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.

Related: The Atlantic Division race is going to be fascinating

Report: NHL won’t hold hearing for Bartkowski hit

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Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski was booted early in Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres because of his late and questionable hit to Brian Gionta. The Buffalo Sabres forward spun 180 degrees in midair and nearly landed head-first onto the ice.

Sabres forward Marcus Foligno promptly fought Bartkowski in defense of his teammate, but Foligno suffered an upper-body injury in the process. Gionta was also out for the remainder of the game, although the Sabres haven’t revealed if he sustained a concussion.

There were immediately questions as to whether or not Bartkowski would face additional discipline for his actions, but the NHL has no plans to schedule a hearing, per CSN New England’s league source. The shoulder was reportedly determined to be the principal point of contact and Bartkowski’s clean record might also have been a factor.

You can see the hit for yourself and the sparring match below:

If there is indeed no hearing, Buffalo News writer Mike Harrington would have strong reservations about that decision:

Related:

Video: Bartkowski delivers controversial hit to Gionta, fights Foligno

Hamilton, Eriksson hand Bruins ‘gut check’ OT win over Sabres

Hamilton, Eriksson hand Bruins ‘gut check’ OT win over Sabres

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After a mediocre start to the season, the Boston Bruins need every point they can get to avoid falling behind in the marathon battle for a playoff spot. They endured a back-and-forth contest against the Buffalo Sabres Sunday night, but in the end the Bruins earned an important 4-3 overtime victory.

Buffalo was close to winning 3-2 when Dougie Hamilton gave the Bruins another chance with his second goal of the night at 18:29 of the third period:

In overtime, Milan Lucic passed the puck to Loui Eriksson as he entered the Sabres’ zone. With Buffalo’s defense split, Eriksson charged at Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth before shoveling it into the back of the net.

“I think it was a gut check… and I credit the guys for battling,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of the win, per the Bruins’ Twitter feed. He added, “Wins are tough to come by these days, so when you get ’em, you take ’em.”

At 17-14-3, Boston is just a point shy of Washington, which holds the second Wild Card spot. However, the Capitals have played in two less games. Meanwhile, Buffalo has now lost three straight contests as its stretch of 10 wins in 12 games slowly fades into the distance.

“We got stronger as the game went on,” Ted Nolan said, per the Sabres Twitter feed. “You couldn’t not be happy with the effort, only thing disappointed with is the outcome.”

Related:

Video: Bartkowski delivers controversial hit to Gionta, fights Foligno

Video: Bartkowski delivers controversial hit to Gionta, fights Foligno

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Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski’s night ended late in the first period because of a questionable hit on Buffalo’s Brian Gionta and that might not be the extend of his punishment.

The hit was late and appeared to be high, but it was especially troubling because of the result rather than the blow itself. Gionta was sent airborne and spun 180 degrees so that he nearly landed with his full weight on his head and neck. Based on the video, it appears that it was his shoulder that actually took the brunt of the impact with the ice.

Sabres forward Marcus Foligno rushed to the defense of his teammate and sparred with Bartkowski. After the officials broke up the fight, Foligno was given a minor for instigating, five for fighting, and a 10-minute misconduct. Bartkowski was handed a pair of major penalties for fighting and interference as well as a game misconduct.

You can watch the entire incident below:

Gionta went to the dressing room and didn’t return for the start of the second period.

Update: Gionta won’t return, per ESPN’s Joe McDonald.

Goalie Nods: Pickard makes sixth straight start

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Pickard looks to continue hot play

Calvin Pickard will make his sixth straight start Sunday when the Colorado Avalanche visit the Detroit Red Wings. Pickard has stopped 75 of 77 shots in his last two starts (.974)  and is 1-0-1 . He’ll look for his second consecutive win against a Red Wings team which has lost five straight.

Petr Mrazek gets the start for Detroit. The 22-year-old is 3-2-0 with a 2.55 G.A.A. and .922 save percentage this season.

Elsewhere …

Stars at Oilers: Kari Lehtonen vs. Ben Scrivens

Sabres at Bruins: Jhonas Enroth vs. Tuukka Rask

Hurricanes at Rangers: Anton Khudobin vs. Henrik Lundqvist

Maple Leafs at Blackhawks: James Reimer vs. Corey Crawford

Flyers at Jets: Rob Zepp vs. Ondrej Pavelec