Torey Krug

Bruins beat Penguins, may have dodged bullet with McAvoy

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As thrilling as it must have been for the Boston Bruins to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in an often-thrilling 6-4 game, the victory might have felt hollow if they received bad news about star defenseman Charlie McAvoy.

When the game was still 4-4 in the third period, McAvoy slid into his own net, and hit his head against the post. He was clearly in pain from the hit, and left the contest. Considering McAvoy’s recent history with concussion issues, it was a scary sight for the Bruins.

It’s early, but the Bruins might be able to let out a sigh of relief, as head coach Bruce Cassidy believes that McAvoy is only dealing with a cut, according to 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Ty Anderson.

With plenty of injuries, things can seem worse than they first appear. That’s especially true with concussions or concussion-like injuries, but here’s hoping that it really is just a cut, or some other smaller issue.

One thing we don’t need to wait on is how great a game this was for the Bruins, particularly their top guys.

This was a seesaw matchup. The Bruins finished the first period up 2-0, and added to that lead with an early 3-0 tally in the second. The Penguins then fired off four consecutive goals to end that middle frame. Brad Marchand found Torey Krug for an odd-angle goal to tie things up 4-4 in the third period, and then Marchand found enough space to beat Tristan Jarry for an exhilarating game-winner, with an empty-netter eventually inflating the difference.

The Penguins must feel frustrated to put forth such an effort and leave Boston without even a pity point beyond regulation, but that top line of Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron simply won’t be denied.

Pastrnak’s point streak is now at 12 games, while Marchand’s on a career-best 13-game run. It’s bewildering to imagine Bergeron as maybe the least dangerous player on any trio, yet that’s arguably the case for Boston. We saw another example of the Bruins’ embarrassment of riches on Monday:

At this point, it feels like injuries have as strong of a chance of slowing this team down right now as even a spry opponent like Pittsburgh. With that in mind, the Bruins have to hope that McAvoy’s early positive news is not just optimistic, but also accurate.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Top-line injuries to Blues and Avalanche shake up Central

Not long after the St. Louis Blues raised their Stanley Cup banner and the Colorado Avalanche got rolling on a season of high expectations each team has a significant obstacle to overcome.

The Blues will be without sniper Vladimir Tarasenko for five months, basically the rest of the regular season. The Avalanche – already missing injured winger Mikko Rantanen – ruled out captain Gabriel Landeskog indefinitely with a lower-body injury. Those injuries to top-line players on two Central Division powerhouses could shift the balance of power in the Western Conference for months.

”It shakes things up big time,” said retired forward Patrick Sharp, who spent 12+ of his 15 NHL seasons playing in the Central. ”It’s going to test the depth of these two teams.”

Tarasenko underwent right shoulder surgery Tuesday. The Russian winger scored 11 goals and added 15 assists on the Blues’ Cup run and is difficult to replace.

St. Louis will try to compensate but not by leaning too hard on playoff MVP Ryan O'Reilly and fellow stars Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz. The onus is on the likes of Zach Sanford, Sammy Blais, Robert Thomas and Robby Fabbri to step up.

”Our team is built as the sum of all the parts,” general manager Doug Armstrong said. ”We’re going to have to have a strength in numbers (approach), and I believe that we can get it done.”

Sharp, who played 65 games against the Blues and watched their Cup triumph as an NBC Sports analyst, doesn’t doubt that. Because of Tarasenko’s production 5-on-5 and on the power play, he said losing him will test their offensive depth. He is looking specifically to Thomas to fill the void.

”The numbers didn’t really reflect the kind of playoffs that he had, but it seemed like every big game that the Blues had, Robert Thomas was one of the best forwards on the team,” Sharp said. ”If he can kind of recapture that playoff magic and show it in the next five, six months of the regular season, the Blues will be in good shape.”

Colorado opened the season 8-2-1 but will need to tread water until Rantanen and Landeskog return. First-line center Nathan MacKinnon is a one-man playmaker who no doubt benefits from having Rantanen and Landeskog and will have to be at his best – and try to stay healthy.

Much like the Blues, though, the Avalanche can’t put the pressure on one player.

”We have a significant amount of players that want more and feel like they’re playing real well,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. ”I’m hoping they strive in situations like this and prove that they can take on a bigger role. … Having everyone dig in and try to step up their game, and make up for the guys that are out of the lineup is an important piece to winning especially if you’re going to try and sustain it over the course of the season.”

Knowing Colorado couldn’t be a one-line team and contend for the Cup, GM Joe Sakic traded for Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky and signed Joonas Donskoi and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to bolster his forward depth.

”These injuries to top players, that’s not necessarily a bad thing when you’re talking about the landscape of an eight-month season for Colorado,” Sharp said. ”If they have aspirations of going deep in the playoffs, they’re going to need big contributions from everybody. So a little adversity at the start of the year doesn’t hurt anybody.”

It might help the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars in the stacked Central Division. Predators center Matt Duchene on Tuesday night returned from a brief absence with a lower-body injury.

LANDESKOG X2

Colorado’s captain isn’t the only injured Landeskog. The horse by the same name was scratched from the upcoming $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

”Horse always comes first,” Avalanche defenseman and racehorse part-owner Erik Johnson tweeted. ”Bad day for Landeskog human and equine.”

Told of Landeskog’s human namesake also being hurt, trainer Doug O’Neill said, ”Maybe it’s twin pain.”

JOSI DOMINOES

Roman Josi‘s eight-year extension with the Predators worth $9.1 million a season will have a ripple effect on other top pending free agent defensemen like Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo and Boston’s Torey Krug.

Since all three were full-time NHL players beginning in 2013, Josi has 327 points and averaged 25:30 of ice time, Pietrangelo has 284 points and averaged 25:19 and Krug has 294 points and averaged 25:30.

”Every contract is relative when you’re talking about comparable players,” said agent Mark Guy, who represents Pietrangelo. ”Obviously whenever you go through and you sit down and negotiate with a team, players and teams have comparables that they shoot towards, and Josi and Alex are obviously in most people’s minds comparable players.”

McKenzie on Pietrangelo, Krug contracts; surgery for Byfuglien

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With Roman Josi signing a new eight-year contract extension with the Nashville Predators this week that leaves St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo and Boston Bruins defender Torey Krug as the top potential unrestricted blue-liners this summer.

During a Wednesday appearance on NBCSN, NHL insider Bob McKenzie offered some updates on where those situations could go over the next few month following Josi’s new contract.

When it comes to the Blues, McKenzie said general manager Doug Armstrong sat down with Pietrangelo’s representatives three-plus weeks ago but there have been no negotiations since then. McKenzie called it a “unique situation” because the Blues already went out and traded for defenseman Justin Faulk and signed him to a new contract extension, and then locked up forward Brayden Schenn to a long-term deal. With those contracts taken care of Pietrangelo will be the only major pending UFA the Blues have to deal with over the next couple of years and it could put them in a situation where they only have so much money to offer Pietrangelo if he wishes to remain with the only team he has ever played for.

He turns 30 this January and is currently playing on a contract that pays him $6.5 million per season.

Meanwhile, there is another interesting situation in Boston where the Bruins have to figure out a way to get Krug re-signed.

McKenzie pointed out the unique salary structure in Boston where the three best players (Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak) all make between $6 and $7 million per season and there could be pressure for players to not make more than them. Given Krug’s production, he could easily move past them on the salary scale.

Even though they were in a different situation this summer (RFA vs. UFA) the Bruins managed to get Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo signed for a combined salary cap hit of under $7 million over the next two years. Krug, 28, makes $5.25 million per year and is one of the league’s most productive defenders.

You can check out McKenzie’s segment in the video above.

Finally, McKenzie also offered an update on Winnipeg Jets defender Dustin Byfuglien who remains away from the team.

McKenzie reported that Byfuglien recently underwent ankle surgery to take care of some unresolved issues from the high-ankle sprain he dealt with last season. He added that it is believed the ankle issue is one of the factors that resulted in him stepping away from the team just before the start of the season.

No one knows what this means for Byfuglien’s future, but McKenzie noted there is a sense that if Byfuglien does feel healthy enough at some point he could (emphasis on could) be inclined to return to the team.

Byfuglien’s decision to take time away was one of the many decisions that helped break apart nearly the entire Jets defense from a year ago.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Bruins host Blues in Stanley Cup Final rematch

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Saturday’s Stanley Cup Final rematch between the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Blues went their first 50 NHL seasons without a Cup before winning it in their 51st season. That leaves Toronto as the team with the longest active drought, and Buffalo and Vancouver as the teams with the longest drought among teams that have never won before.

Boston has not played since beating Toronto 4-2 at home on Tuesday. So, they’ve had three days off with no travel in between games. On the other hand, St. Louis hosted LA on Thursday, winning, 5-2, for its second straight victory, before traveling to play in Boston.

Vladimir Tarasenko, who is coming off his 5th straight 30-goal campaign, left Thursday’s game with an upper-body injury. He is out for their next two games and will be re-evaluated next week. Tarasenko has 10 points in 10 games this season.

Boston’s top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak continues to be the team’s primary source of offense. They are the top three scorers on the team, and aside from solid production from d-man Torey Krug, no one else on the team has more than three points so far.

In the team’s last game on Tuesday, Tuukka Rask played in his 500th regular-season game. He is the 28th goalie in history to play 500 games for one team, and the first to do so with the Bruins.

David Krejci (upper body) is doubtful to play against the Blues after skating with the team on Friday. Krejci, who is coming off a career year in which he set a personal best in assists (53) and tied his high in points (73), has missed the last three games after suffering an injury against Anaheim on Oct. 14.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: St. Louis Blues at Boston Bruins
Where: TD Garden
When: Saturday, Oct. 26, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Blues-Bruins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLUES
Jaden SchwartzBrayden SchennOskar Sundqvist
Alex SteenRyan O'ReillyDavid Perron
Zach SanfordTyler BozakRobert Thomas
Mackenzie MacEachernIvan BarbashevSammy Blais

Colton ParaykoAlex Pietrangelo
Jay BouwmeesterJustin Faulk
Vince DunnRobert Bortuzzo

Starting goalie: Jordan Binnington

BRUINS
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBruskCharlie CoyleBrett Ritchie
Anders Bjork – Par LindholmDanton Heinen
Joakim NordstromSean KuralyChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt GrzelcykConnor Clifton

Starting goalie: Tuukka Rask

Mike Emrick, Mike Milbury and Brian Boucher will call Blues-Bruins from TD Garden in Boston, Mass. Kathryn Tappen will anchor Saturday’s doubleheader coverage with Keith Jones and Anson Carter.

After Bruins-Blues, coverage heads outdoors to Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan, at 10 p.m. ET (livestream), when Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets face Johnny Gaudreau and the Calgary Flames in the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic.

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins remain ‘hungry’ for another Stanley Cup run

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Saturday’s Stanley Cup Final rematch between the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Family played a big part in helping Tuukka Rask and Torey Krug get over their Game 7 defeat to the Blues in last season’s Stanley Cup Final. Coming so close to the Bruins’ ultimate goal but falling short was difficult to accept, but getting away from the rink and back to their loved ones helped soften the blow.

“It’s such a long and intense run,” Rask told NBC Sports. “You play every other day for pretty much two-and-a-half months and then all of a sudden you just hit a wall and it’s over. Unfortunately for us we lost and that’s the way it ended. Personally, it didn’t take too long to get over. Obviously, you have family at home and other things to think about when you get home, but you just realize that it’s sports and it’s a game. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and that’s that.

“But then again, I don’t think you ever get over that. You’re going to have flashbacks of the games and what went wrong and what went right, but you just have to deal with it and move on.”

For Krug, he had different kind of life moment take place in the days following that loss. Five days after the series ended, Krug’s wife Melanie gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Saylor Harper. But while the new family addition helped shift his focus as a player and a person, the sting from the missed opportunity remains.

[WATCH BLUES-BRUINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

“I don’t think it’s something you’ll ever get over,” said Krug. “I think it’s something you just have to live with and understand. I was part of the team that lost in ’13 to Chicago, but I never had a chance to actually clinch and win a Stanley Cup like we did [last season] in our own building. This one’s right up there as one of the hardest things you go through as an athlete. You’ve got to find a way to live with it and use it as motivation. You’ll never get the chance to go back and replay that game, so you’ve got to do something in the meantime to prove that you can go back and do it again.”

Four months after they last met, the Bruins and Blues will be back at TD Garden Saturday night for a Stanley Cup Final rematch. Boston is off to a good start with a 6-1-2 record, while the defending champions have come out of the gate at 5-2-3.

A win Saturday night won’t reverse the outcome from June, but it can provide an early season boost for a team that is experiencing no hangover from a long 2018-19 season.

Editor’s note: Need tickets for tonight’s game? Click here

“People always assume when you go through that and you play them the next year, ‘Are you going to get your revenge?’ Well, if we beat them we’re not getting a Stanley Cup back, so that’s forever theirs,” Krug said. “That’s unfortunate for us, but I think anytime you go through a series of that magnitude there’s going to be some rivalries that are renewed and you hate playing against certain players and that is just how it is. I’m sure it will be more of an intense game; There’s times even when we play Chicago today and from 2013 that Finals series, that are a little more intense than normal. It’ll pick up and that rivalry will be fun to be part of.”

Like the Blues, the 2019-20 Bruins roster doesn’t feature a whole lot of new faces. It’s a group that possesses a strong core, a handful of players with Cup rings, and some who were on their last two Cup Final teams that fell short. They remain hungry for another title run while their window remains open and the tough losses they’ve experienced can be galvanizing.

“I think in order to win you have to go through some really gut wrenching times,” said Krug. “A loss like that is pretty much as close as you can get to that. We have a great core group, we have great young players that are excited and want to be part of the team and want to be part of that core moving forward, guys that are never satisfied between winning awards and going to the Cup Finals, winning a Cup in 2011, those guys continue to remain hungry.

“That’s going to drive our bus and drive our team. We’ll get back there because we have a great goaltender and we have a great group moving forward, and we’re all hungry.”

Mike Emrick, Mike Milbury and Brian Boucher will call Blues-Bruins from TD Garden in Boston, Mass. Kathryn Tappen will anchor Saturday’s doubleheader coverage with Keith Jones and Anson Carter.

After Bruins-Blues, coverage heads outdoors to Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan, at 10 p.m. ET (livestream), when Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets face Johnny Gaudreau and the Calgary Flames in the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic.

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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.