Jason Brough

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Bruins say Chara has a lower-body injury, ‘doubtful’ for next two games

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Zdeno Chara will not travel with the Boston Bruins for Thursday’s game in Ottawa. The B’s said this morning that Chara suffered a lower-body injury last night against St. Louis and that a further update would be provided Friday prior to their home game against Calgary.

Chara logged 9:04 against the Blues before getting hurt and leaving in the second period. The Bruins had leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but would go on to lose, 4-2.

Colin Miller was a healthy scratch against St. Louis, so he could come in against the Sens. The Bruins also expect to get Kevan Miller (hand) back shortly.

But even at 39, Chara is still the Bruins’ best defenseman. He’s been paired all season with rookie Brandon Carlo, who admitted he “struggled a little bit” without his veteran partner against the Blues.

“It’s definitely a little more responsibility on myself to to get in better positions there and keep those ones out of the net,” Carlo said, per CSNNE. 

“We just have to keep it simple, and that is something I was struggling with you could say. Moving the puck up – I needed to do it a little bit faster and be a little bit stronger out there for sure. Definitely not happy with the end of my second period, you know, but I think that’s just mainly my responsibility to keep playing the way that I can no matter who is across from me.”

Carlo finished minus-2 on the night, while Torey Krug logged the most ice time among the Bruins at 24:44.

Based on this morning’s practice, Carlo could skate with John-Michael Liles against the Sens, with Krug and Adam McQuaid together on the other top-4 pairing.

Update:

With five straight wins, the Hurricanes are ‘building some momentum’

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Two weeks ago, we wrote about the curious Carolina Hurricanes, who couldn’t seem to translate their strong possession stats into victories. At the time, the ‘Canes were 3-5-4, dead last in the NHL.

How quickly things can change.

Today, after five straight regulation wins, Carolina is 8-6-4, just two points back of a wild-card spot.

How have they done it?

Well, they’re finally getting the saves. Cam Ward was in goal for all five of the wins, and he’s allowed just five goals on 131 shots, for a save percentage of .962.

As for the offense, it hasn’t exactly taken off, save for one five-goal outburst against Washington. But the ‘Canes are scoring just enough. Last night in Toronto, Jeff Skinner (power play) and Viktor Stalberg (shorthanded) potted goals in a 2-1 victory over the Maple Leafs.

“I think we’re obviously building some momentum here,” Ward told reporters, “and just carrying it into the next game.”

Two weeks ago, it looked like the decision to re-sign Ward was a mistake by GM Ron Francis. But Ward is now 7-4-3 with a .919 save percentage.

“When we looked at the options that were out there, we felt this was the best option for our team,” Francis told Sportsnet’s Hockey Central at Noon. “We didn’t have to give up picks or prospects to get somebody else. We had a guy that wanted to be there and was excited to be there. It’s great to see him playing well.”

The ‘Canes play tomorrow in Montreal and Saturday in Ottawa, before returning home to face Florida Sunday.

Perhaps their winning ways can lead to some bigger crowds at PNC Arena. Their last home game, a 3-1 victory over the Jets on Sunday, drew just 10,809. And, of course, there were those relocation rumors earlier in the week.

Sharks had little choice but to sign Burns and go for it

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It’s a lot of money.

A lot of years, too.

But the alternative for the San Jose Sharks was to let Brent Burns go to free agency this summer, and that’s not something they were willing to do.

Not with a chance to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup over the next year or two or three.

San Jose signed Burns to an eight-year extension today, with a reported cap hit of $8 million. He’s 31 now, turning 32 in March. So he’ll be 40 by the time his contract expires.

“Brent is one of the most dynamic players in the National Hockey League and we’re very excited to get this deal done,” said GM Doug Wilson. “He has worked extremely hard to be an elite defenseman and at six-foot-five, 230-pounds, his abilities on this ice are unique and rare.”

The Sharks can worry about the tail end of Burns’ deal down the road. Right now, they’re in their window, and who knows how long it will be open? Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are 37, Joe Pavelski 32. Each year that San Jose’s veteran core gets older, the league gets younger. And faster.

Moreover, the Sharks don’t have a particularly strong group of prospects — mostly because they’ve only drafted once in the top 10 since 2007, the year they traded up to get Logan CoutureIn 2015, after missing the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, they selected Timo Meier with the ninth overall pick. They didn’t get a first-round pick in 2016, after they traded it to Boston for Martin Jones.

That’s not to say there’s only Meier waiting in the wings. Other prospects include Nikolay Goldobin, Mirco Mueller, and Jeremy Roy. And remember, Tomas Hertl is still only 23.

But the Sharks proved today that the next few years is where it’s at for them. Whereas on a rebuilding team, it might have made sense to trade Burns at the deadline, they’re going to keep him, and hope they can finally get over the top.

Pre-game reading: Who’s gonna play for Las Vegas?

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This is a new feature on PHT. It’s like the Morning Skate, only not in the morning. 

— Up top, NBC’s promo for Rangers-Flyers on Black Friday. Hey, why is it called Black Friday anyway? Even Wikipedia doesn’t have a good answer. Black Friday. Pretty ominous way to sell some cheap TVs.

— Who’s gonna play for Las Vegas? Another good question. The owner has said he doesn’t “want a bunch of 35- or 36-year-olds that play a couple years, and then they’re done,” which may take a guy like Marian Gaborik, 34, out of the mix. Former NHL general manager Craig Button takes a crack at putting a roster together — and yes, Marc-Andre Fleury is on it. (TSN)

Corey Perry is off to a slow start in Anaheim, with just four goals in 19 games. Ducks coach Randy Carlyle thinks Perry is doing too much “standing still in the neutral ice,” which is kinda reminiscent of what Barry Trotz once said about Alex Ovechkin. (O.C. Register)

— Panthers d-man Aaron Ekblad isn’t off to the best start this season, but he’s trying to stay positive instead of “worrying about little things that happen here and there.” Know a good way to feel positive? Sign a $60 million contract.  (NHL.com)

— What is going on with the Ottawa Senators attendance? It’s the lowest of the Canadian teams, and the team’s outspoken owner isn’t very happy about it. In a related story, Go Redblacks! (Ottawa Report)

— John Scott on the new All-Star Game voting rules: “It’s good. I think, you know, something had to happen. I don’t think they wanted a situation like me to happen again. Guys from the AHL, guys who are hurt — I don’t think they should be included anymore. I think it was a one-time thing and … it’s a good rule.” (PHT)

— Gary Bettman on the new ASG voting rules: “I think it’s important for fans to have a say. Obviously, you want an NHL player at the NHL All-Star Game. And we think all of our players, in some way or another, are All-Stars.” Awww. (The Tennessean)

— The Detroit Red Wings will have to share their new downtown arena with the Pistons, who’ve been struggling to fill seats in Auburn Hills. The Pistons made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2009. They were swept in the first round by the Cavaliers, just like in 2009. (The Detroit News)

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The Ottawa Senators aren’t scoring anymore

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The Ottawa Senators felt they deserved better in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Florida.

“We attempted 83 shots on net, 40 shots, we had 26 scoring chances,” head coach Guy Boucher told reporters. “You can’t get more, you can’t get better quality; it’s just from there, we’ve got to continue improving our work around the net.”

But it won’t get any easier to score tonight in Montreal, where Carey Price is the projected starter for the 14-3-2 Canadiens. The Sens will enter with the NHL’s 29th-ranked offense (2.06 goals per game). That’s better than only Buffalo’s (1.89), which is apparently a “joke.”

Consider: the Sens have played 10 games this month, and they’ve yet to score more than two goals. For a team that finished last season with the ninth-best offense (2.80), what’s happening now is a significant drop-off.

On the bright side, they’ve improved their goals-against from 26th (2.94) to 15th (2.56), and their penalty killing (3rd, 88.5%) has been excellent. Stopping goals — not scoring them — is how they’ve managed to stay afloat in the standings.

But after bringing in Boucher to replace Dave Cameron, Ottawa remains among the worst possession teams in the league. The Sens’ 10-7-1 record is thanks in large part to goalie Craig Anderson (8-4-1, .928), and to a lesser extent backup Mike Condon (2-1-0, .943). The team has only won seven games in regulation or overtime, with a league-high three victories coming in the shootout.

Certainly, the Sens had to be expecting more offense from Derick Brassard, the 29-year-old center they gave up young Mika Zibanejad to get from the Rangers. At the time of the trade, Ottawa GM Pierre Dion believed his team was getting “a better hockey player at this point in time.” But through 18 games, Brassard has just seven points (2G, 5A). Zibanejad, meanwhile, piled up 15 points (5G, 10A) before getting sidelined with a broken leg.

Make no mistake, Dorion is under pressure from ownership to make the playoffs. And if you don’t believe it, recall what Eugene Melnyk said at the end of last season, just prior to Cameron’s firing.

“The status quo would just get us there again next year,” Melnyk said, “and this team cannot survive not making the playoffs.”

Just last week Melnyk expressed his displeasure at the Senators’ attendance numbers.

“Running the Ottawa Senators is not an easy business,” he wrote in response to an editorial in the Ottawa Citizen. “Consider the fact that the team is currently eighth overall in the NHL and the second-best performing Canadian team, and yet we are far from sellouts at our home games.”

For Saturday’s loss to the Panthers, the announced attendance at Canadian Tire Centre was just 14,132.

The Sens return home for another tough game Thursday, this one against the visitors from Boston.

Ottawa’s leading scorers

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