Notes: Mark Stuart draws interest on trade front

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Notes: Mark Stuart draws interest on trade front

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

RALEIGH, N.C. Hockey sources here indicated to CSNNE.com that theres strong interest on the trade front in defenseman Mark Stuart, and that dealing the rugged defenseman might be an option for the Bruins over the next four weeks if the team needs to clear salary cap space for a roster move.Stuart has served as a healthy scratch for the Bruinsin each of the last three games leading up to theNHL All-Star break, and hasn't played since a Jan. 20 loss to the Buffalo Sabres -- only his second game back from a broken right hand that kept Stuart out for a month. Adam McQuaid has played inStuart's place while the Bruins defenseman has sat on the bench, and represents a similarly physical defensemanfor less than athird of Stuart's cap hit (1.675 million).IfStuart is dealt before the Feb. 28 trade deadline,it will be purely for salary capreasons as Stuart heads into unrestricted free agency after the current season is over. His leadership and toughness around the net are valued assets, and the reason he's garnering interesting around the NHL -- includingan Atlanta team that listened to a package involving Stuart for Ilya Kovalchuk at lastyear's trade deadline. With his fifth All-Star appearance in the book, Zdeno Chara looked just as excited as he must have been the very first time around.

The 33-year-old defenseman is an NHL team captain, a Norris Trophy winner. As a 6-foot-9 defenseman with a 105.9 mph slap shot, he has every reason in the world to take another NHL All-Star weekend in Carolina for granted.

But Chara knows his elite playing days wont last forever, and he basked in it all: his fourth straight hardest-shot title and the 20-plus minutes on the ice as Team Staals top defenseman in an 11-10 loss to Team Lidstrom at the RBC Center.

Its an honor. Youre here to represent your team, said Chara. Its one of those things where some guys might say Oh, Id rather have the days off,' but at the same time these memories and times cant really be replaced with vacation or time off.

It stays with you. There are only so many opportunities that youre going to get to play in these All-Star Games and meet all of these players in your career. You have to enjoy it and be happy about being invited, and I definitely am. Ive very humbled by this.

Chara finished with 21 minutes of ice time, had a pair of assists and a plus-1 in a game that featured 21 goals and tons of offense, and said afterwards that teammate Tim Thomas might have been the difference when it came right down to it. Thomas made 11 saves in the third period to capture his third consecutive victory, but Chara couldnt help but note that his great goaltending teammate might have been a little lucky.

We had some great chances. Everybody knows Timmy is very competitive, said Chara. We had some great shots and he made some big saves. He made one on me when he got kind of lucky and it hit off the knob. But thats the way it goes

A southern TV reporter asked with curiosity why Chara owner of the NHLs hardest shot didnt wind up and blast one of his 105.9 mph heat-seeking missiles during the exhibition game.

In a normal situation I would do that, but its an All-Star Game and its for fun, said Chara. Its kind of an unwritten rule that you usually dont shoot slappers.

Thomas was asked about the importance of the game against Carolina coming out of the All-Star break, and immediately went into a refrain hes sounded a few times this year about making too much out of regular season games.

What, are we going back to making all of these games like theyre Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals? said Thomas with mock indignation.

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

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Boston goalie Tuuka Rask has been hard to beat this season and was at his best against Buffalo again.

"You start thinking, `how are we going to get one by this guy,'" Sabres coach Dan Bylsma wondered aloud Saturday.

Rask nearly shut out the Sabres for the second time in a month, keeping them off the scoresheet for 2 1/2 periods and making 17 of his career-high 35 saves in the third to help the Bruins hold on for a 2-1 win.

"Every team likes to have these kind of goaltenders and a lot of teams do," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We're just fortunate enough that he's been one of those guys that, whenever you slip a little bit, or lose a little bit of momentum, or you're having a slow start, or a tough night, those guys step up and help you win some hockey games."

Over his last 11 starts, beginning with his 4-0 shutout over Buffalo on Nov. 7, Rask is 7-3-1 with a 1.36 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage.

"I feel good," Rask said. "I'm seeing the puck well. Guys are doing a great job keeping them on the outside and clearing the rebounds for the most part, so that helps out."

David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron scored to give Boston a 2-0 lead and the Bruins improved to 3-0-1 in their last four.

"We're getting better as a team, we're getting points and climbing up the standings," said Krejci, who has 10 points in his last 12 games. "Hopefully we can keep it up."

Evander Kane scored his first goal of the season for Buffalo. Robin Lehner returned after missing one game with a hip injury and made 32 saves.

The Sabres combined for nine goals in their previous two wins but the NHL's lowest-scoring team reverted to form from the first 21 games, when star center Jack Eichel was out of the lineup with a high-ankle sprain.

"First two periods, we had a tough time generating some offensive chances," Sabres defenseman Cody Franson said. "They kind of just stayed on top."

Krejci got the Bruins on the scoreboard with 5:50 left in the first when he deflected Brandon Carlo's slap shot from the point off the right post and into the net.

The Sabres appeared to tie the game late in the second period but replays determined Brian Gionta kicked the puck into the net.

Bergeron made it 2-0 at 7:44 of the third when he knocked in the rebound of David Pastrnak's missed shot. Bergeron initially hit the puck with his forearm on the left edge of the crease and skated around the net to chase down the puck and flip a backhand past Lehner.

The Sabres answered two minutes later, scoring on Rask for the first time in 109:12 this season. Sam Reinhart's feed off the rear wall set up Kane for a wrist shot from the slot that bounced in off Krejci. Reinhart has five points in his last four games.

NOTES: Bruins F Matt Beleskey was escorted to the dressing room in the final minute of the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. Julien said Beleskey will be evaluated when the team returns to Boston. ... Sabres D Josh Gorges did not play after injuring his foot blocking a shot in Thursday's win over the New York Rangers. With Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) and Zach Bogosian (MCL sprain) also out, the Sabres were down three of their top four defenseman and recalled 19-year-old Brendan Guhle from the minors to make his NHL debut. Guhle hustled back to thwart a breakaway by Krejci late in the third period. ... F Anton Blidh became the seventh Bruin to make his NHL debut this season after being recalled from the minors on Friday. ... The Bruins scratched F Jimmy Hayes. D Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' captain, missed his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Buffalo had just three shots on goal in the first period.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Florida on Monday.

Sabres: At Washington on Monday.