Jason Brough

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Sweeney explains Pastrnak assignment to AHL

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David Pastrnak was assigned to AHL Providence because the Boston Bruins needed his roster spot for tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals.

The assignment didn’t mean that Pastrnak’s first game after returning from the World Juniors will definitely be in the AHL. Providence doesn’t play until Friday. Boston plays that same night in New Jersey.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney explained this morning that Pastrnak “arrived yesterday afternoon, he’ll skate today and we’ll re-evaluate.” Tonight’s game against the Caps could see the return of forward Joonas Kemppainen, which would put the B’s at the 23-man roster limit.

“Really, it’€™s a matter of we play tonight, Joonas in all likelihood will come off IR, so our roster is what it is at this point in time,” Sweeney said, per WEEI. “We’€™ll make a decision going forward, and David will be a part of that process.”

The reason all this is such a big deal? It’s because the Bruins are suddenly struggling. They’ve lost four of their last five in regulation, including an extremely disappointing performance at home in the Winter Classic.

On top of that, two of their top forwards — the injured David Krejci and the suspended Brad Marchand — are currently unavailable. That could mean Ryan Spooner centering the second line, with Landon Ferraro on his wing, tonight against the Caps.

Pastrnak, 19, has only played 10 games for the B’s this season due to a foot injury. He has two goals and two assists.

Related: Pastrnak’s weak clearance draws Julien’s ire

‘Smart player’ Cullen has been a fit with Malkin and Kessel

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Chemistry can be a tough thing to predict. We’ve seen it time and time again in the NHL. A player that’s supposedly a good fit with another player just isn’t.

And then there are the cases of vice-versa.

For example, Matt Cullen. He’s 39 years old. The Pittsburgh Penguins signed him in August to a one-year, $800,000 deal. “He will play an important role on our fourth line,” said GM Jim Rutherford at the time.

And yet where is Cullen today? He’s playing left wing on the second line with two of the highest-paid players in the game, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.

“Matt’s just a guy that’s a smart player,” coach Mike Sullivan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s played with offensive guys in his career. I think because he’s responsible in all three zones, and the way he plays, and he still has the ability to think the game on their level. I think he can help that line. And so far it’s been pretty good.”

In Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Islanders, Cullen didn’t look out of place assisting on the game’s opening goal by Kessel.

That being said, he knows this could just be a temporary thing.

“You know there’s so many ups and downs to the season, things change a lot,” he said. “It’s fun to be here where I am, but the biggest thing is that we’re winning games.”

The Penguins  — 4-1-1 in their last six — host the Blackhawks tonight before tomorrow’s rematch in Chicago (on NBCSN).

Finland to meet Russia in gold-medal game at World Juniors

Finland's Patrik Laine (29) celebrates with teammate Jesse Puljujarvi (9) after scoring against Canada during the first period a quarterfinal game at the IIHF World Junior ice hockey championship, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Helsinki, Finland. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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It’ll be Finland versus Russia Tuesday in the gold-medal game of the 2016 World Juniors in Helsinki.

The host Finns beat Sweden, 2-1, today in the semifinals; the Russians took out the United States by the same 2-1 score.

From the IIHF:

The Americans will seek consolation in the bronze medal game versus Sweden. They have won bronze four times before (1986, 1992, 2007, 2011). It’s a disappointing outcome for a squad loaded with NHL-drafted talent.

The U.S. has now lost five straight World Junior games to Russia, including its last two quarter-finals in 2014 and 2015. More shockingly, it has never won a medal round game against Russia since the IIHF began using the playoff system in 1996.

Christian Dvorak scored for the Americans, who are out of the running for their first gold medal since the 2013 World Juniors in Ufa, Russia.

Meanwhile, it’s been a dream tournament so far for the Finns. Not only did they defeat their rivals from Sweden, they took out the pre-tournament favorites from Canada in the quarterfinals.

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Of note, four of the five leading scorers at this year’s tourney — Puljujarvi, Matthews, Laine, and Nylander — are eligible for the 2016 NHL draft. (Aho is a Carolina Hurricanes draft pick.)

The leading scorer among defenseman, Juolevi, is also draft-eligible this year.

Bruins assign Pastrnak to AHL

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David Pastrnak has been assigned to the AHL’s Providence Bruins after representing the Czech Republic in the World Juniors.

Pastrnak had a goal and three assists in four games for the Czechs. The 19-year-old forward did suffer a finger injury in the tournament, but it was not believed to be a “serious thing.”

Many expected Pastrnak to come back from Finland and immediately suit up for the NHL’s Bruins. In fact, that was the original plan. Boston is currently without forwards David Krejci (injured) and Brad Marchand (suspended).

But perhaps Pastrnak is not completely healthy. Or, perhaps the club wants him to play some games in the minors first.

Boston hosts the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

Providence doesn’t play until Friday versus Bridgeport.

Related: Joonas Kemppainen a “possibility” versus Caps

Just when things started to get bad for the Rangers…they got worse

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 09:  Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers skates during the second period of Game Three of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Madison Square Garden on June 9, 2014 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The reeling New York Rangers aren’t about to get any help from their schedule. Tuesday, it’s a visit from the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars. Saturday, the top team in the East, the Washington Capitals, comes calling.

And for a Rangers group that went 4-7-2 in December, then got shut out in its first game of 2016, the losses are starting to take a mental toll.

“To be honest, the last month, month and a half, it’s been what we take out of the game instead of we won the game and move on and keep going,” veteran defenseman Dan Girardi told the New York Post. “It’s tough in here to keep answering the same things, what can you take out of the game, what happened.”

Despite the significant red flags that were raised during the Rangers’ 16-3-2 start to the season, not many expected things to turn this badly for the Blueshirts. Whereas before they were winning games in which they were outshot badly, now they’re losing games in which they carry the play.

Saturday in Sunrise, they outshot the Panthers, 40-20, but lost 3-0.

“It’s funny how this game works,” Derek Stepan told reporters. “Sometimes we don’t play as good and come up out of a period up 2-0, and tonight we played a strong first period and we come out of it down 1-0.”

“It’s about better execution, and as a group, we saw it [Saturday] night, the execution was a little bit off and we couldn’t capitalize,” coach Alain Vigneault added.

And on top of everything else — just after they got healthy again — now the Rangers could be without Chris Kreider versus the Stars. He’s doubtful with a cut hand.

Next six games for the Rangers

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