Will Bruins have another fight on their hands?

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Will Bruins have another fight on their hands?

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON What to do for an encore after the two most heated NHL rivals produced 182 combined penalty minutes, 45 penalties, 13 fighting majors, 14 goals and one pretty amusing goalie fight their last time out?

Thatll be the question for both the Bruins and the Canadiens when they tangle for their final regular-season game at the Bell Centre Tuesday night with much more than machismo and bragging rights on the line.

It was pretty crazy, said Milan Lucic. Especially that second period with eight goals scored, and four for each side. I remember watching the highlights later and hearing Jack Edwards, the Bruins' play-by-play announcer on NESN say Mercy. It was fun to be in, and I know our fans talk about it and remember it.

Obviously there were some things we did great like sticking up for each other and being team tough. But moving forward we still have to do the same things: be smart, be team tough and do what helped us last game in establishing a lead and setting the right tone.

The Habs have righted their ship with four wins in a row after the Bruins truly rocked their world with the thrashing at the Garden, and its clear theres an overwhelming desire for payback on Montreal minds.

Belmont, Mass., native Paul Mara has played for both teams, but wasnt a member of either organization when Boston and Montreal played their bloody match. Mara's a Canadien now, having been acquired by Montreal from Anaheim a few days after that game, and it sounds like he wants a piece of the Bs this time around.

"I know where I was exactly. I was in the locker room in Vancouver watching that game unfold and wishing so bad I was playing in it," said Mara to reporters.

Theres an admission among the Canadiens, however, that playing a finesse, skill game is the way for Montreal to do damage.

"First and foremost we want a win. We're chasing these guys in our division," said Mara. "But at the same time we have to take a stand and show them we're not going to back down."

Priority number one for Montreal should be cutting into the Bruins' five-point lead in the Northeast Division. The Canadiens have won three of the four meetings between the teams this season . . . but one of those defeats provided Boston with a turning point in its season.

It was the third-period meltdown in Montreal on Jan. 8 that embarrassed a Bruins team spinning its wheels in the first few months of the season. They collected themselves in Pittsburgh the following day and have gone a sterling 17-7-1 since that gut punch of a defeat by the Habs in their raucous home building.

Tuesday night will be Bostons first game back since crumbling under the pressure.

Of course, the Black and Gold have been buoyed by a series of trades that strengthened the roster. But it was clear Boston had also changed seasonal course prior to the deals. The B's now sit in the NHLs top five in goals for and goals against this season, and are one of the hottest teams in the league while taking points in each of their last eight games.

With a win, it's possible for the Bruins to move into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with the Flyers.

Its a big two points for each team, said Shawn Thornton, who pummeled Roman Hamrlik in the last meeting in Boston and received criticism in Montreal for fighting a non-fighter despite a Hamrlik punch to the face that opened things up. Theyre trying to catch us, and were trying to catch the team up above us. Well play the tough brand of hockey that we usually do, but were also going to have to be disciplined. Thats not an easy building to do that in.

"Theyre the ones chasing us in the division, said Lucic. They always give us a tough game when we go up there, and make it tough for us to play against them. So thats the way well have to play: definitely hard, but also playing smart.

Well see from the drop of the puck. Obviously there will be some strong emotions and we know the fans will be into it. Well see how the game goes."

For the Bruins, the game will be much more about solving Carey Price, who is 5-3-1 with a 1.81 goals against average and .941 save percentage since allowing eights goals to the Bruins during fight night. There isnt likely to be any goalie fisticuffs this time around, so the Bs should expect a much better Price to go along with the rest of his Habs teammates.

Instead this game could be much more about making statements to a Montreal team positioned to perhaps square off against the Bruins for another playoff series in the storied rivalry.

It might not be a Fight Night, but that doesnt mean blood wont be boiling on either side once the puck is dropped in the NHLs longest-running feud.

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

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

While the Bruins technically operated, and operated well, short one coach once assistant coach Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien behind the Boston bench, that’s not expected to continue for the upcoming season.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed this week that the B’s will be retaining the current assistant coach group of Joe Sacco, Jay Pandolfo and Bob Essensa to work under Cassidy as full-time head coach, and that they’ll be looking to add one more person to his staff.

“I think our staff did a very good job jumping in and picking up, because we didn’t add to it at the time [of Cassidy’s promotion] when we subtracted from the group. It will stay as is,” said Sweeney. “We will also be looking to add to it to complement that group. Bruce and I have already spoken briefly about it, but we haven’t identified yet and we’ve already received some people that would have some interest. We’ll pursue that accordingly.”

Sacco handled the defensemen and the penalty kill in the final few months of the season, and Pandolfo worked with the forwards in his very first season as an NHL assistant coach following a stint in player development. Essensa, of course, worked with the goaltenders and as the “eye in the sky” from the press box once Pandolfo moved to the bench following the coaching change. So the natural assumption would be that the Bruins would hire another former defenseman to work with the D-men given the backgrounds of Sacco and Pandolfo as forwards.

“We haven’t gotten too far out in front of it. But, Joe Sacco moved from the front of the bench to the D, and did a terrific job [while playing a] big part of the penalty kill all year. Jay [Pandolfo] came down from the press box, worked with the forwards, which he had worked with all year. But now he’s in the heat of the battle. They were terrific. We were a true staff,” said Cassidy. “Goalie Bob [Essensa] became a little bit more of an eye in the sky for us up there. We had Kim [Brandvold], who was our skating coach, helped a lot with the practices, with the pace we were trying to establish. I can’t thank them enough.

“Going forward, we’re going to meet and decide what’s the best fit for us [as an assistant hire]. Obviously those two have a forward background, I have a defense background, so maybe that’s an area we have to look at, what’s the best complement. But we’d be getting ahead of ourselves if I said today that we’re pinpointing an exact thing. We’ve got to look at it and say, ‘OK, who’s the best fit. What makes us the most successful?’ We’ll go from there with the candidates we get.”

The situation automatically leads one to wonder if P-Bruins head coach Kevin Dean would be a possible candidate as a longtime Cassidy assistant at the AHL level, or if Dean wants to continue on his track as a head coach. If not Dean then perhaps Providence Bruins assistant coach and former Bruins D-man Jay Leach might also be a strong candidate after his first season working with the young P-Bruins at the AHL level.

While it’s clear the Bruins still have some discussions before potentially making a move on hiring an NHL assistant for Cassidy’s staff, they have made a determination about their scouting staff. The B’s never replaced the head of amateur scouting position when Keith Gretzky was hired as an assistant general manager with the Edmonton Oilers, and it will instead be Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley that will run Boston’s draft board in June.

“Scotty Bradley has stepped back into that role, which he’s very comfortable doing. He holds the title of Assistant General Manager and he’ll oversee the draft. We’re very comfortable with the people he’s worked with in recent years that have been a big, big part of our recent drafts. Our meetings went well,” said Sweeney. “They were just at the U-18s and had other subsequent meetings, so there will be some banter in the upcoming [scouting] meetings, in terms of where we end up finalizing our list. Scotty will oversee that.”

It’s not exactly foreign territory for Bradley, who previously held the head scouting position with the Black and Gold and played an instrumental role in drafting players like Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. But there’s also some question as to how big a role Gretzky played in drafting the massive wave of talented prospects now pushing their way through Boston’s system, and how much his presence will be missed at NHL Draft weekend moving forward.  

Saturday, April 29: The race for the top pick in NHL Draft

Saturday, April 29: The race for the top pick in NHL Draft

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while tipping my hat to the Celtics after an emotional, impressive showing against the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.

*It’s a tight race for the No. 1 overall ranking headed into this summer’s NHL Draft and it also doesn’t necessarily seem like a surefire superstar player right off the bat either.

*The New York Rangers seem to have a little more respect for the “underdog” Ottawa Senators headed into Game 2 of their series.

*Speaking of the Senators, it looks like they may once again have the best player in the series with the dominant Erik Karlsson at the top of his game while presiding over the best-of-seven playoff match.

*The Carolina Hurricanes are rolling the dice that they can sign Scott Darling to be their No. 1 goalie before he gets to unrestricted free agency.

*PHT writer James O’Brien helps break down the method that the Vegas Golden Knights are going to use to build their team, but the bottom line is they don’t want to be boring.

*Milan Lucic is enjoying the ride with the Edmonton Oilers as they’ve taken a 2-0 lead in their series against the Ducks.

*For something completely different: Interesting news about M. Night Shyamalan, who is making a sequel that will tie together two of his hit movies.