Bruins look to stay healthy after mid-winter break

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By Matt Kalman (Associated Press)

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Bruins almost made it into their mid-winter break completely healthy.

Forward Joakim Nordstrom is recovering from a fractured lower leg and goaltender Tuukka Rask is dealing with a concussion sustained against the New York Rangers on Saturday. Otherwise, the Bruins’ lineup from the start of the season was on the ice when they completed their 49th game with a 3-2 loss to the Rangers.

A nearly full complement of players had the Bruins excited about what they could accomplish after the break. They’re in third place (27-17-5) behind Tampa Bay and Toronto in the Atlantic Division despite fighting injuries throughout the first half.

”I think we can continue to build on some of the success we had in the beginning of the season,” said defenseman Kevan Miller, who missed 26 games because of injuries. ”We think we still have some areas in our game that we need to work on. But I think the break will help a little bit, some guys get their legs.”

The eight-day vacation, which combines the NHL-mandated break and the NHL All-Star break, possibly came at just the right time because of Rask’s head injury. He was bowled over by Rangers forward Filip Chytil in the midst of the wing scoring a goal on an end-to-end rush in the first period on Saturday.

Rask is 14-8-3 with a .919 save percentage and 2.43 goals-against this season and has formed an impressive goaltending tandem with Jaroslav Halak. He signed as an unrestricted free agent last summer and is 13-9-2 with a .919 save percentage and 2.47 GAA. When Rask struggled early in the season and took a four-day leave of absence to attend to a personal matter, Halak carried the load. Rask has returned the favor after Halak struggled in the weeks leading up to the break.

Their performances were a big reason the Bruins overcame their injury issues, including a 16-game absence of four-time Selke Trophy-winning center Patrice Bergeron and 19 games without captain Zdeno Chara. The Bruins are tied for second place in the NHL at 2.61 goals allowed per game.

”Our goaltending . they’ve been healthy, a balanced workload,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. ”You look at the numbers, they’re almost identical now. So you’re getting a chance to win every night.”

Cassidy noted their back-to-back record has been good – finishing 6-1-1 in the second game.

”Guys pick each other up around here,” he said. ”So they understand if someone, a major part of the lineup is out, they’ve got to pick it up.”

More than a week off between games could give Rask and others a chance to heal up for the stretch run and could prevent an unfortunate slide in the standings. The Bruins followed a 6-1-0 stretch with a 1-2-1 record before the break, including regulation losses to the Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, teams 10 points or more behind them in the standings.

Boston ranks just 17th in goals scored per game (2.90) and leans a bit too much on its second-ranked power play (27.2 percent).

”I thought we had some really good games,” Chara said. ”You know we had some games we could’ve played better, but overall I think we’re in a good position going into the break. It’s always very important to play better and keep improving the closer you get to the playoffs. You demand to play the best hockey.”

Off the Ice: Brad Marchand makes cannoli, explains licking opponents

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This week’s edition of Off the Ice with Kathryn Tappen featured Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins. The two headed to Mike’s Pastry in Boston to make some cannoli and talk about his career.

The topic of licking opponents came up and Marchand explained why he took a taste of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Callahan‘s face during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“His visor was in my face and I was like ‘this will probably piss him off,’ so I tried to do it, tried to get him to hit me and draw a penalty and it kind of went the other way,” he said. “Yeah, that was definitely a decision that [you] go back in time and you would play out a little differently.”

Check out the episode above as Tappen and Marchand also talk about where his edge on the ice comes from and his penchant for pranks. Episodes will premiere exclusively on NBCSports.com/OffTheIce and YouTube each week.

Previous Off the Ice episodes:
Duncan Keith
Mika Zibanejad

Off the Ice with Kathryn Tappen takes viewers away from the rink and behind the scenes with some of the NHL’s most intriguing players, as they share their personal lives and unique hobbies with NBC Sports’ Emmy Award-Winning host and sideline reporter Kathryn Tappen.

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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.

Couturier’s hat trick, Hart’s 39 saves help Flyers hold on against Bruins

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It’s not a sustainable winning formula — getting wildly outshot — but the Philadelphia Flyers will take wins any way they can get them these days.

It certainly helps when their players are scoring hat tricks, however. And just scoring in general.

James van Riemsdyk notched his hat trick in a 7-4 win against the Minnesota Wild on Monday, and it was Sean Couturier’s turn with his first career regular season hatty in a 4-3 win against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday Night Hockey on NBCSN.

And it helps to have Carter Hart, who has now won three of his past four starts (and has seen 35 or more shots in four of his past five).

Hart stopped 39 of the 42 pucks sent his way as the Flyers were outshot 42-19.

Hart’s now responsible for two wins on the trot, something the Flyers haven’t experience since Dec. 20. Winning hasn’t come easy in the City of Brotherly love. It’s been a tough season, so silver linings are are the small victories in what appears to be a lost season.

[RELATED: NASCAR champ Martin Truex Jr. goes between the benches]

The Bruins were largely unlucky in the game after controlling two-thirds of the possession, creating 62 shot attempts five-on-five.

Boston had won six of their past eight coming into the game but lost 3-2 in overtime to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

With David Backes made a healthy scratch for Wednesday’s game, Boston jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period, including the first NHL goal by Backes’ replacement, Peter Cehlarik.

The Flyers would go on to score four unanswered, with Oscar Lindblom getting the ball rolling and Couturier’s natural hat trick putting the Flyers into a 4-2 lead in the third.

Cehlarik added to his impressive debut by scoring with 56 seconds left in the game but wasn’t enough to get the Bruins to overtime.

Meanwhile, Jori Lehtera was tossed from the game at 16:48 of the second period when he drilled Ryan Donato right on the numbers, sending the latter’s face crashing into the glass.

Donato was bloodied on the play and needed to leave the game to get cleaned up.

Lehtera was given a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct (and likely a long, hard look from the league for the non-sensical hit).

The Bruins were only able to get three shots on goal during the man-advantage.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

NASCAR champ Martin Truex Jr. goes between the benches on Wednesday Night Hockey

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One thing hockey and NASCAR have in common is speed.

Martin Truex Jr. knows a thing or two about going fast, and he saw similarities in the pace of both sports when he joined NBCSN’s broadcast of the Philadelphia Flyers and visiting Boston Bruins on Wednesday Night Hockey.

“These guys go with everything they have every single minute of the game,” Truex said. “We have to do the same. When they’re on the ice, they’re going wide-open all day, and that’s kind of how we do it.”

The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champ is gearing up for the 2019 Daytona 500 on Feb. 17 on a new team after making the switch to Joe Gibbs Racing during the offseason following five years with Furniture Row Racing.

But on Wednesday, he was between the glass in Philly with NBCSN’s Brian Boucher.

Truex watched the two teams warming up prior to puck drop. His goal?

“Just to see how close I can get to the puck without it actually hitting me would be a good start,” Truex said, smiling. “Just to see the size and the speed of these guys is going to be insane up close.”

As to who he was rooting for, the Philadelphia-area native was clear.

“Flyers all the way,” he said.

Truex got a good taste of what today’s NHL is all about: goal-scoring.

The Bruins and Flyers combined for three goals in the first period.

“I feel like this is a NASCAR race,” Truex said 15 minutes into the period. “It’s so intense. You got to be here to see it in person. TV is awesome, but when you get down here by this ice, it’s amazing what these guys are doing. NASCAR fans would say the same thing about racing all of the time.”

Truex was especially impressed by the goaltenders, who saw a combined 19 shots in the period.

MORE: 2019 NASCAR schedule on NBC and NBCSN 


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Flyers take on Bruins on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers. 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 Flyers poured in seven goals in a 7-4 win over Minnesota. Philly has won two of its last three games, but remains in the basement of the Metropolitan Division. James van Riemsdyk led the way on Monday with his fourth career hat trick, his second in a Flyers uniform, with the previous instance coming in March of 2011.

The Flyers used a five-forward power play against Minnesota Tuesday night, as the first unit consisted of Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, James van Riemsdyk, Sean Couturier, and Jake Voracek. van Riemsdyk scored his first of three goals on the night in the first period on the man advantage, which went just 1-for-5 overall in the game.

“The responsibilities are the same. It just gives you a different look as you come down the boards,” said Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon. “I think if you can get one (power play goal) per game, now all of a sudden, instead of a two-goal team per-game average, you’re at a three-goal team average, and when you don’t get that goal, it looks like your team is really struggling. Obviously, we’ve had our fair share of missed opportunities.”

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy did not mince words after Monday’s overtime loss to Montreal in calling out David Backes and Jake DeBrusk, who were demoted from the second line (centered by David Krejci, who has scored in three straight games) to the third line against the Canadiens. The 34-year-old Backes, who will be a healthy scratch vs. the Flyers, has struggled to match the speed of opponents this season.

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

What: Boston Bruins at Philadelphia Flyers
Where: Wells Fargo Center
When: Wednesday, Jan. 16, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Bruins-Flyers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS
Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak
Peter Cehlarik – David Krejci – Jake DeBrusk
Sean KuralyNoel AcciariChris Wagner
Danton HeinenJakob Forsbacka KarlssonRyan Donato

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
Matt GrzelcykKevan Miller

Starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak

FLYERS
James van Riemsdyk – Claude Giroux – Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom – Sean Couturier – Jakub Voracek
Scott LaughtonNolan Patrick – Wayne Simmonds
Michael RafflPhilip VaroneJori Lehtera

Ivan ProvorovTravis Sanheim
Shayne GostisbehereAndrew MacDonald
Robert HaggRadko Gudas

Starting goalie: Carter Hart

John Forslund (play-by-play), U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk, and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.