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Bruins given morning off ahead of Red Wings game 04.07.16 at 11:38 am ET
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Brett Connolly

Brett Connolly

The Bruins are saving every ounce of energy they can for a technically-not-but-still-pretty-much must-win game against the Red Wings.

There was no morning skate or coach availability Thursday morning, as the majority of the team was told to stay home for the morning. Claude Julien, who usually meets with the media at 10:40 a.m. or 11 a.m. on game days, will speak to the media at 5:50 p.m. Players will be made available in the afternoon.

Coming off a 3-0 win over the Flyers Wednesday night, the Red Wings did not have a full morning skate. Goalie Petr Mrazek was on the ice, however, suggesting that Jimmy Howard will be in goal for Detroit for the second straight day. Howard had a 30-save shutout Wednesday.

The Red Wings have won the second game of back-to-backs just once in their last 10 attempts and the Bruins are 2-1-0 against Detroit this season.

The only Bruins to skate Thursday morning were rehabbing players Chris Kelly and Brett Connolly, the latter of whom said he is unsure as to whether he will play Thursday night.

“I’ll probably be a game-time decision,” Connolly said. “I felt pretty good out there today. It’s just a matter of if I can help the team win. We’ll discuss that and we’ll see about tonight.”

Connolly has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury suffered last week in a game against the Devils. Dennis Seidenberg has not skated since leaving Monday’s practice early.

Jimmy Hayes was also at the Garden Thursday morning after missing Wednesday’s practice with an undisclosed injury. Hayes also said he is unaware of his status.

The Red Wings can clinch the third spot in the Atlantic division with a regulation win over the Bruins Thursday night. There is no scenario in which the Bruins can be eliminated from playoff contention before Saturday, even if the Bruins lose in regulation and the Flyers beat the Maple Leafs in regulation or overtime Thursday night. The B’s could still be a wild card team in that scenario by winning their final game in regulation or overtime and having Philly drop its final two.

Bruins preach optimism over tough love amidst free fall 04.06.16 at 1:53 pm ET
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Zdeno Chara

Zdeno Chara

WILMINGTON — The Bruins have had many moments over the last decade in which their leaders have found various ways to get whatever they could from their teammates.

Back in 2011, Shawn Thornton decorated the Bruins’ dressing room with old pictures of Bruins Stanley Cup moments and Mark Recchi brought in his Stanley Cup rings in an effort to motivate the B’s to bounce back from a Game 6 loss to the Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals and push their way to the Stanley Cup Final with a Game 7 win.

That’s a well-known example, but there are likely several others that haven’t made it out of the Bruins’ room: words of wisdom, pissed off speeches, etc.

The B’s are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. They’ve slid out of a playoff spot and, with two games remaining in the regular season, need help from teams in front of them if they want to return to the postseason.

Though a tiny possibility exists that the B’s could make the playoffs even if they lose Thursday to the Red Wings (it would involve Detroit also beating Philly Wednesday and the Flyers then losing at least two of their final three games), Thursday is essentially a must-win.

So is this a time for optimism or a time for an angry captain?

“My job is, most of all, to lead by my play and the way I act,” Zdeno Chara told WEEI.com Wednesday. “It’s easy to be pointing fingers and easy to be saying, ‘Hey, I’m disappointed,’ and looking at the glass as half-empty, but the situation we’re in, that’s the way it is and we’ve got to make the best of it.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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Claude Julien ‘not even thinking about’ possibility of getting fired 04.06.16 at 12:40 pm ET
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Claude Julien

Claude Julien

WILMINGTON — There’s a common enough chain reaction in sports.

Management spends money. Management believes in money it’s spent. Team misses playoffs. Coach gets fired.

Claude Julien is in his ninth season as Bruins head coach, and he is a loss or two away from missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season. He is not the primary problem with the team — there’s a very strong argument to be made that he’s ultimately one of its strengths — but canning the coach is often the perceived solution when things go wrong for a team with (at least some) good players.

Julien, who was fired by the Canadiens and Devils prior to coming to Boston, said after Wednesday’s practice that the possibility of losing his job with the B’s is not on his mind.

“I’m not answering those questions,” Julien said. “Every year I get the same thing, so I’m not even thinking about that.”

Julien has led the Bruins to two Stanley Cup Final appearances, a Cup championship and a Presidents’ Trophy in his time with the B’s. He’s also an assistant coach for Team Canada and is regarded as one of the handful of best pro hockey coaches in North America. If the Bruins were to move on from him, there’s a very good chance they would downgrade with their replacement.

Yet teams that lose seek change and it would be hard to expect the Bruins’ management to pass on picking their own guy two years in a row. Julien was a hire of former Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, who was fired after the B’s missed the playoffs last season.

Furthermore, management’s moves at the trade deadline (keeping Loui Eriksson and trading for both Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles) made it clear that the intention for this season was to make a playoff run. Whether primarily Julien’s fault or not, missing the postseason would be a failure.

General manager Don Sweeney declined an interview when approached by WEEI.com Wednesday, saying he’ll presumably speak on team matters toward or after the end of the regular season.

Julien was signed to a multi-year contract extension in November of 2014. If the Bruins fire him, they will have to pay him the money owed on his contract until he takes a job with another team. There is no longer draft pick compensation for fired coaches and executives, meaning the Bruins would not get a pick or picks if they were to move on from Julien.

Bruins recall Max Talbot on emergency basis as Jimmy Hayes, Tyler Randell deal with injuries 04.06.16 at 11:29 am ET
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Max Talbot

Max Talbot

WILMINGTON — The Bruins recalled center Max Talbot from Providence on an emergency basis Wednesday. The ailing players to which the recall was tied were Jimmy Hayes and Tyler Randell, neither of whom were on the ice for Wednesday’s practice. Claude Julien confirmed after the skate that both players are dealing with injuries.

Both Talbot and Brett Connolly, the latter of whom has missed the last three games due to a lower-body injury, practiced Wednesday. Dennis Seidenberg, who has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury, did not practice. He was last on the ice Monday, but got off the ice early.

Following the practice, Claude Julien declined to give an update on Seidenberg other than to say that he’s day-to-day.

All other defensemen were on the ice. The forward lines looked as such:

Marchand-Bergeron-Stempniak
Spooner-Krejci-Eriksson
Beleskey-Talbot/Kelly-Pastrnak
Vatrano-Acciari-Ferraro/Connolly

The Bruins will play a must-win game Thursday when they host the Red Wings. Depending on how Detroit fares Wednesday against the Flyers, Thursday’s game could eliminate them from contention for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.

 

Passed over in shootout, Brad Marchand says he’s fine with usage 04.05.16 at 10:51 pm ET
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Brad Marchand

Brad Marchand

Claude Julien went with statistics when choosing his participants for an important shootout Tuesday night. It’s easy to argue that he trusted different numbers than he should have.

In what ended up being a five-round shootout, the Bruins did not use Brad Marchand, who leads the team with 36 goals on the season. Marchand is 0-for-3 in shootouts this season and did not score on a second-period breakaway against Cam Ward, but his two penalty shot goals this season and supreme confidence with the puck in what’s been his best offensive campaign would seemingly make him a go-to guy when an important goal is needed.

Of the five shooters the Bruins used — none of whom scored — only Patrice Bergeron entered the game having fared worse than Marchand in shootouts this season. The B’s used used Ryan Spooner (who entered the game with three shootout goals on three attempts this season), David Pastrnak (his first attempt), Bergeron (0-for-4), Loui Eriksson (his first attempt) and Torey Krug (1-for-1).

Asked what factors into his selection of shootout participants, Julien declined to say whether the player’s performance in that individual game to that point played a bigger role than the player’s shootout history.

“We do it in practice. It’s all taken [into consideration]: what the tendencies of the goaltender are. I’ve answered that question before,” Julien said. “It’s all based on that. If people want to use hindsight, that’s all there is, but we make those decisions. I think the guys that went have scored in shootouts, they’ve done a great job. Because they don’t score tonight, we can second-guess all we want.”

The Bruins, who scored 16 goals over a 10-game span prior to finding an offensive rhythm over the weekend, have also spent the season without Marchand on their first power play unit. While it was tough to question that strategy when Boston’s center-heavy first unit was performing at one of the best clips in the league, its recent dropoff led to changes when Loui Eriksson replaced Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey replaced Eriksson, but Marchand remained on the second unit.

Marchand said he does not feel held back by the Bruins’ usage of him.

“No,” Marchand said. “I’m just happy to be on the power play at all. I’m going to do whatever the team asks me to do, regardless of what that is. I’m just going to try to play my role.”

There’s a statistical argument for using or not using Marchand in a shootout. The long and the short of it is that the Bruins’ best scorer was sitting on the bench as a massive point was squandered.

5 things we learned as Bruins put playoffs in doubt with shootout loss to Hurricanes 04.05.16 at 9:54 pm ET
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The Bruins came one point short of their goal on Tuesday. That might ultimately be the story of their season should they miss the playoffs.

In suffering a 2-1 shootout loss to the Hurricanes that saw Noah Hanifin score the only goal of the skills competition, the Bruins ceded the ability to control their own destiny. Even if the Bruins win their next two games, including a regulation or overtime win against the Red Wings, Detroit can still reach the playoffs by winning its other two games in regulation or overtime.

The B’s are now tied with the Red Wings with 91 points on the season, though the Wings have one more game remaining and they hold a one-game advantage in regulation and overtime wins, the first tiebreaker for playoff positioning.

The Red Wings will come to Boston Thursday after playing the Flyers on Wednesday.

Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:

HAYES, MILLERS RETURN

Jimmy Hayes was back in the lineup after sitting Boston’s previous two games as a healthy scratch.

Hayes skated on the Bruins’ fourth line and attempted to get engaged by dropping the gloves in the first period. The bout didn’t go particularly well, as Hayes was taken down by Brad Malone.

As expected, Colin Miller and Kevan Miller were also in Tuesday’s lineup, while the injured Dennis Seidenberg and Brett Connolly remained out. The lineup looked as such:  Read the rest of this entry »

Best defense for Bruins down stretch might be strong offense 04.05.16 at 12:58 pm ET
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Ryan Spooner wants to avoid a run-and-gun game. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Ryan Spooner wants to avoid a run-and-gun game. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Even at less than 100 percent, Kevan Miller’s expected return to the Bruins’ lineup Tuesday will help improve the defense from what it was on Sunday. With Dennis Seidenberg still out, the B’s need whatever they can get to avoid the issues they had when trying to defend the Hawks of the first 40 minutes of their final road game.

So with Colin Miller also entering the lineup, it’s natural to wonder whether the youngster’s return is a step in the right direction for the Bruins defensively.

It isn’t, but then again they weren’t going to much better off with Joe Morrow or Zach Trotman in the lineup instead of him. If the younger Miller can bring his skating and offensive ability, it will be worth what he lacks in his own end.

This is because the banged-up Bruins aren’t positioned to defend particularly well one through six. The offense, however, can be a strength after recently bouncing back from its most dormant 10-game period of the season. It might need to be if the Bruins want to avoid missing the postseason for a second straight year.

“The offense is there right now again,” Claude Julien said Tuesday morning. “We just have to tighten up a little bit defensively, which we’ve gone through a couple of times this year. We’ve gotten loose a little bit and then we’ve tightened it up and when we’ve tightened it up we’ve been able to have success, so if we can tighten it up tonight and continue to take advantage of our opportunities to score, that should help our chances quite a bit.”

Coming off a road trip that saw the B’s score 10 goals and allow 11, they will look for similar offense in the season’s final three games while crossing their fingers on the health and play of the defense improving. That might mean some high-scoring games, which are not the type Claude Julien teams have been known for playing.

“I think we can. I don’t think that we want to,” Ryan Spooner said of winning potential track meets. “If you look at our team, just this team as a whole in the past 10 years, they’ve taken a lot of pride in being a good defensive team first. I think if you ask all the guys in the room, they would rather win a game 2-1 or 3-2 than they would 6-5. At this time of the year, you don’t want to get into those run-and-gun matches.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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