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With Marc Savard on the verge of returning, Boston must decide who needs to go

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Thanks to the pesky old salary cap, the addition of an elite playmaker like Marc Savard can be a curse along with a gift for a team with no margin of error such as the Boston Bruins.

As Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe points out, Savard seems like he is on the verge of a return to the team’s lineup as he finally seems like he recovered from post-concussion syndrome. The problem is that the team will then need to make room for his $4 million (and change) salary cap hit.

So, here is the burning question for the Boston Bruins: who needs to go?

Shinzawa points out the fact that the only Bruins who have no-movement clauses are Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas (all players whose salaries are larger than Savard’s, by the way).

Before activating Savard, the Bruins must clear salary before reintroducing the center’s $4.007 million annual cap hit. So sometime before early next month, when Savard could be ready for game action, Chiarelli will create the required space, either via trade or AHL assignment.

“I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want to do,’’ said Chiarelli.

It may not be a seamless transition. There is no guarantee, according to Chiarelli, that Player X can be traded on the eve of Savard’s return. An opposing GM could insist on acquiring a player — Michael Ryder, for example — sooner rather than later, which would require the Bruins to bridge the gap between that deal and Savard’s reentry. Chiarelli confirmed that in any trade, he would have to accept either draft picks or prospects in return instead of NHL roster players.

However, if Chiarelli turns to AHL assignments, he could clear salary immediately before activating Savard. Only Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and Tim Thomas have no-movement clauses in their contracts, which frees Chiarelli to waive every other player without having to gain their consent. The Bruins could also bring up any demoted players for the playoffs, when the salary cap is not considered.

Shinzawa also points out the fact that the Bruins could call up a demoted player like Ryder once the playoffs begin without salary cap implications.

Now, I don’t have all the details, but here is what I would do.

1. Make sure Savard is actually ready to play.

At least if Chiarelli plans on making a trade to clear space. You’d hate to move a valuable piece for a draft pick only for Savard to hang up the skates for the rest of the season after playing for a handful of games.

2. Don’t trust Marco Sturm.

There are some players whose injury prone natures so blindingly clear that it outweighs whatever impact they could have on the ice. Sturm is pretty talented and very fast, but he gets injured on a Marian Gaborik rate (maybe even worse). I wouldn’t move a healthy, productive player for him.

3. Consider demoting rookies, including Tyler Seguin.

I like Seguin’s potential, but I think the Bruins would have been wise to demote him before burning one of his entry-level years. His $3.55 million cap hit could be combined with a cheap rookie to make room for Savard.

But even with a year burned, the Bruins could let Seguin beat up on lower level competition and then bring him up during the playoffs for fresher legs. It’s at least worth considering.

4. Be careful with Ryder.

On one hand, Ryder is inconsistent. He scored only two goals in his last nine games. Yet before that stretch, he scored 10 points in 12 games.

The question remains: is he good enough to keep him with the team in the minors/at the NHL level or would it be worth it just to get quarters on the dollar with a trade?

Boston faces some tough questions coming up, with the problem within a blessing involved with the returns of Savard and/or Sturm. So, what would you do if you were their GM? Let us know in the comments.

‘It looks like a disaster’ — Senators could be facing more injury problems

BOSTON, MA - MAY 27:  Head coach Guy Boucher of the Tampa Bay Lightning speaks to the media after their 0 to 1 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 27, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Not only did the Ottawa Senators lose on Sunday, but three different forwards left the game because of injury.

And that was after they had already lost forward Bobby Ryan indefinitely because of a hand injury. In a 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the Senators had Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Tommy Wingels leave with injuries.

Hoffman suffered a lower-body injury in the first period, while Stone was caught with a hit to the head from defenseman Jacob Trouba. That infraction might result in Trouba getting further supplementary discipline from the NHL.

“Tough day with the loss of Bobby and then we lost another bunch of guys. At some point I felt, there was nobody on the bench,” said Senators coach Guy Boucher, who appeared furious with the officials’ decision to give Trouba only a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.

“I can give you an update – it doesn’t look good. We have to wait until tomorrow to be clear and precise about all these guys.

“Right now, we could be losing quite a few guys … It looks like a disaster. We’ll see tomorrow and maybe the disaster is not as bad as we think but you’ve got to be ready for anything.”

What especially hurts for the Senators is that Hoffman, Stone and Ryan are three very capable offensive players, and if all three are out long-term, that’s a good chunk of scoring suddenly gone from their lineup. Stone leads the team with 22 goals, while Hoffman is tied for second in that category with Kyle Turris at 19 goals.

The Senators had a chance to take over top spot in the Atlantic Division. With a win, Ottawa would’ve tied Montreal with 70 points, but taken first in the division because of fewer games played.

Blackhawks snap Sabres winning streak

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The Eastern Conference playoff race is tightening up, especially when it comes to the wild card.

The Buffalo Sabres, thanks to a three-game winning streak and six wins in their last 10 games prior to Sunday, have suddenly jumped right into the thick of that race. But with a chance to win four in a row and tie, at least temporarily, the Bruins at 64 points, the Sabres ran into the Chicago Blackhawks.

And that proved problematic.

After Evander Kane scored the equalizer with 5.6 seconds left in the first period, Chicago took over through the second half of the game, scoring four unanswered goals for a 5-1 victory to move within seven points of the Minnesota Wild in the Central Division.

Patrick Kane put a stamp on this one. Given an absurd amount of time in front, Kane was able to put on a stickhandling clinic before beating Robin Lehner on the backhand.

It further hurt Buffalo’s cause that it was unable to capitalize on a lengthy five-on-three in the first period.

“I thought our opportunity was that 5-on-3, to get not just one goal, maybe two. We gave them too much,” said coach Dan Bylsma, per the Sabres.

The Sabres now enter their bye week. They play the last-place Colorado Avalanche next Saturday. The time off might provide a rest in the middle of a grinding season, but teams have struggled immediately out of the break and the Sabres can ill afford a set back in the playoff race.

Video: On Hockey Day in America, Auston Matthews did this . . .

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 11:  Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre on November 11, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Flyers 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Born in Scottsdale, AZ., Auston Matthews has taken the NHL by storm in his rookie season as an elite talent headlining an impressive freshman class.

Taken first overall last June, Matthews made history with four goals in his debut, surely a dizzying experience for Maple Leafs fans accustomed to heartbreak and frustration. And he really hasn’t slowed down since.

On Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes — and on Hockey Day in America — the 19-year-old Matthews once again put on a show, scoring his 28th goal of the season. That gave Toronto a two-goal lead.

As he’s often done in his brief time in the NHL, this goal was of the spectacular variety, as he broke in off the left wing and, as he was getting hauled down to the ice, slid the puck five-hole on Cam Ward.

Related: Auston Matthews is having a rookie season for the ages

Video: After a slow start, Evander Kane is on a roll for the Sabres

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For about a month now, Evander Kane has enjoyed a particularly productive stretch for the Buffalo Sabres.

Kane scored with 5.6 seconds remaining in the first period of Sunday’s game versus the Chicago Blackhawks, converting on a nifty pass from Jack Eichel and going top shelf on Scott Darling.

He now has goals in three straight games, and 15 points in 14 games as the Sabres have fought their way back into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.

Of course, this latest run comes just before the trade deadline, and Kane’s name has consistently been in speculation about a possible move — in addition to off-ice issues. While GM Tim Murray has said earlier this month that he’s not actively shopping Kane, he also didn’t absolutely rule out trading the 25-year-old left winger, now into his second season in Buffalo.

(Murray: “Is there a crazy deal that somebody could throw at me that would force me to do it? I guess there is.”)

Most impressive about Kane’s numbers — remember he missed time earlier this season with a rib injury and then had a slow start, which drew the ire of the coach — is that he’s done the vast majority of his scoring, 20 of 21 goals, at five-on-five.