Jason Brough

Julien will be back behind Bruins bench; Sweeney has ‘work to do’

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Claude Julien will be back behind the Bruins bench next season. Boston’s GM, Don Sweeney, said so this morning at a press conference, where he sat alongside his head coach and sung his praises.

“I believe in Claude as a coach,” said Sweeney. “I think our core principles align very well.”

But after the disappointment of missing the playoffs for the second straight season, there will be at least one change to Julien’s staff, and there could be more coming.

“Doug Houda will not be back,” Sweeney said of the long-time assistant, while noting that there are other assistants who are currently without contracts.

When asked where it all went wrong this season, Julien pointed to his team’s failures to get results in the big games. He used the Winter Classic as a prime example. (Boston, you’ll recall, was blown out by the Canadiens at Gillette Stadium. At the time, Julien called it “one of our worst games at the worst time.”)

As for the offseason?

“I have work to do,” said Sweeney. “There’s no question that we have areas that we want to address.”

Expect the defense to be one area that he’ll try to improve. The Bruins went young on the blue line for this season, and things didn’t work out as planned.

In a potentially related story, Sweeney wrote a letter to Bruins season ticket-holders this morning, in which he shared the following:

“One of our objectives last year was to improve our salary cap situation, and through various trades and signings, we were able to accomplish this. We now have some cap flexibility heading into the offseason and this summer’s free agency planning period. This will allow us to re-sign players or make competitive offers to free agents on the market that we believe will help our club.”

Still, despite seeing a clear need to make some changes, Sweeney does not believe the Bruins need a “major overhaul.” He thinks it’s important to remain patient with the organization’s youth, using 19-year-old David Pastrnak as an example.

“We have a very, very bright future with a number of young players that we have,” he said. “It’s rightfully so to be excited about that, but it’s also imperative to be patient to allow them to hit their ceilings.”

Sweeney and Julien to meet with media tomorrow

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Bruins GM Don Sweeney and head coach Claude Julien will hold their annual season-ending press conference tomorrow morning in Boston, the club announced today.

The much-anticipated announcement — without even knowing what will be said tomorrow — was news in and of itself. If Julien is being trotted out to talk to the media, and if he’s doing it alongside Sweeney, it may be a sign he’ll be back behind the Bruins’ bench next season.

Or, it may not. We’ll have to wait and see. Last year, Sweeney took his time before deciding to bring Julien back.

Certainly, teams like the Ottawa Senators and the Vancouver Canucks will be watching closely, whatever’s decided. If Julien is fired, he’s not expected to remain unemployed for long, even after the B’s failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season.

Of note, Bruins owner Charlie Jacobs, along with team president Cam Neely, are scheduled to meet with reporters next Wednesday.

For Wild, no Parise affects ‘every area of the game’

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DALLAS (AP) Patrick Sharp is getting ready to face Minnesota in a playoff series for the fourth year in a row. It will be the first for the Dallas Stars, the franchise with roots in the Twin Cities.

Known as the North Stars before moving south to Dallas in 1993, the Stars are the top seed in the Western Conference. They open their first-round series at home Thursday night against the Wild, the team that eventually replaced them in Minnesota.

“I’m sure it means something to the fans,” Stars center Jason Spezza said. “For us as players, it’s a little different generation for us, we weren’t directly involved in it.”

Spezza and Sharp were acquired in trades the past two offseasons, and with the high-scoring young All-Star duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin helped lead Dallas to its first No. 1 seed since consecutive Stanley Cup appearances in 1999 and 2000.

The Wild, in their 15th season since entering the NHL as an expansion team, are hurting going into their fourth consecutive playoff appearance. Top scorer Zach Parise (25 goals) won’t even travel for the first two games because of an upper-body injury that has kept him off the ice for more than a week.

“It changes lines and the combinations we have and special teams. In every area of the game, it will have an effect,” center Mikko Koivu said. “But if he’s in, if he’s not, then we’ve got to react to that as a team and go from there.”

The Wild will also be without Thomas Vanek (18 goals) while Erik Haula, a solid third-line center who defends well, will likely be a game-time decision.

When the Stars won their only Stanley Cup title in 1999, they beat Buffalo and Lindy Ruff, now their third-year coach. Sharp was part of his third Stanley Cup championship last season with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Stars won four of five meetings this season against Minnesota, three in overtime along with a 6-3 win that included two empty-net goals – among the Stars’ NHL-record 24 empty-netters and NHL-best 265 goals overall this season. Minnesota’s victory was 2-1.

But the last of those games was Feb. 9, before the Wild fired Mike Yeo and named John Torchetti the interim coach.

“Their defense is involved a little bit more … Offensively, I think they’ve got a little bit more giddy-up and go in them,” Ruff said. “There’s going to be some structure changes for them and there might be personnel that are in or out. The playoffs, I wipe the slate clean and you start from Game 1.”

SEGUIN SKATING: All-Star forward Tyler Seguin was back on the ice this week after missing Dallas’ last 10 games because of a small cut of his left Achilles tendon. Seguin had 73 points in 72 games before getting hurt. Ruff said Wednesday that Seguin was available to play, but that a decision for Game 1 wouldn’t be made until Thursday. Seguin and Benn (89 points) are the NHL’s highest-scoring teammates over the past two seasons.

A pending UFA, Bruins’ Eriksson in wait-and-see mode

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The Boston Bruins decided not to trade Loui Eriksson at the deadline. Now, after missing the playoffs, it’s very possible they’ll have to watch him walk away for nothing.

Eriksson, 30, is a pending unrestricted free agent who’s coming off a 30-goal season. There’s already speculation that a team like Vancouver could be interested.

“I feel good about where I am in my game,” Eriksson told CSN New England. “It’s a big decision, where I end up. So, we’ll see what’s going to happen this summer. I had three great years [in Boston], and we’ll see what’s going to happen here this summer. That’s all I can say.”

Because he’s now on the wrong side of 30, a major factor in whatever deal Eriksson signs will be term.

From the Boston Herald:

It’s not impossible that some team might go to five years and $30 million — which would likely be too much for the Bruins’ taste. But it does seem probable that general manager Don Sweeney will make a serious offer. It’ll then be up to Eriksson whether he wants to stay, or chase the bigger bucks of the open market.

If Eriksson leaves, it could make it very important that the B’s sign Harvard free-agent winger Jimmy Vesey — who conceivably could step into Eriksson’s role.

There are a handful of other pending UFA wingers that may — repeat: may — be available this summer, including 26-year-old Mikkel Boedker and 27-year-olds Milan Lucic and Kyle Okposo.

Andrew Ladd and Troy Brouwer, both the same age as Eriksson, could also end up hitting the market.

Related: Salary cap estimate for next season falls to $74 million, with one notable assumption

Series odds: Flyers are biggest underdogs of first round

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The Philadelphia Flyers may have finished the regular season on a 17-6-4 run, but they’re still the biggest underdogs of the first round of the playoffs, according to online sportsbook Bovada.

If you bet $100 on the Flyers to upset the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals, you’d stand to win $240. If, on the other hand, you like the Caps, you’ll have to risk $280 to win $100.

The defending champion Blackhawks, meanwhile, only have a 50/50 shot of getting past the Blues, according to Bovada. Both teams have the same odds (-110) of advancing to the second round. Chicago-St. Louis is the only series that doesn’t have a favorite.

First-round series odds

Philadelphia Flyers (+240)
Washington Capitals (-280)

Detroit Red Wings (+130)
Tampa Bay Lightning (-150)

New York Rangers (+150)
Pittsburgh Penguins (-170)

New York Islanders (+135)
Florida Panthers (-155)

Chicago Blackhawks (-110)
St. Louis Blues (-110)

Minnesota Wild (+230)
Dallas Stars (-270)

San Jose Sharks (+125)
Los Angeles Kings (-145)

Nashville Predators (+160)
Anaheim Ducks (-180)

Odds to win the Stanley Cup

Capitals 4/1
Kings 7/1
Blackhawks 15/2
Ducks 17/2
Stars 17/2
Penguins 9/1
Blues 10/1
Rangers 16/1
Panthers 16/1
Sharks 18/1
Lightning 20/1
Predators 25/1
Islanders 25/1
Flyers 28/1
Red Wings 33/1
Wild 33/1

Related: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup