Jason Brough


Help on the way: Bruins get Pastrnak back, while Backes getting closer


The Boston Bruins will get David Pastrnak back from suspension tomorrow in Tampa Bay. Because of that, they announced this morning that forward Danton Heinen has been assigned to AHL Providence.

Heinen, a 21-year-old rookie, played seven games for the B’s, failing to register a point while skating mostly with center David Krejci.

Indeed, scoring has been an issue for the Bruins (4-4-0), who now have the 26th-ranked offense in the NHL. The B’s have won their last two thanks to the return of Tuukka Rask, but nine games into the season they only have four players with two or more goals: Brad Marchand (5), Pastrnak (4), Dominic Moore (3), and David Backes (2). Six others have one, the rest none, for a total of just 20 goals.

Backes has missed the last four games due to elbow surgery. He won’t play tomorrow in Tampa Bay, but the 32-year-old was back skating today in Boston, suggesting a return Saturday at home to the Rangers may be in the cards.

Tomorrow against the Lightning, Pastrnak could be reunited with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the top line, with Krejci centering a second line between Austin Czarnik and Ryan Spooner.

However they line up, the Bruins could really use some scoring beyond their few contributors to date. Wingers Matt Beleskey and Kevin Hayes have each been held pointless in their first nine games. Those two have mostly been centered by newcomer Riley Nash, who’s also been held pointless.

“There are some guys that aren’t where they should be production-wise,” said head coach Claude Julien, per CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty. “You hope it’s gonna come and they get their game where it should be.”

The return of Backes could help in one of two ways. First, he could play right wing with Krejci. Or two, he could center Beleskey and Hayes.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, he can’t do both.

As for Heinen?

“We saw some spurts of [creativity and offense] during the regular season, but in his case he probably needs to go down there, get better, get more confident and get stronger,” said Julien, per CSN New England. “We talked to him about that as far as getting better, but we’re certainly not unhappy with him. I thought he had a great camp and he’s going to be a great player for the future, whether it’s shortly or a little later. I think he has all the potential to be a good player in this league.”

A lesson learned: Habs vow to ignore the hype


The Montreal Canadiens set a franchise record a year ago, starting the season with nine straight wins. They lost their 10th in Vancouver, which was no big deal. But the game after that, Carey Price got hurt, which was a huge deal. He got hurt again a month later, and that was it for the season.

The Habs would eventually collapse, finishing 38-38-6 and out of the playoffs.

Which is to say, a great start is good, but it’s all about how you finish.

“I think everything that we learned last year, everything that we went through, it’s given us a good understanding,” forward Brendan Gallagher said, per NHL.com. “I think last year everyone was saying so many good things about us, I think we started to believe it a little bit too much.”

The Canadiens, of course, are off to another torrid start, and it seems like nothing can go wrong. They’re 8-0-1 heading into tonight’s home game against Vancouver, the very same side that stopped their streak last year.

Though adversity may not come tonight against the Canucks, who’ve dropped five straight and have the NHL’s worst offense, it will come at some point this season, and the Habs will be tested in their pressure-packed market.

How they handle that adversity may very well determine the future of both head coach Michel Therrien and GM Marc Bergevin, the latter of whom acquired Shea Weber to not only play great hockey but also for “his attitude, his behavior, the little details that show he’s a real leader.”

So far, so good. But the season is still very young, just ask the Habs.

Related: In talking about Weber, Bergevin said plenty about Subban

In other news, the Canadiens sent 18-year-old defenseman Mikhail Sergachev back to his junior team yesterday. With Zach Redmond already sidelined with a broken foot, the club has been left with just six healthy defensemen on the roster, i.e. the bare minimum.

That’s led to speculation that Bergevin may be looking to add a top-4 d-man. Which sounds like a tough task at this point in the season, when all 30 teams are still technically in the playoff race. But perhaps Bergevin has had something in his back pocket all along, just in case Sergachev wasn’t NHL-ready.

We’ll have to wait and see on that.

Related: Habs send Sergachev back to junior


Nobody’s riding in ‘on a white horse’ to rescue the Kings


The Los Angeles Kings are in a very tough spot. They haven’t scored a goal in their last three games, and their backup-to-the-backup goalie, Peter Budaj, started to show cracks Tuesday night in a 4-0 loss to Anaheim.

While there’s some reason to believe the scoring will come around (the Kings registered 89 shots in their last three games combined, and they still have Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty), there really isn’t an obvious solution to the goaltending problem.

Already up against the cap, the Kings simply can’t afford to take on a big contract, because Jonathan Quick is expected to return later this season.

So to all those fans screaming about Jaroslav Halak, perhaps GM Dean Lombardi can find a way, but don’t count on it, because Halak is signed through next season for a cap hit of $4.5 million.

“There’s nobody coming in on a white horse to play goal for us or score goals or to come up from [the AHL],” head coach Darryl Sutter said last night, per LA Kings Insider. “This is our team. I’ve said it early, meaning two or three games ago, and I’ll say it again. Our responsibility is not to use the injuries as an excuse. The responsibility is to try and stay in the race.”

Budaj was replaced last night by the once highly touted Jack Campbell. The Kings got Campbell in June, sending defenseman Nick Ebert to Dallas in return. Campbell, 24, split last season between the AHL and ECHL, and now he could be in line for an NHL start Thursday when the defending champs from Pittsburgh pay a visit.

Sutter didn’t say who would get the nod against the Penguins, but he clearly wasn’t very happy with Budaj’s performance.

“He wasn’t very good,” he said. “I mean, did you look at the shots and scoring chances? He wasn’t very good. That’s clear. I don’t pull goalies very often, but they’re expected to make some saves.”

Campbell has only made one NHL start in his career, all the way back on Oct. 20, 2013, when he allowed six goals on 47 shots in a 6-3 Dallas loss to Anaheim.

‘Hawks were winners too, on ‘a good day for the city of Chicago’


CHICAGO (AP) Patrick Kane was terrific, and Corey Crawford had another solid performance for the Blackhawks.

Oh, and the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in Game 6 of the World Series.

“Sure is a good day for the city of Chicago,” Blackhawks forward Tyler Motte said.


Kane had a goal and two assists, and the Blackhawks beat the Calgary Flames 5-1 on Tuesday night for their third straight win. Then there was another loud cheer in the nearly empty United Center as fans in the private boxes and bars celebrated the final out of the Cubs’ 9-3 victory in Cleveland.

The Blackhawks know a little something about success, winning the Stanley Cup three times since 2010, and they seem to be enjoying the Cubs’ run. Moments after the Blackhawks’ victory, coach Joel Quenneville was already looking forward to Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night.

“It’s going to be a fun day for Chicago tomorrow,” he said. “Biggest game maybe in the whole history of Chicago sports.”

Kane scored his third of the season on a dazzling play in the first, and then set up Artem Anisimov‘s tiebreaking power-play goal at 7:44 of the third. Anisimov extended his career-best point streak to eight games with his team-best seventh goal of the season.

With Sam Bennett in the penalty box for tripping, Kane made a perfect pass to Anisimov in front for the redirect. Motte added his third of the season on an impressive rush, making it 3-1 at 12:44, and Kane assisted on Artemi Panarin‘s sliding empty-netter with 3:01 left.

“For us, it’s probably as ugly a 5-1 win is gonna get for our team,” Kane said. “Still can be better.”

Crawford finished with 33 saves after posting his first shutout of the season in a 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.

“I’m feeling better and better every game, feeling quicker out there,” Crawford said.

Michael Frolik scored a short-handed goal for Calgary, which beat Chicago 3-2 on Kris Versteeg‘s goal in the seventh round of a shootout on Oct. 24. Brian Elliott finished with 17 stops in the opener of a four-game road trip.

“I think those first two were two of the best periods we played this year,” Frolik said. “It’s just that second goal kind of, they get the momentum and we opened the game and they finished us.”

The crowd of 21,166 seemed to go back and forth from the action in Cleveland to the Blackhawks’ fourth win in five games. About 20 minutes before the puck dropped, there was a roar in the concourse when Kris Bryant homered to give the Cubs an early lead.

There were more cheers and high-fives with about 4:15 left in the first, celebrating Addison Russell’s grand slam.

Then Kane gave the crowd something to cheer about on the ice. The reigning NHL MVP skated around Calgary defenseman TJ Brodie, and then away from Deryk Engelland and Mikael Backlund before beating Elliott low on the glove side for a 1-0 lead at 18:58.

“It was a big turn of events after one, and we got better as the game progressed,” Quenneville said.

Chicago had a chance to add to its advantage when Calgary was whistled for too many men on the ice in the second, but Backlund made a great pass to Frolik for a tying tap-in goal at 7:06.

It was still tied before the Blackhawks scored four times in the third, helped by another solid performance by Anisimov. The Russian center, off to a fast start, also got an assist on Niklas Hjalmarsson‘s second of the season at 18:16.

“We were playing a great game. We really were,” Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano said. “We had control. We did a lot of good things, then it seemed like the last 10 minutes it all fell apart.”

The new-look Rangers are dangerous on every line


Nine games down and it’s hard to imagine a better start for the New York Rangers. Not only are the Blueshirts 6-3-0 and boasting the NHL’s top offense, it seems like every new player that GM Jeff Gorton brought in has been a contributor.

At the top of the list is Mika Zibanejad, the 23-year-old the Rangers got from Ottawa for Derrick Brassard.

Zibanejad, a center, has two goals and six assists so far with his new team. Tonight against the Blues, he’ll be on a line with injury returnee Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello. Kreider had three goals and four assists before he was sidelined after five games. All five of his even-strength points came with Zibanejad on the ice with him.

“I didn’t know a lot about Mika Zibanejad,” winger Rick Nash told Sportsnet, “but he’s got everything to be a first-line center.”

Nash himself is feeling pretty good these days, with four goals already. He’ll skate tonight with rookie Jimmy Vesey, who has five goals, and veteran center Derek Stepan, who has five assists. No wonder Nash is glad he wasn’t traded over the summer..

So that’s the top two lines, now let’s talk about the third, which was fantastic in Sunday’s 6-1 destruction of the Lightning. Michael Grabner had a hat trick, Kevin Hayes had three assists, and J.T. Miller ended up with a goal and two assists. You have to figure head coach Alain Vigneault will want to try that trio some more.

Even the fourth line has a danger factor. Brandon Pirri has four goals this season, two of them at even strength. And don’t forget young Pavel Buchnevich, who’s missed time with back spasms. Pirri and Buchnevich are expected to play tonight with Jesper Fast. Not your typical, grinding fourth line, that’s for sure.

“Right now, I look at our four lines and I see balance,” said Vigneault. “I see a good skill level. I see on every line guys who can make plays and use their speed. And to use their speed, the D have got to get the puck up, and our defensemen have done a good job of that so far.”

As for the defense, it remains the biggest concern, if only because the forwards have been so good and Henrik Lundqvist is in goal.

But at least they have Ryan McDonagh back there.

“He’s without a doubt our best skating defenseman,” said Vigneault. “He can skate away from the forecheck, he can support the attack, jump up and beat a lot of their forwards down the ice and make a 2-on-2 a 3-on-2 or a 3-on-3 a 4-on-3 … He’s played extremely well and we need him to play well, he’s our best defenseman.”


Related: Alain Vigneault got an interesting call from Patrick Roy this past summer