Neely quells Thomas trade talk

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Bruins president Cam Neely is “very happy” with his team’s goalies, and that includes the target of intense trade speculation, Tim Thomas.

“We have two strong goalies in both Tim and Tuukka [Rask],” Neely told CSNNE.com. “I think a lot of teams are probably envious of what we have here.  It’s an area where we feel pretty comfortable.”

There are plenty of justifications for trading Thomas:

—- He’s 38 years old.

—- Rask, 25, had a .929 save percentage in 23 appearances this season, better numbers than Thomas (.920). At some point, the torch will have to be passed.

—- The B’s wouldn’t be giving Thomas away for free and there are always areas a team can improve.

—- That whole White House thing.

On the other hand, the Bruins don’t have another Vezina- and Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie kicking around.

Neely defended Thomas’ performance this season.

“I don’t think any of us expected him to have the same numbers as he did last year,” Neely said. “That was a world-class year. It would be really hard to expect him to have the same numbers. With the White House thing, I know some people would like to hang their hat on that. But knowing Timmy’s personality, I don’t think it affected him all that much.”

Thomas has a year left on his contract with a $5 million cap hit. According to CapGeek.com, his no-trade clause expires July 1.

Whether the Bruins trade Thomas likely depends on what they can get back.

Toronto and Chicago are a couple of teams that could be interested. The Leafs and Blackhawks remain committed to James Reimer and Corey Crawford, respectively, but both goalies could use a veteran to take the pressure off while they develop.

Another Leafs-Bruins trade would be fun, wouldn’t it?

Bolts close gap on struggling Bruins in playoff race

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Well, that was quite a third period.

For the Boston Bruins, it was disastrous. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it propelled them to a critical victory in the playoff race.

Nikita Kucherov completed the hat trick with a pair of goals in the final period and Jonathan Drouin scored what would eventually be the winner, as Tampa Bay snapped its own three-game losing streak in a 6-3 victory, putting the Bolts within three points of the final wild card spot — held by the Bruins — in the Eastern Conference.

The Drouin goal — his 18th of the season but first since Feb. 19, a span of 13 games — is probably one Tuukka Rask would like back.

Drouin teed up the slap shot from the faceoff circle, beating Rask under the left arm.

And just like that, the Bruins have lost four consecutive games. On Saturday, they face the New York Islanders, another team looking to catch Boston in the wild card race.

Read more: Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for a wild card spot (or worse?)

The Islanders are only two points back of Boston.

Despite the win, there was bad news for the Lightning during this game, as defenseman Jason Garrison left with an injury.

From NHL.com:

The play occurred behind the Lightning goal, Garrison appearing to get his left leg rolled up from behind by a Bruin. Garrison had to be helped off the ice by Anton Stralman and Brayden Point and headed back to the Bolts’ locker room.

The team announced during the second intermission that Garrison sustained a lower-body injury. He did not return to the game.

Video: Ovechkin rocks custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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As promised, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin rocked a pair of custom skates in honor of Russian Heritage Night on Thursday.

On his right skate, he paid tribute to the United States with a custom design, and paid tribute to his home nation on his left skate while taking the pre-game warm-up prior to facing the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He’ll be auctioning off the skates, as well.

From CSN Mid-Atlantic:

The skates were painted by noted custom shoe artists Nick Avery and Polo Kerber, whom Ovechkin personally selected. The skates feature the U.S. and Russia flags as well as the Capitol Building and Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Video: Crosby slash leaves Methot’s finger bloodied and injured (Updated)

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Sidney Crosby has made news lately for his goal scoring and his use of the stick.

He speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt the other night, and on Thursday he delivered a slash to Senators defenseman Marc Methot, who has since not returned to the game.

The slash rendered a finger on Methot’s left hand bloodied and injured. It certainly didn’t look good as Method (calmly) skated to the bench.

There was no call on the play.

Updated: Methot won’t return to this game.

Show me the money! Nylander sets Leafs rookie record with latest assist

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Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.

Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.

That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus:

Not bad.