‘Things aren’t coming easy for us,’ says Lucic after Bruins loss

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Seven games into December, the Boston Bruins have only one win this month. They’ve had a few close calls here and there – three straight one-goal games and a pair of shootout losses – but only the one victory.

On Tuesday, they fell to the Nashville Predators by a final score of 3-2 in a game decided by the skills competition. Meanwhile, with their record-breaking shootout win over Washington, the Florida Panthers actually moved ahead of the Bruins in the Eastern Conference standings.

Once a Stanley Cup champion and contender, it appears that with the halfway mark of the season approaching, the Bruins might be in a fight just to make the playoffs in the spring.

“Things aren’t coming easy for us – have to find a way to get some wins here. You look at the standings, we’re behind the eight ball,” said Bruins forward Milan Lucic, as per the club’s Twitter account.

He added: “Hasn’t been an easy year at all and we need to find ways to grind it out, start getting wins (and) start feeling good about ourselves.”

Goalie nods: Reeling Coyotes give Dubnyk second straight start

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All the latest from the crease…

Arizona sticks with Dubnyk

Devan Dubnyk will make his second consecutive start on Tuesday as the Coyotes look to snap their ugly nine-game home losing streak.

Tonight’s opponent will be Dubnyk’s former team, the Oilers, and it’ll be the second time in three games versus Edmonton that Dubnyk starts over Mike Smith, who’s struggled mightily this season.

Smith’s numbers reflect those struggles — 5-14-2 record, with a 3.35 GAA and .889 save percentage — and one has to wonder if the Coyotes’ No. 1 gig isn’t fully up for grabs, given how dire the situation has become at home. Dubnyk wasn’t great in his last start (three goals on 35 shots) and hasn’t recorded a win since Nov. 22, but is getting the call tonight anyway.

For the Oilers, Ben Scrivens will be in net.

Elsewhere…

Bolts at Flyers: Steve Mason for Philly, no word yet on a Tampa Bay starter (either Evgeni Nabokov or Andrei Vasilevskiy).

Ducks at Leafs: Frederik Andersen vs. Jonathan Bernier

‘Canes at Habs: Cam Ward vs. Carey Price

Blue Jackets at Red Wings: Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Jimmy Howard

Caps at Panthers: Braden Holtby vs. Roberto Luongo

Sabres at Jets: Michal Neuvirth vs. Ondrej Pavelec

Bruins at Preds: Tuukka Rask (likely) vs. Pekka Rinne

Kings at Blues: Jonathan Quick (likely) vs. Jake Allen

Wild at ‘Hawks: Darcy Kuemper vs. Antti Raanta

Rangers at Flames: Henrik Lundqvist vs. Karri Ramo

Bruins have to ‘step up,’ starting tonight in Nashville

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The Boston Bruins have played 30 games and lost 13 of them outright.

In 2013-14, they only lost 19 games outright all season.

At their current pace, they’d lose 35 in 2014-15, their most since 2006-07, which was the last time they missed the playoffs.

So, you know…it’s probably time to pick it up a bit.

“We’ve got to step up.” said coach Claude Julien, per CSN New England. “That’s what you’ve got to do in that situation. That’s what all teams have to do in that situation. There’s no real mystery or surprise there. Nobody is going to do it for us. Nobody really cares whether we win or lose, except for ourselves. So it’s up to us to battle our way out of it.”

It won’t be easy. The B’s kick off a three-games-in-four-nights road trip tonight in Nashville, followed by stops in Minnesota tomorrow and Winnipeg Friday.

All three of those teams have better records than Boston.

“It’s not going to be easy at all,” said winger Milan Lucic. “We need to embrace this road trip, and look at it as a huge challenge. We have five games before the Christmas break, and where do we want to be as a team headed into that break? It starts [Tuesday] on this road trip with three teams that are in that playoff picture in the Western Conference.”

Chara says he needs to improve ‘every part’ of his game

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The Boston Bruins haven’t been able to win in the two games since Zdeno Chara returned from injury, and the big captain told CSNNE.com that he isn’t happy with his own play.

“The first guy, I’m looking at myself. I’ve got to be better and I have to work to be at the top of my game. When you’re not scoring, that means defensively you just have to be better to defend games like this,” Chara said. “Every part of my game [needs improvement]. There are no excuses. Like I said after my first game, I missed whatever time, but I have to work very hard to get where I want to be and I will get there.”

While the 37-year-old’s possession stats look fine from those two losses, he’s shown rust in certain areas, as CSNNE.com discusses:

Chara has had a few good moments where he looks like the prime defensive stopper that he is, but the four penalties over two games against Chicago and Ottawa clearly also reveal a player that’s behind the speed of the play right now. He’s cheating rather than moving his feet and anticipating the play, and that’s pretty indicative of a player that’s waiting for things to slow down around.

This week presents an interesting test for Chara and the Bruins, who’ve lost two in a row and seven of their last nine games. They face three road games: Tuesday at Nashville, Wednesday at Minnesota and Friday at Winnipeg.

If that run goes poorly, it might be time to get a little concerned.

PHT Morning Skate: Ugly Christmas sweaters and Ovechkin’s heart of gold

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Plenty of NHL players do great work for charities and other organizations, but Alex Ovechkin has really made waves in particular with some heartwarming stuff lately. His latest act of kindness falls in line with some great actions from the Washington Capitals star. (CSNWashington.com)

So, uh, this is odd.

Speaking of odd, will Christmas sweaters/holiday celebrations essentially furnish us with Halloween-level goofy photos of hockey players? This photo of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Jason Demers makes a strong argument in that regard:

So much to take in.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $15,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $1,400. Starts Monday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

The evolution of Zdeno Chara’s scariness. (The Hockey News)

The Colorado Avalanche understand why Paul Stastny left. (The Denver Post)