Haggerty: Bruins get statement win in first game back

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Haggerty: Bruins get statement win in first game back

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

RALEIGH, N.C. If the Bruins could have up drawn up an ideal statement to make in their first game back from the All-Star break, the 3-2 disposal of a hungry, improving Hurricanes bunch in their North Carolina backyard was pretty close to it.

It was never going to be perfect, not after most of the Bs had five days off before jumping into things at the RBC Center on Tuesday night, but there were plenty of good things to build on with only 31 games left in the regular season.

The bottom line, of course, is that the Bruins emerged victorious and managed to beat the Hurricanes for the third time in the last two weeks.

We found a way to win and we played pretty good offensively most of the night, said Tim Thomas. We didnt create a ton offensively, but we found a way to get it done when we did do things right. Everybody is going to be sloppy after the break, and thats just the way it is. But under those circumstances we still found a way to win, so I think its a good stepping stone.

At the top of the Bostons wish list coming down the stretch is another hot streak for Nathan Horton in the goal-scoring department, and the right wing looks like he might be heating up after his performance Tuesday night. Before the break Horton joked he was going to find some new sticks, but instead the skilled forward went back to an old model and motto that worked for him.

He simply got confident, got engaged and got involved. Three shots on net and three registered hits are the right measure of strength and skill that the 25-year-old is constantly in search of balancing and he found the right mixture against the Hurricanes.

That culminated with Bostons go-ahead goal in the third period on a play that Horton created out of nothing behind the Carolina net. He was battling with Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason behind the Carolina cage, and fought to win possession away from a pair of Carolina skaters.

The puck shot over to David Krejci, and Krejci flipped a pass right to Horton in a crease right by the left post. Horton snapped up high with a wrist shot and suddenly he had his first goal in the last 11 games and his second goal in the last 21 games after starting out like a house of fire over the first month of the season.

It appears more and more that Horton is streaky, and that means there will be times when his feel and confidence erode. But that also means there will be binge scoring sessions when Horton can carry the team on his own, and it appears he's primed and ready to start another hot streak at just the right time.

Thats something that everyone has really been waiting to happen, and hopefully its a confidence boost and something that can really get him going, said coach Claude Julien. That was a goal scorers goal . . . He was in tight and he lifted it after a really great setup.

The other encouraging sign from one simple victory in February: The Bs best players continue to be their best players, with no signs of slowing.

Zdeno Chara had a monster January while skating an average of 24:59 per game for 14 games while putting up 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) along with a plus-7 and continued that trend with a pair of assists and a dominating eight shots on net in the victory. Less obvious but even more valuable, Chara handled Eric Staal and allowed only a single shot on net to Carolinas most dominant scoring force in 20-plus minutes of ice time.

Chara had a turning-point game in the third-period collapse in Montreal last month, and it appears Big Zee is starting to build up another Norris Trophy resume with the way his game is rounding into shape beyond his mammoth 159-mph slapshot.

Patrice Bergeron scored his 17th goal of the season and his 9th in the last 13 games through a Brad Marchand screen, and Thomas came up large with a succession of save combinations in the final 20 minutes. Thomas simply reacted to Erik Coles long shot from the slot, and then kicked out his right hip on a leg save to stop Brandon Sutter on his rebound attempt right by the left post.

The successive save combination was a thing of beauty just as the win was for a Bruins team ready to sprint over the final 31 games with playoff position in the balance among a series of hard-fought games.

This is the final push. Its where the competitive juices get going and everybody is fighting for their lives, said Lucic. There are no easy games, but this is also where the fun begins. This is where we see exactly how good we can be.

Bostons first push after the All-Star break was a good one. Now all they need is 31 more just like it to get ready for what lays beyond.

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

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins mixed things up with their roster a bit on Saturday after dropping a couple of games in a row to Washington and Colorado. 

Fourth-line energy winger Noel Acciari and playmaking forward Danton Heinen were called up from Providence and will be in the lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on Saturday night. 
Acciari went to Providence the past couple of days to get some game action in after missing the past month with a lower body injury, but clearly showed he’s ready to go. 

So, Acciari is back to provide the same hard-hitting and energy he showed before he was hurt and Heinen is looking to show off a little more offense than in his first stint with the Black and Gold this season. He’ll be featured in a top role as left wing with David Krejci and David Backes and with marching orders to shoot the puck like he never shot it in his previous stint in Boston. 

For the Bruins, it’s about getting another look at a candidate to play left wing beside Krejci with both Ryan Spooner and Tim Schaller, with limitations to their respective games, unable to fully grasp that same opportunity. 

“My hope is that Heinen can come in and give us some good hockey. He’s a skill player and he’s been down there for a while, and he’s back up again because he’s been playing well,” said Claude Julien of the Bruins rookie, who had four goals and seven points in his past five games with Providence. “Hopefully he can play well here also. It’s about getting some confidence. When he went down to [the AHL] the pace of his game had to get a little bit better, and in the battles coming up with the puck along the walls. Those are the kinds of things we thought he could work on down in Providence.”

Heinen knows he needs to shoot the puck a bit more to show off his offense after a seven-game stint with the Bruins where he went scoreless, was a minus-2 and had just six shots on net.

“Being hard on the walls, playing fast and shooting the puck, those were all things I was working on [in Providence],” said Heinen, who has seven goals and 13 points in 13 games for the P-Bruins after being assigned to Providence. “I was doing what they told me to do [in Providence] and that’s shoot the puck. They were going in, and I was getting some good opportunities on the power play. It’s seriously tough to get chances [at the NHL level], so you can’t pass them up when you have chances. That was kind of my focus down there.”

Fellow fourth-line energy winger Anton Blidh has been shipped to Providence after three solid games with the Black and Gold. 

Julien said Blidh goes back to Providence having adequately shown that he can play in the NHL. He clearly showed the Bruins that he understands his role as a player that stirs things up a bit and gets his nose dirty on a regular basis.

“[Blidh] was fine. No issues there. He does his job. He plays with lots of energy and obviously he’s getting more experience. He’s a lot better at understanding his positioning within the game and what he has to do,” said Julien. “I thought he helped us out for the time that he was here.”

With Heinen and Acciari both in the lineup and Blidh back in Providence, that means Jimmy Hayes will be scratched after dressing for three of the past four games for Boston.

Saturday, Dec. 10: Vegas, scoring on NHL governors' minds

Saturday, Dec. 10: Vegas, scoring on NHL governors' minds

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while doing some early Christmas shopping ahead of the late rush. 

*Mike Zeisberger sits down with a quartet of NHL governors and discusses a number of hot topics including the Vegas franchise and scoring around the league. 

*Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos has been removed from the NHL Board of Governor’s Executive Committee amid rumors that the Canes might be a prime candidate for relocation. 

*Pierre McGuire weighs in on Connor McDavid’s war of words on the ice and Carey Price losing his mind in the crease against the New Jersey Devils. To that end, Wayne Gretzky liked seeing McDavid get a little combative at such a young age. 

*The New York Islanders signed Cal Clutterbuck to a five year contract extension, and some are skeptical it will turn out well for the Isles.

*David Pastrnak is a premier scoring threat in the league, and Scott Cullen has some details behind that. I will say this: his stock falling in the draft had less to do with his size or heaviness, and more to do with him being concussed for a long stretch of time during the year leading up to the draft. 

*The Florida Panthers are really struggling to stay positive with a 1-5-0 record since the ownership group and management decided to fire Gerard Gallant. 

*For something completely different: Baywatch stars then and now.