Morning Skate 224: A nice, little NHL breather

Morning Skate 224: A nice, little NHL breather

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.comVANCOUVER Another day in Vancouver for the Bruins to take a deep breath, inhale and then get ready for the final 22 games of the season.It seems that the Bs have moving at a pace somewhere between frenetic and break-neck for the entire season, and its only now with a bit less than two months in the regular season that the Bruins finally get to kick back and hit the pause button briefly.It seems there might not be a better place in Canada to do it either. The snow-capped mountains and Pacific Ocean make a picturesque backdrop, and literally everywhere you turn looks like a postcard background as you walk around British Columbias biggest and best city.The homecoming for Milan Lucic, Cam Neely and BC-born Mark Recchi is great for some very important individual pieces within the Bs organization, but this time to give the batteries another charge at the end of a historically difficult month of February is invaluable. Nobody will look back on these four days once the playoffs kick around, but this kind of recess from the NHL grind is exactly what a team needs while getting ready for the big ice battles that wait over the next three months. On to the links:Adam Proteau from the Hockey News wants to do away with the NHL divisions, and make the NHL regular season schedule make a bit more sense. At least he's not tweeting about "victim" Matt Cooke anymore.Brian Leetch and Don Mattingly talking about which teammates theyd want beside them in the ultimate Game 7 situation. Okay, Ill bite.Nik Zherdev clears waivers for the Flyers, and continues whats been a mistake from the very beginning in Philadelphia.A fan blog on the Atlanta Journal-Constitutions web site is calling for Atlanta Thrashers head coach Craig Ramsay to be fired. Would be a huge mistake to get rid of a great hockey mind like Ramsay in his first season with the team anybody notice what hes done with Dustin Byfuglien and its a little disconcerting that the AJC has given this yahoo a platform.CBC sideline reporter Elliotte Friedman gives his 30 thoughts including some very greedy ideas from the NHL owners to create some kind of outdoor series of games rather than the Winter Classic and Heritage Classic. They apparently are determined to kill the golden goose.FOH Friend of Haggs Yahoo! Sports hockey blogger Puck Daddy has a junior hockey announcer suspending himself after going all icky balookey in the announcers booth during a heated game against Topeka.BU alum and Miracle on Ice participant Mike Eruzione stopped by NHL.com to talk about the 31st Anniversary of the win over the Russians that took place on Tuesday.A few more questions linger for USA Todays Kevin Allen has the NHL trade deadline looms.A good piece in the Province about Vancouver homeboy Milan Lucic getting a chance to bask in the glow of praise from his friends and family this week while being honored by his Vancouver Giants hockey club.

Young Bruins 'really excited' for preseason opener tonight

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Young Bruins 'really excited' for preseason opener tonight

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins aren’t going to have anything resembling an All-Star lineup when they take the ice against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at TD Garden for their preseason opener. But they'll take a long, lingering look at their future with a game-night roster full of prospects and young players who still get butterflies at the thought of putting on an NHL sweater for an Original Six club.

Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Jakub Zboril, Robbie O’Gara, Peter Cehlarik and Brandon Carlo are among the top B’s youngsters that will be in the lineup, and will be cranking up the energy prior to puck drop against the Blue Jackets.

“Everybody is really excited. I woke up this morning with a big smile on my face knowing that I get to put the B’s jersey on and get to go out [on the ice] at TD Garden,” said Brandon Carlo, who will be paired with John-Michael Liles as he has been throughout the start of training camp. “I probably won’t have much of a nap today because I’m so amped up.

“I feel like I’m moving my feet out there, and I want to show that I’ve gotten better at things I worked on over the summer like moving the puck. I definitely want to show a little bit of physicality out there as well.”

The young players are the ones who also provide the most unknown variable for the coaching staff at this point. So the first preseason game is largely about how those hopefuls respond to faster, more physical and intense competition.

“You’re looking to see effort and energy tonight. If the effort and energy is there everything else will take care of itself,” said assistant coach Joe Sacco. “You don’t really want them to think too much out there tonight. This is a game where players are trying to showcase their talent, and we want them to do that.”

Sacco said Anton Khudobin will play the first two periods and Zane McIntyre will wrap things up. Here are the line combos and D-pairings expected to take the ice against the Blue Jackets:
 
DeBrusk-Czarnik-Hayes
Cehlarik-Kuraly-Mueller
Heinen-Nash-Griffith
Hargrove-Cave-Randell
 
Zboril-Miller
Liles-Carlo
Morrow-O’Gara
 
Khudobin
McIntyre

Backes doesn't back down from criticism of those who ripped Team USA

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Backes doesn't back down from criticism of those who ripped Team USA

BRIGHTON -- He may not get the chance, since he's now 32 and has thrown (and taken) plenty of hits during his 11-year NHL career, but new Bruin David Backes said he hopes to play for Team USA again to “have a nice taste in my mouth”.

Clearly, his last experience left a bad taste: The Americans finished dead last in the World Cup of Hockey, which is winding down now with Team Europe and Team Canada playing for the championship.

What also left a bad taste for Backes were the passive-aggressive Tweets sent out by U.S.-born players like Phil Kessel and Bobby Ryan after the Americans lost all three games they played in the World Cup. And he isn't about to back down from the pointed criticism he directed at them.

“I was one of the guys called upon to go to the rink on a day off after we were eliminated . . . . one of four to stand up and answer the questions,” said Backes, who certainly showed his personal accountability by showing up to answer questions after Team USA had flopped on the world stage. “Rather than defer and plead the Fifth, I thought it was something we needed to address. I think it’s easy to sit back and sling mud . . . when you’re not a part of it.

“[You can] kind of make yourself feel good about it (by criticizing Team USA) for a second, but if I wasn’t selected for the team, or if I’m not selected to the Olympic team in two years, I’m still American, I’ve still worn that jersey, and I’m going to root for those guys and hope everything goes well. If it doesn’t, I’m going to be crushed like I was on the team. That’s how I think as a team guy and as a guy that’s worn that jersey proudly and how much it means to me.

"I just hope and wish the other guys had those same feelings. If you’ve got some vindication not being on the team, and the team failing or not accomplishing the goal, then you should internalize that and use it as motivation going forward. You don’t need to join in with the chatter that’s negative and keeps piling on. Those are my visceral thoughts on the subject.”

Backes was a healthy scratch for Team USA’s final game against the Czech Republic, a listless defeat that dropped the U.S. to the bottom of the World Cup standings. That’s a bitter pill to swallow for a competitor who clearly understands the importance of representing one’s country.

So it’s no surprise the Bruins center hopes he gets a chance to redeem himself by making the 2018 Winter Olympics team. Backes has skated for the U.S. in each of the last two Olympics.

“I hope (the World Cup isn't the last time I play for my country), but that’s out of my control,” said Backes. “If my services seem like I can help a team be successful, I’d love to put that jersey on and have a nice taste in my mouth for the last time I use it, or the next time I use it. But there are a lot of great players that are Americans, and the next GM, or whoever it is constructing the team, will have decisions to make. Whoever they pick, I hope [the team] goes and puts us back on top of the pedestal for whatever competition it is.”

Clearly the Bruins hope that as well, since it would be a clear indicator Backes is performing at an elite level a couple of seasons into his five-year, big-money contract with Boston.