Frank Vatrano will miss tonight's game with an upper-body injury. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

Bruins winger Frank Vatrano will miss tonight’s game against the Stars with an apparent upper-body injury. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

Held without a goal in 14 straight games, and with just two helpers over that span, Bruins winger Frank Vatrano will take a seat when the team plays host to the Stars at TD Garden on Thursday night.

The seat in the press box for the shoot-first winger is not performance related, though, but comes following the word that Vatrano is dealing with an upper-body injury sustained in Tuesday’s practice.

“Bit of an upper-body issue that will be day-to-day, so he’s out tonight,” Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy of Vatrano, who was not on the ice, said after the morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “I don’t know any more than that — if it’s serious — but he will be out tonight.”

Absent from the on-ice portion of the skate, Cassidy reiterated Vatrano’s status for tonight’s game, but did not sound too alarmed regarding the Massachusetts native’s availability down the stretch.

 

“He bumped it in practice,” Cassidy said. “He’s got an upper-body that was aggravated this morning, so he’ll be out.”

Down Vatrano, Matt Beleskey will draw back into action on the club’s third line with Ryan Spooner at center and Jimmy Hayes on the right. (Beleskey also replaced Vatrano on the club’s second power-play unit.) But the Beleskey-Spooner-Hayes line is one that the Black and Gold have not tried yet this year, but one that had its share of minutes a year ago, with over 231 minutes together last season and five goals from the three forwards (and eight goals in total when on the ice).

It’s been a season to forget for both of the wingers on that line — Beleskey comes into play with just three goals and eight points in 43 games while Hayes has scored just two goals, including zero in his last 28 games played, and five points in 56 games to date — and even Spooner had his share of struggles at five-on-five this year, with just 20 even-strength points in 72 games.

“They gotta play a good, 200-foot game,” Cassidy said of what that line’s goal for tonight. “They gotta play with the puck a little more often in terms of hanging onto it, puck-possession game when they get it back so they’re not defending the whole game.”

One of the B’s worst lines last year in terms of chances against, and frequently hemmed in their own zone, Cassidy wants to see the combo figure out a way to factor into pushing the puck the other way with offensive chances against the Stars tonight.

“I think it’s hard no matter what line you are, how good you are a player, if you’re defending most of the time, it’s taxing and you don’t enjoy the game as much,” Cassidy continued. “Obviously everyone wants to play with the puck and make some things happen that way. Part of that message yesterday with them as a group was like hang onto it longer in terms of protecting it.”

For Cassidy, the belief is that better chances will come for the group with better puck protection and more of a willingness to absorb contact and hits to make plays — something these big-bodied wingers should embrace — will lead to more of the players feeling ‘involved’ in a B’s game that’s been lacking in five-on-five finishers over the last week-plus of hockey.

“When you’re always defending I think that’s when you feel like, ‘Well I’m not doing my part,'” Cassidy said of the embattled combo. “They’re all guys that want to be on the scoresheet.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

The Bruins have mismanaged Tuukka Rask for the third year in a row. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)You’re wrong about Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.



The list of available and protected players will be made public by the NHL for the expansion draft this June. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

The list of available and protected players will be made public by the NHL for the expansion draft this June. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

It turns out there will not be any secrets at this year’s expansion draft.

With the Vegas Golden Knights having their pick of the litter from all 30 NHL teams (so long as they meet their conditions, more on that in a second), there’s been some back and forth as to the league’s willingness to make both the list of available and protected players public info.

That hesitation makes sense when you’re talking about something as potentially awkward as this — be it knowing a player the fans didn’t want their team to protect is protected or that a fan favorite or bad contract went unprotected — but it’s one the players and general managers are apparently going to have to deal with come June.

According to a release from the league’s public relations team today, both lists will be made available simultaneously with their distribution to the clubs at a date to be determined later.

So, who’s protected or exposed for the Bruins?

First, the rules…

One: Teams have two protection options. They could protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie. Or they could protect a total of eight skaters (forwards or defensemen) and a goalie. Expect the Bruins to go with the 7-3-1 protection plan. Two: The players with no-movement clauses have to be protected. That means that Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, and David Krejci will be protected up front, and Zdeno Chara will be protected on the backend. Three: All first-year and second-year pros — along with unsigned draft picks — are exempt from the draft, too, which means guys like Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano will be protected (but not included in your protection list). And for the exposed players? The teams will need to expose one defenseman who is under contract for 2017-18 and played at least 40 games this season, or 70 games over the last two seasons. The same criteria has to be met for two forwards, too, and one goalie who is also under contract for 2017-18.

With three of their seven protected forwards already picked in Backes, Bergeron and Krejci, the other four should probably be Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak as the obvious four and five. The sixth and seventh could be interesting, but I have to think one will go to Ryan Spooner and one will go to either Riley Nash or Matt Beleskey. On defense, Torey Krug is the easy pick for the No. 2 protected defender behind Chara, and the Bruins will have to choose between Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, and Adam McQuaid for the third and final protected spot on the point. Personally, I think it would make the most sense to protect Colin Miller and take the chance that Vegas selects either Kevan Miller or Adam McQuaid — two players that are almost carbon copies of one another, even down to their contracts — to help clear the right side logjam for a player like Charlie McAvoy next year.

And though it may be tempting if you believe that his contract is a ‘burden’, you should not expect the Bruins to leave Tuukka Rask unprotected, as it would make absolutely zero sense to let a franchise goalie walk for absolutely nothing.

 

Who they protect and expose will remain unknown for quite some time, of course.

But it’s a certain that you will know, which is more than I thought you could say heading into today.

 

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

As revealed by Bruins general manager Don Sweeney on Wednesday, top prospect Charlie McAvoy has made his decision.

Bruins prospect Charlie McAvoy will join the organization this week. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Bruins prospect Charlie McAvoy will join the organization this week. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

As revealed by Bruins general manager Don Sweeney on Wednesday, top prospect Charlie McAvoy has made his decision.

“Charlie has decided that he will be foregoing the rest of his college career,” Sweeney began his press conference at Warrior Ice Arena. “He will be signing an ATO (amateur tryout) very shortly and heading down to play games this weekend. He’ll get practice time tomorrow, probably practice Friday, and likely be available for the weekend of games.”

The practices, by the way, are in Providence and with the club’s AHL affiliate P-Bruins and not with the Big B’s in Boston. It’s the path that barring him playing in an NHL game (regular season or postseason) would allow the Bruins to officially begin his entry-level deal next year.

“It’s the first step,” Sweeney said. “He made his decision to leave and we’re excited about that process. It leaves some options open, but most importantly while I’m discussing with his financial advisors and his agent — now with his leaving school I can call it that officially — that we’ll have ongoing discussions and see where it leads. But it leaves some options open first and foremost and gets him playing and acclimated.”

A two-year standout with Boston University, McAvoy finishes his NCAA career with eight goals and 51 points in 75 games for the Terriers, and won a Gold medal with Team USA at the 2017 World Junior Championships in the middle of his sophomore year.

“His development has been very good,” said Sweeney when asked about McAvoy’s two-year sample on Comm Ave. “He’s been relied upon heavily as a younger player over there, grew into a leadership role this year. Obviously had a tremendous World Junior and a Gold medal effort. Their team overall was very, very talented but very young and you go through some growing pains as a result of that. But he played a lot, he played a lot of different situations,  so we’re excited about his trajectory.”

McAvoy’s path is not all that dissimilar than that of Brandon Carlo a year ago, who wrapped up his junior career and then finished his season on an ATO with the P-Bruins, skating in seven AHL games (and one AHL playoff game) to finish his season. Carlo then started his entry-level deal this past fall, and has been a fixture on the B’s top pairing ever since.

The 19-year-old McAvoy could have a similar impact when he’s given the call, too, according to Sweeney.

“He has the attributes to be able to play in the NHL game right now,” Sweeney said. “Absolutely.”

And with that in mind, there simply has to be an urge (albeit a dangerous one from a contract future standpoint) from the Bruins, who have just 78 points from nine defensemen not named Torey Krug this season, to get McAvoy into the mix for the stretch run.

“There’s a balancing act there,” Sweeney said when asked about weighing the pros and cons of throwing McAvoy into the mix now versus later. “And I don’t think you ultimately know until you kinda see him play in the NHL and where his readiness is.”

There’s also the fact that this league is trending younger and with entry-level players making serious pushes as elite talents.

“I do believe the individual player always dictate, but it seems their skillsets and such have been accelerated,” Sweeney admitted of the frequent jump right from prospect to star for many. “The league has sort of implemented younger players, and I think that’s been a movement and when you see players that have the ability to make an impact — [David] Pastrnak is a great example of a younger player making an impact in our lineup — you’re seeing it around the league, I think that it gets a little wheel of momentum going and seeing whether or not players are capable of doing that.”

That movement, for McAvoy anyways, will begin in Providence.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Noel Acciari scored his first career goal Tuesday night. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Noel Acciari scored his first career goal Tuesday night. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Riley Nash scored twice against the New York Islanders on Saturday night, one of the first signs the fourth line might have some new energy. On Tuesday against the Nashville Predators, that line once again shined, with Nash getting an assist and Noel Acciari scoring his first career NHL goal.

“It was special,” Acciari said. “Your first NHL goal is a special feeling and to finally have it…I couldn’t have done it without the other guys, the other four, five guys on the ice. But it feels good.

“Riley Nash made an unbelievable pass, so I was left with the easy part there.”

It took 45 games at the NHL level for Acciari to finally light the lamp, his goal being the third in the game against the Predators with four minutes remaining in the third period.

“I’m not really thinking at that point,” said Acciari. “I’m just – my mind is kind of just blank and as soon as I see it hit the netting, it was special… Just excited.”

More than just on the score sheet, Acciari continued to bring his trademark heavy hitting in a physical affair, leading to an eventual 10-minute misconduct in a mini-brawl at the end of the contest.

“I think I kind of strayed when I got back from my injury,” Acciari said. “I kind of strayed away from the hitting game and just getting in on the forecheck.”

“Part of the process with Noel that we talked about was rounding out his offensive game. You’re starting to see more, he’s making tight-area plays, and that was a great finish, obviously great play by Riley Nash,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’s really added to that line and slid in seamlessly.”

Nash now has five points in his last three games, as his line with Dominic Moore and Acciari carried the tone of the game against the Preds.

“I’m glad I don’t have to play against him because those look like they hurt a lot of the times,” Nash said of Acciari. “It doesn’t matter if he’s hitting you or you’re trying to hit him. He’s pretty sturdy. And he just creates a lot of space.”

Acciari led the team with eight hits on Tuesday night with 13:07 minutes on the ice, an increase from just 7:57 on Saturday against the Islanders, as Cassidy continued to roll the line as long as it produced. Meanwhile, it was a third line of Ryan Spooner, Drew Stafford and Jimmy Hayes that saw its ice time decrease.

“He’s come up here and really given us an opportunity to look at that fourth line,” Cassidy said of Acciari. “Maybe a little heavier in terms of physicality, because he can get there to finish checks.”

Acciari, who has only played 24 games with the Bruins this season, has found a role with that fourth line, and his team mates who have been there all season appreciate it.

“It’s nice to watch,” said Nash. “It’s nice to see a guy on our line banging someone. I know me and Dom aren’t the most physical guys. But, Noel is picking up where we’re a little short.”

Blog Author: 
Marisa Ingemi
David Krejci scored his 22nd goal of the season in last night's win over the Preds. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

David Krejci scored his 22nd goal of the season in last night’s win over the Preds. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Like they did on Monday when he left practice earlier than anticipated, the Bruins had backup plans at their disposal if David Krejci (upper-body) was unable to play in Tuesday’s head-to-head with the Predators.

None of those plans would have made up for the loss of Krejci though, so Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy was more than happy to see the club’s second line center — and perhaps most creative pivot when on his game — not only suit up, but score the game-winning goal for the Bruins in a 4-1 final over the Predators at TD Garden.

“He looked good. I told him, I said, ‘If you wanted a day off, you should have just asked me,’ because I thought he was flying,” Cassidy said after the win. “But obviously he had a little injury that was nagging him, and he took care of it, and he looked good.”

Part of a B’s second line that just straight-up bothered the Predators and goaltender Pekka Rinne for all three periods, with Drew Stafford to his left and David Pastrnak to the right, Krejci found the scoresheet with his 22nd goal of the season, scored late in the first period, and moving within one of his career-best set in 2011-12.

The goal, as mentioned earlier, would hold as the game-winner for the centerpiece of the Black and Gold’s second line.

“Their line had a lot of pop tonight early on, creating offense, and probably could have had a few more goals,” Cassidy said of the Krejci line. “And they didn’t suffer at the other end as well. So, I liked [Krejci]’s game a lot.”

The line went beyond just Krejci, too, as Pastrnak put forth one of the busiest games in recent memory, with countless dazzling moves through the offensive zone, and finished night with one assist and four shots on goal.

“He’s a gifted player,” Krejci said about Pastrnak. “He makes lots of plays out there, and you can expect the unexpected, and most of the time, you know, he gets it through, so it’s been fun playing with him. It’s been fun watching him, so it’s been good.”

“It was a good game from us and we created a lot of offense. We got a goal, Krech had a good game,” Pastrnak noted. “The first period was really good for us, probably came from the focus. We knew that they have a good start, we knew they played yesterday, we tried to jump them and it worked and those two goals we scored were enough.”

One of five Bruins players to skate in every game this season, the crafty Czech’s status for Tuesday was not in doubt after a round of treatments and rest, which seems to be a theme for this team of late, as the same approach was applied to Tuukka Rask.

“Yesterday maybe,” Krejci said when asked if he had any doubts about his availability. “We have a really good staff back there. We did lots of work throughout the day yesterday and this morning, so when I showed up for the game today I felt much better.”

Krejci has tallied 22 goals and 51 points in 76 games this season, and the B’s are 26-11-4 when No. 46 records at least one point.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made 24 saves in a 4-1 win over the Predators. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made 24 saves in a 4-1 win over the Predators. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy was not afraid to demand a better compete and effort from his No. 1 goaltender last week.

And based on Tuesday’s results, maybe he should do it more often.

The message undoubtedly got through to the 30-year-old Rask, as he delivered a sensational outing that helped propel the Bruins to a 4-1 home victory over the Predators, with 24 stops on 25 shots against.

The bounceback did not go unnoticed by the B’s bench boss, either.

“I loved it,” Cassidy said of Rask’s game. “He really worked hard to find pucks in traffic, they created some good opportunities, and even the goal against, he found it. They just tipped it at eye level, so it was going to be a tough one, and we need to be better in the shooting lane on that one. But I thought he was terrific. Very pleased with his performance.”

The Bruins spotted Rask a two-goal edge through 20 minutes, but given the trouble the Bruins had with leads in Rask’s last start, there was no way that you were going to find comfort without No. 40 stepping up to the plate and shutting the door for the full 60.

He did that in a second period that saw the Predators pepper Rask for nine shots against (while allowing just five at the other end of the ice), helped cool a Nashville power play that entered action with goals on five of their last 25 opportunities to an 0-for-3 finish on the night. His best save of the period came with a denial on the Preds’ Viktor Arvidsson where Rask stayed with the shooter with the patience and poise that made him a Vezina favorite in the first three months of the season.

“Well that was the one he had the most time, you know, he had time to take a look but there was a couple,” Rask said of the Arvidsson stop. “There was that one deflection right in front, he got the rebound and I didn’t see where the puck was. There was a couple tips and stuff, but that was the one maybe that stands out for people because he had so much time.”

Rask carried that over into the second period, too, as he stopped all but one of Nashville’s 10 shots in the final frame (a perfect tip-in putaway from Craig Smith in front of Rask) and finished the night as the game’s winning goalie and the No. 1 star.

“I think he did,” Cassidy said when asked if Rask upped his compete when the Preds cranked up the heat later in the game. “I think there was a lot of traffic, there were a lot of plays behind the goal line where you’re going post-to-post. That’s where it gets a little more strenuous, your game, as opposed to just having great technique. If you’ve got to track pucks, you’ve got to find pucks, you’ve got to fight through bodies, and he did a real good job with it.”

This was one of those areas that you wanted to see Rask rebound in, as there were few ‘leaky’ pucks around him, even with the breakdowns that happened in front of him at times against a Preds group that loves to create those kinds of chances.

“I thought we played well in front of him, but like I said, when we broke down, it seemed to be in those areas where we couldn’t break the puck up below our goal line, and a lot of bodies going on, a lot of point shots too,” Cassidy continued. “And this is the type of team, [Ryan] Ellis, [P.K.] Subban, [Roman] Josi, they rely on that part of the game and traffic. It was going to be a test for them there. I thought he answered the bell, and in a terrific manner.”

It’s also no secret that nearly a week of rest had to help Rask, too, in what was his 60th start of the season. (Even before tonight Rask was straight-up lethal on more than three days rest this year, with nine wins and a .931 save percentage in 13 games.)

Oh, and there’s also the whole snapping the crunch-time losing streak narrative that Rask has been saddled with in recent days.

“Personally, I mean, I’ve lost four games but played a couple good games there and we just didn’t get the bounces,” Rask said after the victory, refusing to take the bait. “But, you know, we kind of got in winning habits there in Long Island and me stepping in there, I just wanted to make sure that I gave us a chance to win and the guys did the rest. So, it was a great team effort today.”

One that may have started with last week’s callout from the coach.

And, y’know, a rest the overworked goalie sorely needed.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Tuukka Rask and the Bruins remember being booed off the ice in their last home game, a 6-3 loss to the Lightning last Thursday.

They were booed back to the locker room for a number of reasons, too.

The Bruins beat the Predators for their second straight win on Tuesday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins beat the Predators for their second straight win on Tuesday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Tuukka Rask and the Bruins remember being booed off the ice in their last home game, a 6-3 loss to the Lightning last Thursday.

They were booed back to the locker room for a number of reasons, too.

Their slow start, which Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy blamed partially on himself, was trouble. Their inability to hold a lead — the Bruins blew three leads in less than three minutes of total action in the second period — was painful. And their third period,complete with the soft game-winning goal surrendered from Rask, was just straight-up dreadful and perhaps their worst period of the year.

But tonight’s sellout crowd had not a single thing to boo on Tuesday night, as the Bruins did everything they didn’t do in their last home game, and built off the positives of last Saturday’s road win over the Isles, to defeat the Predators by a 4-1 final at TD Garden.

With the Preds having come to Boston on the second leg of a back-to-back that began last night in Brooklyn, Cassidy made it a point of emphasis following the club’s morning skate that the Black and Gold simply had to jump on the Predators early and often to play with the lead. And it was just 2:28 into the first period that Patrice Bergeron and the Bruins found their lead, as No. 37 hopped on a Pekka Rinne and hammered his 18th goal of the season home, on just the third shot of the game.

It was your classic ‘two birds, one stone’ type of goal for the Bruins, too, as Bergeron’s tally was the first five-on-five tally from a member of the Bruins’ top six forward corps in over 235 minutes of action, which has become another concern for a B’s group with too many to count heading into the final seven games of their regular season.

But you needed to see the Bruins shut the door at the other end before you could relax.

And with the Preds still looking for their first shot of the game immediately after the Bergeron tally, you had a feeling that the failure to get that key stop (something Cassidy has asked out of Rask) could have a spiraling effect on the team.

Rask delivered, though, and the Bruins expanded on that lead before the end of the second, with David Krejci’s 22nd goal of the season, tucked through Rinne’s legs at 13:52 after a great give-and-go that began with David Pastrnak at the attacking blue, and the Bruins had their 2-0 lead and the strong start against a straight-up winded Nashville group.

Oh, and another five-on-five goal from the talents that have been missing a bit too much for your liking over the last week plus.

The Predators gave it a strong push, however, with a nine-shot second period in which the Bruins relied heavily on Rask, who finished the night with stops on 24-of-25 shots thrown his way, as the Bruins’ 2-0 lead held through two periods.

Even when the Predators responded with a Craig Smith tip-in to make it a one-goal game just over the midway point of the third period, the Bruins came right back behind the first goal of forward Noel Acciari’s NHL career.

Advantageous is the word you can use when talking about the Bruins in this game, and rightfully so.

Realizing their situation as a team with a chance to bank some more points and pad their playoff positioning lead, the Bruins answered the challenge. And realizing the situation of their opponent, a winded bunch from Monday in Brooklyn, the Bruins upped the ante and broke Nashville’s will to win this game.

For a team that’s been as dangerously inconsistent as the B’s have this year, these points were gigantic and necessary.

The Bruins return to the ice Thursday night against the Stars.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson