Zdeno Chara

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins, Wild try to find their footing

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Boston Bruins host the Minnesota Wild at the TD Garden at 7:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

It’s unlikely that many pundits picked the Boston Bruins to face the Minnesota Wild in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final – at least not against each other – yet both teams came into 2014-15 with high hopes. They’re currently hitting some bumps in the road early on, though.

For the Bruins, it’s a time of opportunities and challenges.

With Zdeno Chara on the mend for at least a month, rising defensemen Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton gain the chance to prove that the B’s future isn’t so grim without “The Big Z.” Krug, for one, told CSNNE.com that he’s eager to show that he can handle increased minutes and responsibilities.

“When your name is called you do whatever you can to help the team win. The goal is always to build trust between me and the coaching staff,” Krug said. “I think they’re definitely starting to show a little more trust in me, and it’s a challenge that I really enjoy.

“We understand that we’ve got guys in here that can play those big minutes and fill the void. A game like [the win vs. the Leafs] shows that we can do it, but it’s about everybody stepping up rather than just one or two guys.”

It’s probably accurate to say that Hamilton stepped up the most in Boston’s first post-Chara game (a 4-1 win against Toronto), scoring a goal and two assists.

Deep down, scoring has been the biggest issue for the Bruins so far in their 5-5-0 start. While Chara’s absence leaves a crater behind on defense, Claude Julien is still searching for answers, including finding the right fit for the David Krejci – Milan Lucic line.

The Wild try to pick themselves up after a tough loss

Before Monday’s third period meltdown against the New York Rangers, Darcy Kuemper only allowed more than one goal in a single period in 2014-15. The Wild’s late-game struggles spotlight the perils of assuming too much from the first few weeks of any season, as despite a massive +12 goal differential, Minnesota’s record is just 4-3-0.

Despite boasting an enviable array of offensive threats including Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu, the Wild haven’t been able to notch a single power-play goal so far this season. They’re a pitiful 0-for-24 so far, which is a number that would be even more troubling if the team hasn’t been so dominant in other areas. In these past seven games, the Wild have only allowed one power-play goal, one shorthanded tally and nine even-strength goals.

The two teams don’t have the deepest histories, yet Niklas Backstrom has been a Bruins buster.

As NHL.com notes, Backstrom is 4-0-1 with great individual stats (.969 save percentage, .98 GAA) in five career games against Boston. Considering Kuemper’s tough night and the back-to-back games, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Finn possibly face off against fellow countryman Tuukka Rask tonight. The question is: could Backstrom start to push Kuemper for reps with a strong performance?

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Considering the two teams’ recent histories, Wild – Bruins hints at a grinding, low-scoring battle … on paper. These two teams are just starting to carve out their identities in 2014-15, though.

Lupul: ACC is ‘one of the quietest buildings in the league’

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The Maple Leafs have been bad at home this year — just 1-4-0, with a minus-7 goal differential — and the Air Canada Centre faithful have responded in one of two ways:

Silence, or booing.

Just ask Joffrey Lupul.

“There are some nerves coming into this building,” he said, per the Toronto Star. “It’s quiet, it’s one of the quietest buildings in the league. And it can quickly turn bad.

“I don’t think guys necessarily take offense to getting booed. Guys can handle that. If you play poorly, you expect to get booed. People pay their money. We want to get it to a place eventually where they cheer, too.”

The latest setback at home came on Saturday, where a listless Leafs team dropped a 4-1 decision to the Bruins, who were without the services of captain and minutes leader Zdeno Chara. It marked the second game in a row at the ACC where Toronto failed to score more than a single goal; the Leafs also went 0-3 on the power play, extending their goalless streak to five games (three of which have come at home).

Head coach Randy Carlyle wasn’t pleased.

“Frustration. Anger,” is what Carlyle said he felt after the Boston game, per the Globe. “Those are two things that were probably front and center from the coaching staff’s perspective.”

The ACC’s atmosphere isn’t just about these recent struggles, though. In a season-opening home loss to Montreal, Leafs fans were quiet as well, eloquently described by the Globe’s James Mirtle:

For all the differences, there was a lot of sameness in Toronto. The Air Canada Centre crowd was so quiet Wednesday that a mouse fart would have resonated like the cannon in Columbus, a sure sign the regulars are back in the platinums after a more raucous group had come out for preseason.

Lupul says he hopes the fans turn it around, and start bringing energy to the arena.

“I understand people haven’t necessarily had a lot to cheer about here. Tickets are the most expensive in the league. We get that,” he explained. “Just (a loud building) in sport is important. We got it when we went into the playoffs. It really, really helped us.

“The atmosphere was something I’ll remember forever.”

Related: Lupul: Leafs fans in Detroit gave ‘better energy’ than in Toronto

Bruins assign Morrow to AHL

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The Boston Bruins have assigned defenseman Joe Morrow back to the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League.

Morrow was recalled Friday along with Zach Trotman following the news captain Zdeno Chara would miss 4-6 weeks with a PCL injury.

Trotman made his regular season debut Saturday night in Boston’s 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs – his third career NHL game.

The 24-year-old had 12:23 in time on ice in the win registering two shots on goal and hit.

Morrow meanwhile was a healthy scratch.

The 21-year-old has a goal and an assist in five games with Providence this season.

Bruins cruise against Bernier, Leafs

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One night into an elevated role with Zdeno Chara on the shelf, Dougie Hamilton’s numbers look pretty good for the Boston Bruins. Of course, some might attribute that to a flat performance by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Jonathan Bernier didn’t make it through the entire game, as Randy Carlyle decided to give him the hook after Hamilton made it 4-0 about four minutes into the third period:

The 21-year-old has that goal and two assists on Saturday. That’s offense than Hamilton produced in his nine previous games this season.

Does this mean the goaltending pendulum swings back to James Reimer in Toronto?

Whatever the case may be, the Maple Leafs’ issues extend beyond the net. (Looks at David Clarkson, in particular.)

Update: The Bruins ended up winning 4-1.

Trotman and Morrow era set to begin in Boston

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The Boston Bruins begin life without captain Zdeno Chara tonight as they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Boston didn’t have a morning skate, but based on how both Zach Trottman and Joe Morrow were talking following the team’s optional practice, it sounds like Trottman will draw into the lineup tonight.

“It helps that I’ve been here before. Definitely helps with confidence, I know I can play here,” said Trotman. “That’s one thing I’m not worrying about going into the game tonight. Kind of show up, go business as usual and just play my game.”

Trotman, 24, has an assist in five games this season with Providence. Originally the Bruins seventh round selection (210th overall) at the 2010 NHL Draft, Trotman has appeared in two career NHL games with Boston.

The 6-foot-3, 219 pound blue liner logged 16:41 in time on ice during a loss in Ottawa on Dec. 28, 2013 – his NHL debut and then played 13:19 in a win against the L.A. Kings Jan. 20.

“I’m a mobile two-way defenseman,” Trotman said. “I think the biggest thing for my game is I need to end plays and keep the puck going the other way. The offensive side kind of takes care of itself.”

Morrow, 21, was the Pittsburgh Penguins first round selection (23rd overall) at the 2011 NHL Draft. Morrow was acquired from Dallas in the seven player trade, which saw Tyler Seguin go to the Stars. Morrow has a goal and an assist in five AHL games this season. He has yet to make his NHL debut.

“(I) just bring a bit of speed, good skating, good first pass for breakout situations, things like that – the ability to close on plays and just little things like that,” Morrow said describing his game. “I hope I can bring that to the table and do the best I can.”

Morrow has yet to appear in an NHL game, but he’s familiar with being summoned from the AHL. He was recalled by both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars while part of those organizations.

“Definitely used to the process,” he said. “It’s a little different actually being in a position to play your first game, I still haven’t played yet so that’s a little different, but other than that pretty comfortable being up and down.”

With Chara expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a PCL injury, the likelihood of both blue liners getting into game action is strong.

Both rookies know it’ll be a group effort to alleviate the loss of Chara.

“It’s just a whole team thing, everybody’s got to buy in to the situation,” said Morrow. “He’s not going to be here for a while. Everybody’s going to have to pull their own weight and maybe a little bit more.

“It’s a team game and one guy out of the lineup you definitely lose some leadership and some skill with him being one of the best defensemen in the league, but other than that, you’ve got to come together as a team and just work through it, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Added Trotman, “I think everyone’s just trying not to get too worked up about it. All we can do is just go out and play our best. If we do that, we have a good group of (defense) so we’ll be fine. I think everyone right now is just trying to focus on their game – go out and play as well as you can and obviously play together.

“Play the best game you can play without trying to do too much.”

Following tonight’s game, Boston heads home to host the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.