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Steven Stamkos, Lightning would ‘love’ to keep Bruins out of playoffs 04.11.15 at 11:00 am ET
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Steven Stamkos and the Lightning would "love" to keep the Bruins out of the playoffs. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Steven Stamkos and the Lightning would “love” to keep the Bruins out of the playoffs. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. — The Eastern Conference is changing. Since the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, then-competitive teams have fallen off and risen again.

One of them is the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now, after earning their second consecutive playoff berth following a two-year drought, the Lightning can make it so the last Eastern Conference team to win the Cup will not participate in the postseason.

“I think any team in the league would love to knock a team like this out because of how dangerous they can be come playoff time,” Steven Stamkos said after the Lightning’s morning skate. “I think you look at LA and you look at Boston. Those are the teams that, no matter where they finish, if they can get into the playoffs, anything can happen because of the personnel they have, the experience they have. With LA being out, I think everyone in the West can sleep a little easier and obviously if Boston doesn’€™t make it, teams are a little happier here.”

Thanks to Friday night’s Penguins loss, the Bruins will still technically be alive when they hit the ice Saturday night at Amalie Arena.

When told of Stamkos’ words, Brad Marchand wasn’t surprised.

“We know that there’€™s no team that wants to do us a favor,” Marchand said. “We know that they’€™re going to bring their best game tonight. They played well at home their last game against us.

“We’€™re a good playoff team. We’€™re kind of built for that. Any team would be happy to knock us out. We know that they’€™re going to get their best game. That means that means that we’€™re going to have to play even harder and make sure we lay our bodies on the line and sacrifice for the team.”

Neither wild card spot in the Eastern Conference is clinched entering Saturday’s games. The Senators can clinch a playoff berth with a win Saturday afternoon in their regular season finale in Ottawa. The Penguins can tie up a spot with a win over the Sabres Saturday night. If the Senators lose in regulation or the Penguins fail to get a point, the Bruins can claim a spot with a win over the Lightning.

Yet the Lightning have more than one reason to try to win Saturday. In addition to knocking off the Bruins and making sure that they would never have to run into Tuukka Rask this spring, a win could potentially earn them the top seed in the Atlantic Division.

Through 81 games apiece, Tampa Bay has 106 points to Montreal’s 108. If Montreal loses to Toronto in regulation and Tampa beats Boston, the Lightning would take the top seed in the Atlantic by virtue of the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Pierre McGuire on MFB: Wednesday vs. Capitals ‘was not the most intense Bruins environment I’ve seen in a long time’ 04.09.15 at 1:52 pm ET
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Pierre McGuire

Pierre McGuire

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to look at the Bruins’ loss to the Capitals Wednesday night and ahead to the playoffs and the Bruins’ chances. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

McGuire worked the game Wednesday night, a 3-0 Bruins loss in Washington, and said the Bruins didn’t look like some of the Bruins’ teams he knows from the past.

“I thought they were kind of passive last night, I really did,” said McGuire. “I also know that there were some guys under the weather. They are not going to use that as an excuse, but I know there were guys not feeling very well last night — Brad Marchand was one of them. I mean, the fact that he dressed and played as well as he did was pretty nice indication of his character and how much he cares. Again, you don’t want to get everything wrapped up in one game. If they turn around and win tonight then everybody is going to be happy again. It was not the most intense Bruins environment I’ve seen in a long time.”

Claude Julien mixed up his lines, to the disliking of some, but McGuire brought up Julien was likely thinking ahead to Thursday night’s game in Florida too, and not just Wednesday’s game in Washington.

“I was really surprised at some of the maneuvers, but I also know that Washington is one of the most balanced teams in the league,” said McGuire. “They have really a four-line attack. You could see it, they had that kid line last night that was really working for them that didn’t score, but it generated chances for them. They are still missing Jay Beagle, they are still missing Eric Fehr, they will get those guys back at some point. Washington is a balanced team.

“I think what Claude was trying to do is get more of a balanced attack so he could compete with a four line game knowing the schedule that he has. That is a quick back-to-back with Washington and Florida. It is one of the most difficult ones you have in the league just because of travel, humidity and the time that you arrive. This will be a very difficult game for the Bruins. I think he was trying to look at the whole schedule rather than one game.”

With the Eastern Conference so tightly bunched, and only two games left, anything can happen. Currently the Bruins are tied with the Senators for eighth place, and a point behind seventh place, and two points behind sixth place. So one of those four teams will miss out on the postseason. McGuire thinks the Bruins will be able to make the playoffs, as they take on Florida Thursday night and Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Tuukka [Rask] is going to be large early on tonight, I think that is really important,” he said. “If he can be and stabilize the game early then the Bruins I think will have a chance to get going. You’re going to be looking at a showdown obviously on Sunday against Tampa. I think Tampa will probably rest some people. The game won’t have as much meaning for them. I still believe Boston is a playoff team. I do. I believed it from the start of the year and I still believe it.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, Claude Julien, Pierre McGuire
Bruins’ late-game heroics push Flyers further back in Eastern Conference 03.07.15 at 7:06 pm ET
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The Flyers missed a chance to make up ground in the playoff race Saturday. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Flyers missed a chance to make up ground in the playoff race Saturday. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The importance of Saturday’s game for the Flyers could not be overstated.

Trailing the Bruins by four points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia could have moved closer in the standings with a win. Before Saturday’s game started, Bruins coach Claude Julien admitted this would most likely be Philadelphia’s biggest game this season.

With the clock winding down in the third period, the Flyers looked like they would get two valuable points in this critical game. Forward Chris VandeVelde redirected a shot from the point past goaltender Tuukka Rask, which gave Philadelphia a one-goal lead with 4:30 remaining. All seemed ripe for a Flyers win.

Until it didn’t.

Wayne Simmonds was called for tripping at the 17:57 mark. The penalty set the Bruins up with a power play, and essentially a 6-on-4 chance when Rask left for the bench.

Brad Marchand then tied the game up on the ensuing man advantage with 14.1 seconds to go with a deflection goal. And with 1:08 remaining in overtime, Marchand did it again with a backhanded goal that bounced over netminder Steve Mason’s shoulder.

Instead of pulling within two points of the Bruins, the Flyers now are five back of a playoff spot.

“It’s a tough defeat, but there’s still time and I mean there’s more games,” VandeVelde said following the loss. “But it’s getting down there so we’ve got to start winning games and doing the right things and holding on to wins.”

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Read More: Brad Marchand, Chris VandeVelde, Craig Berube, Jakub Voracek
Brad Marchand (maintenance) misses practice as Bruins prepare for Islanders and Canadiens 02.05.15 at 1:51 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Brad Marchand missed Thursday’€™s practice, with Claude Julien saying the B’€™s gave their second-line left wing a maintenance day.

Marchand, who took a couple of big hits from Dan Girardi in Wednesday’s loss to the Rangers, had his spot filled by Daniel Paille in practice. The lines were as follows:

Lucic-Krejci-Smith
Paille-Bergeron-Eriksson
Kelly-Soderberg-Pastrnak
Caron-Campbell-Cunningham

All seven defensemen and both goaltenders were present, including Malcolm Subban, who is still with the big club.

The Bruins will practice again on Friday before hosting the Islanders Saturday and Canadiens Sunday.

Read More: Brad Marchand,
5 things we learned as Bruins head to All-Star break with shootout loss to Avalanche 01.22.15 at 12:51 am ET
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The Bruins started the All-Star break early, relinquishing a third-period lead and suffering a 3-2 shootout loss to the Avalanche Wednesday (click here for the boxscore).

The shootout loss gave the Bruins three of a possible four points on their two-game road trip and gave them a 25-16-7 record at the break.

Ryan O’€™Reilly scored with 1:45 remaining in regulation to tie the game at two, as Patrick Roy pulled Semyon Varlamov early. Nathan MacKinnon scored the only goal of the shootout, with Reilly Smith, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron all failing to score for the B’€™s.

The Bruins will now break for the All-Star Game, which will be played Sunday. Patrice Bergeron is the Bruins’€™ only participant. They will return to game action a week from Thursday against the Islanders.

Here are five things we learned Wednesday:

MARCHAND RETURNS AND SCORES

Brad Marchand punctuated his return from a two-game suspension with a big goal to give the B’€™s the lead in the third period.

Marchand, who sat out Saturday’€™s game against the Blue Jackets and Tuesday’€™s contest in Dallas for slew-footing Derick Brassard last week, took a feed from David Krejci during a third-period line change and fired a wrist shot past Semyon Varlamov to break a 1-1 tie. The goal was Marchand’€™s team-leading 13th of the season.

The veteran left wing also took a roughing penalty early in the third period and logged over two minutes of shorthanded time as the Bruins were carried by strong penalty killing for the second straight night.

HAMILTON FINALLY DROPS THE GLOVES

An early third-period fracas between multiple members of each side brought about something we’€™ve yet to see –Dougie Hamilton’€™s bare hands.

Hamilton earned his first career fighting major as he dropped the gloves with fellow 2011 top-10 pick Gabriel Landeskog. Both players landed shots in the bout, which ended when Hamilton lost his balance while swinging for a gigantic right.

Hamilton fought twice during his four OHL seasons. His first NHL fight came in his 154th regular-season game.

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Read More: Brad Marchand, Colorado Avalanche,
Bruins prepare for Stars, Avalanche 01.19.15 at 10:56 am ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins had perfect attendance as they practiced Monday in anticipation of a two-game road trip that will send them into the All-Star break.

The B’€™s will play Tuesday in Dallas and Wednesday in Colorado. By the looks of Monday’€™s practice, Daniel Paille will remain on Patrice Bergeron‘€™s line in Tuesday’€™s game as Brad Marchand serves the final game of his two-game ban for slew-footing Derick Brassard last week.

The lines in practice were as follows:

Lucic-Krejci-Pastrnak
Marchand (suspended)/Paille-Bergeron-Smith
Kelly-Soderberg-Eriksson
Caron-Campbell-Cunningham

All defensemen and both goaltenders were present.

Read More: Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille,
Brad Marchand fesses up to slew-foot, says suspension could have been longer 01.17.15 at 11:43 am ET
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Speaking to the media Saturday for the first time since slew-footing Rangers forward Derick Brassard, Brad Marchand fessed up to what he called a “dangerous” infraction and said he considers himself fortunate to have not received a bigger suspension than the two-game ban he received.

“It could be worse,” Marchand said. “It could be three or four, so I’€™ve got to be happy that it’€™s not.”

Marchand has been outspoken against slew-footing in the past. Though he was fined during the 2011-12 season for doing it, he had some harsh words for Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner during the 2013 season after Skinner slew-footed Patrice Bergeron.

So why, then, would Marchand then kick a player’€™s right foot out and pull him down to the ice in textbook slew-foot fashion? In doing so, Marchand contradicted his past words, but said Saturday it wasn’€™t entirely intentional.

“Going into the play, it wasn’€™t what I was trying to do,” he said. “I was just trying to make a hard hit. I was trying to throw him backwards, but I didn’€™t intend to kick his feet out. Things happen. It’€™s a quick game. Plays in hockey are going to happen that are questionable, and you’€™ve got to live with it.”

Marchand said he did not feel his reputation or past played a factor in what is now his third career suspension. He called his reputation “a grave I’€™ve dug for myself,”€ but said that he had made efforts in recent seasons to eliminate dirty plays from his game.

“Maybe it played into it a little bit, but I have been trying to play within the rules and change my game,” he said. “Again, I play a hard game and I’€™m going to do things that are questionable at times. I’€™ve got to live it. The way that they discipline me, I’€™ve got to live with that.”

Marchand will miss Saturday’s game against the Blue Jackets and Tuesday’s game in Dallas.

Read More: Brad Marchand,
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