Bruins-Hurricanes preview: B's looking to reverse the tide

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Bruins-Hurricanes preview: B's looking to reverse the tide

RALEIGH, NC The Bruins have been reminded of last years putrid performances against the Carolina Hurricanes over the past few days, so it should go without saying that theyll come out with a purpose at PNC Arena on Monday night.

The Canes outscored them by a 14-5 margin during a four-game regular season sweep last year that can only be described as a royal butt-kicking, no matter how the numbers are broken down. Sure the players that did most of the damage against the Bruins wont be suiting up for Carolina, this time around (Anthony Stewart and Brandon Sutter were both traded and Tuomo Ruutu is gone for the season after hip surgery), but the Hurricanes can still do some damage against the Bruins.

Its a pretty important game for us, said Bruins coach Claude Julien. 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. 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.

Of the returning players, Eric Staal scored three goals in the four games against the Black and Gold and will team with brother Jordan Staal, Alex Semin and Jeff Skinner to form a formidable offensive attack. The Bruins will be looking to protect Anton Khudobin in his first start of the season; he sat for the first nine days of the NHL season waiting for Tuukka Rask to take a breather.

Theres no doubting the Hurricanes played inspired hockey in the second half of last season once Kirk Muller took the coaching reigns and theyll be smack in the middle of a wide-open Southeast Division as both Florida and Washington have stumbled out of the starting box. The challenge for the Bruins will be not looking past them to a home date against the reigning Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils tomorrow night at TD Garden.

But Juliens reminders about last years four-game drubbing at the hands of Carolina certainly shouldnt have fallen on deaf ears as they ready for the first end of their first back-to-back games in the compressed NHL schedule.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Tyler Seguin has 11 shots on net in four games and has had a handful of good scoring opportunities, but is looking for his first NHL goal this season after potting 25 in 29 games while in Switzerland. Bruins officials believe that part of Seguins goal-scoring drought is attributed to the readjustment to the smaller rinks in North America, and the aggressive defenses that go right along with it.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Their record against us last year is something were well aware of and were going into the game well-prepared. 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.
Claude Julien, speaking about a Carolina Hurricanes club that dominated the Bs in four regular season meetings last year.

KEY MATCHUP: The Carolina Hurricanes are fresh off a 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres where Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner both tallied power play goals for a young and hungry 'Canes team. Until the Bs power play gets moving, theyll need to continue to hold down the other teams PP unit as theyve done while going a perfect 14-for-14 on the penalty kill this season. That will be a stiff challenge for killers like Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk as they look to hold down the Carolina man advantage featuring the Staal Brothers, Semin and Skinner in a potent attack. They only currently rank 23rd in the NHL currently, but it looks like the Canes PP is trending upward.

STAT TO WATCH: .965 the save percentage for Carolina goaltender Cam Ward last season in four very good games between the pipes against the Bruins while going 4-0 against them.

INJURIES: Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is expected to miss the season and be placed on long term injured reserve. Dennis Seidenberg (lower body injury) returned to the lineup against the Islanders Friday, and said felt fine after skating 18-plus minutes in the win. Carolina forward Tuomo Ruutu (hip) -- a noted Bruins killer in the past -- is likely to miss the entire regular season.

GOALTENDING MATCHUP: Anton Khudobin is largely an unknown to Bruins Nation with only last years 44-save masterpiece against the Ottawa Senators at the end of last season to use as a frame of reference. But the 26-year-old Khudobin does hold outstanding numbers overall with a 5-1 record, a .961 save percentage and a 1.32 goals against average in seven career NHL games between the Bruins and the Minnesota Wild. For the Hurricanes, Cam Ward will look to build on an excellent career body of work against the Black and Gold that includes a seven-game playoff series win against them for years ago and a 4-0 record with a .965 save percentage and a 1.25 goals against average in the regular season domination. It could be exactly what Ward needs as hes struggled out of the gate thus far for Carolina.

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.