Marco Sturm and Marc Savard hit the ice for first time today, salary cap problems await

The Bruins’ season is off to a great start and the upside for them now is that they’ll be getting key reinforcements back. They’re 4-2-0 to start the season and things are clicking pretty well without offensive studs Marc Savard and Marco Sturm. The good news for them today is that both Savard and Sturm took to the ice for a light skate. Savard is dealing with the lingering effects of post-concussion syndrome while Sturm is coming off of knee surgery for an injury suffered in the playoffs against Philadelphia. Sturm, however, is tempering his excitement about hitting the ice today.

“It’s going to be tough,” Sturm said of returning by mid- or late-November. “I don’t know. I really don’t know. We just have to see how the next 2-3 weeks go. I want to make sure I’m going to be full strength. Before that, I’m not going to play.”

Sturm taking his time to get better is the right idea and it’s one that the Bruins are likely to be totally OK with as well since that means delaying making tough salary cap-based decisions on altering their already successful roster. Both Sturm and Savard are on long term injured reserve which gives the Bruins the ability to spend above the cap by the amount of money their cap hits come out to. When they return, that means the Bruins have to lop off over $7 million in salary. If you think the Bruins are going to wait until the last minute to prepare to do that, you might want to think again. Joe Haggerty of CSN-New England tells us that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli is already scouting around for potential moves.

Several hockey sources indicated to CSNNE.com that the Bruins are in the beginning stages of discussing deals involving several players, including Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder. The urgency for Chiarelli and the Bruins is a need to make room for at least two forwards when Marco Sturm (knee) and Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome symptoms) are ready to come off long-term injured reserve.

Matt Hunwick could also be in the trade mix for the Bruins if they can find a willing partner, but thus far the market hasn’t quite developed for the aspiring puck-moving defenseman. Hunwick has been inconsistent over the last year-plus since a promising rookie season two years ago, but his skating ability remains unquestioned.

Mark Stuart has drawn interest around the league at points over the last two seasons, but he’s an integral part of the B’s leadership inside the dressing room.

Ryder is an obvious person for the Bruins to shop around as he’s got a $4 million cap hit this year. Meanwhile Blake Wheeler is an enigmatic talent in Boston and it’s possible that another team could figure out best how to get Wheeler to play at a peak level. Wheeler also comes with a $2.2 million cap hit. Losing those two players while bringing back Sturm and Savard means the Bruins don’t lose anything talent wise while also getting them under the cap. Not a bad way to deal with things.

The Bruins know what they can get out of Sturm and Savard, even coming off of injuries, while Wheeler and Ryder are still as inconsistent as ever. It might hurt to lose those guys, but youngsters Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron have stepped up in a way to help soften the blow. The Bruins are still a couple months away from having to have their cap in order, but the way they go about it will be worth watching.

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.