Horton plays with fire to lead Bruins in Edmonton

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Horton plays with fire to lead Bruins in Edmonton

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

EDMONTON Nathan Horton might have been a little lost for a while in his first season in Boston.

But hes found himself at exactly the right time.

Not so coincidentally, Hortons game and the teams success have been tied together.

In contrast to so many games in December and January, when the 25-year-old Horton registered barely more than a sheepish peep on the ice, Bostons No. 1 right wing crashed, banged and loudly proclaimed his presence to the surprisingly combative Edmonton Oilers in a 3-2 win for Boston at Rexall Place.

Its a sharp edge to Hortons game that his coaches were more than happy to take note of.

Theres the offense and hes been playing with an edge the last few games, and that makes a big difference, said Claude Julien. I like the way hes been playing lately, and hopefully that continues.

We always talk about the timing of players playing well. This time of year you really want your players to start pushing hard, and hes been doing that.

Horton didnt like the way things were playing out in the first period with the Bruins down 1-0 to Edmonton, and falling quickly into the Oilers trap on a forgettable snowy Sunday evening.

His team was down early and Horton caught Oilers scrap-iron defenseman Theo Peckham taking a run at David Krejci.

So Horton did what any good teammate would do: He rolled up his sleeves for a good old-fashioned hockey bout with Peckham and beat the daylights out of the guy CBCs Don Cherry proudly called Teddy Peckman earlier this season.

Different than Hortons other rounds of fisticuffs in a Bruins uniform, the Bs forward sprang at Peckham with anger and purpose in defending Krejci and he immediately wobbled the Oilers defenseman with a punishing overhand right to the face.

Peckham was wobbly after getting slugged, according to the players inside the Edmonton room, and was done for the night after paying the price for running Hortons linemate.

Milan Lucic pounded his stick against the ice in appreciation when his fellow wing man stepped in for the center that makes things go on their line.

I saw somebody run Krejci and I didnt see who it was. But I just went after him, said Horton. Thats kind of how it happened. Obviously they scored the first goal, and I just wanted to pick everybody up a little bit.

I enjoy playing with my teammates and we all get along, so we stick together when those things happen.

Once Horton was back on the ice, he played with the same fire that inspired him to drop the gloves. Working in tandem with a line that once again appears as dominant as it did torching defenses in the first month of the season, Horton took a nifty cross-ice pass from Krejci after Krejci froze the Edmonton defense with a shot fake at Devan Dubnyk.

Horton fired it top left corner in the open area of the net, and had his third goal in the last four games for a Bs team thats now an impressive 5-0-0 on their current road trip. Its also 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in the last nine games for Horton while riding along the right side with Krejci and Lucic.

So why is Horton all of the sudden again playing up to his size, speed, skill and expectations with some heretofore missing gusto?

Some of it is finally getting reunited with his linemates from October and November, and part of it is simply taking a breath and relaxing. Horton admitted it got to a point this season when he had to simply take a step back and realize he was falling victim to the mental part of hockey that can chew players up and spit them into little bits.

Too many worries about goal totals and making everybody satisfied had gnawed away at Hortons confidence and ability to simply enjoy a kids game, but it was all back in a Big Bad way during this road trip.

I try not to think about confidence right now. I just want to work hard and play hard, said Horton. Whatever happens, happens. Youve got to enjoy your life, and really enjoy playing hockey. I think when you do that good things will come.

You get down on yourself, but thats not the case now. You cant let that happen. No matter what happens you have to keep smiling and staying positive. You just have to always be happy because its fun to play this game. You have to enjoy it because its not going to be forever.

It seems that after nearly a full season with the Bruins thats seen both highs and lows, Horton has figured things out for himself -- and for his team. It couldnt have arrived at a better time with all the pieces in place to bestow the former Florida Panthers winger the playoff experiences he always dreamed of while stuck fast in the Eastern Conference basement.

Horton is a long way from there now, and he doesnt want to go back.

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

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.