|Bruins can see different looks, weigh options in final regular-season games||04.04.14 at 1:39 am ET|
The Bruins haven’t won either of their last two games and it doesn’t matter. What a hilarious stretch run.
They care, of course, but the team has reached a point in its schedule that most other teams don’t get to have: the time for not only rest, but mixing and matching in preparation for anything the B’s might encounter when the injuries inevitably come in the postseason.
The most obvious case of this has been Loui Eriksson. The last two games have seen Eriksson used on both David Krejci‘s line (in place of a resting – er, lower-body injury suffering – Jarome Iginla Wednesday) and Patrice Bergeron‘s line (Claude Julien flipped Eriksson and Reilly Smith starting in the second period Thursday).
Giving Eriksson some time on both of the top two lines is a wise move for the B’s late in the season. Should a top-six winger suffer an injury in the postseason, Eriksson would be the most likely option to move up in the lineup, so getting him some level of comfort with those players provides a good insurance policy. When he gets back in the lineup, the Bruins would be wise to use Carl Soderberg at center on one of the top two lines with that line’s center resting.
Rich Peverley used to serve in that role for the B’s, as he got used to playing with pretty much every other forward despite usually serving as a winger on the third line when everyone was healthy. The most notable case of this came in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, when Peverley played on the right wing of Krejci’s line after Nathan Horton suffered a series-ending concussion.
Of course, Eriksson already has experience playing with Brad Marchand and Bergeron from earlier in the season, but he hadn’t played on that line since Dec. 7, as Reilly Smith seized the second-line right wing job while Eriksson was recovering from his second concussion of the season. Eriksson had not played with the Krejci line this season, as the only other game prior to Wednesday that did not feature the Milan Lucic – Krejci – Iginla trio was when Soderberg and Daniel Paille filled in for a sick Lucic in Anaheim.
Eriksson playing on the Bergeron line Wednesday could also be a case of Julien weighing options given that Smith has just one goal in his last 25 games. However, Julien said earlier this week that he’s reluctant to change his lines prior to the postseason.
“Right now, there’s no doubt that you could always move guys around, but when you look at our third line, it’s been so productive,” Julien said. “You look at all our lines. Even if [Smith]’s not producing, Bergy’s been producing really well, so our lines are producing right now.”
Meanwhile, the different looks on the back end have continued. Julien has yet to make clear his intentions for his six postseason defensemen, though the assumption is that the biggest spot up for grabs is the second-pairing left side job currently held down by Matt Bartkowski. He and Andrej Meszaros are both battling for that job, and the last two games have seen one of them play on the second pairing with Johnny Boychuk while the other was scratched.
Neither one has dazzled thus far this week. Meszaros, who scored Sunday against the Flyers, was a minus-2 Wednesday against the Red Wings, and was part of an odd Red Wings goal that came after the puck was caught in his pants. Bartkowski was also the victim of some bad luck, as the puck was lost in his skates on a first period play before Paul Ranger got the puck and sent it past Chad Johnson.
Though Bartkowski has over 500 games less of NHL experience than Meszaros, he is more experienced in the Bruins system and has already served as a top-4 defenseman for the B’s in the playoffs, which he did in the second round last season against the Rangers.
Julien has five games left to see different looks and weigh his options.
|Loui Eriksson in, Andrej Meszaros out for Bruins vs. Capitals||03.06.14 at 11:54 am ET|
Loui Eriksson will return to the lineup as expected Thursday night against the Capitals. Eriksson had been kept off the ice the previous two days due to a heel infection that made for discomfort when putting his foot into his skate.
After Thursday’s morning skate, Eriksson explained that he initially cut his heel during the Olympics and that the cut became infected.
“I got a cut in Russia, when I actually went into the cold tub,” he said. “I got a cut on my heel. So it started to get infected here the last couple of days. I’m on antibiotics right now, so I think it will be healing pretty good.”
Eriksson said that he played through some pain in Sunday’s win over the Rangers, a game in which he picked up a pair of assists.
“Skating there was kind of painful, but it went away after 10 minutes, after you’d been skating around,” he said, “but it’s feeling much better now and I think I’m going to play tonight, so it’s good.”
The recently acquired Andrej Meszaros will not play, though he is in town and took part in Thursday’s morning skate. Thursday will mark Meszaros’ 25th healthy scratch of the season.
As such, the only change to the lineup from Tuesday’s game is that Eriksson will be in, Jordan Caron will be out and Tuukka Rask is expected to be in goal for the B’s.
Defenseman Corey Potter, who was picked up on waivers Wednesday, is not yet with the team but will arrive Thursday afternoon and travel with the B’s to Tampa on Friday.
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|Loui Eriksson has heel infection, wasn’t part of trade talks||03.05.14 at 6:04 pm ET|
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli confirmed following the trade deadline that forward Loui Eriksson‘s absence from the ice the last two days had nothing to do with trade talks, but rather a minor ailment. Chiarelli revealed that ailment to be a heel infection.
“Very minor heel injury,” Chiarelli said. “A little infection in the heel that got aggravated when he put his heel in the boot.
“So no, we weren’t trading him,” Chiarelli added with an expression that was half grinning and half annoyed. “‘¦ He should be fine for tomorrow.”
Eriksson missed Tuesday’s game due to the infection. Claude Julien had said earlier Wednesday that Eriksson was expected to be on the ice for Thursday’s morning skate and play in Thursday night’s game against the Capitals.
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|Loui Eriksson, Adam McQuaid absent from Bruins practice||at 12:03 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Loui Eriksson and Adam McQuaid were the only Bruins not on the ice for Wednesday’s practice.
Eriksson missed Tuesday’s game with a “minor issue,” according to Claude Julien, and is expected to be back in the lineup Thursday against the Capitals. Though his absence has led to speculation with the trade deadline coming at 3 p.m. Wednesday, a Bruins source said Tuesday that Eriksson’s absence has nothing to do with a potential trade.
Eriksson was at the practice, however, with Julien saying that he will skate and play Thursday.
Furthermore, Bruins forward Jordan Caron revealed — perhaps accidentally — after Tuesday’s game that Eriksson’s absence was due to a “little incident,” which would be consistent with him having a minor issue.
“I think Loui had a little incident there, so he couldn’t go tonight,” Caron said.
The team has yet to make a decision on what they will do with McQuaid, who has been out since Jan. 19 with a lower-body injury. The B’s are deciding whether to shut him down for the time being or have him proceed with his rehab.
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|Loui Eriksson out Tuesday vs. Panthers, but absence isn’t trade-related||03.04.14 at 11:48 am ET|
Loui Eriksson will not play in Tuesday’s game against the Panthers due to a “minor issue,” according to B’s coach Claude Julien. Eriksson and Adam McQuaid were the only players missing from the team’s morning skate.
Though the timing of Eriksson’s absence has led to speculation that the team could be trading the player, a team source indicated Tuesday that Eriksson’s absence doesn’t have anything to do with Wednesday’s trade deadline.
Julien would not specify whether Eriksson was injured, however, as he repeatedly said that Eriksson is out with an “issue” and that he will play on Thursday. With Eriksson out, Jordan Caron will play on the team’s third line with Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly.
As for McQuaid, Julien said the team will make a decision by the end of the week as to whether they will have the player proceed with his rehab from a lower body injury or shut him down for the time being.
Tuesday’s game will be the 21st Eriksson has missed this season with the Bruins, with the other 20 absences due to a pair of concussions suffered. In his previous five seasons, Eriksson missed a total of three games with the Stars, all of which came in the 2010-11 season.
Eriksson is in his first season with the B’s after being the centerpiece of the package shipped to Boston in last July 4’s trade with Dallas. He has two more seasons on his contract after this season with a reasonable cap hit of $4.25 million a season.
In 40 games for Boston this season, Eriksson has six goals and 16 assists for 22 points and a plus-11 rating.
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|Andy Brickley on M&M: Bruins should ‘add something significant along the blue line’||02.26.14 at 1:29 pm ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the possibility of the Bruins adding a defenseman prior to the deadline, Peter Chiarelli‘s scouting and Loui Eriksson. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
With the NHL trade deadline next Wednesday at 3 p.m., Brickley said how the Bruins view the blue line will determine whether they add a defenseman.
“I think it all starts with how you evaluate what’s going on along the blue line,” Brickley said. “This is a team that prides itself on goaltending, team defense, some strong penalty-killing, and then that balanced offense is somewhere further down in terms of priority. And if you have that type of analysis, then I think you have to look real closely at the group of six or seven that they have on the blue line right now and say, ‘Is this group good enough, deep enough to carry us to an Eastern Conference final and get us to a Stanley Cup final and an opportunity to win this thing.’ And I think that’s what has to be addressed, because in my evaluation I would like to see them add something significant along the blue line.”
Brickley was complimentary of Chiarelli’s ability to identify defensemen who work well with the team.
“The thing about what Peter is able to do along with his management team and the scouting crew, identify a guy like Torey Krug and go out and pay maybe a couple extra dollars to make sure he comes to Boston,” Brickley said. “You make a deal for [Matt] Bartkowski, when nobody really makes notice of it or takes notice of it. You draft a kid like Dougie Hamilton in the first round. You identify a player like Kevan Miller and allow him to play in the American Hockey League and learn how to be a good depth defenseman. And those guys are all significant pieces to what the Bruins have been able to put together and accomplish and pile up points to this point in the regular season.”
Brickley is concerned with the lack of experience the young defensemen have, however, and would rather move Johnny Boychuk out of the top two.
“But as we know the playoffs are a different animal and you’re talking about very little experience there in that foursome,” Brickley said. “Now you have Johnny Boychuk, because of the added absence of Adam McQuaid as well due to a lot of injuries over the last year plus, almost two years. And of course Dennis Seidenberg being out of the lineup. Now you have [Zdeno] Chara, Boychuk, that’s your one-two combination. And I think you’re a really strong defense if Boychuk is somewhere in your top four, but maybe not your top two. And that’s certainly not an indictment on his play, because I love his game and I love how, how game he is, as a matter of fact, to speak to his character.”
Added Brickley: “But if you can go out and acquire, or certainly add to the players that you have on the blue line, as well as they’ve played, now I think you have a much better chance when you get in the postseason. You know there’s going to be injuries, you know there are certain matchups that you’re looking for, based on the opponents that you’re going to draw, and if you can have seven, eight NHL caliber, and maybe even a top two, three that might not be there right now, I think your chances certainly improve as far as going where you want to go and reaching the goals that you set.”
Eriksson, who has not produced big numbers in Boston, played well for Sweden in the just-completed Olympics. Brickley said that the extra playing time, along with playing on the third line, could help the 28-year-old.
“Eriksson needed to play hockey, he needed to play hockey over in Sochi, and he seemed to be — he seemed to be finding his game more and more a little bit before the break,” Brickley said. “He seemed to have some chemistry with [Carl] Soderberg in particular, the two Swedes. Seemed to slide into that third line, instead of the pressure of being in that top six, that seems to be paying dividends. And his awareness, when you watched him play, although it was the bigger ice surface, his awareness of all the moving parts going on around him seemed a lot cleaner, a lot sharper. When you come back from injuries, that’s the one thing you have to be concerned about when you’re coming back from a concussion, is that awareness. Seemed a lot better in the Olympics, so that’s what I’m looking for. And he needs to continue to play. So maybe the break was good for him in terms of playing hockey.”
|Loui Eriksson (teeth) misses practice, Adam McQuaid can’t work with Bruins during break||02.07.14 at 2:51 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins held a very brief practice Friday afternoon, skating for a little over 20 minutes in their last practice before the Olympic break. The B’s will host the Senators Saturday and then return to practice on Feb. 20.
Loui Eriksson and Adam McQuaid were both missing from practice, as Eriksson was getting dental work done following a high stick to the mouth in the first period of Thursday’s game and McQuaid remains out with a leg injury. Zdeno Chara also remains out as he is already in Sochi for the Olympics. With Eriksson out, Jordan Caron skated in his place on the third line, though Claude Julien said he expects Eriksson to play Saturday.
“Loui’s doing OK. The only reason he missed is he’s obviously getting some dental work done and making sure he’s all fixed up before tomorrow and before he leaves for the Olympics,” Julien said. “He should be in the lineup tomorrow; there’s no reason why he shouldn’t, but I think it’s going to be a long day for him, getting his mouth fixed.”
As for McQuaid, he will not play Saturday, though the team hopes he will be able to play after the break. He has not played since Jan. 19.
Because teams have to break for the Olympics, McQuaid will not be able to see team doctors and trainers regularly, though he was able to rehab his blood clot condition during the lockout without the help of the team staff.
“With the CBA and stuff like that, he’s basically on his own, but he will continue to get the treatments and all that stuff that he needs,” Julien said. “Hopefully, by the time we get back, he’ll be ready to jump in with us. If not then, very soon.”
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