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Chris Kelly expected to return for Bruins Monday 04.08.13 at 11:42 am ET
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Chris Kelly

The Bruins held an optional morning skate Monday, with Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference not taking the ice.

Chris Kelly (leg) did participate in the morning skate, with Claude Julien saying afterwards that the Bruins expect Kelly to make his return to Boston’s lineup Monday night against the Hurricanes. Kelly, who has been out since March 11 with a broken tibia, has skated on a line with Tyler Seguin and Daniel Paille the last two days. Kelly said after the morning skate that he has been medically cleared, is able to take contact and is ready to return if Julien puts him in.

Anton Khudobin was the only goaltender on the ice Monday, but he stayed out after the skate, suggesting that Rask will be the starter against the Hurricanes. Kaspars Daugavins also stayed out longer, so the guess here is that Jordan Caron would be in tonight over Daugavins and Jay Pandolfo.

Here are the projected lines for Monday night:

Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand – Gregory Campbell – Jaromir Jagr
Daniel Paille – Chris Kelly – Tyler Seguin
Jordan Caron – Rich Peverley – Shawn Thornton

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

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What to make of these Bruins as they head into homestretch at 1:26 am ET
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Tyler Seguin will have to step up with Patrice Bergeron out indefinitely. (AP)

How good are the Bruins? Depends on your mentality.

The optimist loves their chances. He remembers that the team is one of just four with fewer than 10 regulation losses. The pessimist, on the other hand, is worried. He notices that five of those losses have come in their last 11 games. The realist, meanwhile, is trying to figure out just who these Bruins really are.

Good luck, realist.

Regardless of your level of hope, there is no doubt that Bruins are scuffling right now. The team that looked dead in Philadelphia, asleep for 50 minutes in Buffalo, gave up 87 shots in two home games and then embarrassed itself when it couldn’t even muster a shot in their six-on-four power play late in Montreal is clearly not the same group that cruised to a 19-4-3 record to start the year.

There are some obvious differences. These Bruins have had serious personnel changes since the start of the year. Not only have they lost the contributions from two key centermen (Chris Kelly and now Patrice Bergeron), but their loss has tested their depth at the position. It has forced Claude Julien to juggle his lines and shift both Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley from the wing, weakening two of his four lines. They’ve also been forced to test their depth on the blue line as Matt Bartkowski and Aaron Johnson have spelled the injured Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuck.

Fortunately for the B’s, I think the optimists win this one. Boychuck is already back. Kelly is close to returning. McQuaid has now skated with the team. Only Bergeron remains as a great mystery for the playoffs, and without him I think we all become horribly pessimistic. He is that important to their postseason chances. Without his presence, as Paul Pierce said about Kevin Garnett‘s effect on the Celtics, “They aren’t going anywhere.”

During this downturn, however, we’ve seen a run of third-period losses. A team once built upon late-game surges has seen its power turned off in key spots. I see two possible explanations: Either the Bruins are getting tired in the third periods, or their goalie keeps losing concentration.

I think the B’s are just tired, and so on this question I’ll remain optimistic as well. Much has been made of the condensed schedule and the toll it is taking on especially physical teams. Julien’s blueprint has always been to beat you up for 40 minutes then take advantage of your exhaustion late. If the schedule has prevented them from playing as physically as they’d like, I’ll assume that they are smartly keeping something in reserve for the playoffs.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t causes for major concern.

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Bruins trying to solve an offensive mess 04.07.13 at 11:23 pm ET
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Claude Julien is looking for answers offensively. (AP)

Claude Julien said before the season he was going to be quicker to make reactionary moves this season. It would be impossible to blame him for doing so after Saturday’s loss to the Canadiens.

Julien demoted Tyler Seguin to the third line, put Rich Peverley on the seldom-played fourth line and promoted Gregory Campbell to the second line (making the second line the 2010 version of the Merlot Line, except with Jaromir Jagr in place of Shawn Thornton) for Sunday’s practice. The moves speak to how in flux Boston is offensively, as the B’s have scored two goals or less in four of their last five games, with three one-goal showings.

The lines looked like this:

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Gregory Campbell-Jaromir Jagr
Daniel Paille/Jay Pandolfo-Chris Kelly-Tyler Seguin
Kaspars Daugavins/Jordan Caron-Rich Peverley-Shawn Thornton

Sunday’s lines could have just been a threat on Julien’s part to wake up some of his slumping forwards, and there are plenty of candidates. Brad Marchand wasn’t demoted with the revamped lines, but he has just two goals in his last 17 games. He and Seguin combined for zero shots on goal Sunday night in what was a very untimely disappearing act for two of Boston’s top scorers.

Then there’s the Peverley thing, which is very interesting. Julien clearly expects way more than he’s getting out Peverley (no points, minus-2 rating last five games). After Peverly was a healthy scratch last month, it appears he is back in the doghouse.

It hasn’t been a no-win situation for Peverley, but you do have to take into consideration that he hasn’t been playing with top players for the most part. His linemates have included Chris Bourque, Jay Pandolfo and Kaspars Daugavins. It isn’t exactly like Peverley’s been put in a position to win the Hart Trophy, but it’s reasonable to expect better numbers than he’s put up even with subpar linemates.

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Pierre McGuire on M&M: Jaromir Jagr ‘going to be a very effective player’ on B’s power play 04.05.13 at 12:23 pm ET
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Pierre McGuire

NBC’s Pierre McGuire spoke with Mut & Merloni on Friday about Jaromir Jagr‘s role on the Boston power play, Tyler Seguin shifting to center, and what the Bruins need to do against the Canadiens on Saturday.

McGuire reminisced about his days working with a young Jagr in the Penguins organization, saying, “We had to kick him off the ice because he was such a workaholic. That’s how much he wanted to be great.”

The Bruins got their first look at Jagr on the power play on Thursday, and McGuire said he expects Jagr to be as much of a force low in the zone with the man advantage as he’s always been.

“That’s where Jaromir’s so good,” he said. “From the hash marks down to the icing line, just getting him to get the puck — he can spin and control, he can dish it off or he can take it to the net. So, when he has that kind of multiple-weapon attack from that area, it opens up the one-timer for [Zdeno] Chara. It opens up the back door for potentially Tyler Seguin. It opens up getting the puck to other areas on the ice, maybe for Nathan Horton. So again, where he’s posted right now, he’s going to be a very effective player playing down there. He always has been.”

To beat the Canadiens, McGuire said, the Bruins have to shut down P.K. Subban the same way opposing teams targeted Ray Bourque during his time in Boston.

“The biggest thing is you have to identify certain players,” McGuire said. “Whenever Raymond Bourque was on the ice we had a Ray Bourque rule. You had to hit him every time he was on the ice, and as you skated by him, you had to hit him in the hands with your stick. Our guys lived by it for two straight years and it paid huge dividends for us. … It’s the same thing with Subban. Their power play’s effective, yes, because [Andrei] Markov‘s good, but Subban’s got that overwhelming shot and the ability to distribute, and he’s a breakout player, and he’s a trap-breaker. So if you’re giving that guy free minutes, he’s going to eat you up. You’ve got to punish that guy.”

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Tyler Seguin has a whole new appreciation for Patrice Bergeron at 1:47 am ET
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He didn’t think it would be this hard.

But after skating up and down the center of the ice and going side to side in his first game as a center, Tyler Seguin has a whole new appreciation and understanding of exactly what Patrice Bergeron does.

In his first game replacing the concussed Bergeron, Seguin skated 19 shifts in 19 minutes with Jaromir Jagr on his right and Brad Marchand on his left. Seguin finished with three shots in Boston’s 1-0 win over the Devils Thursday night at the Garden.

“First shift I was like, ‘Bergy, I appreciate you a lot more right now,’” Seguin said. “I guess the first period I felt it a little bit more, but, again, as the game progressed I felt like I could use my speed a little bit more, and it was just about finding those areas. It’s one thing from being a centerman and then going to the NHL, but it’s another thing from going center to wing in the NHL and then going back to center, so it’s going to take some adjustment.”

His coach could certainly see a difference.

“Well, it brought us what we thought. Tyler is obviously realizing, probably, how tough it is for Bergy to play that position, because playing in the D-zone, there’s a lot of territory to cover as a centerman, and when pucks are going from one side to the other, he wasn’t always there,” coach Claude Julien added. “That’s the work in progress, and that’s what we expected, and that’s what he’s going to get used to. But overall, that line was fine. Again, you’ve got to remember there’s a Hall of Famer on that line with two young players who were probably looking for him a bit too much versus making the plays or taking the shots like they should’ve. Hopefully, it will wear off and it will get better.”

Seguin also has a new appreciation of the responsibility Bergeron carries in the face-off circle. Seguin won just three-of-12 but vowed to get better with practice. Read the rest of this entry »

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Picture perfect: Jaromir Jagr scores only goal, Tuukka Rask spotless in 1-0 win 04.04.13 at 9:26 pm ET
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Jaromir Jagr (left) had the first laugh on Martin Brodeur (30), scoring a goal when a pick went off his skate and past Brodeur. (AP)

Jaromir Jagr was the main attraction but Tuukka Rask stole the show.

Rask turned aside all 40 shots while Jagr scored the only goal in his Boston debut as the Bruins edged the New Jersey Devils, 1-0, Thursday night at TD Garden. The win was an important one for the Bruins, who improve to 24-8-4. Boston has 52 points and kept pace with first-place Montreal in Northeast Division. The Bruins trail the Canadiens by just one point heading into another showdown north of the border Saturday night.

Jagr finished with a team-leading five shots in 19 shifts, which including 19 minutes, 12 seconds of ice time. He also had one hit, one blocked shots and one giveaway in his first game with the Bruins since being acquired from Dallas on Tuesday. One game after allowing 47 shots on net in a 3-2 win over Ottawa, the Bruins allowed the Devils to fire 40 shots.

Fans were ready for the debut of Jagr early on Thursday night at the Garden. As he took the ice for the pre-game skate, fans cheered him, the last Bruin to take the ice for warmups.

Jagr’s debut included a standing ovation in his first shift, the third overall of the game for the Bruins. As was the case in the morning skate, Tyler Seguin centered Jagr’s line with Jagr on the right wing and Brad Marchand on the left.

His first period was active, if not productive. He was on the ice for six shifts, totaling five minutes, 58 seconds. He had two shots and a blocked shot but the game was scoreless after 20 minutes. The Devils, after getting outplayed in the first four minutes of the game, dominated the final 15 minutes, outshooting the Bruins, 17-6, for the period.

While all eyes were on No. 68 every time he stepped on the ice, Rask was the bigger story as he made big save after big save, including a pair of back-to-back right pad saves on Alexei Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson from the low slot midway through the period. Minutes later, Rask turned away Adam Henrique on blocker save.

The Bruins and Jagr finally broke through in the second period as a centering pass from Marchand ricocheted off Jagr’s left skate and through the five-hole of Martin Brodeur just 80 seconds into the period for a 1-0 Boston lead. It was the 640th goal of Jagr’s career and 18th against Brodeur in 64 career meetings.

Six minutes later, the Bruins and their fans got a good look at another reason why management went out and acquired the 41-year-old veteran. When David Clarkson took an interference penalty, Jagr was placed on the power play for the full two minutes. He was stopped by Brodeur in close on a backhander and spent a majority of the time behind the net, though he did have one giveaway on the man advantage. Jagr was on the first power play unit with Zdeno Chara, Nathan Horton, Marchand and Seguin.

The Bruins applied serious pressure in the final two minutes of the second but Brodeur turned away Gregory Campbell and Marchand to keep it a one-goal game.

Rask kept up the sterling play in the third, highlighted by another big pad save on Andy Greene with just under eight minutes left in regulation. Greene broke through the Bruins defense and had a clean look but Rask stopped the wrister in close.

The Bruins are off Friday before leaving for a Saturday night date with the Canadiens at the Bell Centre in Montreal. For complete coverage of Jagr’s debut from the Garden from DJ Bean and Mike Petraglia, visit the Bruins team page at weei.com/bruins.

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Jaromir Jagr to play with Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand at 12:01 pm ET
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Jaromir Jagr was all smiles Thursday. (DJ Bean/WEEI.com)

When the Bruins acquired Jaromir Jagr, it seemed a question of whether he would play on Boston’s first line or third line. As it turns out, Patrice Bergeron‘s concussion had a big say in the matter, as Jagr took part in his first morning skate with the Bruins on the second line, with Tyler Seguin at center.

The lines in morning skate were as follows:

Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand – Tyler Seguin – Jaromir Jagr
Jay Pandolfo – Rich Peverley – Kaspars Daugavins
Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Shawn Thornton

Though Seguin was drafted as a center after playing mostly center in the OHL, he has primarily been a right wing in his time in the NHL. With Bergeron out, he’ll be given more responsibility initially, although the Bruins have lots of players capable of playing center on their roster (including the recently acquired Kaspars Daugavins), so if the trial period doesn’t go well, Claude Julien will have other options.

“We put him there because we think he can [handle] it,” Julien said of Seguin. “We’ll see. It’s a great opportunity for him. He’s played there most of his career and giving him that opportunity is something that I think he deserves. We’ll see how it goes, and if not, coaches will do what they do. They adjust.”

The morning skate also marked the return of Chris Kelly, whom the Bruins expect to return to the lineup shortly, though not Thursday. Tuukka Rask was the first goaltender off the ice, and will start vs. the Devils after Anton Khudobin played Boston’s last two games.

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

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