Jason Brough

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Bruins’ defense in flux: McQuaid, Miller hurt; Ehrhoff says good-bye

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The regular season hasn’t even started yet, and already the Boston Bruins are facing issues on defense.

Per CSN’s Joe Haggerty, Adam McQuaid is “day-to-day” with an unspecified injury while Kevan Miller is being evaluated after getting hurt Saturday.

On top of that, Christian Ehrhoff will not be signing with the B’s after his PTO. He’s gone back to Germany, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie:

Boston opens its regular season Thursday in Columbus. If neither McQuaid nor Miller are ready to go, expect to see one of Brandon Carlo or Rob O’Gara in the lineup.

The Bruins are currently carrying nine defensemen. In addition to McQuaid, Miller, and the two rookies, Carlo and O’Gara, there’s Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, John-Michael Liles, Colin Miller and Joe Morrow.

Related: The Bruins need Colin Miller to make an impact

Three AHL standouts among those on waivers today

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Teemu Pulkkinen is 24 and scored 34 goals for Grand Rapids (Red Wings) in 2014-15.

Seth Griffith is 23 and had 77 points for Providence (Bruins) last season.

Mark McNeil is 23 and had 25 goals for Rockford (Blackhawks) last season.

Today, all three AHL standouts are on waivers.

Of the three, Pulkkinen has done the most at the NHL level, though that’s not saying much. In 70 career games for the Red Wings, he has 11 goals and nine assists. And with a glut of forwards in Detroit, he was deemed expendable by GM Ken Holland.

Griffith played four games for Boston last season, registering one assist. He’s an undersized winger, which hurts his cause.

McNeil made his NHL debut last season, playing just one game for Chicago.

Report: Jets to place Pavelec on waivers today

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Ondrej Pavelec appears to be the odd man out in the Jets’ goalie battle. According to Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun, the club will place Pavelec on waivers today.

If Pavelec clears, he’d presumably be assigned to the AHL, leaving Michael Hutchinson, 26, and Connor Hellebuyck, 23, as the two NHL netminders.

Pavelec, 29, is in the final year of a much-maligned five-year, $19.5 million contract. He went 13-13-4 with a .904 save percentage last season. His career NHL save rate is just .907.

There was a hint on Saturday that something like this might be brewing, when Pavelec was not given the start in the Jets’ final preseason game. When all was said and done, Pavelec only made one start in the preseason, compared to three for Hutchinson and two for Hellebuyck.

In an odd twist, Pavelec actually earned a shutout in that lone start, stopping all 31 shots he faced in a 4-0 victory over Calgary last Sunday. For that, he was named the game’s first star.

Report: Talks ‘intensifying’ between Bolts and Kucherov, likely a bridge deal coming

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Nikita Kucherov hasn’t signed yet, but according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, he’s “likely” to suit up for the Lightning on Thursday when they open their regular season at home to Detroit.

McKenzie reported this morning that negotiations between Kucherov and the Bolts have been “intensifying.” The 23-year-old winger is a restricted free agent. It’s probable, says McKenzie, that it’s a bridge deal, as opposed to a long-term contract.

Tampa Bay has less than $6 million in cap space at the moment, per General Fanager.

Related: Yzerman thinks he can get Kucherov signed without making a trade first

Once a major weakness, the defense is now the ‘engine’ of the Blue Jackets

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When Dan Boyle officially retired last week, his former coach in Tampa Bay, John Tortorella, called him the “engine” of the 2004 Stanley Cup-winning Lightning squad.

Boyle had an outstanding career as an NHL defenseman, putting up 605 points in 1,093 games.

So it’s interesting that Tortorella chose to use the same metaphor in describing his young defense in Columbus.

“That’s our engine,” Tortorella said of Ryan Murray, Seth JonesZach Werenski, and training-camp surprise Markus Nutivaara, per the Columbus Dispatch.

“We can’t wait to work with them through it. There are going to be some struggles with it, but to see the youth and the legs and the puck skills … When you understand the big picture of what we’re going through, it’s exciting.”

The Blue Jackets’ back end was a major weakness last year, to the point they traded their franchise center, Ryan Johansen, to get Jones out of Nashville.

Now, all of a sudden, the future of the defense looks extremely bright. Murray is still only 23; Jones and Nutivaara are 22; Werenski is just 19.

To be sure, the Jackets are still expected to struggle this season. The defense is talented but inexperienced, and the forward group is less than impressive. If there’s any hope for a playoff spot, it’s that Sergei Bobrovsky can stand on his head in goal.

But long term, there’s optimism.

“Within our organization, and some didn’t come to camp, there’s some good speed and skill to get up the ice coming from our back end,” Tortorella said, per the Dispatch, recently. “We have youth in that situation. I don’t think it’s all going to come together right away, but the progression of this is very encouraging.”