Morning Skate 331: Bruins did have Da Costa interest

Morning Skate 331: Bruins did have Da Costa interest

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.comA Bruins source confirmed that the team had interest in Merrimack College hockey standout Stephane Da Costa as he enters the NHL via free agency as an undrafted prospect from France, but they were never front runners in the Da Costa sweepstakes.The same team source termed their chances as slim on Wednesday, and that became none on Thursday morning as the puck prospect signed a two-year deal with the Ottawa Senators.Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was spotted at Merrimack watching Da Costa on several occasions, so the organization did their due diligence in attempting to lure the hot prospect to Boston.People close to Da Costas situation indicated he wanted to go to an NHL team where he could play right away, and that was never going to materialize with a Bruins team locked and loaded for the playoffs. The Florida Panthers and Minnesota Wild were other teams strongly in contention for the highly-skilled college prospect that helped turn around a Merrimack hockey program, and get them into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1988.Hes definitely got some of the European flair and creativity to his game along with the soft edges that can infuriate some hockey coaches, but theres little doubting Da Costa can add something to a power play unit with his NHL caliber hands and passing vision.The 21-year-old posted 90 points in 67 games against solid Hockey East competition, and had NHL scouts tracking his every move this season and letting out groans when a knee injury sidelined him for a portion of the season.Lawrence Eagle-Tribune Merrimack beat reporter Mike McMahon reported that Da Costa will play for the Senators Saturday night against the Maple Leafs, and will finish out the season with the rest of a young and hungry Senators bunch. The Hockey East standout will also swing through the TD Garden with the Senators on April 9 for a Saturday matinee, so everybody can fix their eyes on another local college hockey player thats done very well for himself. On to the links:Speaking of Da Costa and Hockey East, heres former University of New Hampshire player and current Ottawa Senators Bobby Butler talking about his former Merrimack adversary turned teammate.A nice piece by New Yorks SB Nation hockey entry on 21-year-old Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh after he survived his brush with the NHL punk formerly known as Matt Cooke.Bruins defenseman, and Thomas the Tank Engine twin, Tomas Kaberle is one of the bigger names in a list of 10 players that Puck Daddy would love to see win a Stanley Cup this season.Excellent story by ESPNBoston.coms Joe McDonald about the connection between Johnny Bower and Tim Thomas. A must read for Bruins fans.NBC Pro Hockey Talk delves into the murky waters inhabited by NHL fan bases in Phoenix and Winnipeg that arent exactly best friends right now.A Classic high school studentvideo created in the TD Garden balcony with a flip cam during a Bruins game that concluded with a very heartwarming and happy ending.Speaking of Hockey East alums, Nathan Gerbe has established himself in Buffalo as the Sabres make a run at the playoffs in the second half of the season. Not bad for a 5-foot-5 gnat on skates.Rob Rossi provides a transcription following Sidney Crosbys first non-contact practice with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Seems like hes ramping up for a playoff return, doesnt it?

'Healthy' Rask ready to go with a lot to prove

'Healthy' Rask ready to go with a lot to prove

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Tuukka Rask went through morning skate Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and proclaimed himself “healthy” to start against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden after sitting out Saturday with a lower body injury.

So, Rask will play his 60th game of the season tonight and the Bruins will hope that a dominating performance will douse some of the brush fire that’s cropped up around the Black and Gold’s goaltending situation. 

After Boston’s No. 1 goaltender coughed up five goals in a rough loss to Tampa and then sat out the must-win against the Islanders on Saturday night, questions about Rask’s big-game reliability are absolutely there after he also sat out last season’s pivotal finale against the Ottawa Senators.

Still, Rask said he hasn’t paid attention to the media scrutiny and is instead looking forward to locking up against fellow Finn Pekka Rinne of the Preds.

“I haven’t listened to the [media scrutiny], but I’m sure they’ve been very nice to me,” said Rask. “I don’t listen. I don’t read it. Doesn’t affect me. You know where you stand, and how good you play and when you don’t play good. That’s all you need. You don’t need to listen to the outside voices because it’s just going to distract you. People have opinions and they can say whatever they want.

“This is what we play for, right? It’s fun. It’s going to come down to the wire again and it’s going to be another battle tonight. I don’t even know how many games I’ve played. I feel good. I think I’ve said all throughout the year there’s going to be ups and downs, and you just try to stay even-keeled. It’s something that you learn not getting too high or too low, and just win as many games as you can.”

The bottom line with Rask is that there are major question marks about his standing as a No. 1 goaltender that he needs to address in these final seven games, media scrutiny or no media scrutiny. A No. 1 goalie worth $7 million per season can hold up with a 60-plus game workload and not fade down the stretch while in need of mental and physical breaks. 

The slender Rask has shown signs of slippage in his performance when the workload is heavy, and coach Bruce Cassidy admitted as much on Tuesday while not guaranteeing that his No. 1 will be able to play in six of the final seven games down the stretch.

“We’re trying to write our own story this year. I know how the last few years have ended, and we’d like a different ending,” said Cassidy. “I think this group should be afforded that right to write their own stories, and we’ll see how it plays out. Obviously last week did not play out well for us and we heard about it, and that’s part of the business.

“Saturday, hopefully we turned a corner, but we won’t know that until we get going forward here. I’m asking [Tuukka] to play well tonight, and I’m asking the players in front of him to play well tonight. The workload for Tuukka has to be monitored, and whether the whole world agrees with it or not, that’s the situation. I think the data backs up that he’s better with ‘X’ amount of rest and that’s just the way it is. It’s an inexact science and we’re trying to do a better job with that. The second half we’ve really tried to monitor it and last week was a bit of an exception. At crunch time things change a little bit, and that’s what we’re trying to balance.”

In an ideal world, a hockey team scratching and clawing for the Stanley Cup playoffs wouldn’t have to so closely monitor whether a goaltender is about to break down because he’s pushing 60 games in a season, especially when he’d enjoyed a five-day bye just a month earlier.

There are also questions about Rask’s reliability after sitting out last weekend, whether it was by his choice, the team’s choice or a mutually agreed upon decision after his lower body discomfort cropped up. A No. 1 goalie is no longer worthy of that lofty mantle when a team can’t rely on big-game performances from him, or even if he'll be available, once the pressure is on in the final weeks of the season.

So, there are plenty of questions to answer for Rask down the stretch here and they may go a long way toward determining his long-range future with an organization that invested heavily in him a few years ago. Those answers begin on Tuesday night against the Predators and it certainly feels like it will be game-to-game with him for final seven contests of the regular season. 
 

Krejci doesn't skate, 'game-time decision' tonight vs. Nashville

Krejci doesn't skate, 'game-time decision' tonight vs. Nashville

BRIGHTON, Mass – It was an optional morning skate for the Bruins at Warrior Ice Arena, but only Torey Krug and David Krejci were missing from the ice ahead tonight's game against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden. 

That’s two skates missed in a row for Krejci, who will be a game-time decision vs. the Preds after spending his morning undergoing treatment for an upper body issue.

If Krejci can’t play then Ryan Spooner would get bumped up to the second line with Drew Stafford and David Pastrnak and the Bruins would shuffle the rest of their forwards while presumably getting Matt Beleskey back into the fold.

“[Krejci] will be a game-time decision,” said Cassidy. “He stayed off the ice to get some treatment. I think he’ll play, but we’ll have to wait until warm-ups and go from there.”

Normally an injured player that doesn’t skate in the morning isn’t likely to play in the game, so let’s put Krejci as a questionable status to suit up after getting dinged up vs. the Islanders. 

Cassidy also confirmed that John-Michael Liles would be subbing in for Colin Miller on the third defensive pairing after having played just two games since the beginning of February. Also, Tuukka Rask was “healthy” and ready to play tonight vs. Nashville.

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings vs. Nashville based on the past two days of practice:

Marchand-Bergeron-Backes

Stafford-Spooner-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Nash-Hayes

Beleskey-Moore-Acciari

 
Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Liles-K. Miller

 
Rask