Bruins aim to end Hurricanes' domination over them

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Bruins aim to end Hurricanes' domination over them

WILMINGTON, MA There arent many teams in the NHL that really have the Bruins number. The odds become even more unlikely that a team has dominated the Black and Gold if theyre not even a playoff team.

But the non-playoff Carolina Hurricanes, the same team that banished the Bruins from the playoffs four years ago, swept the Bs in their four game series during the regular season and outscored Boston by a 14-5 margin. Its those kinds of performances against mediocre teams that gave the Bruins a reputation as a team that can sometimes play down to the competition.

But the Bruins players are keenly aware of last years Canes phenomenon as they ready for their first meeting against Carolina at the RBC Center on Monday night. The tilt against the Southeast Division foe will be the first part of back-to-back games that conclude back at TD Garden against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

Its a pretty important game for us. This is a team that gave us a fair share of trouble last year and they improved their roster. Theyve won their last couple of games, so its going to be a challenge for us, said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. There are certain teams that give other teams trouble. Theyre a four-man attack team and they always have a D up on the rush.

We havent played our best against them, and theyve played some very good games against us. Its one of those things where we want to get that win against them as quick as we can so we can get the monkey off our back.

As expected Eric Staal, Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner share the team-lead with four points on the season, and the oldest Staal brother leads the Hurricanes with three goals scored on the season. The talented, young Carolina defensemen corps combined with skilled players like the Staal Brothers, Skinner and Alex Semin mean that the Bruins could be in for a long night if they start looking ahead to the Devils on Tuesday night.

Julien all but assured that wont be happening.

Their record against us last year is something were well aware of and were going into the game well-prepared, said Julien. They come at the net hard, they open up a lot and we havent been at our best against that kind of a team. We just havent been as prudent playing against a team like that. We need to take away their shots from the point and make sure we clear away any traffic from the front of the net.

There will be an extra challenge for the Bruins to do that without the services of 6-foot-5, 209-pound Adam McQuaid, a staunch stay-at-home defenseman that will miss the game vs. Carolina for personal reasons. Perhaps that will make the Bruins focus even more than last years domination of them in a convincing series of four games.

Nash stepping up when Bruins need him most

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Nash stepping up when Bruins need him most

BROOKLYN -- It took most of his first season in Boston, but Riley Nash is hitting his groove with the Bruins at exactly the right time.

Nash came up huge in a must-win game Saturday night against the Islanders, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over the Isle. The unheralded Nash and equally unheralded backup goalie Anton Khudobin were the two most important performers in the tight, playoff-style win that snapped a four game losing streak while pushing the B's back into playoff position.

"That's part of [a big win], right? Big performances,” said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. "Generally you look to your best players, but [Nash] did a really good job. He's got a sneaky shot, so hopefully he uses it a little bit more. You can't say enough about those goals. We needed them tonight.

"Generally our top guns have been good offensively and have come through. But tonight it was the lesser lights for us in terms of offense, so good for us.”

Both Nash goals were titanic. The first came on the first shift following the Islanders goal in the first period. The fourth-line winger stripped Isles defenseman Scott Mayfield in the neutral zone and then flipped a shot past Thomas Greiss to the short side that tied the game at 1-1. Then in the third period, Dominic Moore hit Nash in stride as he sped into the offensive zone, and Nash weaved through defenders before sneaking one past Greiss for the game-winner.

The two goals give Nash four goals and six points in 21 games since the All-Star break, in line with his normal offensive output during his NHL career, and a step up from the three goals and nine points in his first 52 games this season.

The affable Nash was more than happy to contribute in a big win, and enthused at seeing the offense finally starting to flow on a semi-regular basis when the Bruins can really use it.

"It's quite the output as opposed to the season I've had so far, so I'll take it and be happy that we won the game,” said Nash. "I think everyone in here knew that was the biggest game of the year. It was going to be a really big uphill battle if we lost that one.

"Both teams came out desperate in a pretty tight, playoff-style game, but that's what it's going to be like for the rest of the season. So we've got to hunker down and take it one game at a time as the saying goes.”

With the Bruins third line fading a bit in these tight, physical games where players have to battle for their ice, it's been vital that Boston's fourth line step up and provide big minutes at both ends of the ice. Nash and Co. did more than that on Saturday night by potentially saving the season with his biggest, best game in a Bruins uniform.

 

Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

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Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while waiting for the next wave of announcements that the Bruins have signed college players out of the NCAA tournament.
 
-- Former Wild goaltender Josh Harding is finding his way after his MS diagnosis forced him out of the NHL prematurely.

-- Young D-man Seth Jones is becoming the “hoss” defenseman that the Blue Jackets will need come playoff time.

-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has Wild coach Bruce Boudreau calling a loss to the Canucks “embarrassing” as the hard times continue for Minnesota.  

-- Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney is ready to step up for the Leafs after they lost Frederik Andersen to injury.
 
-- Old friend David Warsofsky has been recalled from the AHL and will be with the Penguins as crunch time hits ahead of the playoffs.

-- USA Hockey is now reportedly reaching out to rec league and former Division III women’s hockey players to find a replacement roster for the world championships as the USA women continues their boycott.
 
-- For something completely different: We have an honest-to-goodness think piece about pulling the “Irish Exit.” Well, okay then.