Horton, Bruins must get nasty for playoffs


Horton, Bruins must get nasty for playoffs

By Joe Haggerty

BOSTON The boom was audible all around the rink, and signified multiple 200-pound bodies slamming into the corner with the kind of overpowering force that can only be achieved by skating speed along with a healthy dollop of brute force.

The top two Bruins forward lines along with the top four Bs defensemen were locked in 5-on-5 battle drills on half-ice at the end of Friday afternoons practice at TD Garden, and things were getting long on cuteness and low on intensity.

Patrice Bergeron was carrying the puck near the corner while attempting to cycle the puck, and he was absolutely clobbered by Nathan Horton from behind in a violent hit that knocked both Bergeron and Mark Recchi off their pins.

It was as if time froze once Horton had taken the biscuit from Bergeron and flicked the puck out of the zone, and there was a legitimate stunned expression on the face of both Bergeron and Recchi as they climbed back up on their skates.

Its a part of the game, right, said Bergeron. Thats the way its going to be in games. If you bring the intensity and emotion that you had in practice then everything will be fine. It was intense and I was the one on the receiving end, I guess. You need to get the puck out, and thats how you get the puck back, I guess. I was a little surprised. I wasnt expecting it necessarily, but its all good.

The message was certainly related to a turnover Bergeron made in the exact same spot in the defensive zone just one day earlier that led to Torontos game-tying goal, and perhaps Horton was sending out a message that everybody needs to get stronger on the puck.

As if to hammer his point home, Horton also drilled Dennis Seidenberg during another encounter in the always dangerous corner and the message really seemed to clear and appreciated.

Whatever the case, its got to make the Bs coaches giddy to see their top two forwards lines getting chippy with each other as ice time minutes and power play reps are worth their weight in gold during the playoffs. Both the Bergeron and David Krejci line could be considered No. 1 lines in the playoffs, and the BergeronRecchiBrad Marchand trio has actually led the forwards in ice time during each of the last few games.

That kind of thing has to serve as motivation to Horton and Co. on their forward line, and its starting to show in practice. That kind of fierce competition and intensity is only going to make all of the players up their competitive dials if its coming in small doses during practice on an as needed basis.

Killer instinct was exactly what the Philadelphia Flyers had last year in their playoff series with the Bruins once Krejci went down with a dislocated wrist courtesy of a Mike Richards collision at center ice. Theres always a little more room for all of that provided it remains once the real bullets start whizzing around in the playoffs.

Horton has been in a playoff state of mind with both his intensity and offensive production for the better part of a month. It was first noticeable when Horton enjoyed a monster of a game against the Edmonton Oilers in an otherwise sleepy affair, and knocked Oilers defenseman Theo Peckham out with one thunderous right hand to the face.

Since he took the ice in Edmonton Horton has 12 points (8 goals, 4 assists) along with a plus-9 and three fighting majors in 16 games, and has sported the proper surliness needed once playoff hockey gets going. While Horton quickly made amends with Bergeron in a post-practice conversation in the dressing room designed to smooth things over before he left the Garden without fully addressing his motives, the statement cant help but be appreciated.

Horton and the rest of the Bruins play much better hockey and are way more effective when theres a man-sized chip on their shoulder. That chip has alternated sizes in the handful of recent games as the Bs basically play out the regular season string, but Krejci indicated the fireworks were all about players like Horton who never got to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs while doing time with the Florida Panthers getting emotionally ready for a huge postseason to the Boston franchise.

It is what it is, said Krejci. Just change it up a little bit, I guess. It was nothing personal or anything. The practice was a little sleepy, I guess, and the physical game woke us up a bit and the practice was way better.

Lots of people are going through different emotions. As long as when the playoffs come everybody is on the same page and theyre feeling comfortable with themselves thats what everybody wants.

The constantly smiling Horton looks like hes found a comfortable snarl on the ice with the playoffs approaching, and that seems to be what everybody wants given the results that have been hard to miss.

Just ask Patrice Bergeron.

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

Still looking for first point, Heinen stays patient


Still looking for first point, Heinen stays patient

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It may be strictly due to injuries or because Ryan Spooner is being moved back to third line center full-time, but Danton Heinen is going to get another top-six look on the wing. The 21-year-old Bruins prospect will be skating on the left wing with David Krejci and Matt Beleskey in Tuesday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild after serving as a healthy scratch last weekend against the Montreal Canadiens.

Heinen has only two shots on goal in the four games leading up to the scratch, and has been quiet offensively after leading the Bruins in goal-scoring during the preseason. Clearly there’s an adjustment to be made there, and it looked like the playmaking rookie winger was starting to develop a little more confidence trying to make plays while skating with Krejci and David Backes in last week’s win over the New Jersey Devils.

Heinen actually looked reminiscent of Krejci on a couple of plays, pulling back the puck after entering the zone and catching a trailing B’s teammate with a perfectly executed lead pass on the offensive rush. That effort plus a trip to the ninth floor press box last weekend seemed to reinforce just how much time he has to make plays, and that should be a benefit for both Heinen and his linemates.

Sometimes getting that first NHL point is the hardest part when a player breaks into the league, and it’s been that way for the young winger through his first four games.

“[Krejci] is such a good player, and I just try to complement him any way I can,” said Heinen. “You never want to be up in the press box, but it gives you a different perspective on the game. It’s a different angle. From up there it looks like you’ve got way more time. I definitely think I can be more patient with the puck, and make some smarter plays.”

Heinen started to do that in his best NHL game to date prior to being scratched against New Jersey, and it resulted in greater offensive possession and a couple of potential scoring plays getting created for the B’s second line. Unfortunately it didn’t lead to actual goals, and Heinen knows that’s what needs to happen through him if a player like him, with an offense-minded reputation from his University of Denver days, is going to stick top-6 in Boston.

“You can’t rely on the [top] guys every night,” said Heinen, who watched the Habs beat the Bruins on Saturday night while essentially shutting down Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. “When we’ve been out there we’ve kind of been getting some chances, but we’ve got to bear down.

“[Krejci] likes to play with the puck a lot, so you just get him the puck, go in hard on the forecheck and try to get open because he’s a good distributor.”

It sounds like a simple plan that might be a very good thing for young Heinen, who needs to start breaking through offensively if he wants to stick around in Boston for the long haul. 

Khudobin out three weeks as Bruins turn to Malcolm Subban


Khudobin out three weeks as Bruins turn to Malcolm Subban

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It could get a little dicey for the Bruins over the next couple of days.

Both Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin were missing from Tuesday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena, and instead rookie Malcolm Subban will get the start for the Black and Gold against the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden.

Rask hasn’t been on the ice since last Thursday’s win over the New Jersey Devils when he re-aggravated a lower body injury and Khudobin will be out three weeks with an upper-body injury suffered at Monday’s practice. It appeared the B’s backup suffered a right hand/wrist injury in the early moments of the practice, and Subban was left as the lone goaltender until Boston brought up Zane McIntyre on emergency recall Tuesday morning.

Julien said the Bruins have confidence in Subban’s ability to play a great game for them, but he’s struggled so far in Providence while getting yanked from two of his four AHL starts this season.

“I just want [Subban] to go in tonight and play a really solid game because we know that he can. He’s a good goaltender, so just because he had a bit of a rough outing [in the AHL] doesn’t mean he has to have one tonight. This is an opportunity for him to play well, and to demonstrate that he’s ready to play in the NHL,” said Julien. “We have bad games and we tell our players ‘Let’s not live in the past, let’s think about what we have to do to rectify it and play better in the next game.’ So I think our goaltender is in the same situation.

“Our game plan is about playing good defense with Tuukka or without Tuukka. That doesn’t change. We understand that some of the teams that we’ve played lately (Montreal and New Jersey) are very stingy, so we have to give up the least amount of goals we can because we’re not going to score a ton against those teams. When you put a system together you believe in it, and you go out and play your game. You don’t adjust your game for other teams, and adjusting for injuries isn’t quite what we’re looking for. We’re looking for a solid performance from our team, and that will trump any injury that we have.”

Oh by the way, the Bruins also have a road game at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday in a back-to-back situation that’s less than ideal with injuries piling up. In addition a Subban/McIntyre tandem in goal, the Bruins will also be without David Backes with what Claude Julien termed “a minor issue” that also has him day-to-day.

In the good news department, Adam McQuaid will make his season debut after missing the first five games of the season with an upper body injury. Rob O’Gara was sent to the Providence Bruins to make room for him coming off injured reserve. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings for tonight’s game vs. the Wild with Joe Morrow as the healthy scratch on the back end:







Liles-C. Miller