typically do this by blowing the zone with a blocked shot, their second goal was an example of just how dangerous the Montreal wingers can be if you blow a single assignment.

It was far from the only blown coverage by the Bruins in the losing effort, either, as Julien noted that Montreal’s first goal, scored by Gallagher, was scored on missed coverage by the Bruins.

The Bruins return to the ice for a Tuesday night game with the Minnesota Wild.

After slow start, Bruins optimistic power play will improve 10.22.16 at 6:07 pm ET
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There’s no two ways about it: the Bruins power play is not off to a dazzling start.

After starting the season 1-for-10 on the power play through three games, there was hope the return of Patrice Bergeron would help jolt it in the right direction. But even after failing to execute in four chances Thursday night, there’s optimism that it will turn around.

“Well you know there is no doubt that he is one of the best, what I call bumper guys in the league and we ended up putting him there at the Worlds, also because he’s so good when guys are under pressure they get into position to take away that pressure and he does a good job of that,” said head coach Claude Julien.

The Bruins sit in a rough 28th in the NHL in power play percentage, after finishing seventh in the league last season, executing on 20.5 percent of their chances.

And while they didn’t cash in on any chances Thursday night, there was noticeable improvement compared to the previous three games. Scoring chances were much more prevalent, and the synergy amongst the first power play unit was palpable.

“Bergy was a little bit better. We got some more scoring chances. The puck’s not finding the back of the net. But, like I said, stay positive and keep creating chances and eventually, it will go in,” said David Krejci.

Though it’s impractical to believe Bergeron’s return will miraculously fix the power play, it certainly will help it take huge strides. His versatility and ability to take shots from the slot or make plays in small areas will take the load off of others and help establish roles on the unit.

“He’s got a good shot there from the slot when it comes to him on his stick. So he’s to me one of the better ones in that position and we didn’t have him for the first three games and it did make a difference. As much as other guys tried to do the job, nobody could do it as good as Patrice does.”

Bruins pregame notes: Ryan Spooner back in lineup as Bruins battle Canadiens for first place 10.22.16 at 5:25 pm ET
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Ryan Spooner

Ryan Spooner

Back in town for the first time since their decimation of the Boston Bruins in the 2016 Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium, and with first place in the Atlantic Division on the line, the division-best Montreal Canadiens return to TD Garden a far different team than they were on New Year’s Day.

But so are the Bruins.

For all of Boston’s offseason subtractions off the roster, the biggest change to the club’s offensive game has come with the addition of David Backes. A do-it-all forward capable of playing center and the wing, the 32-year-old Backes, a five-year captain during his tenure with the St. Louis Blues, has tallied two goals and three points in four games for the Bruins. Meanwhile, the Canadiens improved by default with the return of the all-world Carey Price in net after a 2015-16 campaign that ended just 12 games in,and have already seen a significant boost from their point with the addition of Shea Weber, an offseason import acquired from the Nashville Predators in exchange for P.K. Subban, who is tied for the team lead in points with four.

“Well, you got a different player,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of the dynamic of Montreal’s defense changing with Weber instead of Subban. “They don’t play the same way and that’s probably why they made that deal. No doubt he’s got one of the hardest shots in the league. Very similar on the power play to an [Alex] Ovechkin-type player. You got to respect that part of it. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s a good battler, but I know he’s a good team leader, and I’ve seen that firsthand.”

Familiarity breeds contempt, and Backes and Weber undoubtedly have that, whether it’s from their days of captains in the Central Division, or their numerous battles between Team Canada and Team USA. Their additions, and especially the addition of Chicago’s Andrew Shaw for Montreal, no stranger to Backes from the Blues-Hawks rivalry or the B’s from the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, to this rivalry can only help reignite the feud after what’s been a tame few years in its 90-plus year history.

“It’s been a little bit more civilized the last few years and less of a sideshow,” Julien, who has coached both the B’s and Habs, said of the rivalry’s latest chapter. “There’s still a lot of hatred between two organizations when they meet, but I think right now and the way the game is trending with penalties and how much they can be costly to a game, I think both teams are a little cautious.

“But I still think there’s great chemistry, and I think both teams get up for these games.” Read the rest of this entry »

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