Bruins must make playoff push without Brandon Carlo

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Even when it seems like the Boston Bruins are getting healthy at the right time, they still have to shake off some serious injury woes.

The Bruins announced that defenseman Brandon Carlo is expected to miss three-to-four months recovering from a left ankle fracture, ruling him out for the playoffs. Carlo, 21, is expected to undergo surgery later this week.

Carlo suffered that pretty grisly-looking injury during this week’s 5-1 win against the Florida Panthers, as you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

With zero goals and six assists in 76 games this season, the Bruins won’t be missing Carlo’s offense. Instead, he’s the sort of player the team would lean on in key defensive situations during what they’re hoping will be a long postseason push.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Carlo averages 2:46 penalty kill time on ice per game, second on the Bruins behind Zdeno Chara‘s fairly ridiculous 3:41 average. Overall, Carlo averaged 19:14 TOI per night.

The good news is that Charlie McAvoy is back in the mix for the Bruins defense, possibly in time to shake off the rust. Still, it feels like one step forward, two steps back when it comes to this team actually being at full-strength.

At least they’re used to it?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins getting all of their top players back at just the right time

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One of the most incredible parts of the Boston Bruins’ return to the top of the Eastern Conference standings this season is the fact they have been able to do it while dealing with so many significant injuries.

The list of man-games lost is an impressive one.

Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci have both missed 18 games.

Brad Marchand — sometimes due to injury and sometimes due to suspension — has missed 14. Charlie McAvoy has missed 19.

Zdeno Chara has missed nine.

David Backes has missed 25.

Torey Krug has missed six.

• Trade deadline acquisition Rick Nash has missed the past eight games.

Brandon Carlo is now sidelined indefinitely after a nasty looking leg injury over the weekend. At times several of those players have been sidelined at the same time.

Through it all the Bruins enter Monday’s huge game in Tampa Bay (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) with a two-point lead over the Lightning (as well as still having a game in hand) for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and still have a small chance at potentially winning the Presidents’ Trophy.

Now they are starting to get healthy just in time for the playoffs.

The Bruins spent the past couple of weeks playing without Bergeron, Chara and McAvoy, their top-two defenseman and one of the league’s best two-way centers. With Bergeron returning a little more than a week ago, and after Chara returned to the lineup on Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers, coach Bruce Cassidy announced on Tuesday morning that McAvoy will be returning on Tuesday night against the Lightning.

[Related: Bruins, Lightning battle for top spot in Atlantic Division on NBCSN]

Let’s start with the return of the top-two defensemen: How big is it to have those two back in the lineup together? Not only are they the Bruins’ top-two leaders in ice-time this season, they have spent a significant amount of that time (nearly 800 minutes of 5-on-5 play) on the ice together.

During those 800 minutes the Bruins have controlled more than 55 percent of the total shot attempts and outscored their opponents by a 38-21 margin.

And it’s not necessarily the veteran (Chara) that has been driving that success.

When McAvoy is on the ice without Chara, the Bruins are still controlling 56 percent of the shot attempts and still outscoring their opponents by a 15-7 margin. In other words, McAvoy, in his first full season as an NHL blue-liner, has not only been a top-pairing player on one of two or three best teams in the league, he has been a difference-maker for that team.

But it’s more than just the two of them.

When the Bruins have all five of Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Chara, and McAvoy in the lineup (something they have only had in 25 games this season) they own a 17-5-3 record, which would be good enough for a 121-point pace over an 82-game season.

Three of those losses, including two of the regulation losses, came without Tuukka Rask in net.

It is a scary team when their top players are all in the lineup. And right now, all of them are healthy at just the right time. That has to be a terrifying thought for the rest of the Eastern Conference.

They may soon be getting even more help. Along with the return of McAvoy on Tuesday, Cassidy also announced that Nash started skating again back in Boston as he continues his recovery from what the team has called an upper-body injury. If he is able to return at any point in the playoffs that is another top-six winger being added to the mix.

Before Tuesday Nash had not skated since March 19.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

The returns of Chara and McAvoy, as well as the word that Nash is back on the ice is all great news for a Bruins team that has not only overtaken a slumping Lightning team for the top spot in the Division and Conference, but has a chance to continue to build on that lead.

Even with all of that there are still some minor injuries to deal with at the moment.

Carlo remains sidelined indefinitely and it does not sound like his return is imminent. They will also be without Tommy Wingels on Thursday night while Sean Kuraly and Riley Nash are also sidelined. But as long as the Bruins have their big guys all in the lineup (which they now do) they are going to be absolute force to deal with.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins, Lightning battle in Atlantic Division matchup

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Tuesday, as the Tampa Bay Lightning will host the Boston Bruins at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here.

This one is big.

The Boston Bruins travel to Florida to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in a game that could have two very interesting outcomes.

The Bruins (110 points) sit atop the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of the Lightning (108 points). Both teams have clinched, of course, but the division title is the prize here. The Bruins surge over the past couple of months saw them finally dethrone the Lightning from the summit, a spot the latter had held since October.

A win for Boston would likely clinch them the division title, barring them losing their final three in regulation and Tampa winning out. It’s possible, of course, but unlikely given the rate the Bruins are amassing points.

The Bruins lost defenseman Brandon Carlo and forward Riley Nash indefinitely over the weekend and will get Charlie McAvoy back for Tuesday’s game. The rookie d-man has been out since March 3 with an MCL sprain. Defenseman Zdeno Chara returned to action on Sunday after missing nine games.

The Bruin lost a 4-3 overtime decision on Sunday to the Philadelphia Flyers after battling back from 3-1 down in the third period, including a game-tying goal from Patrice Bergeron with 3.8 seconds left in regulation.

“This team, it’s fun to play together,” said Torey Krug. “We have each other’s backs and it doesn’t matter the time or the score, we just keep battling. That’s a great point. There’s things throughout the game we could have done better…thought we created a lot and they took advantage of their chances when they got them. It’s good to get the point and we’ll move onto Tampa now.”

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Superstar forward Steven Stamkos is questionable for Tuesday’s game after he left a 4-1 loss against the Nashville Predators in the second period with a lower-body injury.

From an entirely objective point of view, everything gets far more interesting if Tampa wins in regulation, even with the Bruins holding a game in-hand.

“It’s probably going to have a big determination of who comes first,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said on Monday. “Let’s be honest, we win the game and we’re right back at it. They win the game and they’ve probably got it. In the big scope of things, it’s game 80 but it’s a big game 80.”

Both teams would be sitting on 110 points with Tampa edging out Boston in ROWs by a 47-46 margin if the Lightning win inside three periods.

Tampa’s remaining two games see them facing the lowly Buffalo Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes, teams that are already eliminated from playoff contention. Boston ends the season with two dates against the Florida Panthers and another against the Ottawa Senators. The Florida games could have real meaning for the Panthers depending on how the New Jersey Devils fair going forward.

Last week’s meeting between both clubs included David Pastrnak fighting and Tuukka Rask starting a brawl. This is gonna be good.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Karlsson’s killer clincher for Vegas; Lucic fights Glass

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Clinching

  • The Vegas Golden Knights probably couldn’t have clinched the Pacific Division in a more fitting way: on a dramatic, shorthanded goal by William Karlsson. Karlsson scored his 42nd goal of 2017-18 with incredible style, confounding Martin Jones with a ridiculous between-the-legs shot. See that goal in the highlight of the night section.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins will be able to defend their repeat title (in other words, go for a “threepeat”) after clinching their 12th consecutive trip to the playoffs.
  • Nashville wasn’t able to clinch the Central Division, but the Winnipeg Jets will finish no worse than second after winning against Toronto. So, a franchise without a single playoff win will get at least one round of home-ice advantage.
  • Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The Stars kept their slim odds alive.

Injury concerns

Ryan Suter, Viktor Arvidsson, Travis Dermott, Brandon Carlo, and Victor Antipin rank among players with injury worries. Find out more here and here.

Highlights of the Night

This Karlsson goal is just ridiculous.

Let’s watch it from another angle.

There were a lot of ugly moments for Nashville in its 7-4 loss to Buffalo, with Scott Hartnell hurting Victor Antipin. This was pretty, however:

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Players of the Night

  • Jack Eichel collected a ridiculous five assists in Buffalo’s win against Nashville, crossing the 100-assist barrier for his career. Sam Reinhart generated a hat trick for the Sabres, too.

  • Antti Raanta collected a 34-save shutout as the Coyotes shocked the Blues 6-0. Solid night for spoilers.
  • The Blue Jackets lost in overtime, but don’t blame their top guys. Seth Jones scored a goal and three assists while Artemi Panarin collected four helpers as Columbus generated a key standing point.

Heavyweight bout

It hasn’t been a great season for Milan Lucic, but hey, at least he handled heavyweight bruiser Tanner Glass in this brutal fight:

Scores

Bruins 5, Panthers 1
Red Wings 2, Senators 0
Canucks 5, Blue Jackets 4 (OT)
Jets 3, Maple Leafs 1
Devils 4, Islanders 3
Penguins 5, Canadiens 2
Rangers 2, Hurricanes 1
Sabres 7, Predators 4
Stars 4, Wild 1
Coyotes 6, Blues 0
Flames 3, Oilers 2
Golden Knights 3, Sharks 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Tough injury night for defensemen, including Suter?

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NHL teams who’ve already locked up playoff spots – or virtually have done so – might want to rest players to cut down on fatigue. Doing so might also be useful just in helping them to avoid new injuries.

Saturday’s been a tough one in that regard, especially for defensemen. Let’s rattle off a few of the troubling names.

  • The Minnesota Wild have tempered his ice time a bit over the years, yet Ryan Suter still came into tonight with the highest time on ice average in the NHL at right under 27 minutes (26:54). When you lean on a blueliner that much and for so many years, maybe you’re rolling the dice that something like this might happen:

The Wild haven’t provided an update regarding Suter just yet, but one would assume that they’ll play it very safe as the regular season winds down. The question is: was there too much damage already done?

Babcock has been easing Dermott into the lineup (16:20 ATOI), but he’s been playing well when called upon, with nice possession stats in particular.

PHT’s also covered:

Keep an eye on PHT for updates regarding these situations and more, whether teams provide more information later on Saturday, sometime on Sunday, or perhaps into this coming week. Hopefully each instance isn’t as bad as they looked.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.