Author: James O'Brien

Brad Marchand

Bruised Bruins get Marchand back, Pastrnak debuts

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The Boston Bruins remain banged up, but at least they’ll get some reinforcements back as they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.

Brad Marchand looks ready to return from his mystery injury (which kept him out since Nov. 15) while David Pastrnak seems primed to make his NHL debut.

Will that be enough for head coach Claude Julien to believe that his team no longer needs to be nearly flawless to win? Maybe, maybe not … but Boston is likely in a better position to keep up with Pittsburgh with Marchand back in the lineup.

Marchand, 26, has 11 points in 19 games so far this season. Pastrnak, 18, has 18 points in 17 AHL games. The Bruins selected him 25th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Here’s a handy graphic of all the issues the Bruins have dealt with:

Julien: ‘It almost takes a perfect game’ for Bruins to win

Claude Julian, Patrice Bergeron
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Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien seemed pretty happy with his team’s effort after a 2-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. His discomfort only really stems from the feeling that there’s very little margin for error.

Basically, he thinks the injury-ravaged Bruins have to be at the top of their games all the time to overcome a skeleton roster, as he told CSNNE.com.

“I thought, you know, we played hard, we competed, we were smart and we didn’t give them much,” Julien said. “It’s unfortunate but this is where we realize that right now when you play a team that’s healthy and that’s going extremely well, it almost takes a perfect game [to get a win].

“I credit my players for just going out there and competing hard and well, and giving ourselves a chance. The one thing, as you know, we’re not scoring goals easily these days. So we’ve really got to get our noses dirty in front of the net, and throw some pucks in areas where we can jump on those loose pucks.”

In some ways, it should get easier soon.

The Bruins sent Jordan Caron and Matt Lindblad back to the AHL today after recalling them on Saturday, indicating that there’s a chance a forward or two (maybe David Krejci and/or Brad Marchand) might be able to return to the mix again soon.

On the other hand, Boston faces another tough opponent tomorrow, as they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After trying to avoid making mistakes against Montreal, the Bruins will be tested to contain Pittsburgh’s potent attack. Either way, they’ll need to push themselves to the limit with key players out of the lineup.

Tough crowd: Oilers fans loudly boo team after loss

San Jose Sharks v Edmonton Oilers
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There’s no denying that things are pretty ugly for the Edmonton Oilers right now.

Tales of fan dissent have been widespread, yet this video clip of Oilers fans lambasting the team after Saturday’s 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks still seems a little stunning:

That’s … pretty uncomfortable to watch.

Fans naturally have every right to express their disdain, especially considering how frustrating the situation has been for Edmonton. It’s also an inherent risk when arenas provide onlookers with a chance to cheer (or in this case, mercilessly heckle) teams as they enter and leave the ice.

Still, the sheer volume (literally) of anger almost seems a little shocking.

(H/T to The Score.)

Related:

Oilers looking for a trade (possibly involving David Perron)

Taylor Hall doesn’t think Dallas Eakins should take the fall

What, exactly, needs to change?

Bouwmeester’s out, ending the longest active ‘Ironman’ streak in sports

Colorado Avalanche v St. Louis Blues
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Calling him “The Cal Ripken Jr. of Hockey” is a stretch, but Jay Bouwmeester’s run of 737 consecutive games played remains impressive. It also might end on Sunday.

The speedy blueliner suffered a lower-body injury on Saturday, and signs point to him missing the St. Louis Blues’ game against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. If that happens, it will end the longest active “Ironman” streak in professional sports, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The 31-year-old told the Post-Dispatch that he doesn’t want to play merely to keep the streak alive.

“I think if you’re ever at a point where you can’t play and you’re going to be a detriment out there, then you’re not going to play,” Bouwmeester said to the Post-Dispatch on Friday, the day before the injury.

“I’ve never really kept track what that streak is at … the number or anything like that. You don’t think about it. You just approach it like you want to play. Most guys, if they’re able to play, they’re going to play. But you’re not going to do anything that’s going to take away from the whole team thing.”

Perhaps Bouwmeester would actually be better off taking a breather?

The $5.4 million defenseman only has two points in 20 games so far in 2014-15, and his possession stats have sagged noticeably as well. His struggles haven’t derailed the Blues by any means, but considering the team’s ambitions to make a deep playoff run, wouldn’t it be best for Bouwmeester to get his game back together sooner rather than later?

The Post-Dispatch points out that Anaheim Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano has the second-longest games played streak in the NHL, as he hasn’t missed a contest in 561 games.

Goalie nods: Smith tries to stay in Coyotes’ goalie picture

Arizona Coyotes v Dallas Stars

All the latest from the blue paint …

Mike Smith’s chance at redemption

Let’s face it: if Devan Dubnyk and Mike Smith made the same amount of money, there probably wouldn’t be much of a debate regarding which goalie would be getting most of the Arizona Coyotes’ starts right now.

The bottom line is that Smith is carrying a whopping $5.667 million cap hit through the 2018-19 season while Dubnyk’s $800K deal will expire after this season, so the Coyotes are in a tough spot.

Smith could make the situation less uncomfortable if he improves his play. At some point, dollars won’t matter more than numbers, especially the disparity between Smith’s stats (4-10-1, .890 save percentage) and Dubnyk’s superior work (5-0-1, .926 save percentage).

Sunday represents a big opportunity (and challenge) for Smith as he’s getting the nod against the Anaheim Ducks.

As usual, the Ducks haven’t provided a confirmation one way or another, but Frederik Andersen seems likely to face Smith and the Coyotes.

Elsewhere …

Blues at Jets: It looks like it will be Jake Allen against Ondrej Pavelec, but neither have been confirmed.

Canadiens at Rangers: Playoff rematch of Dustin Tokarski vs. Henrik Lundqvist.

Blackhawks at Canucks: Corey Crawford’s likely vs. Ryan Miller.