Division foes trying to make things tough on Bruins

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Division foes trying to make things tough on Bruins

While the Bruins stood pat on the opening day of free agency, the teams around them in the Eastern Conference embarked on improvement plans via free agency and trades. More specifically, the Bs Northeast Division foes got bigger, stronger and tougher in what would appear to be a response to the way the Bruins have been roughhousing their way through the division.

The Montreal Canadiens traded for edgy forward Rene Bourque toward the end of last season, and signed agitators Colby Armstrong and Brandon Prust on Sunday.

Granted, Dennis Seidenberg freight-trained Armstrong last season in a game against the Leafs and Prust was hammered by Milan Lucic in front of the Bruins' bench at Madison Square Garden last spring. But both players will make Montreal a grittier physical team than the bunch of Smurf forwards Pierre Gauthier had been rolling out over the last couple of seasons.

In Buffalo, the Sabres signed 6-foot-8 brawler John Scott, who isnt much of a defensemen. But hes an intimidating presence willing to fight when hes in the lineup, and he's big enough, strong enough and mean enough to tangle with the baddest of the Bruins. So the Sabres now have somebody willing to stand up to Lucic and Co., something they didnt have last year when the Bs power forward steam-rolled Ryan Miller and derailed Buffalos entire season.

Toronto didnt gain much in the truculence department by letting the oft-injured Armstrong go this weekend, but the Leafs picked up gritty third-line center Jay McClement, who is capable of winning faceoffs and improving last season's moribund penalty kill unit from last season.

Guillaume Latendresse isnt physically intimidating, but does bring a body to an Ottawa Senators team that lost Matt Carkner to the New York Islanders in free agency.

But both the Maple Leafs and the Senators had enough players able to handle themselves when a hockey game turned into an alley fight last season, while the Sabres and Canadiens were noticeably outgunned in those situations with the Bruins.

So the Northeast Division became a rougher place on July 1 than it had previously been, and Bostons effective bullying style has everything to do with it.

Saturday, Jan. 21: McKenzie on Julien's job security

Saturday, Jan. 21: McKenzie on Julien's job security

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while proud of my wife and daughter participating in today’s Women’s March.

*This is from a few days ago, but Bob McKenzie weighing in on the prospects for Claude Julien and his job security is always worth checking out.  

*The New York Rangers have themselves a rookie named Pavel that’s doing a pretty darned good job for the Blueshirts.

*What should the St. Louis Blues do with Kevin Shattenkirk as the trade deadline approaches and the seven-year, $49 million contract waiting for him in free agency is pretty daunting?

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Allen has a list of underperforming NHL stars, including Jamie Benn and Jonathan Toews, that may have been impacted by the World Cup of Hockey. Certainly Patrice Bergeron could have made this list as well.

*Blackhawks backup goalie Scott Darling may be earning some more playing time after the way he performed against the Bruins, according to Pro Hockey Talk.

*Good news with Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson set to return to the team in a couple of weeks after tending to his wife in a battle against cancer.

*The struggles of Anthony Duclair with the Arizona Coyotes mirror the team’s issues this season as well. It’s interesting that Duclair has popped up in trade rumors with the Desert Dogs this season.

*For something completely different: the final Wolverine movie with Hugh Jackman is going to be extremely emotional with its characters.


 

Both Millers missing from Bruins practice, but trending toward return

Both Millers missing from Bruins practice, but trending toward return

BRIGHTON, Mass – While both Kevan Miller and Colin Miller were missing from Bruins practice on Saturday morning, both injured Bruins defensemen could be rejoining the team soon.

Colin Miller skated on his own prior to Saturday’s team practice at Warrior Ice Arena for the second or third time since suffering a lower body injury in the win over the St. Louis Blues. Claude Julien said his presence on the ice was proof that the puck-moving defenseman is “definitely on the mend”, and could be nearing a return to practice soon with Sunday marking the sixth straight game that he’ll have missed.

Kevan Miller is out with a concussion suffered last weekend in the win over the Philadelphia Flyers, and the B’s current three-game losing streak has coincided with his absence from the lineup.

Julien said Miller has actually been away from the team for the last couple of days while dealing with a virus, and that his recovery from the concussion symptoms was good prior to being knocked down by the illness.

“Kevan was actually feeling really well and then he got hit by a virus that’s kept him in bed for the last two days,” said Julien. “It’s nothing to do with his original injury. There was a possibility he could have been ready very soon, but that’s set him back a bit.”

Both are obviously out for Sunday’s matinee against the Penguins, but a return to practice at some point next week seems like a good bet for both players. Here are the line combos and defense pairings from Saturday’s practice with the Bruins focusing on getting a good result in Pittsburgh with the hockey club on a “mom’s trip” with 22 of the players’ mothers traveling with the team to and from the game:

Marchand-Bergeron-Vatrano

Schaller-Krejci-Pastrnak

Spooner-Nash-Backes/Hayes

Blidh/Beleskey-Moore-Czarnik

 

Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Morrow-Liles

 

Rask

McIntyre