NHL on NBCSN: Nyquist looks to remain hot against the Bruins

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Boston Bruins host the Detroit Red Wings at 7:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Detroit Red Wings visit the Boston Bruins for the third of five meetings this season tonight at the TD Garden.

Each team has won a game at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena with Wings taking a 2-1 decision Oct. 9 and the Bruins using a shootout for a 3-2 win Oct. 15.

After halting a six-game winless skid (0-4-2) Detroit will look for its’ third straight win tonight while the Bruins will look to get back into the win column Monday following a 6-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday.

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Just as it appeared the Bruins were getting healthy, both Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic missed Sunday’s practice. Coach Claude Julien is expected to have an update on both players at Monday’s morning skate.

Detroit is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games against the Bruins and have won three of four in Boston.

Gustav Nyquist enters tonight’s game with a goal and three assists in his last two games.

The 25-year-old has scored in each of his four career games against the Bruins leading the Wings to a 3-0-1 record.

Boston is struggling defensively during its’ current 4-6-2 stretch. The Bruins are allowing an average of 3.1 goals compared to 2.4 over the first 24 games.

Just like the team in front of him, Tuukka Rask has struggled this season. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner is 3-4-2 in his last 10 games with a 3.10 goals-against average. Rask allowed three goals on 15 shots after replacing Niklas Svedberg in Saturday’s loss.

The two clubs meet twice after tonight with the next meeting scheduled for March 8 in Boston.

Bergeron, Lucic are day-to-day for struggling Bruins

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Scoring has been a struggle for the Boston Bruins, and it may only get tougher on Monday if Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic are unable to play against the Detroit Red Wings.

While head coach Claude Julien isn’t being particularly forthcoming about what, exactly, is ailing either forward, he did describe each of them as day-to-day, as CSNNE.com reports.

Here’s what the Bruins’ forward lines looked like in practice without Bergeron and Lucic:

Marchand-Griffith-Smith

Fraser-Krejci-Cunningham

Kelly-Soderberg-Eriksson

Paille-Campbell-Caron

Matt Fraser was waived later on Sunday, so that could throw things further out of whack. Either way, the pickings would be pretty slim if Bergeron and Lucic cannot go; Boston would have to hope that Loui Eriksson really is rebounding, among other things.

While there are certain factors that seemingly point to a talent deficit, Julien thinks the Bruins’ tough times are a matter of desire and widespread underachievement.

“We just need to be better, collectively and individually,” Julien said. “There’s too much under-performing from our group right now. There’s everybody to blame from the goaltending, out to the defense and to the forwards. There is lots of blame to go around, so it’s important for us as a group to be better, and for us as individuals to be better.”

Having two rather important individuals out of the lineup certainly wouldn’t help matters.

Lucic: Players have to step up for struggling Bruins

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The Boston Bruins had been on a modest but nice little streak of three wins in four games heading into the holiday break, but that was forgotten Saturday when they were clobbered by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The floodgates opened in the second period and the Blue Jackets skated to a 6-2 victory. Not even the highly anticipated fight between Milan Lucic and Dalton Prout could gain any momentum for Boston.

A quick glance at the Eastern Conference standings shows the Bruins are three points back of the Washington Capitals for the final Wild Card spot as they approach the midway mark of the season.

“The coaches do what they do and they put the game plan together. That game plan works,” Lucic told the Boston Globe.

“It’s worked for the past seven years. It’s up to us as players to come together and, as individuals, step up all of our games and get it moving in the right direction. Because we’re starting to run out of time as far as playing catch-up hockey.”

There was controversy in the second period.

Less than three minutes after Boston cut the Columbus lead to two goals, the Blue Jackets scored to restore their three-goal cushion, however the goal occurred shortly after the puck hit the spectator netting. Play was never stopped and the Blue Jackets eventually scored what was their fifth goal of the evening.

From the NHL’s Situation Room blog:

At 17:43 of the second period in the Boston Bruins/Columbus Blue Jackets game, the puck appeared to hit the spectator netting in the Columbus zone and play continued until the Blue Jackets scored a goal at 19:09. According to Rule 85.1, play shall be stopped when the puck hits the spectator netting unless it goes unnoticed by the on-ice officials, in which case “play shall continue as normal and resulting play with the puck shall be deemed a legitimate play.” Since play continued and the puck was not directed into the net as an immediate result of hitting the spectator netting, this is not a reviewable play and the on-ice decision stands – good goal Columbus.

Blue Jackets’ Atkinson (upper-body) leaves game against Bruins

The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without winger Cam Atkinson for the remainder of Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins.

According to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, Atkinson suffered an upper-body injury and will not return to the game. The injury appeared to occur on a harmless looking hit along the boards from defenseman Matt Bartkowski early in the opening period.

The 25-year-old Atkinson has eight goals and 14 points in 32 games this season.

Dougie Hamilton, a.k.a. ‘the future’ of the Bruins, earns praise from Julien

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Sunday morning, a testy Claude Julien met with reporters prior to the Bruins’ home game with the Sabres. Among other things, Julien called defenseman Dougie Hamilton the “future of our team.”

Later on that day, Hamilton scored two goals, including the late tying marker, and added an assist in a 4-3 overtime win for the B’s.

Not surprisingly, this brought more encouraging words from the coach.

“Tonight, he was aggressive at the right time and he played a real solid game tonight,” said Julien, per Boston.com. “There’s times where he’s aggressive and the decisions aren’t the right one, so it’s learning as you go along here for a young player. He’s 21 years old. I think we’re getting a lot out of a 21 year-old defenseman right now. Even if he has bad games, he’s been pretty good overall.”

We’ve written extensively about Hamilton’s importance to the Bruins. Zdeno Chara is 37 years old now, the seventh-oldest defenseman in the NHL. On paper, Hamilton is the franchise’s next cornerstone blue-liner, which has certainly enjoyed its fair share of great blue-liners throughout the years.

But how great the 21-year-old can be, if he can be great at all, remains to be seen. Does he have the right mentality? From Tyler Myers to Luke Schenn to Michael Del Zotto, we’ve seen how fragile confidence can be for promising young defensemen.

At the very least, Hamilton is lucky to have a pretty good role model.

“It is hard to be facing every night the best lines,” Chara said in November. “A player has to be always willing to do whatever you need, and sacrifice maybe some of his personal agenda. Your No. 1 job is to shut down the top line, and if you can contribute offensively, then good. … But to do it for 70-80 games, facing the best players in the world, that is challenging; you have to be mentally ready to do that. Dougie hasn’t been that long with us, but he has shown the potential for having a great future with his improvement so far.”

Hamilton’s 20 points currently rank him in a tie for 15th among NHL d-men. In what’s been a frustrating season for the Bruins, he’s been a bright spot, to be sure.

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