Austin Czarnik is an undersized right-shot center. (Miami Photo)

Austin Czarnik is an undersized right-shot center. (Miami Photo)

The Bruins haven’€™t drafted particularly well over the years, but undrafted free agents can help a team trying to groom NHL players. Torey Krug is Exhibit A around these parts.

On Tuesday, the Bruins signed another highly sought-after former college player in Miami (Ohio) center Austin Czarnik. The Michigan native was a linemate of Reilly Smith’€™s in his freshman year, a Hobey Baker finalist as a sophomore and captain of the RedHawks in his junior and senior seasons.

Like Krug, size may have been what allowed Czarnik to slip under the radar as a teenager. Czarnik is listed at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. Miami coach Enrico Blasi says he makes up for it.

“As a smaller smaller guy, you’€™ve got to play hard and not [be afraid] to get in nasty areas,” Blasi told WEEI.com Tuesday. “He certainly does that. He’€™s got real good skill and and good vision for the ice.”

Added Blasi: “He’€™s always been told that he can’€™t play at that next level and he likes to prove people wrong. It wouldn’€™t surprise me if he made it.”

Playing with Smith in 2011-12, Czarnik scored 10 goals and added 27 assists for 37 points as a freshman. He had 40-plus points in each of his final three seasons with Miami, giving him 36 goals and 123 for 159 points over his college career.

The Senators were among the other teams reported to be vying for Czarnik’€™s services after Providence ended Mimai’€™s season in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Smith, who turned pro after his junior season and Czarnik’€™s freshman season, said he kept in touch with Czarnik throughout the process.

“I kept in touch with him a lot during this year, just kind of picking his brain as to what he thought he was going to do and how the year was going,” Smith said. “It’€™s good to see there’€™s light at the end of the tunnel. He played really good hockey at the end of the year, so it’€™s no surprise that something’€™s happening for him this quickly.”

The Bruins signing Czarnik keeps the RedHawks-Bruins connection alive. The Bruins are clearly fond of Blasi’€™s work, as they were high on Smith in the 2009 draft before eventually trading for him, and had also signed Smith’€™s former linemate in Carter Camper back in 2010. Before Czarnik got to Miami, Smith and Camper made up one the best lines in college hockey with eventual Hobey Baker winner Andy Miele.

Smith said he’€™s glad to have a former teammate and linemate join the organization, while Blasi feels his players are in good hands when they go to the Bruins.

“Great organization, great people working there,” Blasi said of the B’€™s. “[I have the] utmost respect for everyone with the Bruins organization. They’€™re first-class. I talked to Don Sweeney the other day, and just the way they conduct themselves in the process is first-class.”

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Brett Connolly is not yet ready to play. Once he is, he will play, Claude Julien said Tuesday.

Brett Connolly

Brett Connolly

Brett Connolly is not yet ready to play. Once he is, he will play, Claude Julien said Tuesday.

Connolly, who continues to skate with the Bruins, traveled with the team for Sunday’€™s game against the Hurricanes, marking the first trip he’€™s made with the team. He is getting more confident in his puck-handling and shooting as his surgically repaired right index finger. He hopes to begin taking contact soon, which is the biggest remaining hurdle.

Wednesday will mark four weeks since the injury, which the team said at the time would keep him out six weeks.

“I know they said six weeks, but four-to-six weeks I think is kind of where I’€™m aiming for,” Connolly said Tuesday. “I’€™m really excited, obviously. It’€™s getting better every day. Some days it feels a lot better, so that’€™s encouraging.”

The Bruins are currently playing David Krejci at right wing on Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand‘€™s line. Once Connolly is ready, however, the team could move Krejci back to center and build a line around Krejci and Connolly.

When Connolly broke his finger in his second practice with the B’€™s, he was skating on a line with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. Julien said it’€™s too soon to say where Connolly will slot into the lineup, but he clarified that it’€™s their intention to get put him in as soon as he’€™s ready.

“I think when the time comes, we’€™ll definitely put him in,” Julien said. “He’€™s a good player. In my mind, there’€™s no doubt we missed him through this stretch. When the time comes I’€™ll make that decision but certainly not open to talking about it right now.”

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Tuukka Rask is expected to be in goal for the Bruins as the play their latest biggest game of the season. The Panthers, currently four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference consider Tuesday night a must-win, as wins over Boston Tuesday and next month could bridge the gap and help them reach the postseason.

The Bruins currently lead the Senators by three points, though Ottawa has seven games remaining to Boston’€™s six. The Senators will face the Red Wings in Detroit Tuesday, with Andrew Hammond back in net after missing time with a perceived leg injury.

Claude Julien is using his same forward lines for Tuesday night, by the looks of morning skate:

Marchand-Bergeron-Krejci
Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak
Eriksson-Soderberg-Smith
Kelly-Campbell-Talbot

Chara-Trotman
Krug-Seidenberg
Bartowski-McQuaid

Rask

Tuesday will mark Rask’€™s 65th game of the season (62nd start). Rask had never played more than 58 games prior to this season. The Bruins say they understand the importance of not wasting his performances down the stretch.

“Right now it’€™s a playoff atmosphere, and we’€™re playing like it’€™s the playoffs,” Brad Marchand said. “For us, it is. I wouldn’€™t be surprised if he played the rest of the season. I obviously don’€™t know, but you’€™ve got to rely on your top guys in situations like these. That’€™s what he’€™s making seven million dollars for.”

Shawn Thornton, who was questionable for Tuesday’s game, is expected to play for the Panthers.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Ryan Spooner leads the Bruins in goals since his recall after scoring none last season.</p>
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Former Bruins and current Panthers winger Shawn Thornton joined Middays with MFB on Monday to discuss the NHL playoff race. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Bruins are in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but they are only three points ahead of the Senators (who have a game in hand) and four ahead of Florida.

“I haven’t been following [the Bruins] much at all, to be honest,” Thornton said. “Obviously, the points race, we follow if they win or lose because we’re four behind them and we play them twice. But I haven’t been watching their games or anything. … We’re making it interesting, that’s for sure.”

Added Thornton: “We’re aware of the situation that we can’t lose either of those games [against the Bruins]. … We’re giving ourselves a chance.”

The first of the two games between Florida and the Bruins will be in Boston on Tuesday night. It will be the second time Thornton will play at TD Garden since leaving Boston after last season.

“It’s still a little different,” Thornton said. “Playing in that building for seven years on one side and then playing on the other, it’s a little different.”

Thornton was a leader on and off the ice during his time with Boston. Recently, with Thornton gone, the Bruins’ dedication and effort has been questioned by management, as many players have not lived up to their expectations.

“To be completely honest, guys, I really don’t care,” Thornton said when asked about the B’s struggles. “I have my locker room I have to worry about, I can’t be worried about what’s going on in theirs.”

Whether it’s the Bruins, Ottawa or Florida, Thornton believes that the eighth seed in the East will have a chance to upset the top seed.

“Once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen,” Thornton said.

For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/boston.

Blog Author: 
Nik Beimler

The Bruins capped a lackluster performance against the Hurricanes with the best result possible.

The Bruins capped a lackluster performance against the Hurricanes with the best result possible. Minutes after the Panthers defeated the Senators in regulation, David Pastrnak scored in overtime to give Boston a 2-1 victory over Carolina and a three-point lead over the Senators for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

With 37 seconds remaining in overtime, Carl Soderberg drew two defenders to him deep in the offensive zone before dishing to a wide open Pastrnak, who blasted a one-timer past Anton Khudobin. The victory gave the B’s 89 points with six games remaining. Ottawa has 86 points with seven games left, meaning the Bruins control their destiny going forward.

Ryan Spooner scored 2:21 into Boston’s game for his seventh goal of the season. The goal gave Spooner sole possession of the team lead in goals since his recall in late February. The Bruins failed to get a second puck past Khudobin in the rest of regulation, with Carolina evening the score on a Nathan Gerbe tally in the final minute of the second period.

Tuukka Rask started and picked up the win after leaving Saturday’s game against the Rangers in the second period. Rask made 30 saves in what was his career-high 64th game of the season.
The Bruins will next play when they host the Panthers Tuesday at TD Garden. Florida trails the B’s by four points.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean
Peter Chiarelli joined the Sunday Skate crew to talk about the Bruins playoff push heading into the final handful of games of the regular season. Chiarelli talked about avoiding some of the overly negative feedback he gets while realizing that the team does have real issues. He discusses what went down at the trade deadline and if he was happy with the outcome, Lucic having a down year and underperforming, the salary cap and if he considers it as big of an issue as it's been made out to be and what the future holds for the team.

[0:06:57] ... know and there's certainly these are things that we look that. The trade deadline. And it's part of June's job to look at these things at all not at all times. And long look at these things subject. Peter when he talked about the trade deadline. How. How happy were you with. Or were you happy with the way things turned out with the exception of Brett Connolly ...
[0:11:13] ... young guys step up. So far this year so. You know the odd couple with some of them are just aren't all the all over archer. No it's. We chart of what happens sometimes. That were ...




It's a big hour #2 for the Sunday Skate dudes - they talk about the B's defenseman and what the future looks like at that position, with both moves the team can make and younger guys in the AHL. They also get into the Bruins philosophy on bringing guys up and sending them back down and how players deal with that. Finally, the boys are joined by Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli to discuss EVERYTHING.

[0:02:53] ... is playing tonight my guess is to go will play against. The Carolina Hurricanes that. But. And it we can't for anybody who's just tuning in now we can't forget. Lyndon bias called and told us ...
[0:04:45] ... so that is an area. So Carl Soderbergh. You might not notice. Zdeno Chara might be. The Smart one of the smartest players like people one of the smartest hockey players. In the NHL just because ...
[0:07:08] ... go about this in regards to seen him play. Ample shifts with Zdeno Chara is. They're gonna they're prepared to just mix and match where they have to the rest of the way and if they ...
[0:12:59] ... he turned it to the one of the best players in the American Hockey League at age eighteen the youngest guy in the league. So I think you know it was telltale sign for the Bruins that ...