Zdeno Chara

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

Don’t count on Shane Doan to be traded

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Antoine Vermette will probably be traded.

Keith Yandle could be traded, too.

And Shane Doan? Might the Arizona Coyotes trade him as well?

No, probably not.

“When I made the decision a few years ago to stay with the team at 36 (years old), I said: ‘You know what? This is the bed I’m sleeping in. This is what I want,'” Doan told ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun earlier this week.

Doan, now 38, has a no-movement clause as part of his contract, which runs through next season with a cap hit of $5.3 million. When he re-signed in 2012, he said, “I was drafted by this organization and it means a great deal to me to be able to play with the same franchise my entire career.”

Things could still change, of course. Doan has never won a Stanley Cup, and if he stays with the Coyotes until he retires, that’ll be the way his career ends, barring a miraculous turnaround in the desert.

The Boston Bruins could theoretically covet a big right winger like Doan to skate on a line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci. The B’s know their Cup window is at risk of closing; Zdeno Chara will be 38 when the playoffs start. Heck, maybe they dump some salary and try and get Yandle, too. (According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, “Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli is contacting teams with space, seeing what it will cost for them to take players off his roster, so he can free up room to do what he wants.”)

That’s a long shot though. Doan has stuck with the Coyotes through thick and thin. Hard to see him leaving now, especially with reports that Andrew Barroway’s purchase could go through within the next month, despite earlier reports that the deal was dead.

Related: Could Vermette land in Washington?

Get your game notes: Bruins at Wild

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Minnesota Wild hosting the Boston Bruins at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• Oct 28 – MIN def. BOS 4-3: The Wild and Bruins are meeting for the 2nd and final time this season. In their first meeting in Boston…

• MIN scored 3 unanswered goals in the 3rd period in a 4-3 comeback win over BOS.

• Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Justin Fontaine, and Marco Scandella (game winner) all scored for the Wild, while Bruins rookie Seth Griffith factored in all 3 Bruins goals with 2G-1A.

• The Wild outshot the Bruins 42-28, including 18-8 in the final frame.

• This was 1 of 4 times in Wild history that the team came back from down at least 2 goals in the 3rd to win in regulation (Elias) – the Wild also did this earlier this month vs. NYI.

• Minnesota has been up and down recently: The Wild have alternated wins and losses over the past 12 games (6-5-1) dating back to Nov. 20…

• This includes the 3-game road trip MIN is returning from in which they went 1-2-0, with a shootout win over AZ on Dec. 13 sandwiched by a 2-1 loss in San Jose on Dec. 11 and a 5-3 loss in Chicago last night.

• The Wild rallied to tie the game last night after trailing 3-1 in the 3rd period, but surrendered the game-winning power-play goal to Patrick Kane with less than 4 minutes to go.

• Tonight, the Wild open a 4-game home stand.

• Minnesota is 9-3-1 at Xcel Energy Center this season.

• Boston in a slump: The Bruins have just 2 wins in their last 10 games (2-5-3) since beginning the season 13-8-0.

• The B’s are in the midst of their worst stretch (lost 8 of 10) since dropping 10 straight (0-6-4) back in Jan. 2010.

• Boston has just 1 win in 7 games in December (1-4-2).

• This is the 2nd of a 3-game Central Division road trip for Boston.

• Boston is 6-7-1 away from TD Garden this season.

• Bruins on the mend: The B’s have been without two important pieces, D Zdeno Chara & F David Krejci, most of this season, but…

• This will be Chara’s 4th game back since returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for 19 games.

• Chara has 1 assist (Sat. vs. OTT) since rejoining the lineup, and has played more than 20 minutes in each game.

• However, Coach Claude Julien said after the loss to Ottawa that Chara was, “fighting the puck a little bit.”

• Krejci led the Bruins in scoring in October (9 points), but a groin injury has limited him to just 11 games overall this season. He has missed the last 11 games, but has been practicing and traveling with the team and is considered day-to-day.

• Special teams matchup: Boston’s PP has been struggling, while Minnesota enters with one of the NHL’s top
PK units…

• The Bruins have gone just 1-for-24 in their last 13 games on the man-advantage.

• Despite letting up one power-play goal in each of their last 4 games, the Wild rank 3rd in the NHL on the PK overall (86.7%) this season.

• The Bruins have gone 3-for-7 on the PP in their last 2 meetings with the Wild after going 0-for-36 in the first 13 games in this series.

BRUINS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• F Patrice Bergeron leads the Bruins in points (21) in 31 GP, and with an assist last night now has 5 points (all assists) in his last 5 games.

• Bergeron is in a goal-scoring slump, however, with no goals in his last 11 games.

• The Bruins’ 2nd-leading point-getter, F Carl Soderberg, is mired in an even longer drought.

• He has 19 points this season, but has 0 goals in his past 15 games dating back to Nov. 12.

• Boston is getting the best production of late from F Brad Marchand and F Reilly Smith.

• Marchand had an assist last night, and now has 6 points (2G-4A) in his last 5 games.

• Marchand is tied for the team lead in goals (8, w/ Smith) and ranks 3rd in points (18) this season.

• Smith had a goal last night for BOS, and also has 6 points (4G-2A) in his last 5 games.

• Smith has 8G-8A playing in all 31 games this season.

• G Tuukka Rask stopped 38 of 40 shots through OT last night, but ultimately lost in the shootout against NSH.

• Rask has started all 3 games during the Bruins current 3-game losing streak. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner has been a tough-luck loser with a 2.23 GAA and .924 SV% in those games.

• Overall this season, Rask is 12-9-3 with a 2.52 GAA and .914 SV%.

WILD TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• D Ryan Suter is 1 of 5 Wild players (Keith Ballard, Jonas Brodin, Christian Folin, and Marco Scandella) to get diagnosed with mumps this season, but he only missed 2 games.

• Suter leads the NHL in TOI/G at 29:28, slightly above his league-leading mark of 29:24 last season. He was the NHL’s leader in this category in 2012-13 as well.

• On Monday, Suter was named the NHL’s 2nd star of the week after posting 5 assists in 3 games.

• Suter leads the Wild in assists (17) and ranks T-3rd on the team in points (18).

• F Zach Parise has 9 points (3G-6A) in his last 8 games, and leads MIN with 23 points in 24 GP this season.

• F Thomas Vanek has scored 20+ goals in each of his first 9 NHL seasons, but he has just 4 goals through 29 games this season.

• Vanek has enjoyed success against Boston in his career; his 30 goals and 63 points in the regular season are his most vs. any other NHL opponent.

• Last season, Vanek had 6 points in 6 regular season games vs. BOS, and totaled 4G-1A in last year’s 2nd-Round playoff series against Boston as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

• F Nino Niederreiter leads the Wild in goals (14), and through 29 games has equaled his goal output from a season ago, in which he played 81 games.

• Niederreiter scored on his first career penalty shot attempt in the 3rd period yesterday – his 3rd goal in 4 games, and 10th in the last 15.

• G Niklas Backstrom got the last-minute start last night after G Darcy Kuemper reportedly came down with the same illness that has sidelined D Jared Spurgeon (stomach virus).

• Backstrom also battled an illness during the game, making 34 saves on 38 shots in the 5-3 loss to Chicago.

• If Backstrom starts tonight, he will bring a stellar head-to-head record vs. the Bruins to the ice.

• Backstrom is 5-0-1 in his 6 career starts vs. BOS, with a 1.32 GAA, .957 SV%, and 2 shutouts.

• Overall this season, Backstrom is 5-3-1 in 12 appearances (9 starts) with a 2.43 GAA and .903 SV%.

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins vs. Wild on Rivalry Night

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Minnesota Wild host the Boston Bruins at the Xcel Energy Center at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

Two American hockey hotbeds will be represented on Wednesday as the Minnesota Wild face the Boston Bruins in the latest edition of NBCSN’s “Rivalry Night.”

The last time these two teams met, the Wild nabbed a 4-3 road victory against the Bruins on Oct. 28, despite Seth Griffith’s three-point night.

Boston has been stumbling quite a bit lately, as the Bruins are losers of three straight while Zdeno Chara continues to shake off the rust from a lengthy injury absences.

Neither team should be expected to have a major rest advantage, as they both suffered shootout defeats last night. That said, the Wild are getting hit hard with the mumps (or, er, “illnesses) and could very well be forced to go far down their depth chart with both Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom showing signs of sickness.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts Wednesday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

It’s a long NHL season, and one could say that both teams are limping into tonight’s proceedings to some degree. Injuries and/or sicknesses have made things hard for each squad. Both the Wild and Bruins are ranked 10th in their respective conferences despite coming into the 2014-15 season with high expectations.

In other words, there’s plenty of incentive for these teams to start sorting things out, even if things haven’t been trending upward. As many would point out, you can learn a lot from a team when its back is against the wall, though.

Chara says he needs to improve ‘every part’ of his game

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The Boston Bruins haven’t been able to win in the two games since Zdeno Chara returned from injury, and the big captain told CSNNE.com that he isn’t happy with his own play.

“The first guy, I’m looking at myself. I’ve got to be better and I have to work to be at the top of my game. When you’re not scoring, that means defensively you just have to be better to defend games like this,” Chara said. “Every part of my game [needs improvement]. There are no excuses. Like I said after my first game, I missed whatever time, but I have to work very hard to get where I want to be and I will get there.”

While the 37-year-old’s possession stats look fine from those two losses, he’s shown rust in certain areas, as CSNNE.com discusses:

Chara has had a few good moments where he looks like the prime defensive stopper that he is, but the four penalties over two games against Chicago and Ottawa clearly also reveal a player that’s behind the speed of the play right now. He’s cheating rather than moving his feet and anticipating the play, and that’s pretty indicative of a player that’s waiting for things to slow down around.

This week presents an interesting test for Chara and the Bruins, who’ve lost two in a row and seven of their last nine games. They face three road games: Tuesday at Nashville, Wednesday at Minnesota and Friday at Winnipeg.

If that run goes poorly, it might be time to get a little concerned.