Gagne (concussion) hoping to make an impact

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Gagne (concussion) hoping to make an impact

NEWARK, NJ -- Simon Gagne is hoping to make his presence felt in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The 32-year-old winger has been out since just after Christmas with a concussion suffered against the Phoenix Coyotes. Hes experienced major troubles returning from concussions in the past, but Gagne has resumed practicing with the team and says he feels good.

The winger said during Tuesdays Stanley Cup Finals media day that he wouldnt return to action unless he was 100 percent after the complications in 2007-08.

With those types of head injuries I had never really waited until I was 100 percent before, said Gagne. This time I did that. I stayed in LA the whole time and I never lost the feeling for the team.

Gagne has been cleared for a possible return, but its hard to envision him displacing somebody in a playoff-tuned Kings lineup. Its the same combination of LA hockey players thats needed only 14 games to pillage their way through the Western Conference.

Every hockey player wants to play. Its difficult to sit out, said LA assistant coach John Stevens. Hes worked hard and got himself back physically where he needs to be. Hes really close to being available if it gets down to that. Simon has had a lot of success and hes been at this point before without having success.

Im sure hes anxious to get in there and play, but more than anything hockey players want to help their team win. To his credit every day hes becoming a better player and more ready to play. Thats what he needs to do.

Gagne cleared all of the concussion testing two weeks ago, and he says there are plenty of positives for his return to the Kings lineup. Gagne is something of an NHL good luck charm as he was in the Cup Finals two years ago as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, and made it Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last year with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But a successful return to game action could be difficult. New York Rangers forward Brian Boyle likened trying to return to playoff intensity after a concussion to trying to jump on a speeding train.

The speed of the game is always maxed out when two teams stand just four wins away from hoisting the Cup. Gagne understands all this, and said he knows what to expect after previously experiencing the playoff line of fire.

For sure there will be some adaptation to it. I felt good in practice and I felt good shooting the puck, said Gagne, who missed 48 games this season with injuries. I feel good one-on-one, but playing in a game is a totally different situation.

I think the plus on my side is that I know the level that the game is going to be. Two years and even last year losing Game 7 in the conference finals: its still so fresh in my mind. I think I could put myself into it really quick. Having that experience will help, and at this point in the season not a lot of guys are 100 percenteven mentally or physically. Some guys are very tired from playing so many games in such a short time. Im 100 percent and Im fresh, so thats a plus on my side.

So which tired forward is Gagne looking to edge out of the lineup in the playoffs?

Dustin Penner and rookie Dwight King have both been outstanding on the left wing in the postseason, and it might just take an injury during the Cup Finals to open the door for Gagnes triumphant return.

But its a testament to the Kings depth that a guy thats scored almost 300 career goals stands as the first man into the breach for Los Angeles when injuries arrive. Gagne is ready to step in when hes needed.

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.