|Claude Julien: Nathan Horton ‘not close’ to returning, but Tuukka Rask is progressing||04.04.12 at 1:34 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins saw both Nathan Horton and Tuukka Rask take the ice prior to Wednesday’s practice. For Rask, it means things are continuing to progress. For Horton, it’s a small step in the right direction.
Rask has been skating since Monday, as he aims to make a return from his abdomen strain/groin strain by the playoffs. The Bruins have Anton Khudobin up with the team now, and it’s likely that he’ll start Thursday’s game against the Senators. That should give Khudobin a little more NHL experience (he’s played six games for the Wild) before the playoffs start if he’s needed as Tim Thomas‘ backup, but in a perfect world the Bruins would have Rask back.
“Tuukka’s been skating for a few days, and he’s coming around,” coach Claude Julien said after Wednesday’s practice. “We hope to have him with us soon, at least in practice.
“With Nathan, it’s just going out there — nothing more than just skating and trying to get a feel of how things are. Nothing more than that. He’s not close to joining us as we speak. Still keeping our fingers crossed that it’s going in the right direction.”
Horton has not played since Jan. 22, when his second concussion in less than seven months forced him out of the lineup. His attempt at a comeback has been shaky this season, as he suffered a setback after trying to skate in February.
The Bruins don’t know whether they’ll get Horton back at any point in the playoffs, as the postseason can last up to two months. He’s a longshot to return soon, but Julien says Horton is in good spirits.
“He’s in a good spot emotionally,” Julien said of Horton. “I haven’t talked [to him] about anything related to hockey and him coming back. The last thing he needs is for his coach to start asking those kind of questions. That’s not my job and it’s certainly not something that would be a positive thing to do.
“I leave him be. Everything I do with him is small talk — how are you doing today — and he’s looking good color-wise. He seems to have good color, and we see he’s happy. Those kind of things are encouraging.”
|Bruins leave Johnny Boychuk, Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas and Patrice Bergeron back in Boston||at 1:02 pm ET|
WILMINGTON – Tim Thomas, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara all stayed out on the ice for extra work after Wednesday’s practice, and all three players will join Johnny Boychuk in staying behind when the team travels to Ottawa for Thursday’s game against the Senators. Of the four players, all but Boychuk will simply be given the game off for rest.
Boychuk left Tuesday night’s loss to the Penguins in the third period with a leg injury, but Claude Julien offered no update on the status of the defenseman aside from the fact that he won’t be making the trip.
Thursday’s game will be the first this season in which Bergeron has not played, and it will leave Chris Kelly as the only Bruin to play in each contest. It will be Thomas’ second straight scratch as the team aims to keep the reigning Conn Smythe winner fresh for the playoffs.
|What will Anton Khudobin’s role with the Bruins be?||04.03.12 at 12:58 pm ET|
Anton Khudobin has been through the playoffs with the Bruins before, but after being called up by the team Monday, the possibility exists that he could actually dress this time.
Khudobin (pronounced hoo-DOE-bin) served as one of Boston’s black aces, or practice players, for the postseason last year. He was on the ice with them both in practice and after Game 7 in Vancouver, hoisting the Stanley Cup with the other Bruins and black aces.
“It was good for experience,” Khudobin said. “How you prepare before the games, especially in the playoffs. Playoffs is a big hard run, so just how to get ready before the game and be helpful all the time, be with energy all the time and be focused in the game, every game, every shift, every minute.”
Given the uncertainty of Tuukka Rask‘s situation, Khudobin could actually be on the team’s roster when the playoffs open next Thursday. Rask is still recovering from an abdomen strain/groin strain, and though he is expected to begin skating this week, he might not be ready for the start of the postseason. Marty Turco cannot be on the playoff roster because he was signed after the trade deadline.
“We’ve got to see where Tuukka is” Claude Julien said Tuesday of whether Khudobin will dress in the playoffs. “If Tuukka isn’t ready, then Anton’s got to be ready because Marty can’t play in the playoffs. That’s clear to us, that’s clear to him and the way Tuukka’s going right now, he’s heading in the right direction. Where are going to be in a week and a half from now? I really don’t know.”
Said Khudobin: “Right now, it’s not a question for that. Tuukka maybe is getting ready to play, maybe not. I’m going to do my job right now, practicing every day. Today I had practice, game, tomorrow [another] practice. I’m just living every day.”
The 25-year-old Khudobin has six games of NHL experience, all of which came over the last two seasons as a member of the Wild. In 44 games with Providence this season, he has a 21-19-3 record with a 2.61 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.
At the time of Rask’s injury, Khudobin was out with a wrist injury he suffered on Feb. 25 while shooting in a game against Bridgeport. The injury likely played a part in the B’s having to sign Turco, but Khudobin expressed no frustration that his injury likely cost him some time at the NHL level.
“Sometimes it happens in hockey,” he said. “[Maybe they would have] called me up, but I was hurt too. I just tried to keep moving forward, and finally the time to come up was yesterday.”
Since returning to action on March 23, Khudobin has played in four games for Providence, compiling a 2-2-0 record while allowing 11 goals.
“I’m feeling pretty well. I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve played four games [since] and I feel ready to go,” Khudobin said, adding that he is ready to practice “100 percent.”
One interesting note that Khudobin brought up is that his callups over the years have often come before games against the Penguins. A good friend of Penguins star and former World Juniors Evgeni Malkin, Khudobin caught up with Malkin over dinner Monday night. While he has often been called up for games against the Penguins, Khudobin says he still hasn’t played against the Russian forward yet.
“This is the funny part. I never played against him,” Khudobin said of Malkin, who is second in the NHL with 48 goals this season. “I don’t know, hopefully — maybe some time I will get a chance to play against him.”
That chance will not come Tuesday unless Turco, who is getting the start, falters. Khudobin will serve as the backup, while Tim Thomas will not dress.
|Plenty to like about Sunday’s win over Rangers||04.02.12 at 12:26 am ET|
The Bruins became the first team in the Eastern Conference to clinch their division, wrapping up the Northeast with their 2-1 win over the Rangers Sunday evening. The division win means they will hold the No. 2 seed when they begin the playoffs on April 12.
For the Bruins, Sunday was obviously about way more than clinching the division. In fact, you could take your pick when it comes to the positives that emerged from their victory at Madison Square Garden.
They finally did what they have often been unable to do by beating Rangers goaltender and Vezina favorite Henrik Lundqvist. They only put two pucks past Lundqvist, but the win showed that when Tim Thomas is on, two can be enough.
Thomas made 33 saves in the victory, and both the numbers and the eyeball test are suggesting that he’s getting right where he needs to be for the postseason.
No. 30 was far from himself for a pretty lengthy stretch during the regular season. In an eight-game span from Dec. 31 to Jan. 22, he allowed four or more goals four times. In early March, he allowed four goals in four of seven games. The Bruins were struggling, and they didn’t have a dominant Thomas to bail them out. That seems to be in the past now for both the B’s and Thomas.
Over his last seven starts, Thomas has allowed two goals or less in each game, a span in which he’s gone 5-1-1. Though he was coming off a shootout loss to the Capitals Thursday (his first shootout loss of the season), Thomas had to have been feeling pretty good about the way he’d been playing.
Sunday’s win means Thomas has beaten the Rangers for the first time in three tries this season (Tuukka Rask got the other start). Thomas had allowed three goals in each of his two starts against the conference leaders this season (0-2-0), but on Sunday the reigning Vezina winner held Rangers to one goal on 34 shots.
|Bruins have something to prove vs. Rangers||03.31.12 at 8:13 pm ET|
Through the various highs and lows of the 2011-12 season, one thing has held true for the Bruins: They can’t beat the Rangers.
After losing their first three meetings (0-2-1) against New York — all of which have come in the second half of the season — the Bruins, who figure to hold the second seed in the East when the playoffs begin in about a week and a half, will have their final regular-season crack at the conference’s best team Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Tim Thomas will have to deal with the lighting that he despises so much. [Side note: Thomas got criticized unfairly for that postgame comment after the March 4 game, as it wasn't the first time he's brought up the difficulty he has with the lights there. He answered a question last season about the pre-game festivities at Canadiens games by mentioning he didn't like the lights at MSG.] And the Bruins will have to deal with a goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist (assuming he plays) who has dominated them (and many other teams) over the years.
This season, Lundqvist deserves not only the Vezina trophy but perhaps the Hart as well. That’s why the Bruins need to beat him Sunday. The B’s may not be considered a favorite to make it to the conference finals given how well the Penguins have played of late, but it wouldn’t come as a major shock to anyone if Boston and New York met later in the playoffs with a trip to the Cup finals on the line.
The B’s are a confident bunch either way, but they could use that piece of mind of knowing that Lundqvist, who is 3-0-0 with a 1.61 goals-against average and one shutout against Boston this season, doesn’t completely own them. Considering they’ve only beaten him once over the last two seasons, they could stand to remind themselves and everyone else that King Henrik can be defeated.
Both teams are clearly trying to make sure they’re playing their best hockey by the time the postseason starts. The B’s enter Sunday’s game with points in five straight games (4-0-1), while the Rangers, who lead the Bruins by 11 points, are winners of four straight. Though New York has beaten Boston three times and doesn’t have much to worry about as far as the standings go, the Rangers still have something to gain Sunday. They can officially clinch the Eastern Conference, and a win could give them a mental edge over the B’s should they meet later on down the road.
|Tuukka Rask hopes to return in time for playoffs||03.28.12 at 3:19 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask told ESPNBoston and other outlets Wednesday that his recovery from an abdominal strain/groin strain is going well and that he hopes to be ready for the postseason.
'I want to be back as soon as possible,' Rask said. 'The playoffs was, and is, the goal.'
Rask said that he hopes to return to the ice at some point next week, with him hopefully being ready for game action following the soon after. The B’s will play their last game of the regular season next Saturday against the Sabres.
'It's tough to speculate,' Rask said. 'You never know. We'll see how it goes. Maybe I'll hit the ice next week if everything goes good and go from there.'
Rask leads the Bruins with a 2.05 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. He had an 11-8-3 record with three shutouts in 23 games before suffering his injury against the Islanders on March 3.
If Rask is not ready in time for the first round of the playoffs, the B’s would likely go with Providence starter Anton Khudobin as the backup to Tim Thomas. The Bruins signed veteran goaltender Marty Turco following the injury to Rask, but Turco would not be eligible for postseason play because he was signed after the trade deadline.
Marchand and the Bruins are riding a three-game win streak and are winners of five of their last six games. Two of those wins came on a three-game West Coast road trip in which the team beat the Kings and Ducks and lost to the Sharks. Marchand said that the swing of games in California helped to galvanize the Bruins.
“Anytime you go on a road trip and play the way we did, it's good for your team,” Marchand said. “We definitely built a lot of momentum when you can go into other teams' buildings and win a couple of games on a long road trip like that. It's great for us and we can definitely build a lot of momentum off of that.”
With the team having rebounded and returned to playing some of its best hockey, Marchand said that the Bruins are now focused on maintaining that form heading into the playoffs.
“We know that this is the time where you want to play your best hockey,” Marchand said. “We just talked about how we, if we even want to make the playoffs, have to buckle down and start playing well. If you don't play good hockey come playoff time, you usually get out pretty quickly.
“We don't want to be in that situation. We just have to make sure to put our best effort on the ice every night.”
With Peverley now back from injury, Marchand said that the team’s newest addition has been an immediate help for the Bruins.
“It balances the lines a little more, it fills holes in different parts of the lineup,” Marchand said. “When you get a guy like Peverley back, he's a very, very strong player and played very well for our team last year. We missed him and we're very happy to have him back.”
When asked about Thomas and if his improved play has been a factor in the Bruins’ recent success, Marchand said that while Thomas was never actually playing poorly, his play the last several games has been instrumental to the team’s hot streak.
“During the season, you go through ups and downs, every player does,” Marchand said. “Even if you want to call it down, by no means was it his fault. As a team, as a whole, we weren't playing very well.
“We've played great now for the last few games and he's been on the ball. It definitely makes it a lot easier for us out there when he's playing the way he is right now.”
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