Morning Skate 131: Good and Bad from Carolina

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Morning Skate 131: Good and Bad from Carolina

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

RALEIGH, N.C. Now that its over and in the books, we can take stock with a little whats good and whats bad about NHL All-Star weekend in its latest form down in Hurricanes country.

It was largely a successful weekend with the turnout of Carolina Hurricanes fans and the great southern tailgating atmosphere outside the RBC Center prior to the game a wrinkle that 'Canes fanes have brought with them from college football and inserted them into hockey, where many traditional markets dont have the space or setup for it.Heres a quick breakdown:The Good: The NHL fantasy draft was an unmitigated hit and is something many of the other sports could learn from with their own over-hyped exhibitions. The fastest skater competition and hardest shot competition continue to be the stalwarts of the SuperSkills Challenge portion of the weekend. The goalie race was six different flavors of awesome. Carolina proves that a Sun Belt southern team can host an All-Star weekend and do it with the same effectiveness as the traditional markets. The Fan Fair portion of the events hosted by Carolina was excellent.The Bad: Much of the SuperSkills competition dragged and didnt really captivate. The All-Star Game on Sunday continues to be a gigantic bore with no real effort or intensity the two things that normally define what good hockey is all about. The NHL completely botched the media access portion of the event by allowing only red carpet type access to the players, which means that outlets spent good money to get access ranging only slightly higher than what the paparazzi receives. That needs to never happen again unless the NHL is happy with nobody covering them. Two words: Clay Aiken. Two more words: Guardian Project.On to the links: An interesting NHL player poll done by CBC and the NHLPA which reveals, among other things, that Zdeno Chara has the most fearsome slap shot on the planet, and that players really, really dont want to play for the Islanders. A really sad story about Rhode Island native and Harvard hockey alumnus Tommy Cavanaugh, who seemed to have everything but was battling serious mental illness throughhis entire life to a tragic end. Suddenly Mike Felger has developed some remorse and pity for Phil Kessel? Interesting he does thiswhen his NHL peers didnt seem to extend that kind of empathy orunderstanding during the drafting process. Bill Meltzers take at hockeybuzz.com on potential second-half shake outs for some Eastern Conference teams. The AHL All-Star game is in Hershey, a great hockey stop and an excellent place for the minor league hockey world to convene for the week. Jamie Arniel will participate in the skills challenge and All-Star game while representingthe Providence Bruins. A few more All-Star thoughts from Friend of Haggs (FOH) Yahoo! Sports hockey blogger Puck Daddy now that the weekend has come to a close. The Daddy battled marvelously despite a head cold that plagued him throughout the events. Fellow FOH Craig Custance from the Sporting News says that some of the other Southern Fried hockey teams could learn a thing or two from the Carolina Hurricanes franchise.

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

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.