Haggerty: Bruins get statement win in first game back

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Haggerty: Bruins get statement win in first game back

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

RALEIGH, N.C. If the Bruins could have up drawn up an ideal statement to make in their first game back from the All-Star break, the 3-2 disposal of a hungry, improving Hurricanes bunch in their North Carolina backyard was pretty close to it.

It was never going to be perfect, not after most of the Bs had five days off before jumping into things at the RBC Center on Tuesday night, but there were plenty of good things to build on with only 31 games left in the regular season.

The bottom line, of course, is that the Bruins emerged victorious and managed to beat the Hurricanes for the third time in the last two weeks.

We found a way to win and we played pretty good offensively most of the night, said Tim Thomas. We didnt create a ton offensively, but we found a way to get it done when we did do things right. Everybody is going to be sloppy after the break, and thats just the way it is. But under those circumstances we still found a way to win, so I think its a good stepping stone.

At the top of the Bostons wish list coming down the stretch is another hot streak for Nathan Horton in the goal-scoring department, and the right wing looks like he might be heating up after his performance Tuesday night. Before the break Horton joked he was going to find some new sticks, but instead the skilled forward went back to an old model and motto that worked for him.

He simply got confident, got engaged and got involved. Three shots on net and three registered hits are the right measure of strength and skill that the 25-year-old is constantly in search of balancing and he found the right mixture against the Hurricanes.

That culminated with Bostons go-ahead goal in the third period on a play that Horton created out of nothing behind the Carolina net. He was battling with Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason behind the Carolina cage, and fought to win possession away from a pair of Carolina skaters.

The puck shot over to David Krejci, and Krejci flipped a pass right to Horton in a crease right by the left post. Horton snapped up high with a wrist shot and suddenly he had his first goal in the last 11 games and his second goal in the last 21 games after starting out like a house of fire over the first month of the season.

It appears more and more that Horton is streaky, and that means there will be times when his feel and confidence erode. But that also means there will be binge scoring sessions when Horton can carry the team on his own, and it appears he's primed and ready to start another hot streak at just the right time.

Thats something that everyone has really been waiting to happen, and hopefully its a confidence boost and something that can really get him going, said coach Claude Julien. That was a goal scorers goal . . . He was in tight and he lifted it after a really great setup.

The other encouraging sign from one simple victory in February: The Bs best players continue to be their best players, with no signs of slowing.

Zdeno Chara had a monster January while skating an average of 24:59 per game for 14 games while putting up 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) along with a plus-7 and continued that trend with a pair of assists and a dominating eight shots on net in the victory. Less obvious but even more valuable, Chara handled Eric Staal and allowed only a single shot on net to Carolinas most dominant scoring force in 20-plus minutes of ice time.

Chara had a turning-point game in the third-period collapse in Montreal last month, and it appears Big Zee is starting to build up another Norris Trophy resume with the way his game is rounding into shape beyond his mammoth 159-mph slapshot.

Patrice Bergeron scored his 17th goal of the season and his 9th in the last 13 games through a Brad Marchand screen, and Thomas came up large with a succession of save combinations in the final 20 minutes. Thomas simply reacted to Erik Coles long shot from the slot, and then kicked out his right hip on a leg save to stop Brandon Sutter on his rebound attempt right by the left post.

The successive save combination was a thing of beauty just as the win was for a Bruins team ready to sprint over the final 31 games with playoff position in the balance among a series of hard-fought games.

This is the final push. Its where the competitive juices get going and everybody is fighting for their lives, said Lucic. There are no easy games, but this is also where the fun begins. This is where we see exactly how good we can be.

Bostons first push after the All-Star break was a good one. Now all they need is 31 more just like it to get ready for what lays beyond.

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

Rask skates, expected to play tonight vs. Red Wings

Rask skates, expected to play tonight vs. Red Wings

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins held an optional morning skate on Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena with little more than a handful of B’s players skating, but the most important player to Boston success, Tuukka Rask, was taking part after missing practice on Monday.

Rask missed Monday’s practice session while getting checked out medically following his exit from Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh due to vision issues. He said on Tuesday that it was all related to migraines that have cropped up a couple of times in his NHL career. The Bruins No. 1 netminder also said he was good to play on Tuesday night against the Red Wings with just a couple of home games left until this weekend’s All-Star break.

That was the kind of good news embattled coach Claude Julien was looking for as Boston looks to end its season-worst, four-game losing streak.

“We’ve got good news so far, so that’s nice to see,” Julien said of Rask, who has started 13 of Boston’s past 14 games dating to a Dec. 27 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. “Obviously it was because of the migraines, so hopefully we won’t see much more of that.”

In other Black and Gold health news, both Colin Miller and Kevan Miller have been cleared to play, and are expected to rejoin the B’s lineup with John-Michael Liles and Joe Morrow headed for healthy scratches. Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings as the Red Wings arrive for a divisional tilt after a shootout loss for Boston last week at Joe Louis Arena:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Krejci-Backes

Schaller-Nash-Beleskey

Spooner-Moore-Hayes

 
Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

K. Miller-C. Miller


Rask
 

McIntyre still building and earning trust of B's coaching staff

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McIntyre still building and earning trust of B's coaching staff

BRIGHTON, Mass -- It hasn’t been an easy road for Bruins rookie goaltender Zane McIntyre since getting called back up by Boston a few weeks ago.

The 24-year-old netminder is trying to give the B’s top-level goaltending while earning the trust of the Bruins coaching staff, and adjusting to the sporadic playing time that goes along with playing understudy to a No. 1 netminder like Tuukka Rask. The three goals allowed in the third period of Sunday afternoon’s 5-1 loss to the Penguins didn’t look good on paper, but really there wasn’t much McIntyre could do with the defense totally breaking down in front of him during a 12-shot barrage in the final 20 minutes.

The 3.95 goals against average and .860 save percentage certainly look like a little frightening for the first-year goalie, but the truth is there’s going to be some bumps as he adjusts to life as a backup for the first time.

“[The adjustment] is mostly between the ears, to be honest,” said McIntyre. “I have confidence in my physical abilities and I know what I can do, and what makes my game successful. So right now it’s just building confidence every day in practice and staying persistent, staying with it. I know good things are going to happen when you surround yourself with good people, and the biggest thing is battling every day and making sure I’m contributing to the team.”

McIntyre will certainly have to be sharp if he’s put back in the crease on Tuesday night against the Red Wings after Rask exited from Sunday’s loss in the second period with symptoms of a migraine. The Bruins top goalie missed practice on Monday while getting himself checked out medically, and there’s a chance he could be out if the symptoms are in any way related to the Roman Josi shot he took off his neck last week.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day to be honest. That’s what I’ve always done in the past, and I’m just trying to build up confidence every day,” said McIntyre, who had been lights out in Providence prior to getting the call to Boston. “We’ll just see what happens and roll with it.”

That’s a challenge McIntyre will certainly be up for in a different way than Sunday’s mop-up duty, but it remains to be seen just how steady-footed the Bruins will be about their goalie situation if Rask is expected to miss any time this week.