Bruins send a message to the league, beat Canucks in Vancouver 3-1

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It was Milan Lucic’s homecoming weekend of sorts in Vancouver. The Bruins power forward spent his formative junior hockey seasons playing for the Vancouver Giants in the WHL and while they did their part to honor him, Lucic did his own job in making sure his Bruins made the Vancouver faithful go home unhappy tonight.

Lucic had a goal and two assists in the Bruins 3-1 win over the West leading Canucks. Lucic’s goal turned out to be the game-winner snapping a 1-1 tie with under five minutes to play in the third period. Lucic then assisted on Patrice Bergeron’s empty net goal to ice it. Lucic helped set up Nathan Horton for his 16th goal of the season midway through the second period that tied the game at one. Manny Malhotra notched Vancouver’s lone goal in the first period.

CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty caught up with Lucic afterwards and he was beaming over the win.

“That’s almost a perfect ending to a perfect couple of days in Vancouver for myself. From start to finish it’s been a hell of an experience,” said a beaming Lucic.

Making it all standup, once again, was Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. Thomas made 27 saves on the night including his usual array of incredible stops to make it all stand up in the win column for Boston. Roberto Luongo was less busy on the night stopping 23 shots in the loss.

With the win, the Bruins move to 4-0-0 on their road trip with a game in Edmonton set for Sunday. The Bruins close out their six game swing with a battle in Ottawa on Tuesday. The win also helps the Bruins stay ahead of the Canadiens who are doing their part to stay on the Bruins heels, especially after their 4-3 win over Carolina earlier this evening.

More importantly, the win over Vancouver helps set the tone that the Bruins are, indeed, for real in the Eastern Conference. After all, beating the West’s top team comes with a lot of caché. Vancouver all year long has been the class of the NHL and for Boston to go into Rogers Arena and take out the Canucks says a lot about where they’re at. If the Bruins make a deep run in the playoffs and play for the Stanley Cup, people will look back on this game as the warning signal that they’re for real.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.