Horton masters the return game

479260.jpg

Horton masters the return game

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Nathan Horton is officially back to normal.

The powerfully skilled right winger got off to a slow start during the preseason as the Bruins exhibited some patience with a player who saw his season end due to a concussion last spring in the Cup Finals. Horton was given extra time to work himself into game shape, and that patience appears to have paid off. The No. 1 line winger assisted on Milan Lucics power-play goal in their 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden in their home preseason finale Thursday night, and it was a thing of beauty.

After Zdeno Chara had softened up the Ottawa penalty kill with a pair of big blasts from the point, Horton deftly feathered a pinpoint pass from behind the net toward Lucic waiting all alone in front. Lucic roofed a shot over Sens goalie Craig Anderson to put the Bruins on the board.

While the outcome didnt go the Bs way, Horton showed the same kind of fire that defined his stretch run during last years regular season and the playoffs that followed it. He was a little mean and plenty physical, and his level of offensive scoring seemed to coincide with the attitude flashed during any given game.

It was also a sign that Horton was healthy and feeling good and hes showed that feistiness in each of his two preseason appearances. He nearly decked the Habs' Andrei Yemelin during a skirmish in front of the net during the game in Halifax, and he quickly came to the defense of David Krejci Thursday night against the Senators.

There was no babying himself over concerns about concussions, and no signs Horton is worried about anything physically.

It's good to see. It's good to see him test out his competitiveness and that he's having no symptoms from that hit last year, said Lucic, his partner in crime on the Bs top scoring line. That's the way he plays. That pass, it's the exact same one as I got in Game Four against Philly last year. It was a great pass, right on the tape and I had an open net to shoot at because of a nice play by him and David Krejci.

The Bruins have witnessed so many worse case scenarios when it comes to concussions and their common complications, but theres been nothing but clear evidence that Horton has avoided all that entering a big second year with the Bruins.

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

"Everything is on track" with Bruins prospect Zboril

bruins-jakub-zboril.jpg

"Everything is on track" with Bruins prospect Zboril

Little more than a year after he was drafted in the middle of the first round by the Boston Bruins, some are whispering that 19-year-old Jakub Zboril isn’t going to live up to advanced billing. Clearly the Czech defenseman took a step back for the Saint John Sea Dogs after being taken 13th by the Bruins in last year’s draft, and dropped to six goals and 20 points in 50 games in the QMJHL while watching second round pick Jeremy Lauzon pass him by on the prospect hype chart.

Perhaps the more concerning thing have been the whispers about an erratic work ethic and bad habits in Zboril’s game, a couple of criticisms that haven’t exactly gone away since the Bruins signed him to a contract last summer following development camp. Bruins assistant general manager Scott Bradley was asked about those concerns with the young D-man as he heads into an important training camp with Boston this fall, and didn’t seem all that concerned about his first round pick being a “bust.”

“I think his offensive production was down, and that he struggled a little bit coming out of the gate” said Bradley of Zboril, who had 13 goals and 33 points in 44 games during his first season in the Quebec Major Junior League prior to getting drafted by Boston. “But he had a strong playoff. Everybody forgets that he’s a gritty guy, and a strong player that moves the puck. The thing that stands out about him are that his numbers are down from last year.

“But everything is on track with him. He’s going to come to camp and hopefully shines, and has a good year this year…patience.

“I think it’s great if the second rounders are on par with him: the [Brandon] Carlos and the [Jeremy] Lauzons. If you look at the whole of our draft last year you can’t rule out the first eight picks that they might play [in the NHL]. We’re excited. Donnie and I were at the Memorial Cup, and Lauzon raised our eyebrows every night that he played. You’d come away with a good feeling like this kid plays hard, plays the Bruins style, moves the puck and is tough. Obviously [you had to like] what Carlo did when he was brought in [to Providence] at the end. It just bodes well for what we have coming this year. Zboril and Lauzon are probably going back to junior, but Carlo is going to get a long look.”

The young Czech D-man is still at a point where his stock can still shoot higher than it’s ever been with a good showing at training camp, and a strong season for the Sea Dogs entering into his professional hockey career. But he can’t afford to go through another down season, or that talk of him being a first round bust is only going to get louder and stronger.

Morning Skate: Stamkos destined to wind up somewhere new

cp-morning-skate.jpg

Morning Skate: Stamkos destined to wind up somewhere new

Here are the links from all around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while happy to be back in the city of Boston.

*The Buffalo Sabres don’t sound happy about the accusations against Evander Kane that cropped up during NHL Draft weekend, why would they be?

*NHL teams can now start discussing free agents, exchanging ideas with them and start the chase up to July 1.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the biggest winners in the 2016 NHL Draft. Here’s a shocker: the Bruins aren’t among them.

*A good piece from Alex Prewitt on the importance of the land line phones on the draft floor during NHL Draft weekend.

*The Edmonton Oilers are another team that didn’t come out of draft weekend with a defenseman, and are still in search of their back end help.

*A nice piece on Philadelphia Flyers draft pick Pascal Laberge, who could have been plucked by the Bruins at No. 29 rather than Trent Frederic.

*Bruce Garrioch has his Sunday NHL notes, and says that Steven Stamkos appears destined to play somewhere other than Tampa Bay.

*For something completely different: Jonah Keri has TV critic Alan Sepinwall on his podcast, and one can only hope it’s to explain how and why he could have disliked last week’s episode of Game of Thrones.