Bruins look to regain composure vs. Wild

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Bruins look to regain composure vs. Wild

ST PAUL, MN The Bruins should have plenty of things to ponder heading into Sunday afternoons highly anticipated tilt against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Bs only visit hockey-crazed Minnesota once every two years to square off against the Wild, and this seasons tilt is serving as the NBC centerpiece game for Hockey Day in America.

Its an honor befitting the Stanley Cup champs with a roster littered with many of the NHLs most recognizable faces.

But the Bruins dont really care much about any of this headed into Sunday.

The Bs have gone 16 games (7-8-1) without winning consecutive games while essentially spinning their wheels for more than a month. The Wild will be just as, well, wild about a victory as losers of seven straight games coming off a Saturday afternoon 4-0 whitewashing in St. Louis.

Bostons frustration is obvious along a bench where the players have become accustomed to winning. The rankled feelings have even crept into the coaching staff where Claude Juliens answers are getting shorter by the day.

Ill be pleased if we can do the right things on Sunday, said Julien, who spoke for exactly 76 seconds to reporters after Fridays loss to the Jets before pulling the plug. We just keep working on trying to find our game and finding our rhythm. Its a challenge and we need to keep pushing through that. Its as simple as that. There is a lot in our game that has to be better.

It starts with the commitment to play the way we can, the work behind that goes behind that and the enthusiasm. Enthusiasm creates energy and we havent had that in a while. When we do have that in spurts during certain games it makes a big difference. We have to find that again and get geared up to put things in the right direction. Every team goes through doldrums. We go through it every year and were going through it now.

The Bs have been shut out three times since losing Nathan Horton to a mild concussion less than a month ago, and now theyre likely without Rich Peverley for the rest of the regular season to a sprained right MCL in his knee.

The Bruins have led the NHL in offense for nearly the entire season after overcoming their 10-game season-opening hangover, but they dropped out of the top spot after their loss in Winnipeg Friday night.

The Bs power play is 2-for-20 during the month of February and looks alarmingly close to the PP power outage Boston staged during last years playoffs.

The ever-reliable defensively Bruins bunch have allowed 3.8 goals per game in the last five contests, and Zdeno Chara is a shocking minus-6 over Bostons last three games.

The Bruins have been the leagues best third period team this year while outscoring their opponents by a 77-47 margin, but issued lifeless collapses in their last two games against the Canadiens and Jets.

Thats not our game, said David Krejci. Our game is to be the best third period team in the league. The last few games it hasnt happened, you know? Weve got to find a way to be the same Bruins as we used to be.

Its not hard. Its in us. Its in this dressing room, but somehow we have to find it again. We have to start showing that killer instinct in the third period again.

What do all of these statistics mean for the Black and Gold?

The Bruins havent looked like themselves over a month plus of fitful hockey. The Cup champs arent brandishing the same focused, aggressive brand of physical hockey thats unmistakable when theyre at their best.

Good teams snicker at words like complacency and comfort being tossed around, but facts are facts.

The Bruins are seven points behind a Rangers team that doesnt show any signs of slowing down after defeating the Bs twice over the last month, and the Northeast Division looks like a romp for Boston. The Ottawa Senators are closest to the Bs at four points behind, but the Bruins have a whopping four games in hand with 26 games to play.

With no push from within their division for the No. 2 seed in the East and the Southeast Division unable to produce a team worthy of catching up to the Bruins or Blueshirts, there is very little flickering Bostons flame during the dog days.

Leaders within the Boston dressing room like Chris Kelly, who finished practice and conducted interviews Saturday despite shattering his two front teeth in a head-first collision with the boards, know how important it is to keep piling up points amid the February doldrums.

I dont know if were locked into the No. 2 seed. I hope complacency isnt the case, but we certainly seem to be playing that way, said Kelly. I think Ottawa is four points back and, yeah, we have some games in hand. But that means nothing. We need to win those games.

Everybody is playing well right now. In the second half there are a lot of three point games and you need to be ready to get every point that you can.

The Bruins and Wild will each get a chance to show things are different on Sunday afternoon before a national audience, but it wont be easy.

The injuries are piling up with Tyler Seguin missing practice on Saturday, and Tuukka Rask is mired in a personal five-game losing streak while badly in need of a boost of confidence from the Bruins coaching staff.

Perhaps that boost will come from the Bruins going right back to Rask after a shaky performance in Friday nights loss to Winnipeg, but its about a lot more than goaltenders psyche at this point in the season.

The Bruins are concerned with only one thing Sunday: getting the two points against a reeling Minnesota bunch that could push them right back into the Bs way of doing things.

With injury in his past, Malcolm Subban is looking toward future

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With injury in his past, Malcolm Subban is looking toward future

BOSTON – It’s not really ever a banner day for any red-blooded, red-light hating goalie when he surrenders four goals in a game.

But perhaps that bottom line is softened a little bit considering when it’s also the first game of the preseason. It may also be drastically mitigated by the fact, in this case, that it was the first time Malcolm Subban guarded the space between the pipes since taking a puck to the throat that fractured his larynx last February.

That traumatic injury left Subban unable to speak for days and gasping for air while being rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.

It was a tiny victory simply for the Bruins goalie prospect to be back on the ice at all and a much bigger one once Subban had made 31 saves while largely under siege in a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden on Wednesday night.

The 22-year-old admitted a little rush in net while the Red Wings were buzzing all around him for 35 shots on net through his two periods of work, but there was also happiness at simply being to back and building up for another season in the Bruins organization.

“It was great to finally get back out. Obviously, [I was] really rusty. To be honest, I felt – not so much the goals even, but just shots in general, especially in the first, obviously nerves had a little bit to do with it,” said Subban, who was 14-8-5 with a .911 save percentage and 2.46 goals-against average last season in Providence. “But it was the first time in a long time I could say that I felt not up to speed. I feel like usually I’m overplaying stuff, too fast. But, I felt today like practice is a lot different than a game.

“In the first, I thought I was a little behind the play. That starts to open up holes like my post coverage and stuff. A little rusty there, especially on the third goal, I’ve got to clean that stuff up. Other than that, I thought I played pretty well in terms of straight shots. We practice all that stuff. I’ve just got to keep working on that end. Hopefully, I can move forward and build on that. I think it’s a great game to build off, for sure, for myself and the team.”

The goals allowed showed some on defense, but also some of the rust in their goalie: Subban lost sight of the puck behind the net on the second goal and Steve Ott was able to fire a quick shot past him on the short side before he could recover his bearings. 

The third goal was also a post coverage issue with Luke Glendening scoring on a late-reacting Subban, which is usually one of his real strengths. So, there is work to be done, but Subban also shut down a number of breakaways in the second period behind a leaky defense and stopped over 30 pucks before he gave way to young goalie Dan Vladar.

That’s considered more than an honest night’s work in the first preseason appearance for any goaltender, and surely for one playing his first game in seven months.  

“I think it was [a good outing for Subban]. He faced some quality scoring chances out there, and the ones that went in probably he’d like to have back, you know,” said Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco. “But overall, I think when you look at his overall performance for the two periods he played pretty solid for us. He made some big saves, some timely saves and moved well in there. I think for Malcolm, you know, despite the score, I think he had a good night.”

Perhaps most encouraging: the middle Subban brother made a key save at the end of the first period with a puck off his helmet after Detroit had scored twice in a span of 19 seconds.

The stop with Subban’s head gear was probably the best sign of the night that he’s over last year’s traumatic injury and there isn’t going to be any shell-shocked goaltender situation with him.

So, did the injury cross his mind even once during his 40 minutes of work?

“To be honest, no. I owe a lot of credit to my players and these guys on the team in practice and stuff. I really haven’t had to worry about [taking another puck to the throat], getting hit,” said Subban, who now wears a neck guard after eschewing that particular piece of equipment prior to the injury. You’ve got some pretty good shooters in here; pretty accurate shooters. But, yeah, to be honest, I never really thought of [the fractured larynx], it never came across my mind.”

One thing that’s definitely been on Subban’s mind in camp is his contract situation and knowing full well he’s in the last season of his entry-level deal with the Bruins as a former first-round pick. He now has both Anton Khudobin and Tuukka Rask in front of him in the NHL and he’s looking at a fourth straight season in the AHL with the P-Bruins.

It might have been a different story for the talented goalie prospect if he’d finished last season in the same hot streak he was enjoying at the time of his injury. Perhaps he’d be the guy prepping to be Rask’s understudy this season. Instead, the ill-timed larynx injury pushed the Bruins to opt for an established backup in Khudobin and sign him to a two-year deal that could conceivably lock Subban in Providence for a couple more seasons.

So, now Subban is playing for his future, whether it’s with the Bruins, or with another team looking for a young No. 1 goaltending prospect just now entering his prime after refining his technique and going through some character-building adversity.

“I had a hard summer of workouts and skating, so I feel good. I’m not going to hold myself short. I understand that this is my contract year and the last year of my contract, so I’ve got to have a good year regardless of where I am. I’ve just got to play awesome,” said Subban. “Obviously you want to sign again, and you want to be a part of the organization. You want to be a huge part of it and a valued asset.

“So, what I’m looking forward to proving right now is that the last three years helped me, and that I’ve improved since my first year, and that I want to be here [in Boston].”

It will certainly be interesting to see what happens with Subban within the B’s organization over the next season.

The Bruins regime that initially drafted him 24th overall back in 2012 is now gone. Subban still has value to an NHL team, particularly a Canadian one, scouring the market for a blue-chip goalie prospect. The organization is also going to be forced to expose a quality goaltender or two in the Las Vegas franchise expansion draft after this season. That could mean a new work address, or a new spot opened up within the B’s goalie depth chart, for Subban.

All of these could be possibilities for Subban, but it all starts with him pouring everything he’s learned over the past three years and dominating the AHL before he pushes for his first extended look at the highest level of hockey. 

Bruins center Acciari’s status uncertain after leaving with apparent leg injury

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Bruins center Acciari’s status uncertain after leaving with apparent leg injury

BOSTON – There were no updates following the preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night, but fourth-line center candidate Noel Acciari had to leave in the third period with what appeared to be a leg injury. 

The Rhode Island native appeared to be favoring his right leg after getting tangled up in front of the benches just a couple of minutes into the third period, crawled toward the bench and then headed back to the B’s dressing room for repairs.

Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco didn’t have any update in the moments directly after the 5-1 preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

“Noel did leave the game. I’m not sure what his status is, or what the injury was. I haven’t been told,” Sacco said. Acciari finished with five hits and a blocked shot in 10:35 of ice time vs. Detroit. “I’ll have to check with medical and see where we’re at.”

The hope is that the injury isn’t a serious one after Acciari looked strong and heavy playing an energy role down the middle last season for the Bruins in the final weeks of the regular season. He teamed with Justin Hickman and Anton Blidh to play a gritty, energy line on Wednesday night, and they were largely effective for the Black and Gold while some of the other bigger name players struggled.

A potential injury to Acciari, however, does leave the door open for Dominic Moore to really put an iron-fisted grip on the fourth-line center spot after it appeared there would be a big surplus of centers at the start of camp.