Ryan Spooner

Ryan Spooner

Back in town for the first time since their decimation of the Boston Bruins in the 2016 Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium, and with first place in the Atlantic Division on the line, the division-best Montreal Canadiens return to TD Garden a far different team than they were on New Year’s Day.

But so are the Bruins.

For all of Boston’s offseason subtractions off the roster, the biggest change to the club’s offensive game has come with the addition of David Backes. A do-it-all forward capable of playing center and the wing, the 32-year-old Backes, a five-year captain during his tenure with the St. Louis Blues, has tallied two goals and three points in four games for the Bruins. Meanwhile, the Canadiens improved by default with the return of the all-world Carey Price in net after a 2015-16 campaign that ended just 12 games in,and have already seen a significant boost from their point with the addition of Shea Weber, an offseason import acquired from the Nashville Predators in exchange for P.K. Subban, who is tied for the team lead in points with four.

“Well, you got a different player,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of the dynamic of Montreal’s defense changing with Weber instead of Subban. “They don’t play the same way and that’s probably why they made that deal. No doubt he’s got one of the hardest shots in the league. Very similar on the power play to an [Alex] Ovechkin-type player. You got to respect that part of it. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s a good battler, but I know he’s a good team leader, and I’ve seen that firsthand.”

Familiarity breeds contempt, and Backes and Weber undoubtedly have that, whether it’s from their days of captains in the Central Division, or their numerous battles between Team Canada and Team USA. Their additions, and especially the addition of Chicago’s Andrew Shaw for Montreal, no stranger to Backes from the Blues-Hawks rivalry or the B’s from the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, to this rivalry can only help reignite the feud after what’s been a tame few years in its 90-plus year history.

“It’s been a little bit more civilized the last few years and less of a sideshow,” Julien, who has coached both the B’s and Habs, said of the rivalry’s latest chapter. “There’s still a lot of hatred between two organizations when they meet, but I think right now and the way the game is trending with penalties and how much they can be costly to a game, I think both teams are a little cautious.

“But I still think there’s great chemistry, and I think both teams get up for these games.”

In an effort to kickstart their scoring and a power play that’s sputtered to a 1-for-14 mark on the season, center-turned-winger Ryan Spooner will draw back into the B’s lineup. A healthy scratch in Boston’s home opener, Spooner has frustrated on the team’s second line to the tune of one assist and seven shots on goal through three games this season, and the Bruins, quite simply, need more.

“He just hasn’t been good enough. He’s capable of doing more and we expect more out of him,” Julien said. “He’s a guy that can produce, he’s a guy that has to play a full game, and he’s shown that he can. It’s something that he has to do, and something that he can do, and that’s what we want.”

And Spooner, on the heels of a 13-goal, 49-point campaign a year ago, knows he has to be better.

“I wasn’t moving my feet, I think I was playing too much of a passive game,” Spooner admitted of his early season struggles. “I just need to go out there and use my speed, especially if I’m on the wing there.”

Spooner will return to his preseason spot on the left side of a Boston second line with Backes on the opposite wing and David Krejci at center and on the B’s first power-play unit.

With Spooner back in the lineup, first-year pro Danton Heinen will sit as a healthy scratch.

The 6-foot-1 Heinen has just two shots on goal and zero points in four NHL games played.

Heinen will be joined by defenseman Robbie O’Gara as the expected scratches.

Anton Khudobin gets the start for the Bruins with Tuukka Rask (general soreness) out of action and will be backed up by Zane McIntyre, while Price gets the start in net for the Canadiens. Khudobin made 20 stops in his only start of the season, a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday, while Price stopped 27-of-29 shots in his season debut on Thursday, a 5-2 win over Arizona.

Khudobin is winless with an .867 save percentage in three career head-to-heads with the Canadiens, none of which came during his first tenure with the Bruins, while Price has 22 wins and a .923 save percentage in 34 career games against the Bruins, including 10 wins in 17 career starts at the Garden.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Bruins tonight

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner – David Krejci – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – Riley Nash – Jimmy Hayes

Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Noel Acciari


Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Joe Morrow – Torey Krug

John-Michael Liles – Colin Miller

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

BRIGHTON – Before the puck has even dropped in the first of four head-to-head meetings with the Montreal Canadiens this year, the Boston Bruins are already down one against their archrivals.

The Bruins will be without Tuukka Rask Saturday night against the Canadiens. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins will be without Tuukka Rask Saturday night against the Canadiens. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

BRIGHTON – Before the puck has even dropped in the first of four head-to-head meetings with the Montreal Canadiens this year, the Boston Bruins are already down one against their archrivals.

Tuukka Rask, who was absent from Friday’s practice with what the team termed a “maintenance day” and not on the ice for the club’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena on Saturday, will be out for Saturday night’s tilt at TD Garden, Bruins coach Claude Julien confirmed.

“He’s doing better, but obviously you didn’t see him on the ice today, so we’re going to keep him off there for a bit and give him another day’s rest at least,” Julien said. “We’ll continue to go day by day.”

Rask, the starter in all three of Boston’s wins this season, has been dealing with “general soreness” since his opening night win against the Columbus Blue Jackets according to Julien, though you would not know it with his 3-0-0 record, .947 save percentage, and 1.67 goals against average on the year.

“There’s always something,” Rask, who stopped 28-of-29 shots thrown his way in the home opener on Thursday, said after the game about the discomfort he’s playing through. “Always something.”

The 29-year-old Rask has not missed more than two games to injury in a single regular season since a groin injury put him on the shelf for the final 19 games of the regular season in 2012.

Rask’s absence will put Anton Khudobin in the B’s cage for his second start of the season.

The Kazakh-born Khudobin stopped 20-of-24 in his first appearance of the year, a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre last Saturday, and is 0-3-0 with 10 goals against and an .867 save percentage in three career games against the Canadiens.

“We just need a strong performance from him,” Julien said of Khudobin. “I think when you look at putting your goaltender in, you want him to give you a chance to win, and that’s all you can ask.”

With Rask out of action and Khudobin in net, the Bruins have recalled goaltender Zane McIntyre, a sixth-round draft choice by the club in 2010, from the Providence Bruins on an emergency basis.

McIntyre has an AHL-best 0.44 goals against average and the AHL’s second-best save percentage (.977) through three games for the P-Bruins this season. This is the first recall of his pro career.

The Bruins won two of their five meetings with the Canadiens last season, but excluding postseason play, have not beat the Habs at home since Jan. 12, 2012, a 2-1 final in favor of the Black and Gold.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

He’s back.

The lines may have shaken up, but the source of offense didn’t. With the return of Patrice Bergeron, forwards found themselves in new roles, but in a 2-1 rout of the Devils, the Bruins proved their top six forwards can be relied upon no matter which line they’re skating on.

He’s back.

The lines may have shaken up, but the source of offense didn’t. With the return of Patrice Bergeron, forwards found themselves in new roles, but in a 2-1 rout of the Devils, the Bruins proved their top-six forwards can be relied upon no matter which line they’re skating on.

Bergeron provided the dagger with just 1:15 left that claimed the win for the Bruins, one-timing a shot off a pass from Brad Marchand to put the Bruins up by the decisive margin.

Faced with a one-goal deficit and less than 10 minutes to play, left-winger Marchand danced his way from center ice into the offensive zone at 9:47 and wristed the puck through the five-hole of Devils captain Andy Greene as it made its way over the right shoulder of Cory Schneider.

With the return of Bergeron, David Backes slid from centering the first line to the right wing of the second, and was still a seamless fit — as was Bergeron in Backes’ vacated role.

The Devils lone goal came a little over five and a half minutes before Marchand’s. On the power play, Kyle Palmieri snuck a shot underneath Brandon Carlo before gliding between the legs of an unassuming Tuukka Rask.

The Bruins will take the ice again on Saturday in their first matchup this season against the Canadiens.

Here are four more things we learned in Thursday’s win.

David Backes will only help improve David Krejci

Backes skating to Krejci’s right has already started turning into a potent combination, even if it didn’t result in any points on Thursday. Even with Danton Heinen being virtually absent on the second line, both Backes and Krejci did a good job of opening up the ice and creating chances for one another.

Torey Krug can be serviceable on the right side, but should not totally reliable

It has not been a frequent choice of Claude Julien’s, and it should probably remain that way. Krug was moved to the right side so he could pair Joe Morrow, who was getting his first game action this season. While he certainly wasn’t awful, he looked visibly more comfortable offensively when he was playing left while on the power play.

He spent time playing on the right when he was coming up through Providence, and per Julien when he made the decision, “he’s very comfortable on the right.”

The reality appears after this small sample size, however, that given Morrow’s streakiness — especially with the lack of routine playing time — it’s not worthy to take offense out of Krug in order to get Morrow in the lineup.


The power play still needs work

At times, the power play was painfully underwhelming.

Giveaways in the offensive zone led to the Bruins falling to 1-for-14 on the power play this season after failing to execute on all four of their opportunities Thursday night.

Passing is going to create problems

While an excuse can be made that the situation will fix itself with time, the Bruins’ inability to pass effectively came close to detrimental at multiple points.

Nearing the end of the first period, Brad Marchand had a brutal giveaway at center ice that nearly allowed the Devils into the attacking zone without any pressure.

Colin Miller didn’t help the cause much on the power play, either, allowing an errant pass as he tripped to fall to a Devils stick and be cleared out of the zone.

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen
Austin Czarnik

Austin Czarnik

Ahead of Wednesday’s home opener, Bruins head coach Claude Julien announced 23-year-old center Austin Czarnik had been sent to the AHL.

Czarnik started the season off centering the third line, but after the first two games was scratched in favor of veteran Riley Nash. Even with the demotion, however, he made a mark in his time with the Bruins.

“He had a tremendous camp. We just want him to go down there and play, and we’ll see what goes on from there,” said Julien“I was extremely impressed with his training camp. He’s a smart player. When we get to this type of situation, I think he’s playing to find his game again and we’re going to allow him to do that. With the way that he’s played, there’s a good chance we’re going to see him again.”

Julien also added that there is a “good chance” Czarnik gets called back up to the Bruins at some point.

Patrice Bergeron will play his first game of the season Wednesday, after missing the first three games with a lower body injury. On top of his offensive and defensive contributions, the mere presence of the 31-year-old is expected to give the Bruins a lift.

“It doesn’t matter what night it is. I think anytime Patrice comes back into the room, it’s a big lift. He’s regarded as one of the best players in the league,” Julien said.

“So, when you coach some games without him and you see him coming back, it’s a lift to everybody — players, teammates, organization, coaching staff, and hopefully the fans as well.”

Defenseman Joe Morrow, who has yet to play in a game this season, will likely start on Wednesday. He was paired with Torey Krug during morning skate, while Rob O’Gara stayed on the ice late, an indication that he will likely be scratched in favor of Morrow.

“When [Morrow] plays well, he’s a good addition to our team,” Julien said. “He skates well, he gets the puck out of our own end, with [Kevin Miller] out, the same thing. You’re looking for consistency from game to game. The sharpness and compete level are important aspects of playing in the NHL and right now, he needs both of those to get there.”

Also skating late at practice was winger Ryan Spooner, who has struggled to kickstart his season, with one assist in the first three games. Should he be scratched, Tim Schaller would replace him, having skated in Spooner’s spot on the fourth line left wing Wednesday morning.

“He’s just a smart player that plays hard, I think, in all aspects,” Julien said of Schaller. “He’s a centerman that can play the wing, he’s got good size, I think his hockey sense is great. Last time we put him in there, I thought he did a good job with that line which turned out to be one of one better lines against Winnipeg.”

Here are the Bruins projected lines for their tilt against the Devils.


Liles-C. Miller


Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

The Bruins are coming away with points early in the season. (Bruce Fedycyk/USA Today Sports)The Bruins are 2-1-0 through three games. That’s pretty damn impressive when you consider that they’ve done it without their best player. 

So far, so good.

The Bruins will take these kind of performances as they find their way early in the season, claiming their second win of the season with a 4-1 victory over host Winnipeg.

So far, so good.

The Bruins will take these kind of performances as they find their way early in the season, claiming their second win of the season with a 4-1 victory over host Winnipeg.

The decisive goal came with just 58 seconds left in the second period, as David Pastrnak — celebrating his 100th NHL game — notching his fourth goal of the season. It sends the B’s home for their first game at TD Garden, Thursday night, at 2-1.

The Bruins would add two late goals, from Brandon Carlo and Zdeno Chara, to seal the deal.

Also coming up big for the Bruins was goalie Tuukka Rask, who has now won both of his starts this season. The netminder was excellent throughout, making 33 saves.

It was former Bruin Blake Wheeler who got the scoring going with a goal at 10:00 of the first period, breaking out of the pack and gathering in a lead pass from Alex Burmistrov just before the blue line. Once in the clear, Wheeler made a quick move on Rask before sliding in a back-hand.

The Bruins responded just 19 seconds later when Dominic Moore jammed on a rebound past Winnipeg goalie Conor Hellebuyck on the far side of the net after an initial save on Tim Schaller’s attempt. It was Moore’s first goal as a Bruin.

The Bruins locked things up with Carlo’s first NHL goal, coming with 1:59 left in the game. Chara’s was an open-net opportunity.

For a complete box score, click here.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

It’s a better start than last year’s 0-3 opening record (and with those losses all on home ice), but Boston’s 2016 record is back to an even 1-1 after a 4-1 loss to Toronto Saturday night at Air Canada Center.