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Coyotes coach was embarrassed by loss to Bruins; More trouble looms ahead

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Following a 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet apologized to fans for an “embarrassing” second period. That was the time that game got away from them, as a 1-1 tie swung to a 4-1 advantage for Boston.

Really, though, it wouldn’t be surprising if Tocchet was actually apologizing for the growing pains that come with an 0-4-1 start for a team that enjoyed what seemed like an excellent summer of moves.

Here’s the full presser, via the Coyotes:

Seeing Zdeno Chara come in all alone to put in a rebound probably didn’t make Tocchet very happy:

AZ Sports’ Craig Morgan caught up with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who explained what happened on the next goal, which came on a Brad Marchand breakaway.

“I was just trying to get the puck and that’s just the way it goes,” said Ekman-Larsson, who is a team-worst minus-9. “We’re down 3-1 so you kind of look for some good breaks and it goes that way instead. I was cheating a little bit. You have to give the guy credit. He knew I was going to do that.”

Morgan’s detail stands out; as reviled as plus/minus can be as a stat, and as potent as “OEL” can be on the power play, a -9 does indeed make you cringe.

As important as it is to point out that Louis Domingue, not newly acquired Antti Raanta, has been in the net for much of the Coyotes’ struggles, there are plenty of goals that come down to flat-out awful defense. To some extent, that might be systemic, as Tocchet & Co. will need to accept the good and the bad that comes with utilizing scoring defensemen to attack opponents. Much like with the struggling Buffalo Sabres, it may also take some time for a new coach to sort things out with a lot of young players.

On the bright side, there are some early returns for young players who could play a role in turning this around … eventually. Calder candidate Clayton Keller leads the Coyotes with three goals and ties Max Domi for the team lead with four points in five games.

Here’s the bad news: their schedule only gets tougher to close out October.

Tue, Oct 17 @ Dallas
Thu, Oct 19 vs Dallas
Sat, Oct 21 vs Chicago
Tue, Oct 24 @ NY Islanders
Thu, Oct 26 @ NY Rangers
Sat, Oct 28 @ New Jersey
Mon, Oct 30 @ Philadelphia
Tue, Oct 31 @ Detroit

With the Blackhawks continuing to find ways to win and the Stars possibly getting back on track, the next three games stand as a serious challenge. After that, a five-game road trip could really test the mettle of a group that’s already likely dealing with shaken confidence.

Consider that the Coyotes have lost two: the Vegas Golden Knights twice, a banged-up Ducks team, a fast-starting but still doubted Red Wings group, and an up-and-down Bruins team.

There’s the scary possibility that the Coyotes may still see a zero at the beginning of their record come November.

Also scary: that November schedule, which includes a stretch with seven of eight road games from Nov. 6-20.

Yikes.

Then again, sometimes teams bond during tough stretches. Just about every NHL team needs to navigate big bumps in the road during a season, so the Coyotes can only explain things away so much before such reasons merely sound like excuses.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Golden Knights recall Vadim Shipachyov, who could make NHL debut vs. Bruins

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The Vegas Golden Knights have recalled forward Vadim Shipachyov from the American Hockey League, according to multiple reports.

According to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, the Golden Knights placed Erik Haula on the injured list in a corresponding move, opening up a roster spot for the 30-year-old Shipachyov, who is on a two-year, $9 million deal with Vegas after lighting it up in the KHL for the past few years.

The talented Russian forward wasn’t on the Golden Knights opening night roster and has missed the first four games of their season, which raised controversy when reports surfaced that Shipachyov and his agent were looking to find a way to get back to the KHL.

General manager George McPhee denied the report, saying Shipachyov wouldn’t report to Chicago.

“This is a roster move and it’s not about performance,” McPhee told NHL.com earlier this week.

The Golden Knights have enjoyed a 3-1 start to their first season in the league, with James Neal continuing his hot streak with another goal, his sixth of the season, on Friday in what turned into a 6-3 Vegas loss to Detroit. The Red Wings entered the third period down a goal, but scored four unanswered for the win.

With a roster assembled through the expansion draft, the Golden Knights are expected to struggle at times offensively this season. The organization’s plan is geared more towards the long term, but in the case of their 2017-18 season, there is going to be a fair amount of intrigue to see what Shipachyov — who scored 26 goals and 76 points in the KHL last season — can do once he gets into the lineup and acclimatized to the NHL level.

In the midst of a seven-game home stand, the Golden Knights host the Boston Bruins on Sunday. Per Steve Carp of the Vegas Review Journal, Shipachyov is expected to make his debut tomorrow.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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The Bruins are getting Krug, Czarnik back today; Bergeron not ready yet

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The Boston Bruins are finally getting a little bit of good injury news on Monday.

After playing the season opener without Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug, David Backes and Austin Czarnik, and then losing forward Noel Acciari for as long as six weeks during the game, two of those players will be returning for today’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.

The team announced on Monday morning that both Krug and Czarnik have been activated from injured reserve and are now eligible to return. Coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed that they will both in the lineup.

In a related move, the team also announced that Backes and Acciari have been placed on injured reserve. Both are expected to miss several weeks.

But while Krug are Czarnik are back, Cassidy also announced that Bergeron is not quite ready to return to the lineup but that he will accompany the team on the upcoming road trip.

He remains listed as day-to-day. He participated in practice on Sunday in a non-contact jersey but left early.

Still, getting Krug back in the lineup will be a great addition for the Bruins because he is one of the best offensive defenseman in the league. Along with him, Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy the Bruins finally have a bit of a puck-moving presence on that blue line and a trio of younger players that can be used to restock the cupboard after the position had become a bit of a weakness in recent seasons.

 

Bruins injuries continue to mount, lose Noel Acciari for six weeks

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Already playing their season opener without forwards Patrice Bergeron and David Backes, as well as defenseman Torey Krug, the Boston Bruins lost another forward to injury in their 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators.

Forward Noel Acciari suffered a fractured finger in that game, and on Saturday morning the Bruins offered an update on his status.

The team announced that Acciari underwent surgery to fix a left index finger fracture and it is going to sideline him for at least six weeks. The 26-year-old Acciari played in 26 games for the Bruins a season ago, scoring two goals to go with four assists.

The Bruins are hoping to get Bergeron back in the lineup soon, but Backes is going to be sidelined for several weeks due to his injury.

Krug broke his jaw during the preseason when he was struck in the face by a puck.

Forward Brad Marchand, the team’s leading goal-scoring the past two seasons, was also banged up in the season opening win and left the arena in a walking boot but he seems to be fine.

All of the injuries have left the Bruins’ practice lines looking like this on Saturday.

They return to action on Monday afternoon when they host the Colorado Avalanche.

When healthy the Bruins could be a really interesting team in the Eastern Conference. Marchand, Bergeron, David Pastrnak and David Krejci are a solid core of forwards up front, while the defense has finally been able to add some young, puck-moving talent on to the back end with Krug, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo starting to take over the position. Tuukka Rask hasn’t been an elite goalie on a consistent basis for a couple of years now but he still has the ability to put the team on his back for stretches, and when he does, it is going to make the Bruins a really difficult team to beat.

Bruins youth movement on display in season-opening win vs. Predators

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The Boston Bruins were without veteran forwards Patrice Bergeron and David Backes on Thursday. And yet they still held on for a 4-3 victory over the defending Western Conference champions from Nashville.

This eventually changed with Brad Marchand‘s late third-period goal (and the winner, as it turned out), but for the longest time in this game, the oldest player to score for the Bruins was David Pastrnak. At the age of 21.

He celebrated that birthday in May, right after a breakout 34-goal season that earned him a long-term deal at six years and a total of $40 million. On a night the Bruins were missing two important, experienced players in Bergeron and Backes, it was Boston’s youth movement that came to the forefront with a productive outing.

It started with Pastrnak and his power play blast before the midway point of the first period. That’s a good start for him after entering this season with added pressure thanks to that lucrative deal. It continued with the first career NHL goals for Jake DeBrusk, playing in his first career game with the big club, and Charlie McAvoy, who also had an assist on Boston’s opening goal.

That’s a promising sign for the Bruins, albeit after one game. Bergeron, one of the best two-way forwards in the game, and Backes are important pieces in Boston’s lineup, but when they were not available, the Bruins’ future stepped into the spotlight and delivered against an opponent with high expectations for this season.

And remember, DeBrusk was taken in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft, when the Bruins management was criticized for a rather curious trio of selections in that opening round — Jakub Zboril, DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn — when someone like Mathew Barzal was still on the board.

DeBrusk finished this game with two points. McAvoy not only scored a key goal to expand Boston’s lead in the second period, but he played 22 minutes.

Those are performances the Bruins must be pleased with. Yes, it’s just one game, and the key moving forward will be to get those outings on a consistent basis.

Still, despite some anxious moments at the end, it’s a positive start.