McAvoy has goal, assist as Bruins top Lightning 3-2

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Charlie McAvoy had a goal and added a helper as the Boston Bruins knocked off the NHL’s top team in a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night on NBCSN.

The resurgent Bruins have now won five of their past six games after losing their previous four and leapfrogged the Detroit Red Wings into third place in the Atlantic Division.

Boston welcomed some reinforcements on Wednesday with the return of Brad Marchand, who had missed eight of the past 10 games for Boston, and David Backes, who had been out since Oct. 30 because of colon surgery.

Marchand chipped in with two assists, one on McAvoy’s opener and a second on Riley Nash’s slick wrist shot to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead after a 19-shot performance in the first period.

The Bruins continued the shelling in the second, firing 13-more on Andrei Vasilevskiy, who played a stellar game despite the result, finishing with 33 saves.

After two periods, Boston had outshot the Lightning 32-12, but Andrej Sustr was able to pot his first of the season to cut Boston’s lead to 3-1 after Torey Krug scored what eventually would be the game-winning goal to make it 3-0.

Tampa Bay played with a little more purpose in the third period and Steven Stamkos retained NHL points lead with his 11th goal of the season on a nice tic-tac-toe play in the third period.

Stamkos (37 points) leads teammate Kucherov by one point. Kucherov assisted on Stamkos’ marker, giving him at least one point in 20 of 25 games this season.

Tuukka Rask stood tall, stopping nine third period shots for just his fourth win of the season.

The Lightning has lost four of their past six games but remains atop of the Eastern Conference with 36 points.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

NHL on NBCSN: Lightning visit the battered Bruins of Boston

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Wednesday night, as the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Boston Bruins at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can stream the game by clicking here.

The Bruins will host the Lightning tonight with the possibility of two big names returning to the lineup.

Brad Marchand, who’s missed eight of Boston’s last 10 games, and David Backes, who underwent colon surgery and has been out since Oct. 30, could be back. It was originally believed Backes would be out until closer to the new year, but this is a sign he’s way ahead of schedule.

Of course, since this is the battered Bruins we’re talking about, we have to note that while two players are close to full health, two-thirds of their second line will sit. David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk will both miss Wednesday’s game and are considered day-to-day.

Winners of four of their last five, the Bruins also have a decision to make in goal. While head coach Bruce Cassidy reassured that Tuukka Rask still has No. 1 status, Anton Khudobin has helped the team win his last four starts. Rask was in goal during their 4-2 loss to Edmonton Sunday night and has a .890 even strength save percentage in his last four starts.

The Lightning, meanwhile, are coming off a 2-0 shutout of the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday, which ended their longest losing streak of the season at a whole two games.

Tampa had lost three of four games before last night’s win, which for them this season was considered a major slide. But those bumps in the road are sometimes a good thing for a team to experience.

“Do you want adversity? Probably not,” Cooper said on Tuesday. “But is it a bad thing? Probably not either. You have to learn from these. So many things went right for us that some things came a little bit easy for us. I believe we earned those breaks, but it might be a little time now where things aren’t coming easy for us to reset and figure out why we got those breaks and get back to that.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Learning from Chara has set up Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy to excel

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NEW YORK — Adapt and survive. That’s what Charlie McAvoy had to do after making his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins last season.

Forty-eight hours after his first practice, the defenseman was thrown into the fire during their opening round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. He impressed well enough that with the score tied 1-1 late in the third period of Game 1, the 19-year-old was paired with Zdeno Chara during a shift that hemmed the Senators in their zone, leading to Brad Marchand’s game-winning goal.

Now 20 games into his NHL career, the 19-year-old McAvoy is still turning heads and playing himself into the Calder Trophy discussion.

The trust from the Bruins coaching staff and his ability to handle heavy minutes has brought McAvoy to where he is now. His 22:55 of ice time a night leads all rookie skaters. In fact, no other NHL freshman is averaging over 20 minutes. Playing against opponents’ top lines hasn’t caused too many problems either, as his 56 percent Corsi, per Corsica, places him eighth among defensemen who have logged at least 200 minutes.

“He’s able to adapt very quickly and make contributions right away. We saw that last year in the playoffs when he stepped in and was giving us big minutes in big situations,” Chara told PHT on Wednesday. “I would say he’s able to make those quick adjustments and contributions.”

Chara is used to being anchored with a young partner. The last few seasons have seen him working alongside players like Dougie Hamilton and Brandon Carlo, all of whom share similar qualities to McAvoy. They’re tall, right-hand shots who see the ice well and are able to move the puck.

“You’ve got in Z an established shutdown guy who can play against anybody, relishes that role. He’ll bring that to Charlie’s mentality,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Charlie can play against anybody. Charlie likes to make plays up the ice, joins the attack; so you get kind of a two-pronged pair. Charlie’s good at getting back on pucks, helps them break them out.”

For Chara, focus and consistency were important for him he was developing during his first few NHL seasons with the New York Islanders. Once he landed in Ottawa, that’s when his game really took off and he became the monster shutdown defenseman we’ve been able to watch for well over a decade. That advice has been relayed to his new partner.

As with all defense partners, Chara and McAvoy talk regularly in order to stay on the same page. And while it’s only been a short while, the young blue liner has learned even more just by watching what the 40-year-old future Hockey Hall of Famer handles himself on the ice.

“The way he controls the game is just awesome. There’s not many people I think can do it like that,” McAvoy said. “When he gets the puck, it’s kind of like a calm factor to him. He’s so strong defensively, I know when he’s going to win his battles.”

The life of a developing young NHL defenseman comes with its share of ups and downs. That’s why it’s been a boon for McAvoy to be partnered with someone who has nearly 1,400 games in the league. It’s a continuous education.

“I learned how to manage a game better, decisions with the puck,” said McAvoy. “He’s very good about not forcing plays. He’s makes the right plays at the right time.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Bruins’ David Backes out 8 weeks after surgery to remove part of colon

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David Backes missed the start of the 2017-18 NHL season after undergoing treatment for diverticulitis. He returned to play five games for the Boston Bruins but will now miss an another eight weeks, the team announced on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Backes will have surgery to remove a portion of his colon to help manage his diverticulitis.

From Bruins Team Internist Dr. David Finn:

“The decision to have surgery was made in consultation with team physicians as well as outside specialists in the management of diverticulitis. David’s episode of diverticulitis at the beginning of the season was his second episode in two months and was complicated with an abscess (collection of infection adjacent to the colon) that required drainage. Repeated episodes, like what David experienced, have a very high likelihood of recurrence in the near term, which is why he was advised to have surgery to remove the area of colon causing the problem. It was determined that attempting to delay the surgery until after the season was an unacceptable risk to his health.

“David was cleared to play in the team’s games on October 19 while waiting for his colon to properly heal from the most recent episode of diverticulitis which sidelined him for the first five games of the 2017-18 season. David was at no additional risk while playing during this period, and he is having the surgery as soon as the medical team felt comfortable moving forward with the operation.”

While this may put a big bump into the 33-year-old Backes’ season, this is certainly the best direction to take for his long-term health.

Given that Backes, who has three years left on a deal signed last summer, will be sidelined for a couple of months, does this mean more yardwork ahead for Charlie McAvoy?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Canucks’ Gudbranson suspended one game for boarding Vatrano

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Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson will miss Friday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres after he was suspended one game for boarding Frank Vatrano of the Boston Bruins.

The hit occurred early in the first period during Thursday’s 6-3 Bruins victory. Gudbranson was given a majors for boarding and fighting, along with a game misconduct. The Bruins would take advantage with three power play goals. Vatrano would retun to the game later in the period.

Here’s the Department of Player Safety’s explanation:

Look at many of the suspensions the NHL’s DoPS has handed out for boarding and it’s the same thing over and over again. The suspended player has time to make a better decision on a hit, but fails to do so. Here, Gudbranson could have changed his angle, minimized contact with Vatrano or tie him up along the boards instead of plastering him into the glass.

Gudbranson will see $18,817.20 of his salary go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.