Arniel's aim: Earn a spot with the Bruins

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Arniel's aim: Earn a spot with the Bruins

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Jamie Arniel took a pretty big leap forward last year, and is looking for more this season.

The Bruins forward notched 50 points for the Providence Bruins as a 21-year-old, and even earned a token appearance in Boston when a couple of injuries created an opening on the roster.

In terms of a confidence booster, it was exactly what the doctor ordered.

The season of experiences also sweetened Arniels taste for life in the NHL and made him determined to earn himself a permanent in the worlds best hockey league. With a pair of 30 goal seasons in the OHL and finished last season as the leading goal-scorer on the Providence Bruins with 23 strikes.

The versatile forward able to play center and wing also earned himself a much longer look at this years training camp with the expectation hell once again find himself in Boston if adversity hits this year. Arniel took it as a big positive that he made it past the big roster cut on Friday night, and he wants to continue making a strong impression in the final four exhibition games.

Its definitely good when you survive a big cut and there are only so many guys left, said Arniel. Ive just got to continue doing what Ive done so far. For me its about being consistent and bringing the same thing every night.

Coming in for the playoffs last year was a big boost and was very exciting for me. It shows you what can happen if you work hard in hockey, and it made me that much more excited for this year. It gave me a little extra boost for this yearthats for sure.

While Arniel hasnt been able to bury any of the offensive chances that have come his way during his preseason appearances, coach Claude Julien has been impressed with his body of work in camp. Arniel has good skating speed on his sturdy 5-foot-11, 183-pound frame and a hard, accurate shot, but he also boasts some pretty good hockey sense coming from a hockey family that includes his uncle Scott still calling the shots as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Jamie really had a tremendous year last year. I think as far as progressing, hes a really good skater, hes got good speed, and from watching him in practice hes got a quick release. Hes got a really good shot and I think its about giving him a little bit of time, said Julien. Ive found that -- maybe the last little while -- fatigue is set in a little bit with him and hes slowed down maybe half of a step. But hes going to pick it up again.

I dont mind his game at all. Hes a smart player, hes a gritty player, hes not afraid to use his speed along the boards and take it from the outside to bring it to the net. Hes got a lot of upside to him and certainly Ive seen him back-check and really take a real serious look at that part of his game. He wants to excel there as well.

That might just prove Arniels hockey smarts in and of itself as any player knows the first way to Juliens coaching heart is through extra effort and responsible, selfless back-checking up and down the ice.

The shot, the skating, the hockey IQ and the defensive knowhow make for a nice package of skills that should be NHL-worthy. But Arniel admits the realization that there arent many job openings on Bostons roster coming out of camp. Thats whats called the only downside to being a part of a deep, well-run organization coming off a Stanley Cup-winning season, and Arniel will gladly take it as trade off for being one of the Black Aces during last years Cup journey.

This is a hard team to crack. Thats for sure, said Arniel. But if I do or if anybody else does its an accomplishment because this is the best hockey team in the world. Theyre Stanley Cup champs.

The AHL breakthrough, the NHL debut and the front row seat to the Stanley Cup championship made for a truly special season for Arniel last year. But it doesnt leave many places for the Ontario native to improve aside from locking up a full-time gig in the NHL.

That becomes this years goal for Arniel before its all said and done.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: Rask puts up, makes critics shut up

Haggerty: Rask puts up, makes critics shut up

BOSTON -- The decision to sit out Saturday night's game against the Islanders, for whatever issue needed healing, worked wonders for Tuukka Rask.

Rask looked fresh, strong and determined while stopping 24 of 25 shots in a 4-1 win over Nashville on Tuesday night, and, at the very least, temporarily quieting talk of his missing Saturday's win over the Islanders because of a lower-body injury that wasn't disclosed until the day of the game. It also snapped his personal four-game losing streak, in which Rask had allowed 15 goals on 95 shots (an .842 save percentage) and hit rock bottom while surrendering a couple of damaging soft goals in last week's loss to the Lightning.

After watching Anton Khudobin battle, brawl and double-pad-stack his way to a huge win in Brooklyn on Saturday, Rask played with his own battling style Tuesday, fighting through Nashville attackers as he limited the the Preds to one goal.

"I loved [his battle]," said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. "He really worked hard to find pucks in traffic. They created some good opportunities, and even the goal against, he found it. They just tipped it at eye level so it was going to be a tough one, and we need to be better in the shooting lane on that one.

"But I thought he was terrific, very pleased with his performance. If you've got to track pucks, you've got to find pucks and you've got to fight through bodies, and he did a real good job with it.

"I thought we played well in front of him, but when we broke down it seemed to be in those areas where we couldn't break the puck up below our goal line. [There were] lot of bodies, a lot of point shots. This is the type of team, [Ryan] Ellis, [P.K.] Subban, [Roman] Josi, they rely on that part of the game and traffic. It was going to be a test for [the defense] there. I thought [Rask] answered the bell and in a terrific manner."

There were no two ways about it, Rask was truly excellent in a game where he had to be.

He made a save in the second period on Viktor Arvidsson when a David Backes turnover at the half-wall gave Arvidsson a wide open look at the net, and made 9 of his 24 saves in the third period as the Predators ramped up the desperation once Craig Smith had broken through on a tipped Josi shot. He also was the beneficiary of 24 blocked shots from the defenders in front of him. Adam McQuaid had five of the blocks all by himself,  absorbing all kinds of bumps and bruises in the process.

It was clear that the Bruins, as a team, were in late-season urgency mode.

"Well, we needed [a win]," said Rask. "Personally, I mean, I've lost four games but played a couple good games there, and we just didn't get the bounces. But we kind of got in winning habits there in [Broooklyn] and me stepping in here, I just wanted to make sure that I gave us a chance to win. The guys did the rest. So, it was a great team effort today, I think. As I said before, we blocked a lot of shots, which is huge."

So does one solid performance mean everything is settled for the B's No. 1 netminder after sitting out last weekend?

It certainly goes a long way toward putting some distance between Rask and whatever lower-body injury popped up and then disappeared just as quickly, and it puts a bit more of an optimistic spin for the remainder of the season. Rask didn't actively listen to any of the criticism of the last couple of days, but he fully understands that it comes along with the territory of being the No. 1 goalie in a city that takes hockey seriously.

"I can't do anything about what people say," said Rask, who took a pretty good hit on a Predators drive to the net in the third period but kept right on trucking. "I'm not staying home because I want to say home. I'm not playing because I don't want to play. I don't think any athlete does that. Obviously what's happened where I missed a game [vs. Ottawa] last year, people are going to talk about it. That's just the nature of media people, and what they talk about. It's fine.

"[All you can do is] you try not to read any of it, you stay even-keeled and you play the game the right way."

But the bottom line is the Bruins need much more of what they saw from Rask on Tuesday -- determined, tough-minded, a strong No. 1 goalie -- in the final six games if they want to be a playoff team this year.

He played well enough in the first few months, carrying the Bruins through the early portion of the season, to make people forget about calling in sick against Ottawa in the final game of last season. That's to Rask's credit. But last weekend's action, or lack of it, brought some of those same nagging questions back. He needs to build on Tuesday's encouraging performance to continue instilling confidence that he's a big-time No. 1 goalie.

Acciari notches first NHL goal in Bruins win over Predators

Acciari notches first NHL goal in Bruins win over Predators

BOSTON – It took until his 43rd game in the NHL to finally score his first goal with the Bruins, but Rhode Island native Noel Acciari said it made him appreciate it all the more when that moment finally did arrived on Tuesday night. The 25-year-old Acciari finished off a Riley Nash feed on a 3-on-1 odd-man rush that gave the Bruins an insurance goal they badly needed in a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators at TD Garden.

Then David Pastrnak hit Acciari with a shaving cream pie to the face during the NESN broadcast as a way to commemorate his teammate’s big scoring moment, and Torey Krug immediately fished the puck out of the net to make certain that Acciari would get it.

So it was the best of both worlds with the team-oriented Acciari, who watched his Bruins win to go right along with his hallmark scoring moment that he’ll remember forever.

“Your first NHL goal is a special feeling and to finally have it, you know, like I said before I couldn’t have done it without the other guys, the other four, five guys on the ice. But it feels good,” said Acciari, who has a goal and four points in 24 games this season in Boston. “It just shows you how special it is. It’s not going to come the first game you play; it could come 10, 20, for me probably over 40, but it still feels the same.”

Clearly it’s more about providing a physical, heavy and aggressive opponent when Acciari suits up for the Black and Gold, and it’s less about providing offensive production that’s really a bonus from the fourth line. The focus on throwing hits, aggravating opponents and playing with extra energy have been a big part of Acciari’s game since his return from Providence, and that is absolutely been by design.

“I think I kind of strayed [from my strengths] when I got back from my injury – I kind of strayed away from the hitting game,” said Acciari. “Just getting in on the fore-check and, you know, just kind of getting back to that down in Providence was huge and kind of get my confidence up down there helped out a lot. So when I got the call up I was ready for anything.”

He’s certainly played like he was ready for anything while posting a goal and two points along with a plus-4 in his first four games back for the Bruins organization. Acciari did all of that while leading everybody in Tuesday night’s game with eight registered hits in the win over Nashville. So the 5-foot-10, 208-pound Acciari gave a pretty good example against the Predators of just what he can do with steady ice time and the trust of his teammates as all of the hockey clubs in the East gear up to finish strong for the playoffs.

Now all Acciari has to do is continue to play consistently, punish opposing players and chip in a little offense from time and time as he carves out a permanent role on Boston’s fourth line, and helps his team win a few along the way.