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
David Krejci (upper-body) will play tonight. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

David Krejci (upper-body) will play tonight. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

On Monday, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask returned to practice and said that he was 100 percent ready to play in the club’s next game. Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy backed his goaltender up, and while he said he would wait for Rask to feel good on gameday, he did admit that Rask was still the club’s No. 1 goaltender.

(Crazy to think that five serviceable games from Anton Khudobin for the first time all year haven’t put Rask on the waiver wire, right?)

That positivity in regards to No. 40 continued on into Tuesday’s optional skate, where Cassidy noted that Rask was healthy and ready to start tonight’s game against the Predators.

Then, as has become late season tradition, something weird happened with the Bruins’ goaltending situation.

Shortly after 5 p.m., Zane McIntyre was an emergency recall from Providence. About 40 minutes later, the Boston Herald’s Steve Conroy reported that it was Anton Khudobin, not Rask, who was dealing with some sort of minor ailment suffered during the morning skate or shortly thereafter, which is why McIntyre was recalled on such short notice. Then warmups came and went with Rask leading the team out and Khudobin on the ice as well. So, yeah, that’s about it. Hope the drive was fun, Zane.

That means that Rask will be your starting netminder tonight. Rask allowed five goals on 28 shots last Thursday in a loss to the Lightning, and enters play with 33 wins and a .910 save percentage in 59 games this season. Rask was lifted from his only prior start against the Preds this year after just 12:49 thanks to a Roman Josi slapshot that hit him in the throat.

Nashville counters with Pekka Rinne. Rinne stopped 26-of-28 shots in a 7-2 win over the Sharks in his last outing, and takes to the Garden ice tonight with 30 wins and a .916 save percentage in 56 games this season. The towering Finn also comes into action with four wins and a .940 save percentage in five career games against the Bruins.

Bruins center David Krejci, who left Monday’s practice early and skipped out on today’s optional skate, will also be in the lineup. Krejci is dealing with a lower-body injury, and has just one goal and a minus-4 in his last four games played.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Drew Stafford – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes

Dominic Moore – Riley Nash – Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

John-Michael Liles – Kevan Miller

Tuukka Rask

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

It would appear that Charlie McAvoy Watch has taken a turn down the highway and towards Providence.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Bruins and their 2016 first-round draft pick are currently trying to hammer out an amateur tryout agreement that would put the highly skilled defender, whose Boston University Terriers were eliminated by Minnesota-Duluth last weekend, down with the organization’s AHL affiliate for the rest of the season.

In layman’s terms, an amateur tryout agreement would basically mean that McAvoy would simply finish his hockey season with the P-Bruins and in the AHL, and start his entry-level deal beginning in the 2017-18 season. Such a move would obviously mean that McAvoy would not join the Big B’s for their stretch run or a potential playoff run.

Given the fact that the Bruins have eight defensemen on their NHL roster, and with their playoff fate likely the same with or without the 19-year-old McAvoy, it makes sense for the Bruins to use some patience and maximize McAvoy’s entry-level deal.

McAvoy, the 14th overall pick last year, has eight goals and 51 points in 75 NCAA games, and won Gold with Team USA as the club’s alternate captain — with two goals and six points in seven games — at the 2017 World Junior Championships.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

After what’s felt like an eternity of radio-driven drama and controversy after Rask tapped out of playing in last Saturday’s must-win game against the Islanders (he did not even travel with the team), Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is ready to return to his crease.

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask will start tonight against the Predators. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask will start tonight against the Predators. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

After what’s felt like an eternity of radio-driven drama and controversy after Rask tapped out of playing in last Saturday’s must-win game against the Islanders (he did not even travel with the team), Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is ready to return to his crease.

“Tuukka is healthy. That’s what he indicated to me, and that’s all I need to hear,” Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy said after the optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “He’ll be our starter tonight.”

The 30-year-old Rask was saddled with the loss in his last outing after he allowed five goals on 28 shots against, including a really, really soft goal surrendered to Jonathan Drouin in the third period, and was by all means called out by Cassidy after his poor showing.

Almost a week later, Cassidy revisited those comments.

“I try not to go back in time too often,” Cassidy began. “I didn’t think we were great in front of him at times and when we weren’t great in front of him I thought he could’ve done a better job on a few of those goals, doing his part: making saves.”

Rask, for the record, said that his lower-body injury occurred in the middle of that 6-3 loss, too.

“Was I critical of Tuukka? Clearly on a couple of goals he needed to back us up and we weren’t good in front of him,” said Cassidy. “I just thought as a group we weren’t good enough. From Player 1 to 20. And I put myself in that category, too.”

“When you let in one or two goals, I know it, he knows it, everybody knows it,” Rask, who had a weekend of treatments, said of the criticism from his coach for bad goals against. “You try to avoid those as much as possible, but sometimes you let in a bad goal. Hopefully more often than not, you don’t. I have no problem with [being criticized].”

For many in the Hub, the criticism isn’t just from one rough outing, but a significant number of them.

Since Jan. 1, Rask has posted a 14-13-1 record, and his .888 save percentage since then ranks as the worst in the NHL among goaltenders with at least 25 games played. It’s probably worth noting, however, that Rask has twice left games due to an injury over that span, and has also logged the fourth-most games among NHL goaltenders in total this season (59 games played). The flipside to those struggles is Rask’s excellence in the first leg of the season, with 18 wins and a .927 save percentage (the fifth-best mark in the NHL) in 28 games played from October through the end of December.

But no matter the argument you care to make, Rask simply isn’t listening.

“I don’t listen, I don’t read. You know where you stand, how good you play and when you don’t play good. That’s all you need,” Rask said of the criticism from fans and media alike. “You don’t need to listen to the outside voices because it’s just going to distract you. People have their opinions, and they can say whatever they want. It doesn’t faze me.”

If you’re looking for a positive to see the Finnish netminder rebound tonight, consider this: Rask comes into this game with five days of rest, and has nine wins and a .931 save percentage in 13 games with at least three-plus days of rest this season.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
John-Michael Liles will be in the lineup tonight. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

John-Michael Liles will be in the lineup tonight. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

For the first time in over a month, veteran defenseman John-Michael Liles will find himself back in game action tonight.

Confirmed as a go for tonight’s game by Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy following Tuesday’s optional morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena, the veteran Liles will suit up over Colin Miller.

It’s a somewhat expected shuffle for a B’s group that’s dropped four of their last five games, and one that prevents the 36-year-old Liles from accumulating more rink rust in the TD Garden press box.

“Being a veteran player will help him, obviously he’s been through some of this,” Cassidy said of Liles’ long layoff. “He went in earlier in Dallas and he hadn’t played in a stretch and did a good job for us.

“We’ve stayed consistent on the backend,” Cassidy, whose defensive rotations have changed at times, but basically remained the same six-man group, said. “We’re making a change.. this time of year we just feel John is a good fit and we’ll get him in tonight.”

Liles has played just twice under Cassidy, without a point and just two shots on goal in over 33 minutes of combined ice time between the two games, and enters play with just five assists in 31 games this year, including a 10-game pointless skid.

Liles’ insertion into the lineup also, as mentioned early, comes at the cost of Miller.

The 24-year-old Miller logged a Cassidy-led low of just 11:50 of time on ice in the club’s 2-1 win over the Isles (two penalties assessed to Miller obviously kept that number in that area), and will return to the press box as the club’s seventh defender.

“Colin going upstairs to watch a game… I don’t think will hurt him,” Cassidy admitted. “He’s a young guy. We gotta be careful with his confidence. [We’re] generally happy with Colin’s play. We just want to reset a bit.”

Now, this is sort of the problem that the Bruins had last year during their stretch run. When they committed to the three-man rotation of Miller, Joe Morrow, and Zach Trotman, they really failed to develop any of the three young defenders, and that was only amplified when the club spent assets on Liles at the trade deadline and made their defense an eight-man rotation with the younger talents bumped for the fallacy of ‘experience’ making a true difference down the stretch.

At some point, and as I’ve said dozens of times now, you’d like to see the Black and Gold simply unleash Miller and see what his ceiling could be, especially with this new, up-tempo style of play that Cassidy has encouraged from his defenders.

The Bruins are 5-9-3 when Miller out of the lineup this season.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson