Can Zdeno Chara stop Danny Briere’s playoff hot streak?

Danny Briere isn’t a big guy – he’s generously listed at 5-foot-10, 179 lbs. Yet the crafty forward comes up especially large in games of the hugest importance. Just take a look at the 91 points he’s scored in the playoffs since the lockout ended … that’s the highest total of any player in the NHL during that span.

Briere was the catalyst for the Flyers’ first round comeback, scoring three goals and one assist in those two elimination games and six goals and one assist for seven points in the seven-game series. He also got under the skin of his former teammate, Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.

Along with having great hands and outstanding offensive creativity, Briere scores a lot of his points by sneaking his way in front of the net. That’s a pretty admirable quality for an undersized forward because it opens him up to the savage abuse that comes with that territory.

In other words, it means that he’ll need to absorb plenty of hits from Boston Bruins’ behemoth Zdeno Chara. Chara is seven feet tall on skates, but as CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio points out, he couldn’t intimidate Briere in their 2010 semifinals series.

Briere scored five goals and five assists for 10 points in that seven-game series, a hot run that helped the small forward score a league-leading 30 points in last year’s playoffs. Chara is just starting to feel like his usual all-world self again after fighting dehydration in the first round, so perhaps it will be a tall order for the much larger player. Briere spoke to Panaccio about going up against the imposing blueliner.

“You have to find ways to make him work,” Briere said of Chara. “It is not going to be easy and we know that. I have had the chance to face him a few times in the playoffs.

“He is going to make it tough on us, but we are not going to back down. That is the only way to approach it and you have to be willing to compete against him.

“Probably to try and go around him and make him work. When you are as big as him, it uses a lot of energy to try to chase you. I guess that is the idea with a guy like Chara.”

Of course, Briere isn’t the only Flyers forward Chara must worry about, but he’s been Philly’s most explosive offensive performer for at least the last two playoff runs. It’s obvious which player is larger in the literal sense, but one of the series’ biggest factors boils down to who will come up the biggest in a figurative way.

For Tuukka Rask and the Bruins, a ‘bad goal’ at the worst possible time

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The growing ranks of Tuukka Rask detractors gained some serious ammunition during last night’s loss to Tampa Bay.

The deciding goal in the 6-3 defeat was a “bad one,” according to Rask and most anyone else who was watching.

It may have been a hard shot by Jonathan Drouin, unleashed at the top of the circle, but it still should’ve been stopped.

After the game, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters that Rask “needed to be better tonight.”

In fact, Rask hasn’t been very good the past few months. Since Jan. 1, his save percentage is just .888. But with nobody trustworthy behind him, he’s had to just play through his struggles.

It’s impossible to say if Rask’s numbers would be better if the Bruins had a more capable backup. He’d be more rested, though. And when he was struggling, the coach would at least have another option to consider. With an .897 save percentage on the season, Anton Khudobin simply hasn’t been reliable enough to garner that consideration.

Don’t expect Rask to get the next game off. Saturday in Brooklyn, the Bruins — losers of four straight in regulation, and suddenly on the verge of falling out of the playoff picture — face the Islanders in arguably the biggest game of both teams’ seasons.

Bolts recall Koekkoek, putting Garrison’s status into doubt

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The Tampa Bay Lightning, after earning a big win last night in Boston, may not have defenseman Jason Garrison tonight in Detroit.

The Bolts recalled d-man Slater Koekkoek from AHL Syracuse this morning — a move that would seem to put Garrison’s status into doubt against the Red Wings.

Garrison was forced to leave the Bruins game in the second period with a lower-body injury.

Koekkoek has played 29 games for the Lightning this season, recording no goals and four assists.

Melnyk blasts ‘whiner’ Crosby, who won’t face hearing for Methot slash

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Sidney Crosby won’t face a disciplinary hearing for his slash on Ottawa d-man Marc Methot, an NHL spokesman confirmed — news that won’t be welcomed by Sens owner Eugene Melnyk.

The incident occurred during Ottawa’s 2-1 win on Thursday night, and forced Methot from the game with a bloodied, lacerated finger. The club later announced that Methot would be “out for weeks” with the injury.

Crosby’s slash came two nights after he speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt. It should be noted that neither the O’Reilly spear or Methot slash resulted in penalty calls, and neither was subjected to supplementary discipline.

One individual that’s guaranteed to be upset with today’s news is Melynk. He appeared on TSN 1200 radio this morning and seemed to suggest the league was looking into the Crosby-Methot incident.

He also had a few choice words for No. 87:

Sens, Avs to play pair of regular-season games in Sweden

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NEW YORK (AP) The Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators will play two regular-season games in Sweden next season.

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association on Friday announced their new Global Series games Nov. 10 and 11 in Stockholm.

The Avalanche and Senators will play the NHL’s first regular-season games in Europe since 2011. It’s the NHL’s sixth trip to Europe and the seventh and eighth games played in Sweden.

Colorado’s captain is 24-year-old Swedish forward Gabriel Landeskog. Ottawa’s captain is 26-year-old Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson, winner of the 2012 and 2015 Norris Trophy.

Other Swedes currently playing for the two clubs include Ottawa’s Frederik Claesson (Stockholm) and Viktor Stalberg (Gothenburg), and Colorado’s Anton Lindholm (Skelleftea) and Carl Soderberg (Malmo).

Commissioner Gary Bettman says with more Swedish players than ever, it’s a good chance to showcase the game there. Eighty-four Swedes have played in the NHL this season, roughly 9 percent of the league.

“We have more Swedish players than ever in the NHL, and we are extremely pleased that the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series will allow us to showcase a number of those players, with their NHL teams, in their homeland,” Bettman said. “The return of regular-season NHL games to the international stage will provide yet another highlight for our Centennial celebration.”