Bruins notes: Hnidy makes debut

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Bruins notes: Hnidy makes debut

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Shane Hnidy wasnt sure if the day would come when hed suit up for an NHL game this season, and thats not even counting the chance to get involved in some playoff hockey.

The 35-year-old defenseman made his 2010-11 NHL debut with only five games remaining in the season, and it was an active days work for Hnidy in his second go-round with the Boston Bruins. Hnidy received 13:53 of ice time and fired three shots on net while also taking a delay-of-game penalty when he fired a puck into the TD Garden stands during Bostons 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers that clinched them the Northeast Division title.

A couple of Hnidys shots actually came dangerously close to goals as he fired them in from the point through heavy traffic in front of the net, but Ondrej Pavelec was somehow able to divert the pucks away from the danger area.

Hnidy was verbally pinching himself for being so lucky to be back playing in the NHL and back playing for the Bruins after the rotator cuff surgery on his should back in September during a tryout bid with the Phoenix Coyotes.

It was a big win. For me, it was, when you sit out that long and you kind of wonder if youre ever going to get back . . . It was pretty special to come back and play tonight. To be back in the league was a good feeling.

Rookies Steve Kampfer and Adam McQuaid both served as the healthy scratches for the Saturday afternoon matinee against the Thrashers, and that allowed Hnidy to get into the action. Coach Claude Julien wouldnt commit to how many games hell give Hnidy before the playoffs begin, but the safe bet is that hell play in the majority of the four games remaining in the regular season.

There were certainly times when the game sped up on Hnidy, but the Bs coach liked his composure and his role is more about leadership, depth and defensemen insurance when the playoff bell rings.

Early in the game I was kind of keeping an eye on him and he was determined to keep it simple, but efficient, said Julien. The one thing he does have is experience in this league, so hes smart enough to handle the situation the right way.

Coming into his first game and at the end of the season like that, its you know, its never easy. Everybodys been playing 70, close to 80, games and hes got a lot of catching up to do. But I think he was good tonight for us. I like the way he handled himself.

Hnidy said hed be ready to go along with whatever the coaches decide leading up to the postseason.

I cant control what they do, I just control my job and helping guys here that we got to really push ourselves, said Hnidy. This is what hockey is all about. This is the time of year we got to finish strong, play hard. Its fun to come to the rink everyday, especially when Ive been home as long as I was. Its great to come and be with the boys and enjoy this experience.

Tuukka Rask was fighting the puck early in the game after Dustin Byfugliens skipping, floating point blast snuck through, and a fluky second goal was tagged on Patrice Bergerons line as they were running around in the defensive zone. But Rask made 15 saves in the third period to protect the one-goal lead and was awarded the 1980s Starter-style Bruins warm-up jacket thats become a Player of the Game style item handed from player to player after each victory.

Mark Recchi was the last to wear it in Philadelphia on Sunday night, and he handed it off to Rask following the victory.

The Finnish netminder made a great game-saving stop on Chris Stewart at the doorstep early in the third period to keep it a tied hockey game, and opened the door for Michael Ryder to finally bust things open with his penalty shot with 7:29 remaining in the game.

That first goal kind of went off his stick and went up in the air and took kind of a bit of a bad bounce there for him, said Julien. But other than that he made some big saves. You saw him slide over and make some big saves at the right times.

He was big for us tonight. Thats what you want out of Tuukka Rask right now. It gives us a lot of confidence every time he plays. Its nice to see that you have two good goaltenders that you can rely on no matter which goalie is in net.

Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart made their returns to the TD Garden for the first time since their trade to the Atlanta Thrashers, and it was the tale of two different greetings for the two former Bruins. Wheeler was greeted with half-hearted applause and a smattering of boos after a frustrating career as a member of the Bs, and Stuart was showered with big applause when his career was mentioned on the TD Garden jumbotron.

Stuart really mixed it up during the game as well, and belted both Ryder and Tomas Kaberle with hard, physical shots in open ice. He also got into a shoving match with Brad Marchand after the Bs pest threw a shoulder at him following a whistle in the offensive zone.

I knew it was going to be a fun atmosphere and a fun game, said Wheeler. Would have loved to have come in here and beat these guys, but they are a good team and they have a real shot this year.

I wasnt expecting it to be weird, but youre skating on the other end and you see the black jerseys. It brought back a lot of good memories. I have a lot of good friends on that team. I will certainly be rooting for them.

Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton missed his second straight game since needing 40 stitches to close a gash in his forehead. The swelling had traveled from Thorntons forehead and settled into a bruise around his right eye on Friday, and hell be considered day-to-day until the swelling has calmed down.

Dustin Byfuglien made the rare accomplishment of hitting the TD Garden jumbotron in the third period high above the ice while flipping a puck up and trying to clear the defensive zone. Thats not something you see very often.

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

Krug out 6 months, Krejci 5 months after surgery

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Krug out 6 months, Krejci 5 months after surgery

It sounds like the Bruins will be without puck-moving defenseman Torey Krug at the very outset of next season.

Krug (right shoulder), Matt Beleskey (left hand) and David Krejci (left hip) all underwent successful surgeries in mid-to-late April for injuries sustained over the wear and tear of NHL duty last season and both Krug and Krejci are now facing recovery times on the long end of things. 

Krejci’s rehab and recovery is initially set for five months after undergoing surgery with renowned hip surgeon Dr. Bryan Kelly on April 25, but the hope is that the 30-year-old playmaking center will be ready for the start of the regular season.

It’s the same rough timetable Krejci faced following hip surgery on his right side after the 2008-09 season and, seven years ago, the center was able to start the season on time.

Krug is up for what’s expected to be a long-term new contract after July 1, and will be out six months after undergoing shoulder surgery with Bruins team doctor Peter Asnis on April 21. That means there’s a good chance the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Krug will miss the preseason and be out the first few weeks of the preseason at the very least. 

Shoulder injuries are also always a bit of a concern for NHL defensemen considering all of the pounding those players absorb on a nightly basis, and that goes doubly so for a smaller blueliner (5-9, 186) such as Krug.

Any absence at all is tough news for the B’s considering Krug was second on the Bruins in ice time (21:37) among defensemen this season, and led all Bruins blueliners with 44 points last season in a challenging year for a clearly undermanned D-corps.

Beleskey is expected to undergo a six-week rehab after his April 14 surgery with Dr. Matthew Leibman at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.  

Tuesday, May 3: Stamkos, Subban as 10-year-old teammates

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Tuesday, May 3: Stamkos, Subban as 10-year-old teammates

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while starting to actually feel badly for the Republican Party.

*Lukas Head revisits an old photo taken with Steven Stamkos and PK Subban when all three were youth hockey players together.

*A disappointed Brooks Orpik gets emotional when discussing his playoff suspension. Maybe he should stop lining up guys for predatory hits if he doesn’t want to be suspended. His track record, and unwillingness to answer the bell for his actions, is well-chronicled.

*Barry Trotz hints that the Pittsburgh Penguins received preferential treatment in the aforementioned Brooks Orpik suspension.

*A heartwarming story of the San Jose Sharks saving the black cat that somehow jumped on the ice at the Shark Tank prior to Game 1 of their playoff series.

*Congratulations to the inspirational Travis Roy, who was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame last weekend.

*Bob Hartley is fired by the Calgary Flames. Could it be that it was done to make room for Bruce Boudreau, asks Puck Daddy?

*Former Bruins enforcer PJ Stock did some kind of FaceTime television hit with Rogers Sportsnet to make some playoff predictions.

*For something completely different: Jerry Thornton has a number of local Boston businesses banning Roger Goodell from their premises.

 

 

Youth needs to be served

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Youth needs to be served

This is the second in a five-part series about the breakdowns that doomed the team this season, and what must change for the Black and Gold to once again get moving in the right direction. 

In the days after the Bruins' regular-season demise, it was striking to hear Don Sweeney speak about the development path of David Pastrnak.

The Bruins general manager paid the second-year forward perfunctory compliments about the prodigious skill set that made him a first-round draft choice. Pastrnak -- in spite of getting almost no power-play time, even though he's one of the most gifted offensive players on the roster -- scored five more goals and roughly the same number of points in about the same number of games as he did in his rookie year, despite suffering a fractured foot in the first month and then competing in the World Junior tourney around the holidays. He also gained steam at the end of the season, scoring goals in three of the final four games while the rest of his teammates struggled.

But Pastrnak, one of the youngest players in the NHL at age 19, struggled with puck management and turnovers, and had some rough nights as a teenager making his way in a rough-and-tumble man’s league. He's still on the learning curve, something Sweeney readily acknowledges.

“The impatience about putting players [at the NHL level] before they’re ready, it shows up at times,” said Sweeney, who invoked Pastrnak’s name while answering a question about the potential NHL readiness of promising young B's prospect Danton Heinen. “It absolutely does. We’re talking about David Pastrnak, who leads the league in giveaways per 60 minutes. He’s a tremendous talent and a tremendous young man with tremendous character, and he wants to get better and needs to get stronger.

“At times it’s unfair to [coach Claude Julien] that people will be like ‘Ah, there’s Pastrnak not out there on the ice in this situation.’ But [Julien's] the same guy that put [Pastrnak] out there (in a crucial late-season game against the Red Wings with the Bruins leading 5-1) and he makes a bad mistake and they score . . .

"That’s a bit of give-and-take that everybody has to understand with our younger players. You have to hope that they’re ready for it. [We've] done it properly (in the past) . . . [Brad Marchand] started on the fourth line and worked his way up.

"David has been up and down a little bit. That’s the piece where we need to have some depth, and we’re in a transition to get there.”

Sweeney's mention of Marchand illustrates the Bruins' problem. When Marchand broke in, the Bruins were a talented Stanley Cup contender. His first full season was 2010-11, the year Boston won the Cup. The B's could afford to slowly develop him. letting him get his feet wet in low-pressure situations before asking more of him.

That's not the case today. The Bruins no longer have that kind of quality roster depth, and won't anytime soon unless a lot of these prospects come through. That means young players like Pastrnak are forced into bigger roles they might not be ready for.

And that strikes right at the heart of Boston’s development missteps from last season.  

Some of it was organizational. It seemed pretty clear by the end of the season that Zach Trotman, Joe Morrow and Brett Connolly aren’t going to develop into core players in Boston. That's just the way it is in a results-oriented business like the NHL. It doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on the coaching staff’s work, as great coaching can’t magically turn a borderline NHL player into something he’s not.

But while the coaches handled Pastrnak well, they failed at times with Frank Vatrano and Colin Miller. Both showed flashes of NHL ability throughout the season, but spoke of losing their confidence based on their erratic usage patterns. The two of them needed stints in the American Hockey League to get their respective grooves back.

In particular, the electric Vatrano should have been back up with the B's weeks sooner than he was. The Bruins were struggling to score goals and he was rifling them home at a goal-per-game pace in Providence. As soon as he returned to Boston, he posted four points in his five games.

With Julien returning and the Bruins intent on introducing more young talent to the lineup, the transition into the NHL needs to be streamlined.

Given how much of a priority it is for Sweeney, there's no reason to think the process won't be improved.

The hope is that the next crop of B’s prospects will yield results. First-round picks from other organizations, like Morrow and Connolly, mostly fizzled last season, but Boston’s own crop of young players -- Heinen, Brandon Carlo, Austin Czarnik, Noel Acciari -- should augment the contributions of newcomers like Vatrano and Miller. And while most of last year's first-round selections (Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn) are probably still more than a year away, the feeling is there'll be a promising return from that batch of draftees. In addition, the Bruins have another two first-round picks this year.

Upper management makes the point that the present situation began developing in the final years of Peter Chiarelli's watch. With singular exceptions like Marchand the team was unable to develop its own talent, which led to overpaying veterans to stay competitive, which led to severe salary-cap issues, which led to the decay of the franchise we've witnessed over the last two seasons. 

"I think for a period of time we stopped being in an invest mode (and instead ran) with the guys we had," said owner Jeremy Jacobs. "You pay a price in this game if you’re not constantly investing in the next generation.”

Now, however, it's time to stop the finger-pointing and begin the rebuild in earnest. To their credit, the Bruins say they're doing just that.

“I think we did take a step back this year for that very purpose,” said Jacobs. 

Investing in youth is simply the way of the salary-cap world, for the Bruins and everybody else in the NHL. It will have to mean patience and longer leashes for young players under Julien.

“The younger players that we’ve drafted and recently signed and are going to develop are a big part of [the future], as long as they’re good enough players," said Sweeney. "We expect them to be. But when . . . you put them in your lineup is important . . . 

"This ownership is very, very supportive of what we need to do. It’s just, ‘Get it done.’ So that’s why the chair is warm [for everybody].”

While Julien clearly did play a role in the emergence of Marchand, David Krejci and Milan Lucic as NHL stars, developing young players has never been one of his coaching strengths. He certainly bears some responsibility for elite young talents like Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton not lasting in Boston. The warmth of his chair will depend largely on the development of the new crop of youngsters. That will be doubly so if Providence Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy ends up getting a job as an assistant in Boston next season, and gets a chance to work with the young players he’s helped develop at the AHL level.

The bottom line is this for the Bruins: They need the best draft-and-development season they’ve had in quite a while if things are going to significantly change for the better on Causeway Street.