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Bruins defense a work in progress with season approaching 09.29.15 at 12:07 am ET
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Zach Trotman

Zach Trotman

Boston’€™s top goalie Tuukka Rask made his pre-season debut on Monday night at TD Garden, but his play really wasn’€™t what Bruins coach Claude Julien had his eye on.

Rather, it was the group of six defensemen who saw action in front of Rask that Julien was watching most intently.

“œWe’€™re evaluating more the back end than we were Tuukka,”€ Julien said. “€œWe’€™ve got some young €˜D’€™s€™ here and some spots to fill. Spots to win and spots to lose. So we’€™re looking closely at those guys on the back end. Some of those goals tonight [Rask] didn’€™t get much help.”

Boston dropped the final decision to Detroit 3-1, allowing at least two markers that didn’€™t thrill Julien in regards to his team’€™s play on that back end.

“œThat first goal a guy walks right into the slot,”€ said Julien of the game’s first goal scored by Detroit’s Drew Miller, with Boston’s defensemen Linus Arnesson and Kevan Miller near the crease some distance away.

And the second Detroit goal, with Tomas Jurko getting behind Arnesson and Colin Miller to make it 2-0?

“It was a mix-up there between our two D’€™s,”€ said Julien. “We laid it in [on the dump-in] and our right D changed hoping that our left D would go to right to be closer to the bench. Somehow they stayed in the same half of the ice and allowed them that breakaway.”€

Without the blue-line services of Dennis Seidenberg for several more weeks and Zdeno Chara for an unknown length of time, some of Julien’€™s young defensemen will need to raise their game when the season begins a week from this Thursday.

“œI think guys are getting used to having more pressure on them on the forecheck,” said Zach Trotman, who logged 18:39 of ice time Monday playing primarily alongside Torey Krug. “Getting used to reads. Getting some chemistry with other players and partners. We’€™ve gotten to play with each other for a couple games now. You’€™re going to notice that breakouts are a little cleaner, neutral zone is going to be a little cleaner. And then jumping up in the play and stuff and adjusting to the tweaks we’€™ve made to our system.”€

Those tweaks to the Bruins system are designed to help spark an offense that ranked 22nd in the NHL in goals-per-game (2.55) last season. However, timing is everything in making sure the defense doesn’t suffer.

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Now healthy, Kevan Miller admits injury could impact decision to fight 08.24.15 at 1:30 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller established himself as one of the NHL‘s most menacing fighters as a rookie back. Then he had his second NHL season derailed by a fight.

Now fully recovered from shoulder surgery that ended his 2014-15 campaign in February, the 27-year-old admits that the consequences of dropping the gloves will be on his mind as opportunities to fight are presented going forward.

“It’€™s obviously a part of my game, but I don’€™t think it’€™s something that defines my game,” Miller told Monday. “I think that it’€™s something that’€™s definitely going to be in the back of your mind. Going into any fight, it’€™s in the back of your mind, getting injured, this and that. Having a shoulder injury issue is definitely something that will be in the back of my mind.

“I’€™m actually to the point now where I’€™ve been able to kind of hit the bag at home and feel OK. I feel really comfortable with my shoulder and where it’€™s at right now. Like I said, it will definitely be in the back of my mind, but I don’€™t think it will really affect me too much.”

Miller fought four times as a rookie in 2013-14, with each one making other players less and less interested in going against him. He first suffered a right shoulder injury fighting Sabres forward Nicolas Deslauriers on Oct. 18 last year, his only fight of the season. He missed the next 13 games before re-joining the lineup up Nov. 21.

Team doctors instructed Miller to not fight upon his return to the lineup, which lasted until he re-injured the shoulder on Feb. 16 against the Flames, ending his season.

Miller, who has been skating back home in California, said he has been completely healthy for roughly three weeks after being limited for much of the offseason.

Check back later for more from Miller as he enters his third NHL season and final year of his contract.

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Bruins might have to rely on Matt Bartkowski again 02.26.15 at 9:30 pm ET
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Matt Bartkowski

Matt Bartkowski

When asked Thursday what he learned from last postseason, Matt Bartkowski brought up an expression that Providence coach Bruce Cassidy tells his players.

“If you don’€™t bring your A game,” Bartkowski said, “œyou’€™ve got to bring your B game.”€

That might not fit any player better than it does Bartkowski. Ups and downs and ins and outs are pretty much all he knows at the NHL level. Getting into the Bruins’€™ lineup has been tough, and when he’€™s played he’€™s been the ultimate trick-or-treat player. Now the Bruins might need him again.

Defense has arguably been the Bruins’€™ biggest need all season, and that was before the B’€™s lost Kevan Miller to season-ending shoulder surgery. After serving as a healthy scratch for a month and a half (17 straight games), Bartkowski was given a game against Calgary during the Bruins’€™ recent road trip and stuck in the lineup after Miller went down.

A trade (or a callup of Joe Morrow) could change things, but for now Bartkowski finds himself in a similar situation as last season. He could be in line to play a top-four role down the stretch, as he did last season when Dennis Seidenberg went down in late December and the Bruins couldn’€™t adequately replace him via trade. Perhaps because the Bruins would rather Torey Krug stay on the third pairing, Bartkowski is almost always used as a top-four player when he is in the lineup.

While an upgrade to Boston’€™s second pairing (Bartkowski-Seidenberg) is needed for the Bruins to make a deep run, Bartkowski’€™s last few games have suggested he’€™ll fare better in the spot than he did earlier in the season, when he and Seidenberg turned in some especially ugly games, including one in which Bartkowski’€™s positioning cost the B’€™s a game against the Avalanche in the final second on a Daniel Briere goal.

It’€™s odd that Bartkowski has looked fine after not playing for a month given that he was a disaster at the beginning of the season, when one would thing he would be physically sharper. Bartkowski himself finds it puzzling, but his priority is keeping his play where it is.b

“To start the year, I wasn’€™t playing well at all, and then when I got in right before the California swing, I started to play well, and then out again,”€ he said. “€œI don’€™t know. It just came around. I’€™m playing like myself again.”

Claude Julien said that while Bartkowski was out of the lineup, the team had him fine-tune things that have left him better equipped now than he was before. Asked what specifically, Julien replied ‘€œa lot of everything.’€

“A lot in all different areas. Sometimes you know you’€™re a natural skater, which I think he is, and you think you can get away with that,”€ Julien said.”But it takes a little bit more than that. You’€™ve got to be prepared as a player. Are you mentally prepared to make plays? Are you ready to put the time in? To be in good shape is one thing; to be in great shape is another.”€

Bartkowski’€™s experience in this role ended the wrong way last year. After Andrej Meszaros was brought in to challenge him, Bartkowski got sick and missed the beginning of the playoffs. When he came back, he was off his game. Meszaros wasn’€™t any better, and the Bruins were forced into a rotation of struggling defensemen playing important games.

“It was just more inconsistent in the playoffs,”€ he recalled. “There was like a good [game], a really bad one, a good one, a really bad one. That just can’€™t happen again.”

The next few days will say a lot about what Bartkowski’€™s role with the Bruins will be going forward, assuming he isn’€™t traded. Forcing their seventh defenseman to play big minutes hurt the team last season, but if it happens again, Bartkowski thinks that with health and improved play, he can handle the job.

“This year, I’€™m gonna hold my spot,” Bartkowski said. “I want to stay consistent. I don’€™t want to have any dips at all.”

That’€™s the right attitude to have, but it’€™s always been easier said than done with Bartkowski and the Bruins.

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Kevan Miller reflects on frustrating season as he awaits surgery 02.24.15 at 1:35 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

David Krejci wasn’€™t the only casualty of the Bruins’€™ disastrous five-game road trip.

In a stretch that saw the Bruins lose more players than win games, Kevan Miller’€™s season was ended after his shoulder popped out for the second time this season. He will undergo surgery on Thursday.

The injury ended what began as a promising season for the second-year NHLer but ultimately proved to be more frustrating than anything else.

When the Bruins traded Johnny Boychuk prior to the season, an opportunity was provided for Miller, a right-shot defenseman like Boychuk, to grow into a bigger role. Yet Miller dislocated his shoulder on Oct. 18 and missed the next 13 games. His play on the Bruins’€™ third pairing with Torey Krug was strong given the role that he was in, but Miller’€™s shoulder limited him. He was advised against fighting and admitted Tuesday that he never totally got over the injury when he was playing.

“You always had it in the back of your head; to be honest with you, it was always there,” Miller said. “So I never felt 100 percent, if that’€™s what you’€™re asking. There were times I felt like it was pretty good or I was pretty comfortable with how things were going, and that changes obviously through the season.”

Miller was sixth among Bruins defensemen with 18:02 of ice time per night, but he led the team with a plus-20 rating.

“After I came back from recovery and I started to play, I thought I started to play better, and as the season went on I established myself again,” he said. “For it to happen right now is kind of frustrating. It’€™s more frustrating that I’€™m not able to help the team out. You feel like you almost let the guys down a bit. That’€™s probably my biggest worry.”

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Source: Bruins’ Kevan Miller to have season-ending shoulder surgery 02.20.15 at 5:16 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, a source confirmed to Friday. The news was first reported by Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe.

Miller re-injured his right shoulder in Monday’€™s loss to the Flames. The shoulder was originally injured in a fight against Sabres forward Nicolas Deslauriers on Oct. 18. He missed 13 games before returning on Nov. 21.

Earlier this month, Miller admitted that he had been advised against fighting again this season by doctors. He also said he expected to have surgery in the offseason.

The Bruins had been using Miller as a third-pairing defenseman, and his loss further weakens a blue line that has seen Zdeno Chara return from a torn PCL injury and Dennis Seidenberg struggle in top-four minutes.

In 41 games this season, Miller had two goals and five assists for seven points and a team-leading plus-20 rating.

The Bruins have not recalled a defenseman and currently have six healthy blueliners. Zach Trotman is the most likely candidate to replace Miller given that he is a right shot, but Joe Morrow, currently working his way back from a knee injury, could be brought up when healthy if the B’s play their versatile left-shot defensemen (Seidenberg, Torey Krug) on the right side.

Miller’s injury could also accelerate a potential trade for a defenseman. The trade deadline is March 2.

For more Bruins news, visit

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Kevan Miller sent back to Boston for evaluation 02.17.15 at 5:04 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters in Edmonton Tuesday that defenseman Kevan Miller has been sent back to Boston and will not play the final three games of the team’s current road trip after re-injuring his right shoulder. Miller will undergo evaluation on the shoulder back in Boston.

Miller initially dislocated his shoulder in a fight in the Bruins’ Oct. 18 meeting with the Sabres and missed the next 13 games. He appeared to reinjure the shoulder in the second period of Monday’s game in Calgary and did not return.

The Bruins have yet to recall a defenseman, but Zach Trotman would be the most likely candidate. Trotman, a right shot, plays the same side as Miller and has already played 17 games for Boston this season.

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5 things we learned as Bruins blow 3-goal lead, lose in last second of overtime vs. Flames at 12:00 am ET
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The example of Murphy’s Law that is the 2014-15 Boston Bruins season really outdid itself Monday night.

After bouncing back from Friday night’s embarrassing loss to the Canucks with an inspired effort through two periods, the Bruins saw Calgary march back to tie the game in the third period, after falling behind 3-0, and beat the B’s, 4-3, on a fluky goal with 2.4 seconds to play in overtime.

With the final seconds ticking down, T.J. Brodie tossed a lazy backhand shot towards the net from a bad angle that went off Brad Marchand‘s stick and up towards the net, then hit the top of the net and Tuukka Rask‘s back before finally going in to give Calgary the 4-3 overtime win (click here for the box score).

The loss was Boston’s fourth straight (0-3-1) and fifth in the last six games (1-4-1).

After pulling Karri Ramo following Boston’s third goal, the Flames and Jonas Hiller did not allow another goal as Calgary scored three unanswered goals in regulation to tie the game and force overtime.

The Flames finished their comeback on a power play goal after David Pastrnak took a high-sticking penalty with 14:42. Norris favorite Mark Giordano fired a snap shot from the top of the zone that went off Jiri Hudler in front and past Tuukka Rask to make it 3-3.

The Bruins next play Wednesday in Edmonton.

Here are four more things we learned Monday.


Kevan Miller left the game late in the second period and did not return. The second-year NHLer took a hit midway through the second that could have led to his exit, though he took two shifts after that.

Miller missed 12 games earlier this season with a dislocated right shoulder suffered in a fight on Oct. 18. He admitted recently that he will need offseason surgery on the shoulder and that he has been advised to not fight the rest of the season.

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