Bouillon out, Murray in for Habs vs. Caps tonight

The Canadiens’ oldest defenseman needs a rest, and their third-oldest needs a game.

That’s the story out of Montreal on Friday as head coach Michel Therrien announced 38-year-old Francis Bouillon will be a healthy scratch against Washington, keeping him from having to play in a back-to-back situation (the Habs host Pittsburgh tomorrow).

It’s the first game Bouillon has missed all season and, in his place, 33-year-old Douglas Murray will play his first game in a week.

“We have seven healthy defencemen and I don’t want to leave a guy like Douglas Murray off the ice too long,” Therrien explained, as per the Montreal Gazette. “It’s a discussion we’ve had since (Alexei) Emelin returned to the lineup.

“At 38 years of age, we have to keep in mind that the season is a long one. Bouillon will be in the lineup tomorrow.”

With the blueline finally healthy (save Davis Drewiske, out for a few more months after shoulder surgery), Montreal now has seven bonafide NHL defensemen under contract — Bouillon, Murray, Emelin, P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Raphael Diaz and Josh Gorges. That’s not including youngsters Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi, both of whom started the season in Montreal but have since been dispatched to AHL Hamilton.

The trick, it seems, is finding the right combination on a consistent basis. The Habs have been erratic of late, alternating wins and losses over their last six games. The hope is the club can build on Tuesday’s 6-2 whitewashing of Minnesota, a game in which Markov and Subban combined for three points.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
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Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.