Pouliot bounces back after benching

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Pouliot bounces back after benching

BUFFALO - It seems like there will be extreme ebbs and flows to Benoit Pouliot's experience with the Boston Bruins.

One game after getting benched in the third period for taking several wild penalties at the Bell Centre in his first game back in Montreal against his former Canadiens team, Pouliot was back in the lineup Wednesday night against the Sabres. It was a bit of an eyebrow-raising decision by Claude Julien to go with Pouliot instead of rookie Jordan Caron, but it was also a clear show of faith in Pouliot.

"The benching wasn't about his performance. He was playing well in Montreal, but his emotions were getting the better of him," said Julien. "At that point he was becoming a little bit of a liability. So he went back in tonight. He's got a lot of skill and we've seen that in some of the shootouts in practice. This was nice, though, because maybe it gives him a little bit of confidence."

The faith was clearly rewarded when Pouliot played a solid game for the Bruins in Buffalo and supplied the shootout game-winner in a 4-3 victory in the fifth round of the shootout at the First Niagara Center. After watching offensive talents like Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron come away empty attempting to attack the five-hole and lower half of Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth, Pouliot went upstairs with a straight wrist shot and hit the back of the net so hard that the puck immediately shot back out like it had slammed pipe instead of twine.

The shot was by design, and Pouliot celebrated with an extended fist pump as his teammates stormed the ice in celebration after the clinching shot.

"It was good. I wasn't too sure what I was going to do, but halfway through you could see him going lower," said Pouliot. "So I decided to go high. Everybody shot low and I decided to go high with it and it went in."

"So that was good. It was tough early in the game because we were in the box a lot and it wasn't our fault. But we turned things around."

Pouliot managed three shots on net during his 12 plus minutes of ice time and continued to build up confidence as a third line grinder capable of occasional offense, but he also took an elbowing penalty that's becoming a pattern. Either way, Pouliot said he appreciated the confidence shown in him by his coach, and was happy to reward him with a clinching shootout attempt that gives the Bruins 10 straight wins.

"Sometimes it's bad breaks and you feel like you let your team down a bit. But I got a chance tonight in the shootout. I wasn't sure what I would do, but it went pretty well. It's frustrating when you're in the box and your teammates are out there trying to kill it off," said Pouliot. "You're just stressed out and worried when you're in the box. But I've got to give credit to my teammates for picking me up, and now we move on."

Bruins make official free agent signings of Liles, Nash, Khudobin

Bruins make official free agent signings of Liles, Nash, Khudobin

The Bruins made a number of signings official on the first day of NHL free agency on Friday along with the big prize in hard-hitting, productive center David Backes.

Backup goaltender Anton Khudobin signed a two-year deal worth $1.2 million per season to return as a goaltending tandem with Tuukka Rask as they were back in a highly successful 2012-13 NHL season.

Hustling, grinding fourth line forward Riley Nash was signed to a two-year, $1.8 million contract with the Bruins as well, and had nine goals and 22 points in 64 games for the Carolina Hurricanes last season in an energy forward role. In his five-year NHL career, Nash has played in 242 games, amassing 31 goals and 50 assists for 81 points with 69 penalty minutes, including a career-high 10 goals a couple of years ago with the Hurricanes.

The 36-year-old John-Michael Liles signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Bruins after arriving from Carolina at the NHL trade deadline last spring. Liles appeared in 17 games and notched six assists along with a minus-6 rating for the Bruins in 2015-16 after being acquired for Anthony Camara, a 2016 third-round pick and a 2017 fifth-round pick on February 29, 2016. Prior to joining up with Boston, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Liles played in all 64 games for Carolina, recording six goals and nine assists for 15 points with 16 penalty minutes.

“We went out to identify a primary target in David Backes as a center, right wing candidate. He provides depth and balance to our lineup, as did Riley Nash. And Anton Khudobin addressed an area that we seemed to have chased for a little while and possibly with Malcolm’s [Subban] injury we needed to address that for the next couple of seasons. John-Michael Liles is a player that we acquired last year that really added a lot to the mobility and the transition game and we’re excited about bringing him back,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “Tim Schaller was a local boy at Providence College that we went out and identified another size, strength, left-shot, penalty kill and continued to add depth. Tyler Randell emerged last year was on our roster all year long, contributed and was a real hard-nosed player, sticks up for his teammates, was able to contribute goals, albeit not necessarily in the lineup every night, bringing balance. And Tommy Cross and the leadership qualities he brings to Providence for younger players to continue to develop.

“He found himself playing in NHL games, acquainted himself very well, just a real quality person across the board. So I think the overall philosophy of today and going into the free agent period was to address some needs and we did that. But we’ve created what I think is a real internal competition for our younger players to step up and emerge around what I think we’ve added to the core group of our players. They should be excited about this opportunity.”

Tommy Cross, Tyler Randell and Tim Schaller all signed one-year, two-way deals with the Bruins for an NHL value of $600,000, but are all expected to play the bulk of the season at the AHL level barring anything unexpected. 

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs

Backes: Most of the talk has me playing center for Bruins

Backes: Most of the talk has me playing center for Bruins

David Backes on the Felger and Mazz show on 98.5 The Sports Hub, and simulcast on CSN, tells fill-in hosts Jim Murray and Greg Dickerson there has also been some discussion with the Bruins of putting him on the wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

Watch the video above for more. 

Bruins lose Stempniak, Eriksson, others in free agency

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Bruins lose Stempniak, Eriksson, others in free agency

The Bruins lost a number of free agents on after the market opened at noontime. None bigger than Loui Eriksson signing a six-year, $36 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks to play with the Sedin Twins.

It’s the exact level of term and salary that Eriksson said he was looking for from the Bruins in contract negotiations around the trade deadline, but the Bruins never really moved from their offer of a four-year deal at comparable money.

The Bruins will miss the 30-goal production and solid all-around, two-way play from Eriksson as he heads to the West Coast, but they also traded in a passive player in Eriksson for an in-your-face, physical leader in David Backes on a five-year deal. 

Backes is much more of a Bruins-style player than Eriksson could have ever hoped to have been. That part of it is a win for a Bruins fan base that wants intensity and physicality from their players.

The Bruins also watched Jonas Gustavsson sign a one-year, $800,000 contract with Peter Chiarelli and the Edmonton Oilers, Brett Connolly sign a one-year deal for $850,000 with the Washington Capitals, Zach Trotman signs a one-year deal for $950,000 and Lee Stempniak ink a two-year, $5 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes after being a non-contract training camp invite with New Jersey last season.

Sweeney had maintained as late as Thursday that he was still keeping ties with many of Boston’s free agents prior to the noon opening of the free agent market, but clearly that’s changed.

“We’ll continue to have talks and sort of figure out where things may go. We’ve had talks with a number of players to see what they would like to see as the opportunity here or what we see as a fit,” said Sweeney on the Torey Krug conference call on Thursday night. “I haven’t ruled absolutely any of that out; just haven’t found common ground and obviously it gets harder and harder as we go further along in the process.”