Horton looking like the Horton of old

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Horton looking like the Horton of old

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- It was clear pretty early in Saturday nights win over the Islanders that Nathan Horton was fully engaged in the proceedings.

A particularly combative first period shift at Nassau Coliseum ended with the big right winger pushing and shoving with Isles scrapper P.A. Parenteau in front of the Boston bench -- a sign that Horton is locked in. In a surprise to exactly nobody Horton responded later in the first period with a power play goal off a Rick DiPietro giveaway, and helped get the ball rolling on Bostons 6-0 shutout victory of the Isles on their Long Island home ice.

We played a really good game with a good start, said Horton. In the third we came out straight, played good defense and were still hustling. Thats exactly what we wanted. We want to keep getting better, keep climbing and keep winning.

Horton finished with two points and four shots on net in 16:28 of action for the Bs, and was the best player on his forward line for the balance of the evening. Milan Lucic picked up a nice assist on Chris Kellys goal in the third period and David Krejci went scoreless for the Bruins, but Horton was physical and offensively involved throughout.

Thats when hes at his best, and Horton might have enjoyed his best game of the year thus far in Saturday nights smashing of the Islanders. Hes still one of the few Bs minus players still kicking around on the Boston roster after a tough start, but hes been a point-per-game player (four goals and four assists) in eight games during the month of November.

You see how he skates and how hes involved, thats the kind of impact that Nathan can have on our hockey club when hes at his best, said Claude Julien. Its nice to see him really turn the corner in the last couple of weeks, and hes really coming along. He just needs to keep it going.

The goal was a thing of beauty for Horton. DiPietro attempted to kill a penalty by fishing out a clearing attempt from behind his net and flipping it straight up the ice, but the puck landed right on Hortons stick by the blue line. Horton collected the puck and snapped it right back at the top left corner of the net while DiPietro scrambled to get back into position between the pipes.

Horton had no idea it was DiPietro at the heart of the egregious turnover, but he was more than happy to return it to sender for his sixth goal of the season.

I just came off the bench and was hoping somebody would throw it up the middle of the ice. I didnt even know it was him that threw it up there, said Horton. I just tried to get it toward the net when I got the puck.

Horton also picked up an assist after starting the transition play that ended with Chris Kellys third period goal, and he nailed the right post with a backhanded shot in the first period that could have easily been his second goal of the evening.

After a tremendously sluggish start to the season Horton now seems right on track with six goals and 13 points, and a willingness to win battles around the net after a tentative opening month. Thats the pre-concussion Nathan Horton that people have become accustomed to in Boston, and hes definitely back in business.

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

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Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and David Backes are back from competing in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you’ll see those players on the ice over the next couple of days. Perhaps the trio will practice on Monday in the fourth on-ice session at main training camp, but Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that none of those returning players will suit up against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the B’s preseason debut at TD Garden on Monday night.

“Yeah…absolutely,” said Sweeney when asked if those three players have been ruled out for Monday night. “They’re going to get through the weekend here. Next week, we’ll evaluate [them] when they get on the ice. But, all those guys will not be on the ice until next week.

“It might be case-by-case for each guy. Those guys have been playing for a while at a high level. It’s unique for David Backes coming into the organization, so he’d like to integrate himself. I talked yesterday with all three of them just to get a read of where they’re at. But, sometime first of next week, they’ll be on [the ice].”

Both Pastrnak and Rask have checked in with the Bruins media over the last couple of days after returning from Toronto, and the Bruins goaltender, in particular, has plenty of motivation coming off a down statistical season. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage were well below his career numbers, and people like B’s President Cam Neely have pointed to Rask as somebody that needs to have a better season for Boston to rebound back into the playoffs this year.

“There were a couple of years where the standards pretty high, so obviously when they go down there’s something to rebound from. You kind of know where you can be. That’s where I try to be every year and I’m working on being there this year, and taking us to the playoffs and moving forward,” said Rask. “But every year is a new year where you’ve got to work hard, and set your goals to be at your best. More often than not you hope [being at your best] is going to happen, and I hope this year is going to be a great year for us.”

Clearly Rask wasn’t alone in his struggles last season behind a mistake-prone defense that allowed plenty of Grade chances, and that could be a repeating phenomenon again this season for the Bruins unless the defense is substantially upgraded along the way.

As far as the other three B’s players still taking part in the World Cup, it could be a while for Patrice and Brad Marchand as Team Canada has advanced to the final best-of-three series that could also feature Zdeno Chara if Team Europe is victorious. 

Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

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Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It’s a bit of a helpless feeling for an NHL general manager watching their star players participate in an intense hockey tournament like the World Cup of Hockey that doesn’t directly benefit their respective teams.

Not helpless because of the tournament’s outcome, obviously, but helpless because players could return from Toronto dinged up, or even worse significantly injured.

Aaron Ekblad had to shut it down for Team North American with what many speculated was a concussion, and Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray is out a month, or more, with a broken hand sustained playing for the same young guns team.

So, it certainly must have been an uneasy few moments for Don Sweeney when Brad Marchand was pulled from Team Canada’s last game for the concussion protocol after a nasty-looking collision with Team Europe forward Marian Hossa.

Marchand went through the testing, and ended up returning to the game no worse for the wear. But it could have been a lot worse for a Bruins team that can’t afford to be missing Marchand, Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara, who are still playing for teams alive in the semifinal round of the tourney.

“I would expect all of us to have been in a similar situation. For everybody - any general manager, coaches, staff, you're concerned about [injuries],” said Sweeney, talking about the World Cup and Marchand’s close call. “I mean, especially when you realize the stakes are going to go up as the tournament goes along. The pride involved - it's a risk. There's no question, it's a risk.

“But you also want to see them play their best hockey and they're not going to hold back. Yeah, it's a definite concern. You've got your fingers and toes crossed.”

David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask have already returned to Boston fully healthy. David Backes should be joining the team anytime now after Team USA’s rude dismissal from the tournament. But Sweeney and the Bruins still have their sensors out for the three B’s players taking part that aren’t quite out of the woods yet before returning to B’s camp in one piece.