Boston Bruins

Sooner than later? Bruins GM hopes Chara can return in 10-14 days

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Earlier today, Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien dampened some of the optimism regarding Zdeno Chara skating again, but GM Peter Chiarelli bumped it right back up.

Chiarelli “hopes” that Chara can return in 10-14 days, according to what he told 98.5 Sports Hub (the official radio network of the Bruins).

Do note that this is by no means an official timeline, although it’s certainly promising considering it comes from the team’s GM.

Again, as this post shows, Julien seemed pretty hesitant to get anyone too excited.

“It’s a start . . . yeah, it’s a start,” Julien told CSNNE.com. “He’s certainly not close to being ready yet. It’s his first time in a long time. It’s always encouraging to see your player back on his skates, that’s for sure.”

The best news is that there’s no word about the 37-year-old going under the knife, at least so far. The Bruins have been impressive without him (they hope to add a win to their 9-4-0 mark since he went down), but it’s no secret that they’d be more comfortable with “The Big Z.”

Bruised Bruins get Marchand back, Pastrnak debuts

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The Boston Bruins remain banged up, but at least they’ll get some reinforcements back as they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.

Brad Marchand looks ready to return from his mystery injury (which kept him out since Nov. 15) while David Pastrnak seems primed to make his NHL debut.

Will that be enough for head coach Claude Julien to believe that his team no longer needs to be nearly flawless to win? Maybe, maybe not … but Boston is likely in a better position to keep up with Pittsburgh with Marchand back in the lineup.

Marchand, 26, has 11 points in 19 games so far this season. Pastrnak, 18, has 18 points in 17 AHL games. The Bruins selected him 25th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Here’s a handy graphic of all the issues the Bruins have dealt with:

Chara skates, but ‘not close’ to ready; Bruins send Griffith to AHL

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From CSN New England:

In perhaps the best Bruins news in weeks, Zdeno Chara was spotted skating on the TD Garden ice Monday for the first time since tearing the PCL in his left knee at the end of October. The 6-foot-9 defenseman was skating on his own while a charity event was going on around him, continuing a recent progression that has the Bruins more optimistic about his eventual return to the lineup.

While encouraging, don’t expect Chara to be back in the lineup anytime too soon.

“It’s a start . . . yeah, it’s a start,” said coach Claude Julien. “He’s certainly not close to being ready yet. It’s his first time in a long time. It’s always encouraging to see your player back on his skates, that’s for sure.”

When Chara was hurt on Oct. 23, the estimate pegged his return sometime between late November and early December. Given it’s already Nov. 24, it’s going to be the latter estimate. Maybe even later than that.

At any rate, the Bruins have done well without their big d-man, going 9-4-0 in 13 games.

Boston also announced today that it has assigned forward Seth Griffith to AHL Providence.

Brad Marchand, meanwhile, has been taken off injured reserve, and he’ll be a game-time decision for tonight’s clash with the Pens.

Related: Chara updates rehab progress, calls its ‘such a slow process’

Strome, Nelson giving Isles that all-important cheap production

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Prior to the start of the season, much was written about the New York Islanders and the many changes they’d made to their roster.

Looking back, hopes were understandably high that the additions of goalie Jaroslav Halak, forwards Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, and Cory Conacher, plus Stanley Cup-winning defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy could turn a team that already had a superstar in John Tavares into a contender in the Eastern Conference.

But you know what way less was written about? The potential of youngsters Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome to make as big an impact as they’ve made.

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As much as anything else, it’s the contributions from Nelson, 23, and Strome, 21, that have given the Isles the chance they’ve got tonight, which is to take over first place in the Metropolitan Division from Pittsburgh. (The two teams are currently tied with 28 points. The Isles host Philly; the Pens are in Boston.)

In a way, what Nelson and Strome have done this season is reminiscent of the boost that Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson gave the Kings in the 2014 playoffs. Remember that, prior to last season, the jury was still out on those two young L.A. forwards. Each had shown they could produce in the AHL; the question was, could they do it at the NHL level? They sure did in the postseason, centered by veteran Jeff Carter. At times, they were the Kings’ best line.

The combined cap hit of Toffoli and Pearson? A mere $1.795 million.

The combined cap hit of Nelson and Strome? Just a hair over $1.76 million. (Not including bonuses, but still.)

This is what the best teams in the NHL have in the cap age — at least one or two young players on cheap contracts who are making significant contributions. Think Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw in Chicago in 2013, Slava Voynov and Jake Muzzin in L.A. the year before that, and Boston’s Brad Marchand the year before that.

That’s not to say the Isles are going to win the Stanley Cup, but when a team’s two youngest players on the active roster are in the top four in club scoring, good times are quite often ahead.

Get your game notes: Pens at Bruins

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Boston Bruins hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• PIT enters with the NHL’s top offense, scoring 3.53 goals/game – over a full goal/game more than the 20th-ranked Bruins (2.50).

• The Bruins have also scored just 9 goals in their past 6 games (1.50/gm) & are 1-for-12 on the PP in that stretch (3-3-0 record).

• No Bruin has scored more than 5 goals through the team’s first 22 games this season, while Pittsburgh is tied for the NHL lead with 6 such players (SJ also has 6 players with at least 6 goals).

• In fact, no other NHL team has a leading goal-scorer with as few goals as Boston this season (4 Bruins are tied with 5).

• Before this past weekend, PIT was the hottest team in the NHL, having won 10 of 11 games entering its weekend home-and-home against NYI. However, PIT was swept in those games (lost 5-4 SO at home and 4-1 at NYI), and are now tied with NYI atop the Metro Div.

• PIT has not lost consecutive regulation games this season, and it last lost 3 straight games from Mar. 23 to Mar. 27 of last season.

• The Penguins are still 10-2-1 in their last 13 games.

• PIT also leads the NHL in power play efficiency at 33.3%, but the Penguins are just 1-for-10 on the PP over their last 6 games.

• C Sidney Crosby leads PIT with 26 points, tied with DAL C Tyler Seguin for 2nd-most points in the NHL behind PHI RW Jakub Voracek (29). However, Crosby has not scored a point in the Penguins’ last two games.

• The last time Crosby went three or more games without scoring a point was from Oct. 31 2009 – Nov. 10, 2009, when he went five straight games without a point. That season, he scored a career-high 51 goals.

• BOS has won 8 of its past 11 games (8-3-0), but only one of those wins (2-0 last Tues. vs. STL) was against a team currently in the playoff picture in the East or West. The Bruins are coming off a 2-0 loss to MTL on Sat., a game in which they played without multiple top forwards and defensemen:

• Top C David Krejci (undisclosed) has missed 8 of the team’s 10 games this month. Krejci, Boston’s leading scorer last season with 69 points, has 3 goals and 7 assists in 11 games this season.

• Captain D Zdeno Chara (knee) tore his PCL at the end of last month and has missed the last 13 games. Chara has 2 goals and 1 assists in 9 games this season.

• LW Brad Marchand is on IR (undisclosed) and has missed the past 3 games for BOS. He is tied for the team lead in goals (5) and T-3rd on the team in points (11).

• D Adam McQuaid (broken thumb) was injured in last Tuesday’s win over STL and was expected to miss 6-8 weeks. McQuaid has 1 goal and 1 assist in 20 games this season.

• C Chris Kelly (undisclosed) was scratched before the game against MTL. Kelly had played in all 21 games to that point, with 2 goals and 8 points this season.

STANDOUT STATS

• PIT: LW Blake Comeau has 5 goals in 18 games this season. He had 5 all of last season for CBJ in 61 games.

• BOS: Entering tonight, the Bruins have sold out 226 consecutive games at TD Garden, including playoffs.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

• PIT: C Sidney Crosby has 10G-25A in 25 career games vs. BOS, including 1G-2A in 3 games last season.

• PIT: G Marc-Andre Fleury is 11-6-3 with a 2.31 GAA, .922 SV%, and 2 SO in 21 career games vs. BOS.

• BOS: C Patrice Bergeron has 24 points in 31 career games vs. PIT, including 1G-2A in 3 GP last season.

• BOS: RW Reilly Smith has 2G-1A in 3 career games (all last season) vs. PIT.

PITTSBURGH TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• C Evgeni Malkin is T-2nd on the Penguins with 23 points this season and his 5 power-play goals are T-3rd in the NHL. The three-time Russian Olympian enters tonight on a 4-game point streak (2G-4A).

• RW Patric Hornqvist also has 23 points through 19 games. He leads PIT in goals (10), and he also enters tonight on a 4-game point streak (1G-4A).

• Last week, RW Pascal Dupuis was diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung and will miss at least the next 6 months. Dupuis, 35, also had a blood clot issue last season. Dupuis had 6G-11A in 16 GP this season.

• D Olli Maatta was sidelined for just two weeks after missing time to remove a cancerous growth in his thyroid gland. In the 3 games since his return, Maatta has 1 assist (Fri. vs. NYI) and a +1 rating.

• G Marc-Andre Fleury allowed 4 goals on 35 shots in Friday’s 5-4 SO loss to NYI. Backup G Thomas Greiss started in PIT’s 4-1 loss to NYI the next day.

• Fleury has not lost consecutive games this season, and he carries an 11-3-1, 2.10 GAA, .926 SV%, 4 SO stat line into tonight’s game. His 4 SO are tied with NYR G Henrik Lundqvist for the NHL lead.

BOSTON TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• C Patrice Bergeron has carried the load offensively for BOS in November with 10 points (4G-6A) in 10 games. The only two games in which he did not record a point both came against MTL – last Saturday and Nov. 13 in a 5-1 Bruins loss.

• D Dougie Hamilton leads all BOS defensemen with 11 points (4G-7A) this season, but he has gone 4 straight games without a point entering tonight.

• C Carl Soderberg and LW Loui Eriksson are other key offensive players struggling for the Bruins.

• Soderberg is tied for the team lead in goals (5) and is second on the team in points (14), but he has just 1 assist in his last 6 games.

• Eriksson has 11 points in 22 games this season, but just 2 assists in his last 7 games.

• G Tuukka Rask stopped 21 of 23 shots in the Bruins’ loss to MTL, but Rask has given up just 3 goals in his past 3 starts. In that stretch, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner is 2-1-0 with a 1.01 GAA, .967 SV% and 1 SO.

• Rask hasn’t lost 2 straight starts since his 2nd and 3rd games of the season (Oct. 9, Oct. 11) – a span of 13 games.

• Overall this season, Rask is 10-6-0 with a 2.36 GAA and a .915 SV%.