Return of Stuart and Lucic sparks Bruins

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Return of Stuart and Lucic sparks Bruins

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- A goal certainly takes the pressure off a player's return from injury.

In the case of Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart and forward Milan Lucic, each put a puck into the net within the first 10 minutes of Monday afternoon's game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the TD Garden.

However, Stuart's was the only one that counted.

The B's defenseman played in his first game since Dec. 7 after missing more than month because of a broken right hand. His slap shot from the left point, eight minutes into the first period, got through a Michael Ryder screen and past Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward, into the top-left corner of the net.

Lucic had missed the previous three games because of an undisclosed injury, and beat Ward with a hard snap shot from the high slot, less than minutes after Stuart gave the Bruins an early 1-0 lead.

The goal horn sounded, and Lucic celebrated his first goal since Dec. 16.

Problem was, the officials had called a delayed penalty on the Bruins, and for some reason didn't blow the whistle until after Lucic had put the puck in the net.

"I have to build off it," said a smiling Lucic. "It was a little disheartening. A good, quick shot for myself, and I thought, 'Oh, here we go, get it going again.' But unfortunately it was called back."

Lucic has now gone 12 games without a goal.

For Stuart, Saturday's blast from the point was his first goal of the season. Both made their returns to the lineup, but Stuart's injury was much more severe than Lucic's.

"It felt good," said Stuart. "You're a little nervous beforehand, just because you don't really know what to expect. But I was fortunate enough to get that goal early, and it kind of helped me relax, I think."

Stuart finished Boston's 7-0 win as a plus-3 in 16:04 of ice time. His coaches and teammates didn't see a player who missed over a month with a hand injury.

"It was good, I thought, for his first game back," said coach Claude Julien. "We talked, before the game, that he only had one real, full practice with the team. He had been out for five, six weeks, and when you come back and play a pretty solid game like he did, you've got to be pleased.

"It was nice to see him get that goal," added Julien. "The first chance he got at shooting the puck, he scored. The rest of it, he kept his game pretty simple. And when he kept it simple, he moved the puck well. I thought he was good."

"He was very good, especially for being out for a while," said goaltender Tim Thomas. "He didn't have the shakiness that sometimes can happen when you haven't played in a while. He was really calm with the puck, and made good plays, and he was very strong. A lot of times, when you come back from injury, too, it seems like you're a step behind, and was definitely not that. He stepped right in and played with mid-season form."

So much so, that Stuart nearly got in a fight with Hurricanes forward Troy Bodie in the final minutes of the game. But just before the gloves came off, fellow defenseman Adam McQuaid sprinted over and dropped the gloves with Bodie himself.

By rule, no player can fight while wearing protective equipment on their hands. And Stuart played Saturday's game with a protective brace on his right hand, which he said he plans on wearing for a "couple more weeks."

McQuaid knew that, and didn't want Stuart to re-injure the hand, so he stepped in.

"We all know Stuey's not going to back down, so it was just kind of something I needed to do," said McQuaid. "The brace kind of puts him in a tough spot, so like I said, someone had to jump in there for him."

"I felt bad, because I didn't want to put Adam in that situation," said Stuart. "You kind of forget sometimes, in the heat of the battle, that you can't do it."

Stuart didn't have to drop the gloves. All that mattered, on Saturday, was that he and Lucic were back in that heat of the battle. And it's a pair of returns that's more than welcomed in the Bruins locker room.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

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.