Zdeno Chara

Eberle rumors swirl as Bruins’ offense struggles

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The Boston Bruins, when they’ve been at their best in recent seasons, have been one of the top defensive teams in the NHL.

Everyone knows that. (Lest we forget Claude Julien’s beloved “layers,” and how those layers helped the B’s stifle the high-scoring Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2013 playoffs and the high-scoring Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.)

What occasionally gets forgotten, however, is that the Bruins have been a pretty high-scoring team themselves. In that 2010-11 championship year, Boston finished the regular season with the NHL’s fifth-ranked offense. The B’s finished third in the league last season, averaging 3.15 goals per game.

Hence, the growing concern about the state of the current team, which ranks 22nd in offense, averaging just 2.41 goals per game.

While injuries to David Krejci and Zdeno Chara are surely to blame for some of the Bruins’ scoring woes, that’s not stopping the rumor mill from churning. The latest speculation involves a possible deal with the Edmonton Oilers for winger Jordan Eberle.

According to CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty, it’s believed that Eberle has “always been the desired top line target for the Black and Gold,” even if it didn’t sound today like the Oilers were on the verge of making a big trade.

Why Eberle?

Well, the salary cap-limited Bruins did not, if you’ll recall, bring in a replacement for departed winger Jarome Iginla this offseason, opting instead to hope Loui Eriksson could be “better than he was last year.”

And how’s Eriksson done?

Well, he has just three goals in 27 games, so…yeah.

Consider also: Boston’s leading goal-scorers are Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith, each with six. Currently, there are 92 players in the NHL with more than six goals.

The Bruins lost their third straight last night, falling 7-4 to the San Jose Sharks in a game where, let’s be honest, the offense was the least of their problems. But before that they were shut out by the Kings, 2-0, marking the third time this season that they’d been blanked.

Boston is in Arizona Saturday to play the Coyotes.

Related: (Video) PHT Extra: Why Bruins fans should be worried

Bruins’ Chara (knee) making progress

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Bruins captain Zdeno Chara remains in Boston as his teammates head out on a four-game western road trip, which begins Monday in Anaheim.

The hope is once the team gets back, Chara will be close to returning to the lineup.

“You know, we’re gone for eight days now, so I can’t predict what’s going to happen after eight days. You’d like to hope [he’s close to returning], but I don’t know,” coach Claude Julien told the team’s website.

Chara has been out since Oct. 23 with a tear in the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

The 37-year-old has already missed 14 games, but has been skating regularly with strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides.

“[The trainers are] going at the stage here where they didn’t think it was an advantage to bring him with us on the trip and he’d be better served staying behind and rehabbing and skating here on his own with (David Krejci),” said Julien.

Chara had two goals and three points while averaging 21:41 in ice time in nine games prior to the injury.

Crosby, Malkin power Penguins, help Fleury grab 300th win

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Ultimately, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ star players came through on Monday, while many of the Boston Bruins’ best watched on the sidelines.

Boston managed to stick with Pittsburgh even with key players like Zdeno Chara still injured, yet much like head coach Claude Julien has said, they just haven’t had much margin of error. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to generate Pittsburgh’s three goals, including this electrifying game-winner by Malkin:

This 3-2 overtime win gives Marc-Andre Fleury 300 career regular season victories. His agent Allan Walsh points out that he’s the third youngest goalie to hit the 300 mark.

Crosby scored a goal and two assists while Malkin finished the night with two tallies. Kris Letang collected two helpers of his own and also helped trigger the overtime winner.

The Bruins deserve credit for hanging tough, including carrying the play for chunks of time, as you can see from this Natural Stat Trick graph:

source:

The Bruins saw two goals get disallowed through the first 40 minutes of play. The bounces frequently didn’t go Boston’s way, even though they scored two goals in less than 30 seconds.

The Bruins have now lost two games in a row. Their next game is against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday. After that, it’s a foreboding four-game road trip through the West.

Pittsburgh bounces back from two straight losses against the Islanders and will see the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

The worst news for them was that Beau Bennett went down with an injury. He returned for a shift but it didn’t go well:

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.”

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’