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: 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.