Horton has career night with store-bought stick

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Horton has career night with store-bought stick

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Nathan Horton has officially re-invented the phrase "whatever it takes."

Mired in a 20-game slump in which he scored only one goal, the Bruins' top-line winger needed to do something drastic in order to start putting pucks in the net once again.

During the All-Star break, Horton walked into a local New-England area sports store, and purchased several brand-new Easton sticks. He told store managers that he was buying them for a friend.

He lied. But, hey, whatever it takes.

Entering Wednesday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens, Horton had a goal and an assist in his last three games since returning from the All-Star break. He continued his resurgence with an exclamation point against the rival Habs on Wednesday, putting up a career-high five points on a goal and four assists, while leading the Bruins to a wild 8-6 win.

Afterwards, Horton revealed information on his new, self-purchased weapon of choice, which still has the price tag on it.

"I used a different stick tonight, maybe that was it," said Horton with a smile.

Maybe. And if he wants to keep telling himself that that's the reason for his success, the Bruins will let him do just that.

But Horton played with a certain type of fire on Wednesday night, a certain type of confidence, that he hadn't shown much of in the previous 23 games, in which he only had two goals and five assists.

It was his always-visible fire and physicality against the Canadiens that made him look faster, stronger, and much more confident than he's looked all season long.

"That's what we wanted from him for a while now," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the win. "It happened tonight. We're certainly happy with that. Now, it's a matter of, hopefully, him continuing to do that for our team. He was a big help for us."

Horton finished the game with six shots on net, and two of his four assists came off easy rebounds, thanks to his relentless shooting approach on Wednesday night. Dennis Seidenberg and Milan Lucic each took advantage of a juicy rebound that followed hard shots on goal from Horton and his new twig.

He also scored one himself, with 5:06 left in the third period, after he took a pass at the blue line from David Krejci, skated hard into the right circle, and sniped the top-left corner with the type of snap shot from the slot that tempted the Bruins to acquire him in the offseason.

It gave the Bruins an 8-5 lead and put the game out of reach. But more importantly, it was the icing on the cake for Horton's confident-booster filled night.

"It's nice," said Horton on his 14th goal of the season. "But it's even nicer to have the win, and have guys in the room nice and happy."

"It seemed like he was getting really hard on himself, that he was getting down on himself, but the last couple of games you could see he's starting to find his game again, and it's all starting with him skating the way he can skate, using his speed and his body, and winning those puck battles," said Lucic. "He had a big night tonight, and hopefully he continues with that confidence."

And if buying his own sticks makes that confidence stick, nobody will be holding Horton back from another trip to the local hockey shop.

"He didn't just buy one, he bought a couple," said Lucic. "He went and bought five or six sticks in a sports store. He's doing whatever he can to get himself going again. Whatever it takes."

Indeed.

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.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.