Jarome Iginla, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Cam Ward

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins look to keep rolling against Wild

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Boston Bruins host the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

When the Bruins host the Wild tonight it’ll mark their first match-up of the season. We’re this late into the season and these interconference foes will go from not playing each other to facing off twice in the next three weeks (April 8 in St. Paul).

Boston has won eight straight games and lead the Eastern Conference by three points. Their control of the Atlantic Division is something to behold as they lead the Montreal Canadiens by 14 points. To say they’re on a roll would be an understatement.

The Bruins have had their line of Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci dominating opponents recently. Iginla has scored four goals and five points in the past four games while Lucic has two goals and six points in that span. Krejci, meanwhile, has 23 points in the past 21 games.

Throw in Tuukka Rask being one of the league’s top goalies and Zdeno Chara being one of the top defensemen and you’ve got a real buzzsaw of a team to get a handle of and that’s not even mentioning how good Patrice Bergeron has been this season as a two-way forward.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,200 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s late NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $275. Starts Monday at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

The Wild, meanwhile, are winless in four of the past five games. That run is discouraging when they’d won five in a row before running into some hard luck. If there’s a bonus in losing, three of those four losses have come in shootouts and the Wild are hanging onto the first wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Darcy Kuemper has jumped into the fire in goal and helped steady things. After losing Niklas Backstrom for the season to injury and Josh Harding’s struggles with illness, goaltending became a big question. With how Kuemper has played, that’s not the case so much anymore.

The Wild’s offense has been coming from the guys they’ve needed to pick things up to make a playoff push and a dominant top line of their own.

The unit made up of Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, and Mikael Granlund have combined for 35 points since they were united on Jan. 30. Parise has a four-game point streak and has a scorching eight goals and nine assists in the past 13 games. Pominville has eight points in the past five games and Granlund has been electric since returning from Sochi with seven points in eight games.

The Wild could stand to see captain Mikko Koivu pick up his game. Since returning to action on March 3 from an ankle injury, he has just two assists. Ryan Suter is in a similar drought with just three assists since returning from Sochi.

As far as measuring stick games go, this is as big as it gets for the Wild. If they want to see where they’re at as a playoff contender, there’s

Marchand might be ‘obnoxious,’ but he helped convince Backes to sign in Boston

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Brad Marchand is one of those players that you hate to play against, but you love him if he’s on your team. That much is fairly obvious.

But last month, Marchand (as well as teammate Patrice Bergeron) proved to be effective recruiters for at least one free agent. David Backes admitted that the phone calls he received from the two veterans definitely helped him settle on the idea of joining the Bruins.

“Talking to [Marchand] a little bit during the interview process before July 1, I hung up the phone and kind of had to take a deep breath and say, ‘Is that the little disturber, pain-in-the-butt? He’s actually a pretty good guy,” joked Backes, per the Bruins’ website.

In an exclusive interview with CSN’s Joe Haggerty, Backes reiterated that both Bergeron and Marchand are a “pain-in-the-butt” to play against, but he quickly added (with a smirk) that Marchand is more ‘obnoxious’ (click the video at the top of the page for the full interview).

So what exactly did Marchand and Bergeron say to Backes during the phone calls?

“Those guys are the best teammates when you get them on your team,” Backes said of Marchand and Bergeron. “When they talk about sharing critical ice, and hard ice, and hard minutes with a couple of lines, to me that’s what you need in this league.”

Backes has always been known for his physical style of play, but at 32-years-old he may not be able to do all the dirty work for much longer. It sounds like both Marchand and Bergeron convinced Backes that the heavy lifting will be a team-effort, as opposed to a one-man or one-line thing.

Of course, the five-year, $30 million contract the Bruins gave Backes was also an effective recruiting tool.

Flames say there’s still ‘no real update’ on contract talks with RFA forwards Monahan, Gaudreau

CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 7: Johnny Gaudreau #13 (L) of the Calgary Flames confers with his teammate Sean Monahan #23 during a break in play against the Detroit Red Wings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 7, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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NHL training camps open in September and although most teams have done the bulk of their off-season tweaking, there’s still at least one team that has some serious work to do.

The Calgary Flames are still working on signing forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan to contract extensions. Both players are currently restricted free agents.

“No real update there,” said general manager Brad Treliving, per the Calgary Herald.  “We’ll continue to work away at it.”

The Flames have just under $15 million in cap space remaining, according to General Fanager. There’s a good chance both RFA forwards will take a deep bite into those remaining dollars.

Monahan already said he’d be willing to take less money to get a deal done, but that doesn’t mean he’ll come cheap. The 21-year-old scored 58 goals and 125 points in 162 games over the last two seasons.

As for Gaudreau, he’ll cost a pretty penny as well. The 22-year-old is coming off a season in which he scored 30 goals and 78 points in 79 games.

Here’s an excerpt from the Herald regarding these two players:

With 11 weeks until the regular season begins, here is what we know:

• Both players are restricted free agents and received qualifying offers from the Flames earlier this month. Talks are ongoing.

• Both are expected to receive whopping raises.

• Both are seeking long-term contracts, expressing that they’d like to play together for the foreseeable future.

• Both could be getting paid in the neighbourhood of between $6-million and $7.5-million for between six and eight years (if you use the com parables of Vladimir Tarasenko, Filip Forsberg, Seth Jones, Aleksander Barkov, and Nathan MacKinnon).

Thankfully for Calgary, they’ve done a decent job of managing their roster and the cap. Gaudreau and Monahan are the only two players on the roster that still need new contracts. The rest of the team is locked up for at least one more year.

Edmonton will have a captain by opening night, says McLellan

Todd McLellan
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After going without a captain last season, the Oilers will have someone wearing the “C” in 2016-17.

“Will we have a captain? Yeah, we will,” head coach Todd McLellan said on Wednesday, per the Oilers’ website. “We will have a captain.”

The last player to serve as captain in Edmonton was Andrew Ference, who inherited the position from Shawn Horcoff in ’13 and held it for two seasons.

Last year, the veteran blueliner appeared in just six games, and underwent season-ending hip surgery. He was in no position to serve in the club’s leadership group and, ergo, the Oilers opted to play without a captain.

So… who will be next to wear the “C?”

Most are thinking about Connor McDavid. Though he’s not publicly campaigning for the role, the 19-year-old did say it would “be one of the greatest honors. ” Though he missed significant time to injury last year, McDavid still enthralled Oilers fans with a rookie campaign that saw him rack up 48 points in 45 games, finishing as a Calder Trophy finalist.

Of course, there will be others in the mix.

Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Matt Hendricks have all served as alternates in Edmonton, and Hendricks captained the U.S. at this year’s world championships. There’s definitely some leadership to choose from, and it’s worth noting Eberle is one of the most vested veterans in Edmonton, having appeared in 425 games over the last six seasons.

Oilers’ Yakimov going back to KHL — this time, on loan

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14:  Bogdan Yakimov #39 of the Edmonton Oilers looks on prior to the start of the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on October 14, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Bogdan Yakimov is on his way back to Russia.

On Wednesday, the Oilers announced they’ve loaned Yakimov to KHL club Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik, the same team he joined after leaving AHL Bakersfield last season.

The 83rd overall pick in 2013, Yakimov has appeared in one game for the Oilers since getting drafted. He’s spent almost all of his time in North America in the AHL, and didn’t impress the club last year when he bolted the farm team to return to his native land.

“He made a career decision to return to Russia and I’m not sure how he played or how many games he played,” Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said at the time, per the Edmonton Sun (McLellan was then informed Yakimov was away for 11 games).

“Well, that’s 11 games he didn’t spend with us. During his time away, there were a number of players recalled. I would have preferred to see him in an Oilers uniform and he was real close. Now he has to reset his Oiler clock and get playing again.”

All told, Yakimov played in 36 games with the Condors last season, scoring five goals and 15 points.

At 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds, Yakimov has impressive size and is still only 21 years old, so he’s got some value. But it remains to be seen whether he wants to try and push for an NHL career, or opt to stay in the KHL.