Ference back in B's lineup, McQuaid out

191545.jpg

Ference back in B's lineup, McQuaid out

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The guessing game is over as to which defensemen will hit the bench with Andrew Ference once again 100 percent healthy and ready to return against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night. Ference was the first one onto the ice on Thursday morning for morning skate at TD Garden, and McQuaid was not a part of the normal pairings indicating hed be sitting for the Black and Gold.Adam McQuaid has been playing through some bumps and bruises over the last few games, and will get a rest with Ference having missed the last three games with an upper body injury.Ference seems to be good and cleared to go, said coach Claude Julien. McQuaid has been playing banged up over the last couple of weeks, and the medical staff wants him to take a little bit of a break. He could certainly play through it if he had to, but weve got a healthy back end. We might as well get them as healthy as possible, so thats a decision that we have made.McQuaid has three assists in his last four games, and has quietly become a pretty vital cog in Bostons team structure given his toughness, ability to fight and growing calm in the offensive zone. When McQuaid heals from his various ailments, Julien knows itll be a tough choice determining which six defensemen will go on a nightly basis.If they keep playing the way they are its going to be difficult, said Julien. Theres no doubt about that. Its not an easy decision to make, and if theyre all playing well Ive seen situations where you alternate to get everybody in the lineup.I guess well cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now I think our back end has been pretty good for us, and they all deserve to play. Tuukka Rask was the first goaltender off the ice for the Bruins, and will get the start against the Sabres after he was pulled after the first period New Years Day in Buffalo and it turned out to be a turning point in Rasks hockey season. Ryan Miller is between the pipes again for the Buffalo Sabres and will play his 22nd game in a row a trend that isnt likely to change until the Sabres are either in or eliminated from playoff contention. Steve Kampfer said that hes having trouble breathing out of more than one nostril with his broken nose, and that the young defenseman might undergo some kind of procedure during the NHL All-Star break at the end of the month if he continues to experience difficulty breathing.Hes been able to play, but theres blood up there that have clogged his sinuses, said Julien. Its made it hard for him to breathe, but hes certainly playing through it. We know what Kampfer brings to the table, and we dont have many of those offensive-minded, mobile defenseman like he is.When you make a decision, you make it based on that as well.

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

Bruins make it official, name Cassidy coach

Bruins make it official, name Cassidy coach

It took a few days of discussions and Don Sweeney doing his due diligence as a general manager, but Bruce Cassidy was officially named the 28th head coach of the Bruins on Wednesday morning after guiding them back into the playoffs once he had replaced Claude Julien midseason. 

Cassidy was hired in early February and spurred the Bruins into an 18-8-1 finish to the regular season before falling in six games in the first round of the playoffs to the Ottawa Senators, and showed an ability to spur Boston’s offense while also working well in developing the Bruins young players at the NHL level.

Since Cassidy assumed head coaching responsibilities on Feb. 9, the Bruins ranked first in the NHL in goals per game (3.37), first in the NHL in fewest shots allowed (741), tied for second in the NHL in wins (18), tied for second in the NHL in power-play percentage (27.8%), tied for third in the NHL in goals allowed per game (2.30), tied for fifth in the NHL in faceoff percentage (53.6%) and tied for sixth in the NHL in takeaways (229).

It was an impressive showing by Cassidy in his return to the world of NHL head coaching after a two-year stint with the Washington Capitals some 13 years ago, and it was clear to just everybody that he had earned the right to coach the Black and Gold.

“It’s no secret that I appreciate the way that [Bruce Cassidy] thinks the game, and I think we played well in front of him. Guys wanted to compete for him and I think his record speaks for itself when he popped in,” said Torey Krug, who was among B’s players like Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Backes that endorsed Cassidy publicly during B’s break-up day on Tuesday afternoon. “I think he is a guy that the players want to play for, and I think a lot of [other Bruins players] would echo that same message.”

Cassidy and GM Don Sweeney will both meet with the media on Thursday morning to discuss the hiring, pore over the just-concluded season and talk about the bright future for the Bruins after gaining a foothold under the new coach’s guidance. 

Zdeno Chara interested in summer contract extension: 'Of course I would be'

Zdeno Chara interested in summer contract extension: 'Of course I would be'

BRIGHTON, Mass – At 40 years old and entering the final year of his contract with the Bruins, one might expect that Zdeno Chara was hoping to finish things up strong next season and ride off into the Boston sunset as a future Hall of Fame shutdown defenseman. 

One would be totally wrong, however. 

Chara finished off a very strong season for the Bruins as their de facto No. 1 defenseman and averaged a whopping 28:46 of ice time during Boston’s six games of playoff hockey. It wasn’t by design, obviously, as Chara was pushed into some games where he went over 30 minutes of ice time due to the blue line injuries and overtimes, and it wasn’t always perfect as evidenced by Chara’s minus-3 rating in the series and his disastrous delay of game penalty at the end of a Game 2 loss in Ottawa. 

But by and large it was an excellent season for Chara as a shutdown D-man paired with Brandon Carlo where his leadership benefited the 20-year-old rookie, and Carlo’s mobility and puck-moving helped bring out the best in Chara’s game as well. The 10 goals and 29 points and plus-18 in 75 games while averaging 23:20 of ice time was a strong showing for the Bruins captain, and undoubtedly encouraged Chara that the end is not near for his career. 

With that in mind, Chara said during Tuesday’s breakup day that he welcomed a discussion about a contract extension with the Bruins following July 1 as he hopes to continue playing beyond next season. 

“Of course I would,” said Chara, when asked if he’d be interested in an extension this summer. “It’s something where I want to continue to play, and I take a lot of pride in my offseason training and being ready for every season. It’s probably something that management has to think about and make a decision about, but I’ve said many times that I would like to play beyond this contract. 

“I want to still be very effective and still get better and improving while maintaining my game, and adding to my game. It’s a game that’s going extremely fast as we go forward with a lot of skill assets. You have to be able to make those adjustments, and that’s a focus for me going into every season so I can be an effective player.”

Clearly it would need to be under optimal conditions for the Bruins to extend Chara at this point in his career, but a short term contract that pays the aging D-man something in the neighborhood of next season’s cap hit ($4 million) would be palatable for a player that’s easily still a top-4 defenseman in the twilight of his career. 

There just shouldn’t be any expectation he’s going to get additional term or be anywhere close to his salary total for this season that was in the $7 million range, and instead it will be a potential contract extension that reflects Chara’s value to the Bruins even if Mother Nature is starting to slow him down a little bit. 

Chara’s skating game certainly has slowed for a 6-foot-9 defenseman that never counted skating as a real strength, and you don’t ever see him wind up and blast away full strength with that 108-mph slap shot that was featured in so many All-Star Game Skills Competitions over the years. But he can also still be a shutdown guy, a dominant penalty killer and an intimidating presence in the defensive zone that causes every offensive player to take pause when he’s out there. 

Even if Chara eventually becomes a middle-pairing defenseman over the course of the next couple of seasons, the Bruins could still use his presence on and off-the-ice as a defensive stopper and a mentor to all the young D-men in the organization. So it may be that the Bruins are just as interested as their 40-year-old captain in extending things another year or two with so much roster turnover toward youth expected on the B’s back end over the next few seasons.