A Classic matchup at Gillette between Bruins, Canadiens

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A Classic matchup at Gillette between Bruins, Canadiens

FOXBORO --The Boston Bruins didn’t grab all the sports headlines of the day hearabouts, thanks to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

But the B’s did produce the most positive sports story of the day . . . thanks also, in large part, to the Patriots.

Robert Kraft made it two press conferences in the same day, representing the Pats organization Wednesday afternoon when the NHL formally announced the Jan. 1 Winter Classic match between the Bruins and Montreal Canadiens at the Pats' Gillette Stadium home.

The Bruins will be the first team in NHL history to host the Winter Classic twice. They played the Flyers at Fenway Park in 2010.

All the excited chatter Wednesday was about the historic rivalry between Boston and Montreal, two franchises that have played each other in more Game 7’s in the playoffs than any other two organizations in any of the four major professional sports leagues.

The Bruins and Canadiens have faced off 729 times during the regular season, tied for the most head-to-head meetings in NHL history with Chicago vs. Detroit. The B's-Habs 177 head-to-head playoff games and 34 postseason series are the most in league history, while their nine head-to-head Game 7s lead all teams in North American major professional sports (includes MLB, NBA and NHL).

Sounds like a compelling match for folks planning to tune into the NBC Network on New Year’s Day for a hockey game.

“I want to thank the Bruins fans for their enthusiasm and support because that’s truly what brought this wonderful event back to New England,” said Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. “I’m fully confident that our team will repay that loyalty with a big win over our friends from Montreal. I look forward to Gillette Stadium being a sea of Black and Gold on Jan. 1.”

Above and beyond the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also announced that a Bruins/Canadiens Legends game will be played on Dec. 31 between many of the B’s and Habs alumni that have made the rivalry what it is. There will also be plenty of events surrounding the Winter Classic in Foxboro, just as there were nearly six years ago at Fenway, and all those announcements will be made in the days and weeks ahead.

“When you think about sports franchises with traditions of excellence and success, the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens and the New England Patriots would have to rank at the top of any list,” said Bettman. “When you think about rivalries that perfectly summarize the excitement and passion of NHL hockey, the enduring legacy of the Bruins and Canadiens would merit lofty status as well. The 2016 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic will be the 910th regular-season or playoff meeting between these two clubs, but it will be the first one, however, played outdoors.”

Information on a pre-sale for Bruins season-ticket holders, Canadiens season-ticket holders and Patriots season-ticket holders will be sent to those groups by each club in the coming days. Information regarding ticket availability for the general public will be released at a later date.

Rask given maintenance day as Bruins return to practice

Rask given maintenance day as Bruins return to practice

BRIGHTON -- The Bruns got back to work on Friday, but were without their No. 1 goaltender for practice at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of their biggest game of the season Saturday night against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center 

Tuukka Rask was given a maintenance day after playing three games in four days, and Matt Beleskey was also missing “on family leave." The off-day for Rask could have very well about getting away from the rink mentally as it was physically; he has a 3-6-0 record during the month of March. 

Interim coach Bruce Cassidy said after practice that he wouldn’t be making a decision on his starting goalie in Brooklyn until Saturday, but it would be stunning if Rask didn't play.

“We’ll see how things clear up . . . and see where we’re at,” said Cassidy of any Bruins lineup changes against the Isles. “We’ll know by then. [The starting goalie] will be determined tomorrow. I don’t want to get out in front of it, to be honest with you.”

Here are the line combos and D-pairings based on Friday’s practice, with Cassidy uncertain of any changes he might make between now and Saturday night: 
 
Marchand-Bergeron-Backes
Stafford-Krejci-Backes
Vatrano-Spooner-Hayes
Moore-Nash-Acciari
 
Chara-Carlo
Krug-McQuaid
C. Miller-K. Miller

Cassidy: Rask 'needed to be better' . . . and Rask agrees

Cassidy: Rask 'needed to be better' . . . and Rask agrees

BOSTON -- It's the wrong time of year for the No. 1 goaltender to struggle. 

But that's what's happening with Tuukka Rask and the Bruins. The former Vezina Trophy winner allowed five goals, including a couple of softies, on 28 shots in Thursday's 6-3 loss to the Lightning, which extended Boston's losing streak to four games. Rask is 3-6-0 in the month of March with a 3.01 goals-against average and .890 save percentage in nine games.

Rask had some good stops early in the game Thursday as the Bruins slogged their way through a slow start, but began to break down at the end of the second period while playing his third game in four days and 59th of the season. Still, interim coach Bruce Cassidy didn't seem inclined to use overwork as an excuse. 

"He needed to be better tonight," Cassidy said of Rask. "We needed to be better in front of him, and he needed to be better on some of those goals, It's March 23, so really, our focus needs to be there. You'd hope it's more fatigue than focus at this point in the year, but I can only speculate."

Tampa Bay's third goal was an odd-man rush with clear breakdowns in front of Rask, but he was also beaten high short side on his glove hand by Anton Stralman while squared to the shooter. Then in the third period Jonathan Drouin uncorked a shot from the face-off circle that beat Rask far-side under his glove hand for the game-winning goal. 

It was a soft goal any way you break it down, and it had Rask accepting responsibility postgame with a voice that softened and trailed off as he copped to his culpability. 

"You have to [pick up your team]," he said. "A lot of the time that's the case, the goalie has to make a couple extra stops there. [On Thursday] I didn't. That's part of my job to accept the fact that sometimes it's your fault. There were a couple of times I should've made the save but it happens sometimes . . .

"We're fighting for that last [playoff] spot, it doesn't matter who you play against. There are no easy games and everybody should know that. But, then again, look how we started the game, I don't think that was the plan. We got the late lead [in the second period], but then they came back every single time. Then they extended the lead there and got the win. It was just embarrassing."

The Bruins only hope is that Rask gets it back together and provides the brick-wall goaltending Boston is going to need to prevail in the next eight games. There's a good chance that Boston will be riding him the rest of the way, given Boston's currently narrow hold on a wild-card spot with just a couple of weeks to go.