Playoff-bound B's look to balance roster

Playoff-bound B's look to balance roster

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON -- Tim Thomas didn't realize it until after the game, but the Bruins clinched a playoff spot in Sunday night's 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Now he knows. After Monday's practice Thomas was asked about the work he expects in the final seven games of the regular season. The Bruins' No. 1 goaltender responded by saying he doesn't know, nor care, because he doesn't feel tired.

"There's nothing in my head," said Thomas. "It's completely blank. It's scary sometimes.

"I feel pretty good," he added. "Usually, you can tell how I'm feeling physically. You can see it on the ice."

Thomas is playing as well as he has all season, allowing only two goals on 83 shots in his last three starts, all against playoff teams.

On Monday, Bruins coach Claude Julien briefly addressed his team's strategy over the next seven games, and the amount of playing time that Thomas receives will certainly be discussed in the near future. Julien said that he plans to perform some type of balancing act in order to get extra defensemen Steve Kampfer and Shane Hnidy, as well as forward Daniel Paille and goaltender Tuukka Rask, some playing time in case they're needed in the playoffs.

"Down the road, you're going to see us moving some of those guys in there, and try to make sure that we keep everybody, more or less, in the loop," Julien said after Monday's practice. "But at the same time, you want to make sure you have a roster that you feel comfortable with.

"So we're going to kind of try and balance that out, whether it's goaltenders, whether it's D's, or even forwards for that matter."

As of Monday, the Bruins are one of four Eastern Conference teams to clinch a playoff spot. Barring a complete collapse in the last seven games, combined with an all-out surge from the Montreal Canadiens in that span, it's safe to say that the Bruins will remain atop the Northeast division and will enter the playoffs as a top-three seed in the East.

Seeing that last year's Eastern Conference Final was a battle between the seventh and eighth seeds in the conference, the motivation to pull out all the stops in order to overtake the second-seeded Washington Capitals or the first-place Philadelphia Flyers isn't really present in the Bruins' locker room.

However, Julien did express on Monday that he doesn't want to enter a first-round postseason series on a negative note.

"It's nice to clinch with more than just a game or two left in the season," said Julien. "Right now, the challenge is going to be to keep our game going in the right direction, and not get complacent and comfortable, and hopefully get into the playoffs with confidence, and the team firing on cylinders.

"Normally, when you play well, the results are in your favor. I don't think we want to go in there saying it's a must-win, but it's a game that we must play extremely well, with the intentions of winning."

Those intentions begin on Tuesday night against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Coyotes hire Craig Cunningham as scout

Coyotes hire Craig Cunningham as scout

The Coyotes have hired former player Craig Cunningham as a pro scout, keeping the 26-year-old in hockey after a cardiac episode ended his playing career this season. 

Drafted by the Bruins in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Cunningham played 34 games for Boston over parts of two seasons before he was waived and claimed by Arizona. He totaled 19 games for the Coyotes, but served as captain of the Tucson Roadrunners, the team’s AHL affiliate. 

Cunningham was hospitalized after he collapsed during pregame warmups on Nov. 19. He was kept alive by continual CPR, but had his lower left leg amputated the next months due to an infection from the episode. 

Known as a high-character player who was popular with his teammates, Cunningham’s transition to scouting lets him further his career after a scary break. 

"I'm very excited to begin the next chapter of my life with the Coyotes," Cunningham said in a statement released by the team. "I'm very grateful to John Chayka, Dave Tippett, the Coyotes and Roadrunners organizations, and all of the great fans across Arizona for the incredible support I've received over the past year. I'm looking forward to helping the Coyotes and I can't wait to get started in my new role."

Said Chayka, the team’s general manager: ”We're thrilled to have Craig join our hockey operations department as a pro scout. Craig was a smart, hard-working player with an incredible passion for the game. We're confident that he will bring those same qualities to the Coyotes in his new role and that he will be an invaluable asset to our organization. We look forward to Craig helping us in several areas and are excited that he is staying with the club."
 

Morning Skate: Overreacting to the Oilers' window

Morning Skate: Overreacting to the Oilers' window

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while really enjoying what the CW does season in and season out with the Flash.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Don Brennan says that the Senators fans not showing up for Game 6 is their way of sticking it to Sens owner Eugene Melnyk.

*The talk is turning to the next captain of the Buffalo Sabres, and what they can do to help open up communication up and down the roster.  

*A guy that wore a Habs toque on his twitter avatar writes a glowing, praise-filled article about the performance of PK Subban during these Stanley Cup playoffs. He’s undoubtedly been good, but he just might have been wearing his Montreal Canadiens footie pajamas when he wrote this one, and rattling his fist at Habs management all the while.

*Interesting piece by Jason Gregor about the “window to win” for the Edmonton Oilers, and an odd notion that the window will close when Connor McDavid has moved out of his entry level contract. I’d say that’s kind of ludicrous.

*The Colorado Avalanche coaching staff has been let go after last year’s dreadful season, and that’s too bad for a really good guy in former Providence College head coach Tim Army. I’m sure he won’t be out of work long.

*Colin White made his Stanley Cup playoff and NHL debut for the Ottawa Senators in Game 6, and helped push Ottawa to a Game 7. It will be interesting to watch the Massachusetts native and former Boston College standout develop with the Senators as White was one of the players that the Bruins skipped over to instead draft Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft. The others, Mathew Barzal, Travis Konecny and Kyle Connor, are all either in the NHL or knocking on the door as well, and it’s going to be a challenging road for both of Boston’s forward prospects to live up the justification of the B’s drafting them first. Granted DeBrusk and Senyshyn are also both doing their thing for the P-Bruins as they push into the conference finals of the Calder Cup playoffs, and they’re both bright prospects in their own right. It’s going to take years to determine the rights and wrongs of that first round, but White getting into the lineup for the Senators is proof of just how high that organization is on him.

*Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan says that Sidney Crosby handled the targeted abuse well from the Senators in a Game 6 loss that will push to a Game 7 between the Penguins and the Senators.

*For something completely different: A great message from Brookline homey and former Sox GM wonder boy Theo Epstein in his commencement address to Yale University.