Charlie McAvoy

Neely questions Pastrnak, Kase, who may not practice with Bruins until Toronto

Cam Neely told media members that his “best guess” is that David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase won’t practice with the Bruins until the team reaches the Toronto hub city. Maybe most interestingly, Neely criticized some of the decisions Pastrnak and Kase made as the Bruins continue the NHL Return to Play process.

Limited opportunities to shake off rust

Now, it’s possible that Pastrnak and Kase might be able to get a Bruins practice in before the team plans on traveling to Toronto on (Sunday) July 26. It’s just that, like with many parts of this process, things are up in the air.

“It’s hard to say right now,” Neely said, via NBC Sports Boston. “My best guess would be [they will practice] in Toronto. There are hopes that it will be before we leave [Boston], but my best guess is Toronto.”

Pastrnak hasn’t gotten much time in with the Bruins, while Kase hasn’t practiced with them in training camp yet. To state the obvious: that’s far from ideal.

Brad Marchand recently said that “it doesn’t take long for chemistry to bounce back” for Marchand, Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron. And that’s probably true.

But what about Kase?

The speedy winger only managed to suit up for six Bruins games after being traded from the Ducks. During that time, Kase rarely got up to speed, as he failed to score a goal and only recorded a single assist. If anyone could have benefited from more time getting acclimated with still-new Bruins teammates, it was Kase.

Neely disappointed with Pastrnak and Kase; Quick look at Bruins schedule

You can chalk up some of these issues to “the nature of the beast.” We live in tumultuous times amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s not always possible for best-laid plans to actually pan out.

That doesn’t mean Neely isn’t disappointed with Kase and Pastrnak, who may have had a smoother transition to Bruins team activities if they arrived in Boston earlier.

Kase and Pastrnak don’t rank as the Bruins only headaches during training camp. Key players like Charlie McAvoy also missed time, while Tuukka Rask did his best to shake off concerns about a fractured finger.

Yet in the cases of Kase and Pastrnak, the Bruins seem a little steamed that this is a headache that maybe could have been controlled. It will be interesting to see if any hard feelings hold over, or if this is something that the Bruins move on from.

With some drama brewing, it might be helpful to ponder the upcoming Return to Play schedule for the Bruins, leading into the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers:

Rest of this week: Bruins squeeze in practices, wrap up training camp as best they can.

July 26: Bruins plan on arriving in Toronto hub city. Players need multiple negative COVID-19 tests to join the team on charter planes, so we’ll see if the Bruins and other teams experience disruptions there.

July 30: Bruins face Blue Jackets in an exhibition game (7 p.m. ET)

Aug. 2: Round Robin game versus Flyers (NBC, 3 p.m. ET)

Aug. 5: Round Robin game against Lightning (NBCSN, 4 p.m. ET)

Aug. 9: Final Round Robin game versus Capitals (time, network to be determined).

[Full 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule; How to watch on NBCSN, NBC, and USA Network]

Kase and Pastrnak setbacks shouldn’t be too disruptive to Bruins overall

In the framework of this week, it’s rotten that Pastrnak and Kase might not practice with the Bruins.

Overall, though? Between that exhibition game and the three Round Robin contests, the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers open up space for Pastrnak, Kase, and others to shake off the rust. It may not be ideal, but it’s probably nothing to get too bent out of shape about.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Training Camp News and Notes: Carter Hart hurt; Bruins, Blackhawks updates

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Let’s rummage through news and notes from around the NHL during day nine of formal training camps.

Flyers’ Carter Hart leaves practice on a goalie-heavy day of news from NHL training camps

Tuesday presented a fairly goalie-heavy slate of news and notes from around NHL training camps.

[NBC and NBCSN TV schedule for the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers]

Carter Hart hurt, Flyers teammates indicate it might not be serious

If you’ve followed coverage of NHL training camp news at PHT, you realize that teams aren’t being forthcoming with injury updates. Chalk that up to the culture of the league, and even NHL mandates, but it leads to “COVID-19, injury, or restroom run?” debates. None of this is fun.

So we can only speculate about Hart. According to NBC Sports Philly’s Jordan Hall, Hart left quietly during the first period of a Flyers scrimmage. Hall notes that it was unlikely to be an equipment issue, being that Hart did not return.

For fans hoping for optimism, Kevin Hayes‘ comments bring a mixed bag. He seems upbeat about it … but Hayes also didn’t notice that Hart left. Maybe he’s not totally clued-in, yet any insight is welcome as NHL teams prefer the “keep everyone in the fog” approach.

“I think it’s nothing too serious,” Hayes said, via Hall. “Obviously it’s important to get into shape and get game-ready, but if you have something that’s minor that you don’t want to push, it’s not a big deal to get off the ice like that. We’d rather have him be 100 percent than pushing hard at like 85, 90 percent. Probably a smart decision by him. I don’t think it’s anything major.”

Flyers such as Sean Couturier said all the right things about Brian Elliott being capable if Hart is unavailable, but if we’re being honest, it’s tough to be too confident in Elliott at this point in his career.

(Then again, goalies are unpredictable, and the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers may end up even more difficult to forecast.)

Latest round of Bruins updates, including troubling Tuukka news

Being that the Bruins boast plenty of veterans, it’s not that surprising that they’ve been a team to watch for training camp news. Even so, it might be getting a little exhausting for fans, players, and staff alike to try to parse details as David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy and others miss training camp activities.

Apparently there was even a Brad Marchand scare on Tuesday.

Marchand and others seem to shake off worries about Pastrnak missing opportunities to shake off rust. Similarly, Tuukka Rask didn’t seem too concerned despite admitting that he suffered a fractured finger while training.

Hmm, none of this seems ideal. At least the Bruins are merely fighting for seeding during the Round Robin portion of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, eh? Also … at least Jaroslav Halak puts up starter-quality numbers too, right?

(Insert cringe emojis where applicable.)

Blackhawks optimistic about Crawford, Toews still missing time

After trading away Robin Lehner, the defense-optional Blackhawks’ ability to upset the Oilers may hinge on whether Corey Crawford can play. That remains unknown, as Crawford hasn’t been involved in Phase 3 yet. When speaking to the media, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman seemed hopeful about Crawford being available.

“We are hopeful on that,” Bowman said, via NBC Sports Chicago. “We’ll be able to give you a better idea toward the weekend. Something we’re still shooting for, but I don’t have any definitive comment. Still hoping that’s the case.”

Jonathan Toews recently joined Crawford in the mystery training camp absence zone. After Toews left team activities early on Monday, Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton insisted that the team is merely trying to keep Toews fresh. Toews missed Tuesday’s training camp action too, though, and this time Colliton defaulted to “unfit to play.”

Hmm.

Other NHL training camp news and notes from day nine

  • Here’s one for the “Thank Goodness” files: Jay Bouwmeester is in Canada, but won’t join the Blues. Considering what Bouwmeester went through, and what he’s accomplished during his lengthy NHL career, it’s probably wisest to hang them up altogether. For now, we’ll settle for cooler heads prevailing in at least this case.
  • Zach Hyman returned to action for the Maple Leafs, who deployed him with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Toronto is rolling with a lot of interesting looks during this stretch of NHL training camps. Selfishly, I’d love to see mad scientist combinations like Matthews, Marner, and John Tavares more often.
  • Speaking of mad science, the Stars continue to flirt with the good (Tyler Seguin with Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz) and the bad (Corey Perry on the second line, while Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov languish on the fourth). Maybe it will be more situational, and thus more logical, than those designations look on paper? Either way, I wouldn’t be thrilled if I was Jamie Benn possibly being saddled with a dramatically declining Corey Perry.
  • Agent Dan Milstein notes that Ilya Sorokin (Islanders) and Alexander Romanov (Canadiens) are both Toronto-bound. Nice news, even if they can’t help their teams until 2020-21 at the earliest.

More on NHL return to play, CBA extension, COVID-19:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Playoffs: How should top four East teams approach Round Robin?

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[UPDATE – JULY 10: NHL announces full schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers]

While the NHL’s Qualifying Round teams fight to make it into the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Round Robin is merely for seeding. Such a scenario presents the NHL’s Round Robin for Seeding teams (four in each conference) with many conundrums, including the age-old rest vs. rust debate.

PHT will take a look at such dilemmas for all eight teams in the NHL’s Round Robin for Seeding, starting with the East. We’re going East first because the Bruins a) won the Presidents’ Trophy and b) addressed such debates recently.

We might as well go in order as they would be ranked, too.

Debates for East top four teams heading into NHL’s Round Robin for Seeding

Boston Bruins

NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty reports that Bruce Cassidy said he’s open to the idea of resting players during the three-game Round Robin for Seeding.

“Would we like to win all three games? Of course, in a perfect world, but I think with all teams there’s going to be some sort of a preseason mentality worked in with how the lineups are constructed every game,” Cassidy said, via Haggerty. “But if the [veteran players] want to play every game then I’m going to listen to them. It’s their bodies and they would know best. Then in the last game in the third period we’re going to shut our eyes and hope nobody gets hurt in those situations.”

The Bruins are in a heightened situation. While it stings that they may lose the top seeding they earned with 2019-20’s only 100-point season, this is also a roster brimming with veterans.

Most obviously, Cassidy must manage Zdeno Chara (43) and Patrice Bergeron (34). Really, the list goes deeper even than Tuukka Rask, who’s 33.

Brad Marchand is 32, and stands as an example to other contenders. As you may recall, Marchand aggravated a previous hand injury before the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

Maybe it was coincidental, but Marchand’s top line struggled during that seven-game slugfest with the Blues. If teams like the Bruins want to go deep, they should emphasize caution most of all.

So, beyond the obvious, there are players who’ve been banged up like Torey Krug. Charlie McAvoy‘s also dealt with bumps and bruises despite ranking as one of the younger Bruins.

Overall, the Bruins rank among the East Round Robin teams with the most incentive to rest key players.

[MORE: How should the West’s top four teams handle rest vs. rust?]

Tampa Bay Lightning

How should the team with the most to lose deal with the Round Robin for Seeding?

Imagine how badly things could play out for the Lightning. We all know that their historic 2018-19 season ended in a stunning first-round sweep. Kenan Thompson mocked it. Andrei Vasilevskiy looked really steamed.

What if the Lightning fall short under these strange circumstances?

It could cost Jon Cooper his job. And there’s the increased risk of scapegoating a lack of “preparedness” if the Lightning take a preseason approach to the Round Robin for Seeding.

You could definitely make the argument that the Lightning took a while to get back into their elite form in 2019-20, too.

But … the Lightning are smarter than to cave to bad takes, right?

Let’s not forget that the Lightning didn’t really take their feet off the gas during that 2018-19 regular season — not really. Rather than resting stars more aggressively, Nikita Kucherov and others chased history.

Personally, it really looked like Victor Hedman was far from 100 percent, even missing some of that first-round sweep.

This Lightning team boasts a fairly old defense beyond Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev. Hedman is 29 already. Steven Stamkos is 30 (ponders own mortality for a second).

Cooper needs to find the right balance. If there’s any hint of failure in that regard, the vultures may start circling.

Washington Capitals

Zooming out, the most logical choice would be for the Capitals to promote rest.

Almost every major Capitals player is 30 or older, with the rare exception of breakthrough winger Jakub Vrana (24). There’s also some incentive to see if Ilya Samsonov (23) is still sharper than Braden Holtby (30).

But 34-year-old Alex Ovechkin doesn’t sit out a whole lot of games. Maybe the unique circumstances (and lack of a Maurice Richard Trophy to chase) might change Ovechkin’s approach, yet it’s not a slam-dunk to sit him. As Cassidy said, coaches will at times defer to players. It wouldn’t be shocking if such an approach occasionally backfires.

All things considered, the Capitals joust with the Bruins for the East Round Robin team with the most to gain from resting aging stars.

Philadelphia Flyers

The knee-jerk reaction would be to say that the Flyers want to shake off rust.

For one thing, the Flyers boast several core players in the younger range. Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov are both 23, while Carter Hart is 21. The Flyers also are “playing with house money” as a team that could climb to the top spot if they end up hot during the Round Robin for Seeding.

But the Flyers have plenty of reason to be careful, too.

To start, the drop-off between Hart and Brian Elliott (or another goalie) looks pretty severe. You don’t necessarily want to increase injury risks with Hart, then.

Also, there are veterans to manage. Philly should aim to keep Claude Giroux (32) and Jakub Voracek (30) fresh, not to mention someone like Matt Niskanen (33). While Sean Couturier is only 27, he’s the sort of player you’ll lean on a ton in playoff situations. So you might want to tread lightly there.

Rather than overtaxing go-to guys, this could be an opportunity for others. Could Nolan Patrick crack the lineup if his migraine issues are behind him? Perhaps a prospect from Philly’s impressive farm system will make a jump?

The Flyers have a lot to like about this situation. Even so, they also need to avoid getting too greedy.

MORE ON NHL PLAYOFFS, ROUND ROBIN FOR SEEDING:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NBCSN’s Hockey Happy Hour: Gagne starts Flyers’ historic comeback

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This week’s Hockey Happy Hour on NBCSN (5-7 p.m. ET) will feature memorable “on this date” games in playoff history.

Trailing the series 3-0, Philadelphia kept its season alive on Simon Gagne’s overtime goal to give Flyers a 5-4 win in Game 4. The victory was the first of four straight wins for Philadelphia, culminating in a historic comeback over the Bruins. The Flyers became just the third team in NHL history at the time to win a series after trailing 3-0.

Joe Beninati and Andy Brickley had the call from Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pa.

The broadcast will feature commentary from Brian Boucher, who was the goaltender for the Flyers in the matchup, and a few of his Flyers teammates.

Thursday, May 7 on NBCSN
NHL Player Gaming Challenge – 5 p.m. ET (Live stream)
• Boston vs. Philadelphia (2010 Round 2, Game 4) – 6 p.m. ET (Live stream)

Sunday, May 10 on NBC
• 2018 Olympics Women’s Gold Medal game: USA vs. Canada – 3 p.m. ET

NHL PLAYER GAMING CHALLENGE – THUR., 5 P.M. ET, NBCSN
NBCSN will present the NHL Player Gaming Challenge at 5 p.m. ET, between Arizona vs. Boston. The competition features Clayton Keller and Conor Garland representing the Coyotes against Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk of the Bruins. The month-long initiative will pit NHL players from all 31 clubs facing off against each other in EA Sports NHL 20.

Following the hour-long broadcast at 5 p.m. ET, a matchup between Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers and Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals will be available on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and the NBC Sports YouTube channel.

USA-CANADA (2018 OLYMPICS WOMEN’S GOLD MEDAL GAME) – SUN., 3 P.M. ET, NBC
Team USA and Canada faced off in the gold medal game at the PyeongChang Olympics in 2018. Behind the game-winning shootout goal by Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, the Americans won, 3-2, to claim their second-ever Olympic gold medal. The win also snapped the Canadians’ streak of four straight Olympic titles.

Airing on Mother’s Day, the broadcast will have numerous new elements, including NBC Sports’ NHL host Kathryn Tappen interviewing Team USA captain Meghan Duggan on her memories about the gold medal game and celebrating Mother’s Day as both a mother and as a daughter. NBC’s broadcast will also feature a Mother’s Day tribute essay penned by Mike Emrick, as well as a profile on American forward Hilary Knight, who scored the opening goal for Team USA in the 2018 gold medal game.

Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Happy Hour can be found here.

Crosby, Ovechkin among NHL stars helping CCM donate 500,000 surgical masks

CCM plans to donate 500,000 surgical masks for COVID-19 healthcare workers
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Hockey equipment company CCM announced plans to donate 500,000 surgical masks to healthcare workers. CCM states that they hope to donate the surgical masks “as early as the week of April 27.” They also stated that Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and other CCM endorsers helped make the donation possible.

“By teaming up with our roster of CCM athletes, we will be able to play a role in the collaborative effort to get past this crisis,” CCM Hockey CEO Rick Blackshaw said in a statement. “We focused on the best use of our network and our resources to have the quickest impact. Sourcing greatly needed equipment through our established supply chain partners in Asia is the most efficient way for us to support and keep our real heroes safe.”

CCM revealed the list of hockey players involved in the initiative: Mathew Barzal, Patrice Bergeron, Brock Boeser, Dani Cameranesi, Brandon Carlo, Thomas Chabot, Kendall Coyne Schofield, Sidney Crosby, Melodie Daoust, Alex DeBrincat, Brianna Decker, Matt Duchene, Matt Dumba, Marc-Andre Fleury, Filip Forsberg, Jake Gardiner, Miro Heiskanen, Filip Hronek, Jonathan Huberdeau, Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon, Charlie McAvoy, Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Artemi Panarin, Carey Price, Vladimir Tarasenko, and John Tavares.

CCM’s plan to donate surgical masks adds to list of contributions from hockey world

This continues atrend of hockey teams, players, and companies contributing in different ways to help people during the coronavirus crisis.

Bauer recently announced its own initiatives (with help from Jack Eichel) involving manufacturing face shields. Bauer even provided instructions on how to make the shields on their website. Mary-Kay Messier explained Bauer’s plans during a recent episode of the Our Line Starts podcast.

Earlier this month, Islanders players helped to donate more than 3,000 N-95 masks to assist local causes.

NHL teams have also taken measures to pay employees during the coronavirus pause, among other meaningful efforts.

None of this erases the sacrifices healthcare workers are making. And this still figures to be a lengthy, difficult process. But it’s fantastic to see many in the hockey world rise to the occasion, CCM included.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.