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NHL on NBCSN: Bruins more than managing without Pastrnak

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Thursday night’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning 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.

A lot of ink has been spilled this year on the record-setting Tampa Bay Lightning, and for good reason.

They win basically all of the time, they have the guy who’s running away with the Hart and the other guy who’s running away with the Vezina. They haven’t lost a game in their past 10 outings and have points in their past 14. There’s plenty to write home about here.

But not lost on the rest of the NHL is how well the Boston Bruins have been playing as of late. Sure, the second-place Bruins are 19-points back of the Lightning in the Atlantic Division. There will be no catching them. But Boston, too, has points in their past 14 games. And like the Lightning, they haven’t lost in regulation in February.

And while Tampa has benefitted from a relatively healthy lineup this season, and has been without top names like Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, the Bruins have had to forge ahead without their leading scorer (at the time of his injury).

David Pastrnak‘s thumb injury (and subsequent surgery) could have had a devastating impact on the Bruins. He left the team with 31 goals and 66 points in 56 games when disaster struck on Feb. 10. It’s just standard fare to believe the Bruins might struggle without the guy but they’ve done anything but.

The Bruins will enter Thursday’s matchup against the Lightning with a 6-0-1 record since Pastrnak began his absence, and scoring hasn’t hit a snag during that time — the Bruins are average 3.71 goals per game in that span.

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

The key to any team succeeding in the face of a major injury to one of its best and most productive players is others stepping up to fill the void. For Boston, David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk heard the rallying cries loud and clear.

Krejci had 43 points in 56 games (0.77/game) prior to Pastrnak’s departure but has contributed 12 in the seven games since (1.71/game). Similarly, Jake DeBrusk had 19 points in 40 games (0.40/game) before Pastrnak’s ailment and 11 since then (1.57/game). Not surprisingly, the duo is the team’s two top scorers during that time.

Couple that with no slow down in Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron‘s game and you’ve essentially plugged the hole that could have led to a drastic leak. So you have a Boston Bruins team that has been able to hold off the Toronto Maple Leafs and retain that second-place standing.

And the good news is that Pastrnak is back to skating now as of this past Monday. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Pastrnak would be in a cast for the next two weeks (down to a week and a half at this point) and then will return to the lineup as his comfort level allows.

This is all to say that a very good Bruins team is getting their best player back just in time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Kenny Albert (play-by-play), Mike Milbury (analyst) and Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from TD Garden in Boston, Mass. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Paul Burmeister alongside Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter.

The Buzzer: Bruins score eight while Hall makes it 23 straight

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Players of the Night:

David Krejci, Boston Bruins: In a game that featured 12 goals, it was Krejci who stood out, scoring his first hat-trick in four years as the Bruins doubled up the Pittsburgh Penguins 8-4.

Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers: Barkov scored his third game-winning goal of the season in a two-goal game as the Panthers knocked off the New Jersey Devils 3-2. The win put the Panthers to within three points of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. Barkov also pushed his personal point streak to four games.

Viktor Arvidsson, Nashville Predators: There’s no quit in these cats. The Predators won their sixth straight game and Arvidsson played a big role, bringing the Preds level at 2-2 in the second period before scoring the game-winner at the 14:52 mark of the third period. Nashville now leads the Winnipeg Jets by six points for the Central Division lead.

Highlights of the Night:

The question is starting to become, will Taylor Hall ever not put up a point again?

Connor McDavid is a cheat code on an old NES Game Genie:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Panthers 3, Devils 2

Hurricanes 4, Flyers 1

Bruins 8, Penguins 4

Lightning 5, Stars 4 (OT)

Predators 4, Oilers 2

Coyotes 5, Wild 3

Sharks 7, Blackhawks 2

Kings 5, Blue Jackets 2


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

Krejci, Bruins maul Penguins in 8-4 win

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Where do you begin in a game that featured 12 goals, a goalie pulled in the first six minutes of the game, a man scoring a hat trick and two behemoths fighting each other?

Pick your poison, I suppose.

An 8-4 win for the Boston Bruins against the Pittsburgh Penguins produced a number of notable moments in New England on Thursday.

Olli Maatta scored his first of two goals in the game 35 seconds into the first period. At that point, it looked like the Penguins were off to a good start sporting a 1-0 lead. But the nets behind each goaltender took a beating in the first period.

Both teams combined for eight goals, with the Bruins emerging with a 5-3 lead at the first intermission. Boston scored three straight to answer Maatta’s marker and then some, including Rick Nash‘s second goal in as many games wearing the spoked B.

David Krejci built upon his first-period goal to give the Bruins a 6-3 lead 2:16 in the second period. He would later complete his first hat trick in four years at the 14:33 mark.

It wasn’t a kind night for any of the three goalies that featured in the game.

Casey DeSmith didn’t last long in the Penguins crease, allowing three goals on five shots in the first 5:30 of the first period, a solid .400 save percentage. Tristan Jarry relieved DeSmith and got pelted all the same, allowing further five goals, albeit on 33 shots.

Rask started off a little shaky, but found his composure as the game wore on. It wasn’t pretty, allowing four on 26 shots, but the 30-year-old won’t be complaining about his 26th win.

It was the type of game where the video footage likely won’t look great on either side, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan will want to spend some time showing his club how poorly they played (other than blocking shots, which the Penguins did 25 times in the game).

Boston had 29 shots on goal through 40 minutes, and the score reflected it. Pittsburgh looked a mess, and they’ve now lost three straight. They sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division and need to stop the bleeding with the New Jersey Devils (who lost on Thursday) hot on their heels.

The Bruins, meanwhile, moved into second place in the Atlantic Division, leapfrogging the Toronto Maple Leafs to sit four points back of the division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins have two games in hand on the Lightning and four on the Maple Leafs.


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

Beleskey wants to get started: ‘I could end the summer right now’

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Hockey fans aren’t the only ones counting down the days until training camp and the start of the regular season.

That moment of anxiety is striking more than a few NHL players in mid-August, and new Boston Bruins forward Matt Beleskey is really feeling it, as he told the team website.

“I could end the summer right now and start camp tomorrow,” Beleskey said. “I’m ready to go. This is always the hardest part of the summer, when you’ve been training and you’re kind of sick of that. I just want to get out there and start playing.”

The five-year, $19 million contract he signed this summer certainly represents an upgrade for the 27-year-old, but it’s not quite on the absurd level that many players have received following hot contract years in the past.

It’s still the kind of deal that will leave many people pleading with him to “prove it,” however, so that must make a summer full of golf and fishing feel a little more restless than usual.

Beleskey also must be a little intrigued about where he’ll end up in the Bruins’ lineup. Do you put him with David Krejci to try to be something of a Milan Lucic fill-in or do you add scoring depth by using Beleskey on the third line?

That’s interesting stuff to ponder, but as we fidget the next two months away, maybe Beleskey can do us a solid and share some more dog photos.

Now that is regular-season form.

(H/T to Rotoworld)

Los Angeles Kings ’15-16 Outlook

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It’s probably safe to say this about the rest of the NHL’s perception of the Los Angeles Kings: they don’t know exactly what to expect, but they’re scared.

After all, this is a two-time Stanley Cup champion team that hasn’t won a division title; opponents know not to disregard them at this point. The Kings have made a strange (and unintentional) habit of following underwhelming regular seasons with blistering playoff runs.

Of course, in 2014-15, they didn’t do enough to even limp into the postseason.

The Kings finished the regular season with 95 standings points, four short of the Winnipeg Jets at the final wild card spot.

That’s not a huge margin, yet it was still a shocking plummet for the defending champs.

GM Dean Lomabrdi seemed to hint that the Kings failed to find that extra gear, but getting a longer-than-expected rest might just have its perks.

“Well, this time there’s no excuse,” Lombardi said to NHL.com. “It’s a marvelous opportunity for our top players to take over that room, and they start by doing that, becoming the best they can be, and I think they will. There’s no doubt in my mind what guys like [Anze] Kopitar and [Jonathan] Quick and [Drew] Doughty stand for, and hopefully this is an awakening. It’s no fun watching the playoffs. In the long run, we could benefit from this.”

Greed could be good

If extra rest isn’t enough, one other thing shouldn’t be overlooked: important players are fighting for more than just pride.

At least a part of Anze Kopitar must see dollar signs when he notes the sort of money Jonathan Toews will pull in starting next season with his own deal just a year from expiring. Kopitar’s $6.8 million cap hit may very well look like a bargain compared to what he’ll start to make in 2016-17.

Milan Lucic is also fighting for a new contract, but he also hopes to restore his reputation as a top power forward in the NHL.

He struggled to score with David Krejci injured, and even if there are plenty of factors at play, it’s difficult to ignore that the Bruins are retaining $2.75 million of his cap hit this season.

Lucic – Kopitar – Marian Gaborik is a frightening combination of size and skill in any scenario, yet it’s downright terrifying with two-thirds of that group in contract years.

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Few would be brave enough to dismiss the Kings chances of making the playoffs in 2015-16. Could the same be said about anyone doubting their championship hopes, too?

(You can further discuss their window of contention here.)