Bruins-Jets preview: Something's gotta give


Bruins-Jets preview: Something's gotta give

WINNIPEG It should be a couple of desperate hockey teams when the Bruins and Winnipeg Jets suit up for a meeting at the normally raucous MTS Centre in Winnipeg on Sunday afternoon. Both teams are riding two-game losing streaks. It's the first such streak of the season for the Black and Gold. For Winnipeg it's just the latest blow to their pride as they tumble to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

We have to get back on track here, said Claude Julien said Saturday. Weve lost two in a row to New York and Buffalo, so we need to bounce back. We have to be ready to play tomorrow and we know what kind of a challenge we have in front of us. They have a good coach that gets them to play hard.

Theyre a hard-working team. Basically we have to be the better team tomorrow if we expect to win.

It starts with generating a little more offense than the 2.7 goals per game thats stuck them in the middle of the NHLs rankings this season. That was a problem for the Bruins against Buffalo after they failed to build a good enough lead against the Sabres Friday night before collapsing in the third period, and Bostons best players like Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron continue to have problems producing goals.

That kind of needed goal production will be more under the spotlight on Sunday afternoon because Milan Lucic has reported back to Boston to attend to personal reasons and 38-year-old veteran Jay Pandolfo will be inserted into the Boston lineup for the first time. Thats clearly an offensive downgrade for the Bruins, but it opens up a challenge for some of Bostons top-drawer offensive talent to finally get things going in a shortened season that wont look kindly on extended slumps.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Chris Kelly is still the only Bruins forward without a goal 12 games into the season, and has a minus-4 rating. The Bruins offense has been very average for the balance of the season and it can be traced to a couple of different things: the season-long goal-scoring struggles of Tyler Seguin and the inability of the Bs third line to kick in a little more. The Bruins were nearly undefeated last season when Kelly scored (he had 20 goals) so its clear how important the third lines contributions are to the success of the team. It needs to start happening for Kelly, who still doesnt look like he has his hands or timing back yet when he gets the chance to make plays in the offensive zone.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: They were a team that was really excited to be back here last year. The players can feel the passion and support of the fans on the ice. We came in here last year and they gave us some tough games. We lost both games here last year, but its a new year. Bruins coach Claude Julien talking about going winless at the MTS Centre against the Jets in two tries last season.

KEY MATCHUP: The Winnipeg Jets have the worst penalty-kill unit in the NHL while allowing close to 35 percent of their opponents power play chances to be successful, and theyll be going up against a Bruins man advantage that actually produced a goal Friday night against the Sabres. Things will look different for the Bs PP units with Lucic set to miss the game, but it also appears the Bruins man advantage finally started playing with a little more swagger and a lot more life and movement against Buffalo. If that carries over into Sunday afternoon, it could be the difference between winning and losing in Winnipeg.

STAT TO WATCH: 2 That's the number of game-winning goals for Winnipeg forward Bryan Little against the Bruins in two home games for the Jets at MTS Centre last season. I could have also gone with the team-worst minus-8 for Blake Wheeler this season, but thought Id take the high road.

INJURIES: Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is expected to miss the season and be placed on long term injured reserve. Milan Lucic (personal reasons) will miss his first game of the season against the Jets after he had to fly back to Boston on Saturday afternoon for personal reasons. Winnipeg is expected to be without goaltender Al Montoya (lower body) and forward Antti Miettinen (upper body).

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask is expected to get the start coming off his worst game of the season while letting up a pair of bad goals Tuesday night against the New York Rangers. Rask has a .946 save percentage this season if you subtract his six goals allowed against the Sabres earlier this season, and has been excellent. Ondrej Pavelec has a 3.15 goals against average and an .890 save percentage that arent exactly going to get the job done, but he had arguably his best game of the season against the Bruins while making 26 saves in a Martin Luther King Day matinee.

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

It’s hard to believe that it’s already come to this, but it might just be Malcolm Subban between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and perhaps again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The 22-year-old Subban has been pulled from two ineffective starts for the P-Bruins in four AHL starts this season (.846 save percentage and a 4.50 goals against average in four games) while coming back from last year’s fractured larynx injury. He's also a player the organization was uncertain enough about that they signed veteran backup Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on the July 1 open of NHL free agency.

Subban attributed his start to a slow opening few weeks with a new P-Bruins roster of players, but that hasn’t stopped fellow P-Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre from putting up excellent numbers between the pipes in the early going.

But Khudobin went down with an injury mere minutes into Monday morning’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and Tuukka Rask been battling a nagging leg injury since the season opening win against the Blue Jackets.

So Subban was the last goalie standing on Monday as an emergency recall from Providence, and could be in line to play Tuesday night against the Wild if the Bruins medical staff can’t perform some Mr. Miyagi-style healing techniques on Rask or Khudobin.

“Khudobin got injured and couldn’t practice with us, but I haven’t heard anything yet [on an update],” said Julien following practice. “This is hockey. We deal with it on daily basis with the injuries. We wait for the news and then it’s about doing your job as it’s required. If we have to make some adjustments and have to have some different personnel, then we’ll deal with it when we have more of an update. Tuukka is still day-to-day, so nothing is changed there.

“We’re in a situation here where we’ll see what happens, and if [Subban] needs to go in goal then he’ll go in goal. It’s as simple as that. As a coach, there’s one thing that worries me and that’s ‘stop the puck.’ I’m not a goalie coach, so I’m just demanding on making the saves.”

Subban, of course, hasn’t been making the saves down in Providence early in the going there this season, and is entering the stage of his career where he needs to begin showing signs of being a potential No. 1 guy at the NHL level.

Fellow goalies from the 2012 NHL draft class like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Joonas Korpisalo, Matt Murray, Connor Hellebuyck and Frederik Andersen have all begun making their mark in the league, and Subban was selected higher than all of them except for Tampa’s Vasilevskiy. So in the final year of his entry level deal it’s high time for the 22-year-old to begin showing signs he can play in the league, whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere.

He admitted on Monday he might have been putting too much pressure on himself down in Providence while watching the injury issues play out with Tuukka Rask in Boston.

Subban was worried about the big picture of stringing together saves so he was the guy called up if the Bruins needed a goalie, and instead should have been focusing more on the present opponents at the AHL level.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think anybody that knows me well knows that. I don’t like to let in goals no matter what happens, whether it’s breakdowns or not it’s my job [to stop the puck]. If there were no breakdowns then you wouldn’t need a goaltender,” said Subban. “I want to make every save and get a shutout every game. I think the biggest thing is just relaxing and playing, and knowing that it’s okay to let a goal in every once in a while.

“So I think in my position right now I’m supposed to be playing really well down there, and I think that go in my head a little bit. I was trying to get a shutout every game rather than going game-by-game and shot-by-shot. I was overthinking it too much. But collectively as a team we’re a new team and we were trying to get the chemistry together, and once we do that the D-zone will be better and the offensive zone game will come.”

If Subban does indeed get the emergency start on Tuesday night against the Wild, the Bruins just have to hope that it’s a better outing than getting pulled in his NHL debut against the Blues two seasons ago after allowing three goals on three straight shots to start the second period. They also have to hope that Rask or Khudobin get well quick given Boston’s shaky situation on defense in front of the goaltender, and the stretch they’re in of playing six straight opponents that qualified for last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

If not then watch out below because every hockey person knows there’s no quicker way for a hockey club to really begin imploding than if the goaltending starts to become a major problem whether it’s because of injury, inconsistent performance or simply because of being a straight-up sieve.

McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup


McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It was a bitter pill for Adam McQuaid to sit out the first five games of this season, but it looks like the veteran Bruins stay-at-home defenseman is nearing a return to the lineup. McQuaid was cleared to potentially play in Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens after an upper body injury kept him shelved for the team’s first four games, and could be approaching a return in the next few days as Claude Julien mulls a number of possible lineup changes.

“It was obviously frustrating, but I’m where I’m at now and trying to move on from it. Looking forward to getting back into the lineup hopefully as soon as possible here,” said the 30-year-old McQuaid, who had a goal and nine points in 64 games for the Black and Gold last season. “The excitement level is high for me, and it is for everybody after a loss when you’re looking forward to getting back out there.

“It would have been nice to have started the season with the guys, but you can’t change that now. I’ve had some good practices, and I’m just trying to my game as simple as possible, and take it as it comes. Obviously guys have played some games and it’s been a couple of weeks for me, so I’ll just have to keep my game simple.”

The B’s bench boss indicated it was only a matter of time before McQuaid makes his 2016-17 regular season debut, but that he’s got plenty of things to decide prior to dropping the puck against the Wild.

“[McQuaid] was cleared last game. I haven’t made any decisions based for [Tuesday night vs. Minnesota]. There’s a lot of things that are up in the air, and I’ve just go to juggle those things,” said Julien. “Who knows? Hopefully tomorrow morning I’ve got a better picture [of injury situation], and if not then it will be game-time decisions. I wish I could have a better answer [on if McQuaid will play], but I’ve got no answers right now.”

With Colin Miller (minus-4), Joe Morrow, Torey Krug (a rough minus-3 against Montreal) and John-Michael Liles all minus players after the first five games of the season, there are ample options for Julien on which potential blueliner to bump up to the press box. McQuaid is just happy he’s getting closer to a return while skating with 23-year-old Rob O’Gara at practice, and he can get back to helping a B’s team that’s smack dab in the middle (ranked 15th allowing 3.0 goals per game) of the NHL for team defense this season.