Kaberle's return to Bruins uncertain

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Kaberle's return to Bruins uncertain

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
ST. PAUL, Minn. The Bruins were focused on the future while drafting six players at the Xcel Energy Center this weekend, but theres also a present that needs to be taken care of.

The weekend began with a discussion between Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and Tomas Kaberles agent, Rick Curran, about a potential future for the 33-year-old defenseman on a team that he never really seemed to settle in with. Kaberle shared the lead with Dennis Seidenberg for top scoring Bs defensemen during the playoffs, but also saw his ice time minutes dwindle as the playoffs went on.

Chiarelli didnt deny that a full training camp and season would probably allow the former Maple Leafs defenseman a greater chance at fitting in with the Bruins way of doing things, but the GM also didnt sound like locking down Kaberle was a foregone conclusion.

I think if Kaberle returning is the case, I think he would," Chiarelli said. "You know he played in Toronto for a while, got used to what was going on there. Im not saying it was good or bad, just different from where we were. We were at a higher level, we simply were. I think it took him some time.

It was pretty clear that higher level of expectations and pressure wasnt something that Kaberle was prepared for, and his conditioning wasnt allowing him to play 20 minutes of ice time per night in a more pressurized environment. Add that to the fact that there are three or four other unrestricted free agent defensemen out there potentially for the taking, and it seems the Bruins wont be in a rush to ink Kaberle if they decide to go that route at all.

Given that an injury prone Andrei Markov managed to secure himself a three-year, 17.25 million contract as a 33-year-old while only playing 52 games for the Montreal Canadiens over the last seasons it would seem that the market is going to be a little on the high end for a Kaberle player in that same category.

Chiarelli thought the Markov contract was actually a bit shorter term than he expected, and that has to be the minimum term Kaberle is looking for in his likely final big contract as an NHL player. Perhaps the Bruins are willing to spend that kind of money because they invested a pair of first round picks (one literal first-rounder and a former first round pick in Joe Colborne) and a 2012 second round pick for Kaberle but that seems very doubtful given the likely price tag of 3-4 years around the 4 million that the defenseman was making with the Maple Leafs.

Thats a huge investment for a player that wasnt trusted to play more than 14 minutes in the final two rounds of the playoffs, and ended up as something of a power play specialist on a bottom defensemen pairing with Adam McQuaid.

There are three or four defensemen like Kaberle," Chiarelli said. "Those defensemen are valuable types of defensemen. They skate through the traps, passing through traps, all of that type of stuff. I dont know what value they would be.

Historically, theyve been in and around where Tomas Kaberle is now and above. So that would suggest that theyd be above that.

Among those other unrestricted free agent names are guys like Anton Babchuk, Joni Pitkanen, Kevin BieksaSami Salo and James Wisniewski that could be on the market for the Bruins come July 1 with plenty of salary cap room to chase after whichever blue-liner would make the best blue line fit. That doesnt even account for young defensemen like Steve Kampfer and Matt Bartkowski that are fighting for playing time moving forward as younger, more affordable, physically tougher alternatives to a player like Kaberle softened by the years in Toronto.

It really doesnt make a great deal of sense to lock things in with Kaberle before the Bruins see how the landscape plays out for the rest of the free agent defensemen crop this summer.

Bruins first round pick Dougie Hamilton was said to be taken aback by a question from the New York Islanders during the interview process where they asked the brilliant student if he saw himself playing in the NHL in two years or finding a cure for cancer. The question stunned the brilliant 18-year-old as if he would ever have to choose between playing hockey or the strong academic record hed put up over the years, and the notion amused Peter Chiarelli that a brilliant student couldnt also be a very good hockey player.

Well, New York Islanders GM Garth Snow is a brilliant GM, said Chiarelli with a completely straight face.

Third round pick Anthony Camara is a fighter and gritty junior player that made a name for himself with his fearless style of taking on any possible fight opponents. When asked where that fearless came from, the 17-year-old Toronto native had a pretty surprising answer.

I would say probably my sister would beat on me when I was a little kid, he said before breaking out into laughter. It got me tougher. Congratulations to Eric Tosi, Matt Chmura, Kelly Mohr and all of the other hard-working interns and game day staff people on the Boston Bruins PR staff for winning the highly-respected Dillman Award given to the NHL's top PR staff in the league each and every year. The B's do a lot of good work in that area, and have truly lifted that department up over the last four years. The award is a well-deserved honor.

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

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.