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Austin Czarnik is used to top-line duties. The 25-year-old leads Providence with 42 points in 38 games this season and anchors the P-Bruins’ lead trio.

But when Czarnik was recalled to Boston for Saturday night’s showdown with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he knew he would have to make an impact in a different way. Playing instead in a fourth-line role, Czarnik was tasked with creating energy and momentum each time he hit the ice.

The Detroit native delivered, forming a solid unit with Frank Vatrano and Sean Kuraly. Czarnik did not land a shot on goal in just over nine minutes of ice time, but did pick up an assist on Torey Krug’s power-play tally.

“I think he was good. Lots of energy, on the puck, made a play on the power play, which we’re used to seeing him make. So, I thought that whole line did their job pretty well,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “No complaints…and that’s what we need.”

While playing in a slightly different role, Czarnik felt comfortable alongside Kuraly, his former teammate at Miami (Ohio), and Vatrano, his former linemate in Providence. While with the P-Bruins, Czarnik and Vatrano were a lethal combination that combined for 56 goals during the 2015-16 campaign.

“I played with Sean in college for three years and Frank in Providence and a little bit here so I know what type of players they are and what they like to do,” said Czarnik, who will be back in the lineup on Tuesday night in his hometown against the Red Wings. “I think we are just one step off from getting a lot of chances, but it was a good game for us…it was exciting, just create energy out there was my goal and our line did a good job of forcing a lot of turnovers.”

Czarnik was placed on Boston’s second power-play unit against the Maple Leafs, which proved to be a sound decision when he delivered a feed to Krug, who ripped home a one-timer to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead in the second period.

“I didn’t know what to expect coming into [Saturday night], so it was nice to get that [opportunity] – and we scored on one of them, so it was perfect,” said Czarnik, who has two assists in seven games with Boston this season.

The 5-foot-9, 160-pound forward’s previous two stints with the big club this season came prior to the team’s 25-4-4 run. This time around, he said, there is a noticeably different feel within the group.

“We were struggling there a bit more then,” said Czarnik. “But now the team is playing together and they are doing everything they need to do every night. So, it’s a fun time to be a part of it.”

Opposing View

The Bruins will be making their second visit to Detroit on Tuesday night. Boston’s first trip to Little Caesars Arena resulted in a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory, during which Brad Marchand notched the winner in the extra session.

Detroit has posted a 4-5-1 record over its last 10 games and is currently 7 points out of the East’s second wild-card spot. The Rangers, who the Bruins will visit on Wednesday, have dropped two straight and have just three wins in their last 10.

As a result, Boston is expecting two teams with an added level of urgency.

“I think we’ve tried to always worry about ourselves first. I think we understand that the majority of the teams that we’re gonna be playing are in a little bit more of a fight than we are,” said Cassidy. “We all want our points…they are a little more desperate than we are – we have to be cognizant of that, but at the same time play our game.

“There’s too many games to get caught up every night in what the other team is doing. We always address what they do well, where we can attack them and go from there and try not to worry about the standings too much, to be perfectly honest. There’s no easy games in this league.”

Marchand’s Return Near

Brad Marchand will be back in the lineup on this trip, with the winger serving the final game of his five-game suspension for elbowing on Tuesday in Detroit. Boston’s leading scorer will be eligible to return on Wednesday against the Rangers.

“Time goes by slow when you’re out, but it’s been a lot of fun to watch the guys play the way they have,” said Marchand, whose teammates have posted a 3-1-0 record in his absence. “They’re playing very well. Looking forward to getting back. It’s fun to watch, but it’s not fun to be out. It just shows how good of a team we have. But you hate to miss time and be out. It will be great to be back be in the room.”

Noel Acciari (lower-body), Anders Bjork (upper-body), and Kevan Miller (upper-body) all missed practice. Bjork will not travel with the team on the road trip, while Miller and Acciari “are unlikely to travel [with the team] but could join us,” according to Cassidy.

Acciari, who has missed the last four games, has been skating on his own. Miller and Bjork have not yet resumed any on-ice activities.

Split Duties

Cassidy said that Tuukka Rask would be in net on Tuesday night in Detroit, while Anton Khudobin is expected to get the call on Wednesday in New York.

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Brad Marchand spoke on Thursday morning for the first time since the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced his five-game suspension for elbowing New Jersey Devils forward Marcus Johansson in Boston on Tuesday night.

The Bruins winger addressed a large media contingent following Boston’s pregame skate at the Canadian Tire Centre ahead of Thursday night’s tilt with the Ottawa Senators.

“I’ve been trying to play a certain way for a while now, and it was never my intent to get into a situation like this, to injure Marcus, so hopefully he has a full healthy recovery very quickly,” said Marchand. “I let my teammates down – I know that – and I let the organization down. I have to be better, there’s no question.

“I respect the league’s decision on the matter. They’re in the right to make the decisions that they do, and I’m going to live with it.”

The suspension, which was levied on Wednesday night, marks the eighth time Marchand has been disciplined by the NHL (six suspensions, two fines) in his career. This one comes at a time during which the Bruins have collected points in 17 straight games. Marchand is also leading the league in scoring this month with 18 points (6 goals, 12 assists).

“The last thing I want to do is do anything to hurt the team, and that’s obviously what I’ve done here. It wasn’t what I was trying to do,” said Marchand. “We have a great team, and they’re going to battle hard and do everything they can to win the games. I’ll be there rooting them on, but I put my team in a disadvantage at the end, and I feel very bad about that.”

Marchand is allowed to participate in this weekend’s All-Star festivities in Tampa and said he will still attend. It is the 29-year-old’s second consecutive selection.

“I’m going to go. I’m very proud of that opportunity,” said Marchand. “It is something I’ve worked very hard for and never thought I’d have the opportunity to do, so it’s something I’m very proud about, and I’m going to go and enjoy every second of it.”

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has had a relationship with Marchand since the winger’s first professional season in Providence, when Cassidy was then an assistant with the P-Bruins. Cassidy chatted with Marchand during Thursday’s morning skate and encouraged him to think about what he would like his legacy to be.

“The thing with Brad is I’ve known him since he was a first-year player, so I know him as a person,” said Cassidy. “That’s what sometimes has disappointed me, that gets lost. I hear opinions out there, they don’t know him as a teammate, as a father, the work he puts in to be a better player. After games he’s always with children in the family room signing something – he’s just a great person with a big heart.

“But Brad does have to take responsibility for his actions, he’s aware of that. He’ll sit his five games and we’ll welcome him back.”

Despite this latest misstep, Marchand believes he has made progress in buttoning up his on-ice actions.

“Obviously, I want to be known as a good player. I’ve worked very hard to become a decent player in this league, and things like this obviously hinder that,” said Marchand. “It’s something that I will continue to work on and be better at, but [Cassidy] is not wrong. I think that some things behind the scenes get lost when things like this happen, but I think that I have good teammates and the organization, my family and friends, they know what I’m trying to do and where I’m trying to be and how much I care about this team, organization, the guys in the room.

“That’s not going to change. Obviously, I am going to be better in areas. I’m going to continue to work on it, but it’s just another step in the road.”

With Marchand out of the lineup, Anders Bjork was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis on Wednesday night. Bjork played in eight games for the P-Bruins after being assigned on Jan. 3 and notched two goal and two assists. The 21-year-old, who has four goals and eight assists in 28 games with Boston this season, will likely start in Marchand’s spot alongside Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak against the Senators.

“He’s played well. He started offensively very well,” Cassidy said of Bjork’s play in Providence. “What we’re trying to get out of Anders is play a little bit more straight line, understanding when he can make plays, when he’s got to manage the puck better. That was the biggest issue for him coming to this level, where the open ice is, how to get there.

“He’s been working on that. We’ll see where he’s at. He played very well for us earlier this year. We’re confident he can do the job. We’re not asking anyone to replaced Brad – that would be unfair – but just to go play his game and contribute.”

 

Bjork is hoping to make the most of his chance to play on what has been the hottest line in hockey for the better part of two months.

“It’s exciting. It’s obviously a great opportunity, tons of players would die to be in my position right now,” said Bjork. “I’ve just got to stay focused and make the most of it, do what I can to keep up with the line and be a positive impact.”

Acciari Out, Too

In addition to the absences of Marchand and Charlie McAvoy (ablation procedure), Boston will also be without Noel Acciari on Thursday night as the winger battles a lower-body injury. Frank Vatrano will slide into his place on the fourth line.

“Hopefully the All-Star Break will do him some good,” said Cassidy. “And then we’ll see where he’s at on Tuesday against Anaheim.”

Pushing Through

As they did during the season’s first six weeks when they were beset by an unseemly amount of injuries, the Bruins will have to battle through some adversity as they look to extend their points streak to 18 games.

“We’ve had to find ways and simplify our game, make it blue collar and do what we do best,” said Backes. “This is no different of a scenario than if [Marchand's] hurt or suspended. Same with Charlie being out. Hopefully it’s short term and we’re going to have to patch holes, different guys step up to be the hero each night.

“Those guys are significant players, but we’ve done it before and we’ll have to do it again. Every team’s got injuries this time of year or guys out.”

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Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced today, January 3, that the team has assigned forward Anders Bjork to Providence.

Bjork has appeared in 28 games for Boston this season, tallying four goals and eight assists for 12 points with a plus-two rating. Bjork made his NHL debut on October 5 against the Nashville Predators in Boston where he tallied his first NHL assist and point. The forward later recorded his first NHL goal on October 14 vs. the Coyotes in Arizona.

Before turning pro, Bjork served as an alternate captain for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in 2016-17, finishing the year with 21 goals and 31 assists for 52 points, all of which were career highs. Bjork played for three seasons at Notre Dame, appearing in 115 games (2014-2017) accruing 40-69=109 totals with a plus-42 rating.

Prior to attending Notre Dame, ‪Bjork spent two seasons in Ann Arbor, Michigan with the U.S. National Team Development Program from 2012-14, skating in 117 games and compiling 33 goals and 32 assists for 65 points with 58 penalty minutes and a plus-21 rating.

The Boston Bruins signed Bjork to an entry level contract on May 30, 2017.

The 6-foot,186-pound Mequon, Wisconsin native was selected by the Bruins in the fifth round (146th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

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The Bruins certainly hope so.

After 11 straight losses to the Washington Capitals, Boston is looking to snap the maddening streak when they visit Capital One Arena on Thursday evening. The Bruins have not defeated Washington since March of 2014 and have dropped both meetings so far this season.

But as the winners of five straight and 14 of their last 18 – yes, one of the losses came to the Capitals – the Bruins are hoping to finally break through in the teams’ final matchup of the year.

“Obviously we’re playing well, that helps,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “For whatever reason – there’s a number of them – but the biggest one is we end up chasing the game against them a lot, so that’s going to be our focus. Hopefully we get off to a better start.

The Bruins may be catching the Capitals at the right time, as they have lost three straight for the first time this season and have been shut out in back-to-back games, including a 1-0 shootout loss to the Rangers on Wednesday night.

“Both teams played last night, so there’s no advantage other than them being at home,” added Cassidy. “They’ve been able to make more plays than us at the appropriate times. That’s the second part of the focus – get off to a good start and make the plays that you need to to put yourself in position to win.”

Certified Bruins killer Braden Holtby, who has won nine straight against the B’s, did not play against New York and is expected to get the start in goal tonight.

“I think we just have to keep playing the same hockey we’ve been playing,” said Noel Acciari. “We need to have a good start and play our game – right now it’s working for us and if we stick to that we should be OK.”

Acciari Good to Go

After taking a hit to the head from Ottawa defenseman Fredrik Claesson on Wednesday night, Acciari said he was feeling no ill effects and would be ready to go against the Capitals. The winger, whose nose took the brunt of the blow, missed the final five minutes of the first period before returning for the second.

Acciari’s linemate and former Providence College teammate Tim Schaller took exception to the hit and dropped the gloves with Claesson, earning 17 minutes in penalties. It was a gesture that Acciari greatly appreciated.

“Tim stepped up for me,” said Acciari. “Just being a good teammate. It’s great to see and I know that any guy will step up for any guy on our team. That’s the type of team we are.”

Schaller said he was trying to avoid the instigator penalty, which automatically triggers a 10-minute misconduct, but the officials weren’t budging.

“I think anyone in the lineup would do the same thing I did,” said Schaller. “I talked to the ref before I got in the box – I said I was polite about it and I made sure [Claesson] said yes. I was surprised when I got it, but it was worth it.”

Pursuit of Happiness

Cassidy has been searching for a just a little bit more from Anders Bjork of late, particularly away from the puck, asking to see a bit more jam out of the rookie winger’s game to complement his patented speed and skill.

During Wednesday night’s win over the Senators, Cassidy got his wish. With the Bruins up, 3-1, late in the second, Bjork turned on the jets and delivered a dogged forecheck on Ottawa blue liner Dion Phaneuf.

Bjork tracked down the veteran defenseman just inside the Ottawa blue line and was hot on his tail as Phaneuf tried to escape the zone. Eventually, Bjork swatted the puck away, corralled it, and fed Riley Nash, who finished things off with a dangle past Craig Anderson for a 4-1 Boston advantage.

It was the exact kind of puck pursuit Cassidy has been looking for.

“We want him to be harder on pucks and puck pursuit because it is an avenue that he can certainly make our team look faster by tracking down pucks,” said Cassidy. “That is why we have asked him – even when he has it sometimes when he runs out of space – to chip it and go get it because he puts a lot of stress on the D. He is starting to understand that part of it.”

Rolling Along

With his win against the Senators, Tuukka Rask has now grabbed points in his last 10 games (9-0-1). The netminder, who was named the NHL’s First Star last week, has accomplished that feat four times in his career, with the last coming in 2015.

Over the 10-game stretch, Rask has a 1.41 goals against average and .946 save percentage.

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If the Bruins want inspiration for a potential Stanley Cup run, they need look no further than the Nashville Predators last season.

Look, it’s not a perfect comparison. The Predators had a better blue line. They have a better coach. But both teams are regular-season possession monsters. Both teams are powered by a dominant top line that can flat-out take over games — Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have combined for seven goals at 5-on-5 and having given up one. Which is pretty good.

Both teams have a supporting cast at forward that’s a combination of veterans and dynamic younger players. For the Bruins, that means guys like center David Krejci playing with guys like Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk.

But what the Predators had last season that the Bruins aren’t sure they’ll have: a veteran goalie who finds another level early in the playoffs and wins rounds for his team. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne went from a .918 save percentage and a 2.42 goals-against in the regular season to a .930 and a 1.96 in the postseason. He started the playoffs with back-to-back shutouts. He won seven of first eight postseason starts.

Tuukka Rask has a .913 save percentage and a 2.44 goals-against average this season. His career playoff numbers have been quite good: .928 and a 2.12, respectively. But for the Bruins to make a serious run at the Cup, he needs to dominate the early rounds and give his team some solid defensive footing on which to climb through the conference. Especially when it appears they could open the playoffs against Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Emily Kaplan: If the Bruins play like they did in a 7-2 throttling of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, no doubt about it. Pencil these guys into the Eastern Conference finals right now. But that’s just one game of evidence, of course. Let’s look at a larger sample size.

First, the positives: Charlie McAvoy is a revelation. The 19-year-old defenseman is every bit as good as advertised, handling hefty minutes (23-plus a game) against tough assignments, producing offensively (18 points in 31 games) and showing some grit, too. (I’m not just talking about his fight on Monday.) The Bruins also have what could be the league’s best line outside of Vladislav Namestnikov-Nikita Kucherov-Steven Stamkos. Yes, Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak — the Bruins’ top three point-scorers — are that dominant.

The problem here is depth. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy still doesn’t know who to play with David Krejci, and that’s an issue. The young kids (Bjork and DeBrusk) are working through rookie growing pains. And the least-fun topic to bring up in Boston: Rask may have lost a step. Hey, that can all be solved if the veteran goalie only faces 18 shots a night while his team fires off 45 … like it did against Columbus.

I think the most emblematic game for this team was its performance last Saturday against the Rangers. The Bruins fell two goals behind, and then looked damn impressive storming back against a locked-in Henrik Lundqvist to tie and earn a point. Ultimately, a mental lapse — a bad line change that yielded too many men in overtime — did the Bruins in. This is a team that has stumbled early and has enough talent to scare some teams down the stretch, but there are too many holes in the Bruins’ lineup for them to finish off teams come playoff time.

Chris Peters: I don’t think they have enough to make a Cup run, especially with the competition being what it is in the East right now. If the Bruins can get past the Lightning in the Atlantic portion of the playoffs — a huge if — they would still have to overtake any one of the teams from the loaded Metropolitan to reach the Cup Final. As Emily notes, depth is an issue — and it’s unlikely Boston can keep pace with the scoring attacks it would have to go head-to-head with, even if it did just drop seven on the Blue Jackets. The Bruins are looking more and more comfortable as a playoff team, but it’s harder to see them taking that leap to Cup contender.

The 2017-18 season, however, is a key building-block year as the Bruins look to recover from some of the salary-cap issues left by former GM Peter Chiarelli. This season appears to be a significant step forward for a number of reasons. McAvoy looking like the heir apparent to Zdeno Chara as the team’s No. 1 defenseman is a huge development, but the Bruins are going to need a lot more than one player to fill the roles previously held by veterans. A lot of young players are getting significant reps with the big club. It’s an important development season for those players, as Boston keeps building a secondary core of young players to support the existing veterans — like Chara, Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci and Rask — who have meant so much to the organization.

Pastrnak is still only 21, which makes him the centerpiece of the young core. McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are in there, too. Meanwhile, Danton Heinen has sneaked up to third in points per game among rookies, trailing only Brock Boeser and Mathew Barzal, at 0.78. DeBrusk had the best night of his young career against Columbus and now has 17 points in 27 games. Boston has used 10 players aged 24 or younger this season and has a decently-stocked prospect pipeline, with some more talent to follow.

There may be a little more uncertainty in the coming years as some of the other veterans move on or decline, but the Bruins can start feeling pretty good about their future. To be playing as well as they have been this season is simply an added bonus.

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Just when the Bruins thought they were nearing full health, more bad news arrived at the doorstep on Tuesday afternoon.

While David Backes, Brad Marchand, and Ryan Spooner all participated fully in practice and appear close to a return to game action, Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci missed the session and have been ruled out for Wednesday night’s tilt with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

DeBrusk, day-to-day with an upper-body ailment, will become the 14th Bruin to miss time because of injury this season. Krejci, meanwhile, re-aggravated an upper-body injury that sidelined him for 11 games earlier this season. The pivot (also day-to-day) had played in five games since returning and was riding a two-game scoring streak (2-1-3).

“It’s tough. Every team goes through it though. You see it all around the league,” said Marchand, who has sat out six straight games and eight out of 10 because of injury. “I think Anaheim is in a similar situation as well. You have to battle through and the guys have. We’ve won four of the last five and we’re starting to come together. It’s good that guys are able to step up and guys are getting opportunities to take control and be big for us.

“Guys have done that and we have to continue to find ways to win. At the end of the year, you don’t want to have any excuses, you want to battle through it and it’s going to make the team better.”

Marchand shed the burgundy non-contact jersey for Tuesday’s session and will be a game-time decision against the Lightning.

“Not very much fun wearing that, nice to get the regular one back on and take part in the full practice,” said Marchand, “So it was good, I felt good today – felt good the last few days. I guess we’ll see.”

David Backes has also been termed day-to-day and a game-time decision for Wednesday night and appears to be well ahead of schedule in his recovery from colon surgery. Backes was originally given an estimated recovery time of eight weeks after the procedure on Nov. 2.

“Feeling pretty good,” said Backes. “Another step today in practice with full contact, trying to egg a little more contact with the day off yesterday and trying to push and test things so that you’re still in a little bit more of a controlled environment.

“If things are not good, you can call timeout, where as in a game there’s not that luxury or tell everyone to take a second to regroup. Went well, we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”

Ryan Spooner was also back at practice after missing Sunday’s game against Edmonton.

“Had some time off, so he’s doing well. Looking good for tomorrow,” said Cassidy.

Bjork Returns

In other positive injury news, Anders Bjork was back on the ice for the first time since suffering an undisclosed injury against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 11. The rookie winger, who has missed the last six games, was donning a burgundy non-contact jersey and did not take part in the second half of practice, which consisted of several battle drills. He will not play against Tampa Bay.

Goalie Decision Coming

Cassidy did not divulge which goalie will start against the Tampa Bay Lightning, saying he will announce his final decision on Wednesday morning.

“Ideally, I’d like both goalies to give us a chance to win every night and be at the top of their game,” said Cassidy. “I think we’ve seen that with Anton [Khudobin] now, Tuukka [Rask's] not there yet. We’ve got to find a way. At the start of the year that’s what we had said, we want both goalies to play well and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what we need. That hasn’t changed.”

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David Krejci took another step in his recovery from an upper-body injury on Tuesday as he shed the red non-contact jersey he donned during Monday’s practice back in Boston.

The veteran pivot took the ice at Honda Center on Tuesday afternoon in a standard white sweater and split reps with Jordan Szwarz between Frank Vatrano and Danton Heinen.

Krejci, who has missed Boston’s last 10 games, is hopeful to return to the lineup on Wednesday night against the Ducks, terming himself a game-time decision.

“Hopefully gonna have a good rest of the day, good morning skate,” said Krejci. “As a player you want to play, but you have to be safe with your health. [Wednesday's] going to be a big day. Morning skate, talk to the doctors and go from there.”

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said he does not have any hesitations with playing Krejci in both games of this week’s back-to-back in Anaheim and Los Angeles. If Krejci is cleared to play and feeling good, there will not be any limitations.

“I don’t think that’s our thought process,” said Cassidy. “If he’s good to go [against Anaheim] he’s in, if he’s good to go Thursday he’d be in. Just waiting on them, the individual and the training staff.”

Bjork, Marchand Ruled Out

Cassidy ruled both Anders Bjork and Brad Marchand out for the next two games. He said the status of both players would be re-evaluted on Friday.

Both were injured during Saturday night’s game against Toronto.

Agostino, Cehlarik Recalled

With the injuries to Bjork and Marchand, Peter Cehlarik and Kenny Agostino were recalled from Providence on an emergency basis on Monday. Agostino skated on the right wing with Tim Schaller and Riley Nash during Tuesday’s practice, while Cehlarik was on the left side with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.

“We’ve looked at a lot of different options up there…we’re not afraid to put a young player up there,” Cassidy said of Cehlarik. “He did play with Krech and Pasta last year. He’s used to playing with good skill and will complement them in terms of his ability to protect pucks and get to the net. Could be a good fit.”

Cehlarik was also manning the front of the net on Boston’s No. 1 power-play unit during the session.

“He recovers pucks well, so net-front power play is a good spot for him,” said Cassidy. “I know they’ve used him in the bumper before as well. He’s a big body in front, he’s got quick hands. He gives you some of what Marchy does in terms of being able to recover a puck and put it in a good spot to make a play with it.”

Cehlarik had been battling a lower-body injury in Providence, but returned last weekend. The 22-year-old Slovakia native has three goals and three assists in six games with the P-Bruins this season.

“You always want to be the first guy they bring up,” said Cehlarik. “I was playing my game there. I was out for a little while with an injury, came back last weekend. Kind of surprised, but up here now and trying to adjust quickly and be ready for tomorrow.”

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For the first 59 minutes of the game, it seemed the Bruins had finally put together a complete road victory against a formidable opponent. Leading 2-1 thanks to tallies by familiar goal-scorers Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, the Bruins looked to close out the game and earn a much-needed two points. But with the goalie pulled in the final 60 seconds of regulation, James Van Riemsdyk and the Toronto Maple Leafs snatched a point from their Atlantic Division rivals, and Patrick Marleau added the finishing blow a minute into three-on-three overtime – leaving Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and the rest of the B’s scratching their heads as to how they let one get away in a 3-2 overtime setback at Air Canada Centre.

“With a minute left, it’s one of those where you kind of let it slip by,” lamented Bergeron. “It’s tough, we have to learn from that… We have to take the good out of it but also realize we have to close games like that.”

“We played good, but a few mistakes just cost us the game,” added Marchand, who played 23 minutes in his first game back from an upper-body injury. “You can’t be giving away points like this.”

After a scoreless back-and-forth affair through the first half of the game, Bergeron opened the scoring 15 minutes into the second period with a one-time snipe from Marchand that beat Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen, who was frozen in his crease. It was a familiar connection for No. 63 and No. 37, who looked as comfortable as ever playing together in all situations of the game – as each racked up more than 22 minutes of ice time. But after Riley Nash was called for a slashing penalty in the final minute of the period, the Leafs capitalized on the man advantage, as Van Riemsdyk banged home a rebound from Morgan Reilly’s point shot to tie the game at one goal apiece.

Pastrnak put the Bruins ahead once again 14 minutes into the third period, as the team’s third power play of the game was about to expire. Torey Krug sent the puck in behind the Leafs defense, where Anders Bjork retrieved it and centered it to the front of the net, where Jordan Szwarz had two point-blank whacks at it, only to be denied by Andersen both times. But the second rebound came right out to Pastrnak, who finished it off and threw both hands in the air in celebration.

But the good feelings were short-lived for the Black & Gold. The desperate Leafs pulled Andersen and put six skaters on the attack in the final couple minutes, hemming the Bruins in their own zone. After a few failed clearing attempts, Mitch Marner’s pass found the stick of Van Riemsdyk, who was camped out alone in front of Khudobin and easily deflected it past the B’s netminder to tie the game.

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The Bruins had an off day Thursday after arriving in Toronto at 3 a.m. ET ahead of their Friday night showdown with the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy spoke to reporters at the team hotel, and he gave updates on Brad Marchand, Noel Acciari, the weekend goaltending plan and more.

Marchand/Acciari Game-Time Decisions

Cassidy said that both Brad Marchand and Noel Acciari will be game-time decisions for Friday’s game in Toronto.

“I’m not going to rule [Marchand] in or out right now, because like I said he’s going through what he needs to do. There is a chance [he plays tomorrow].”

“Noel will be a game-time decision. And he gives us a physicality, straight-line, can change the momentum of the game on the forecheck with some big hits. Be nice to have that element back in the game. I think he was rounding into his offensive game, that’s going to be a little more difficult I think after missing time.”

The physicality that Acciari provides is certainly something that doesn’t go unnoticed by opposing teams either, with one Boston reporter informing Cassidy that at least three Rangers brought up the absence of Acciari prior to Wednesday’s game.

“Well they know when he’s on the ice. A guy that hits and hits clean, people are aware of it. Guys that hit dirty, people are aware of it too, but they are talking about it probably in a different [way]. There’s respect for Noel’s game. I believe he’s earned that. I’m not privy to the conversations you’re talking about, but I assume they are talking about a good hard-nosed clean hockey player that brings that element every night and they need to be aware of it when they are on the ice.”

Goaltender Split

Cassidy said that the team is leaning towards starting Anton Khudobin in net Friday night, with Tuukka Rask returning in between the pipes Saturday in Boston.

“We’re leaning towards Anton [Khudobin] tomorrow to give Tuukka [Rask] the extra day, but we’ll make that decision tomorrow morning. But it will be a split. Anton is ready to go; he backed up last night. He’ll have another morning skate to make sure he’s up to snuff and then we’ll decide.”

College Hockey

During his wide-ranging media availability, Cassidy touched on the recent growth of U.S. college hockey. Charlie McAvoy (Boston University), Anders Bjork (Notre Dame), Danton Heinen (Denver University), Frank Vatrano (UMass), Noel Acciari (Providence College) and Sean Kuraly (Miami) are among the Bruins’ young players who chose the college route.

“I think in general, there’s more American kids playing the game, so I think that has a lot to do with it. They are going to naturally gravitate towards going towards college as opposed to going the junior route. I think Canadian kids are now are going the college route more and more because of the level of play, and they want to get drafted. They want to be NHL players. What’s the quickest route? Well who is getting drafted from which leagues? Now there is a better balance in that. And it’s actually probably – I don’t have the numbers in front of me – tilting probably closer to college.”

Cassidy himself said he thought about going to Colgate University as a 17-year-old, but decided to go another route – a decision he sometimes regrets.

“I was a good student, I was ready to go. I turned 17, I went to actually visit Colgate, so it crossed my mind. I was drafted to my hometown team fairly high, so I went that route. It worked out. We won a Memorial Cup. I have regrets sometimes that I didn’t get my education. You can still do it in the summers, peck away at it, but it’s not quite the same.”

Hockey Hall Of Fame

Cassidy said he visited the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto last year and has plans to visit again on the team’s off day.

“I went last year when I was year, and I went probably 15 years a go. For me, I’m sure you guys know, I’m a hockey nut. I’m a junkie, so I love that stuff. I think it’s terrific, nice to be around it.”

His favorite part of the museum was seeing a familiar mask while waiting in line.

“When I walked in I was waiting in line, there was a mask of [Bruins goaltending coach] Bob Essensa right there and I couldn’t believe it. There it was, right there. And I was like, wow, Bob, I have to tell him that. And then the next one below was Darren Pang, who is one of my best friends in hockey. So I was like, wow, I didn’t know I was around such royalty. It was awesome.”

Adidas Black Charlie McAvoy Jersey-Bruins Official Shop

A primetime matchup against an Original Six rival on national television has the entire Bruins locker room ready and raring to lace up their skates for tonight’s game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

But one player in particular has had this game circled on his calendar since the start of the season – B’s defenseman and Long Beach, NY native Charlie McAvoy.

“It’s going to be really special,” McAvoy told reporters following the team’s morning skate. “It’s a game that I’ve been looking forward to… Any time you get to come home and play at a building like this, where you grew up going to games, it really means a lot. It’s special, so I’m excited for it.”

The 19-year-old defenseman will have “a good amount” of friends and family in the building tonight to watch him play alongside 40-year-old captain Zdeno Chara. But both McAvoy and Head Coach Bruce Cassidy are hopeful that the added pressure of playing in front of a hometown crowd won’t distract him from his game.

“He’s from the area, it’s a rivalry game, Madison Square Garden – I imagine he is jacked to played, get out there, as long as he doesn’t get too much ahead of him in that regard,” Cassidy said. “I don’t think anything really does with Charlie. If it does, he’s able to reel it in quickly. Like you, I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s got today.”

“I think staying on that even keel is something that I’ve really tried to practice since as long as I can remember,” McAvoy said. “You don’t get too high or too low. So tonight I’ll just approach it like any other game, and I guess the postgame will be the only thing that’s different, being able to see a lot of good family and friends.”

As for whether his loved ones will be wearing Blue and Red or Black and Gold, McAvoy assured reporters that his supporters in the crowd were willing to change their allegiances – at least for one night.

“Everybody is cheering for me. A lot of Ranger fans turned Bruins fans tonight, which I appreciate. I’m excited.”

Bjork, DeBrusk Eager For Rivalry Game

McAvoy isn’t the only one excited for tonight’s Original Six matchup. Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk are among several Bruins set to play their first game against New York at Madison Square Garden.

“Should be an exciting game,” Bjork said. “It should be an exciting atmosphere as well. I’m really excited to play here – I think we all are – and hopefully we’ll have a good one.”

“We know they’re playing good hockey, and we know we’ve got to be ready,” DeBrusk said. “It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be a tight game and I’m looking forward to it.”

Cassidy told reporters that he hopes his young lineup will be able to handle the adversity of playing in front of loud, hostile crowd.

“I think young guys tend to play better at home,” Cassidy said. “They feed off a little more of that. You see a lot of better records in junior and in college because of that. As they get more mature, they realize, hey, I have to do it 82 times a year – whether we are playing at home or on Mars. We are trying to send that message that you need the same game, the same preparation.”

 

Beating the King

Chief among the Blue Shirts looking to spoil the MSG debuts of McAvoy, Bjork and DeBrusk is goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner has seen a dip in his numbers so far this season (3.07 GAA, .900 Save %), but DeBrusk and the Bruins know that to have success tonight, they’ll have to create some traffic in front of him.

“Get in his eyes, make sure he doesn’t see the puck – I think that’s the biggest thing,” DeBrusk explained. “He’s the King, and he’s going to stop it if he sees it unless it’s a perfect shot. The main focus is to get to the net, get some rebounds and make sure he doesn’t see the puck.”