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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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When David Backes was placed on injured reserve on November 2, his recovery time from colon surgery was a projected eight weeks. Tuesday’s game against the New York Islanders will mark eight weeks exactly. Fortunately for the Bruins, Backes made an almost super-human recovery, returning to the lineup after merely four weeks.

Backes was expected to miss the entire month of December. Instead, the Minnesota native played in all 14 games, recording 7-7=14 totals. Backes was especially impressive towards the end of the month, recording multiple points in each of the past four games (3-5=8). Powered by Backes and his recently formed third line with Riley Nash and Danton Heinen, the Bruins have recorded at least a point in eight consecutive contests (6-0-2).

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy lauded Backes for his recent play.

 

“The puck is finding him… You get on a bit of a roll, hopefully you can sustain it. He’s always been a consistent scorer, so good for him for getting to the dirty areas and the puck is finding him there.”

 

Not only are Backes and his linemates finding the back of the net, they are being relied upon to play valuable minutes in all situations.

 

“They play a lot. They are playing against good players so they have a lot of responsibility. They’re digging in. I think David missed some time, so he’s hungry. They’ve just jelled.”

 

In a 5-0 win over the Ottawa Senators on December 30, Backes led all Bruins forwards in time on ice (18:02), followed by his linemates Riley Nash (17:26) and Danton Heinen (17:16).

 

Backes was rewarded for his recent strong play by being named the NHL’s third star of the week.

 

“I concentrate on the process and the results will end up being there,” said Backes. “I think that’s been kind of the MO for the line that I play on and the power power play – do the right things all the time and eventually pucks are going to find you. It’s going to be your opportunity and you have to capitalize on it.

 

Backes was quick to credit his teammates for contributing to his success and the success of the team.

 

“I think it’s all pointing in good directions,” said Backes. “While it’s my name maybe on the third star, there’s a lot of credit to spread around for teammates and guys that I’m on the ice with. Being productive is great, but being productive in wins – especially against good teams is a great feeling to have.

 

Even the guys that aren’t piling up points on a game-to-game basis are all being very productive members of our team. Blocking shots, taking hits and killing penalties… that means the difference in winning and losing a lot of games and we need to focus a little of the spotlight on those guys too.”

 

RASK ROLLING

 

Things are clicking for Tuukka Rask, as the Finnish goaltender has backstopped the team to at least a point in 11 consecutive appearances. That streak is the longest of his career, and he is 10-0-1 in that span. In the month of December, Rask has only allowed 13 goals, recorded a goals against average of 1.22 and a save percentage of .955.

 

The scorching run for Rask follows a period in which he briefly ceded the net to Anton Khudobin for a four-game stretch while Khudobin was performing at an exceptionally high level.

 

Cassidy believes that stretch helped motivate Rask.

 

“Tuukka is clearly – however you want to summarize it – benefited from being pushed or not playing, finding his game, whatever you want to call it. He’s dead on…The passion was there. He wanted the net back.”

 

Rask noted that the competition has been very beneficial for the whole team.

 

“This year [Khudobin has] played great too,” said Rask. “I think it’s always good to have two good goalies and we are always pushing. No matter who the other guy is, you’re always trying to push yourself and have that competition.”

RETURN TO HEALTH

 

While most teams enter opening night with their full complement of players, the Bruins had to wait a bit to see their lineup come to fruition. With the exception of Adam McQuaid, who is nearing a return, the B’s are excited to finally see their full team on the ice.

 

“Kind of funny if you look at it that way,” said forward David Krejci. “It’s almost half the season behind us, this is the first time we have a healthy lineup. But at the same time, maybe it’s a good think that we got all those injuries out of the way early on in the season and hopefully we can stay healthy for the rest of the season.”

 

Patrice Bergeron also noted how the return to health has impacted the team.

 

“We’re healthier than we’ve been most of the year,” said Bergeron. “So that definitely has been helping a lot for us to get back to playing some good hockey. Like I said, you need everyone to be successful.

 

It’s not every night that you’re going to have the same guys. It seems like everyone is kind of falling in place. If it’s not one line, it’s going to be the other line on any given night so it’s been great.”

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To put it simply, Tuukka Rask is locked in.

Since ceding the net to Anton Khudobin for four straight games in mid-November – a stretch of four wins that kick started Boston’s 14-4-1 run – Rask has lost only once in regulation and has now garnered points in 10 straight games.

Named the NHL’s First Star last week, Rask is 9-0-1 during the streak, with a 1.41 goals against average and .946 save percentage. And over his last three games, Rask has stopped 92 of the 95 shots that have come his way.

Rask, who did not play on Thursday in Washington, is hoping to keep it rolling when he returns to the net against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night with the Bruins looking to bounce back from their shootout loss to the Capitals.

“I feel the same, I’m seeing the puck well, making saves. Don’t really feel too different,” Rask said following a limited skate at the Senators practice facility on Friday afternoon. “As a team we’ve played very good hockey and as I’ve said before that’s very helpful for goalies. When they clear out the bodies in front of you and if there’s any rebounds they clear out the rebound as well, that’s a big part of it.”

After starting 3-8-2, Rask has surged to a 12-8-3 record for the season with a 2.23 goals against average, which ranks fourth in the league and second behind Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy among those that have played in at least 24 games. Over a full campaign, they are numbers worthy of some hardware, not that the 2014 Vezina Trophy winner is thinking that way.

“It doesn’t matter. Things happen if they happen, we never play for the individual trophies anyways. But I think winning it once and looking back to it, the way your team plays in front of you plays a big role,” said Rask, who was named to his first All-Star team last season. “If your team doesn’t play well and they’re not playing good team defense then there’s no goalie that’s going to win it.

“It’s one of those trophies that even though it’s individual you look more at the team performance in front of the goalie as well. I’m fine with not being in that discussion.

“If it happens it happens. The biggest thing we’re worried about is our team performance.”

And it is that team performance that Rask does indeed credit for his recent string of victories. Since Nov. 16 – a span of 19 games – the Bruins have allowed 38 goals, good for second in the league. Prior to that point, the Bruins were 16th with 50 goals allowed in 16 games. For the season, Boston ranks fifth in the NHL (2.56).

“The way we play now, it’s good for goalies – you know you’re going to get some chances again. But it’s a trade-off, you know you’re going to get some chances for, too, in the offensive side,” said Rask. “It used to be that you’re focused so much on the defense that you’re only going to win games 1-0 or 2-1. As a goalie you know if you let in three goals you’re most likely going to lose.

“Nowadays, it’s more if you let in a bad goal you might be scoring four goals. That’s the biggest difference in that regard. When we’re playing well and everyone is on top of their game, it’s fun to watch and fun to play.”

Also contributing to Rask’s success is the success of Khudobin. Khudobin has eased the load on Rask – a focus for the Bruins entering the season – suiting up for 13 starts with an 8-2-3 record. The backup netminder’s 2.48 goals against average and .922 save percentage both rank 10th in the NHL.

“It’s been great. I think the things we wanted to accomplish is to have two goalies going and both feeling fresh,” said Rask. “That’s the main thing. I’ve felt fresh and I’m sure Doby’s felt fresh too. Haven’t felt like it’s been too heavy for either one of us.

“We’re on Game 35 or something right now, so almost to the halfway point, so gotta keep it going until the end.”

Getting Closer

Cassidy did not rule out the possibility that both David Krejci and Adam McQuaid return to action on Saturday in Ottawa. Krejci has missed the last six games with an upper-body injury, while McQuaid has been sidelined for some 10 weeks with a broken right fibula.

“Yes, a chance for both,” said Cassidy. “We’ll get a better idea after the skate. If we like where they’re at then they’ll both be game-time decisions. We’re not going to automatically assume [they're in] because tomorrow is a new day.”

Krejci, one of 12 players who participated in a limited practice on Friday, said he “felt good again” and is “optimistic” that he’ll be in the lineup if he wakes up feeling the same on Saturday.

McQuaid also practiced on Friday and said, “I feel like I’m pretty close. I feel better and better every day, so that’s a good sign. I’m antsy to get back in there.”

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The Bruins knew they had their work cut out for them on Saturday night. Boston was getting its first look at rookie sniper Matthew Barzal, who has joined an already potent New York Islanders lineup that includes John Tavares, Anders Lee, and Josh Bailey to form one of the NHL’s best offensive attacks.

A strong defensive effort was needed from top to bottom. And that’s exactly what the Bruins put forth.

Led by a 30-save performance by Tuukka Rask and some stifling play from the back end, the B’s charged to a 3-1 victory over the Isles at TD Garden for their eighth win in 10 games.

“We talked about the one thing that we had to really take care of was our D-zone tonight and we definitely did that,” said Patrice Bergeron. “Especially against an offensive team like the Islanders with so many gifted players, you can’t give them space and room, especially in the slot. I thought we kept them on the outside for the most part.

“Obviously they’re going to get some chances, they’re good players, but I thought it was a really good effort.”

Contributing to the stingy performance was Boston’s penalty kill. The unit had a perfect night in shutting down all four of New York’s power plays, which included two five-minute majors in the third period – one on Brad Marchand for interference and one on David Backes for head butting. On both majors, the Bruins drew penalties which helped limit the time they spent shorthanded.

“Those majors ended up being kind of three-minte power plays for them and then we draw a penalty. We cut it in half twice,” said Zdeno Chara. “That’s something that shows guys are working hard even away from the puck. Even when we are shorthanded we are capable of being dangerous and that’s what happened, we drew some penalties.”

Boston has now allowed one goal or fewer in three of its last four games and is playing its best all-around hockey of the season in front of Rask, who has won four straight starts. Including his relief performance in Nashville, the B’s ace netminder has allowed just five goals over his last five games for a 1.10 goals against average and .955 save percentage.

“Making those saves you can see he’s clear. He’s ready for anything, for every shot, and he looks confident,” said Bergeron. “Tonight he was great.”

After a tough month of November, during which he ceded the net to Anton Khudobin for a four-game stretch, Rask has found his stride and appears relaxed and composed between the pipes. Rask credited the play in front of him for his recent success.

“I’ve had good rhythm to my game,” said Rask. “Guys are doing a good job eliminating the second chances and obviously if you don’t get rebounds all the time it helps too, but we’re skating back so hard that we are kind of forcing them to take shots in bad spots and when they don’t have all the time in the world to pick the corners up, it’s kind of easier for me too.

“I think that’s played a huge part of that, coming back to our own zone and shutting them down in the slot area and also blocking a ton of shots. We’re not shying away from that, so I think all of those things together have made it.”

Much of the strong play in front of Rask came from the pairing of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo. With Boston’s No. 1 duo of Chara and Charlie McAvoy assigned to track the Islanders top line, the responsibility of defending Barzal, Andrew Ladd, and Jordan Eberle fell to Krug and Carlo. The tandem had a terrific night as they kept the Islanders second-line trio off the board.

“That kid’s a heck of a player,” Krug, who had two assists, said of Barzal. “Seems like the puck follows him around. A couple bigger bodies that play with him and get to the net. It was a fun matchup for Brandon and myself. We both skate well and tried to shut them down with good gaps. When he’s coming at you with all that speed it’s tough, but I thought we did a good job overall.”

Barzal did manage a point – with Chara and McAvoy on the ice as the penalty to Backes expired – when he picked up an assist on Lee’s goal that cut the Bruins lead to 2-1 with just 3:08 remaining. It was all the Islanders could muster.

“We did a good job – obviously they’re a good team with some firepower and some really skilled guys, so we did a good job of defending from the inside out and Tuukks played a heck of a game,” said Krug. “He got a chance to see a lot of pucks and played it with a lot of confidence and our penalty killers were great.”

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The Bruins’ four-game win streak came to a close on Sunday evening with a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers at TD Garden.

Boston took an early lead but was unable to generate much of a sustained offensive attack, landing just 11 shots on goal through two periods. The Bruins pushed in the third (14 shots) after Ryan Strome grabbed the eventual winner just 2:07 into the frame, but could not find the equalizer.

“I thought they played well, but I thought a lot of it was us,” said Riley Nash. “I don’t think we were quite ready to go. It seemed like every time we got in their zone it was kind of one-and-done for the night. I think we can look within ourselves for that, I just don’t think we were hard enough on pucks…on nights like that you just got to find a way to get it done.”

Perhaps the most disappointing part of the Bruins’ loss was their inability to provide support for Tuukka Rask. Boston’s ace netminder returned after serving as the back-up during Anton Khudobin’s torrid four-game winning streak and made 32 saves on 35 shots.

“Obviously he wants to win hockey games, it doesn’t matter how,” said Torey Krug. “We’ve got to do a better job of playing for him and getting that win. Tie game, third period, in our home building – a good chance to get him going again. We came out there and let him down. We’ve got to do a better job of making sure that we can come out with this win.”

Rask fell to 3-8-2 this season and has now lost four straight starts, during which the Bruins have managed to score just seven goals.

“When they start to pile up and nothing seems to go your way, it’s frustrating,” said Rask. “Obviously right now it’s frustrating, but tomorrow is a new day, go back to work and start building something new. That’s all you really can control. Your work ethic and attitude, and how you show up to work. That’s what I’m going to do.”

Despite nearly a two-week layoff from game action, Rask said he felt strong between the pipes. Edmonton’s 10 first-period shots allowed the 30-year-old to get a feel early on.

“I felt good. I got right into the game,” said Rask. “That was the difference from the past. There were a lot of shots early on. I got right into the game and after that, same film I’ve seen before….tough bounce.”

After David Pastrnak extended his points streak to three games with a power-play tally late in the first, Edmonton took a 2-1 lead on goals from Patrick Maroon and Adam Larsson during a five-minute stretch of the second. David Krejci tied the game just 1:11 later when he finished a feed from Nash at the right post, but that was all the Bruins could muster.

“It seemed like we lacked energy in the first couple periods,” said Torey Krug. “We weren’t throwing many checks. When your legs aren’t moving you can’t hit those guys and you can’t meet the puck there, then they’re playing with more energy and they’re playing with the puck. It’s a more fun game for them.

“I think the first two periods we definitely lacked energy and the third we started doing things better, holding on to pucks and chipping it in. We can’t just go back to the mentality.”

More observations from the Bruins’ loss to the Oilers:

Power Play strikes: Boston snapped an 0-for-17 stretch on the power play when Pastrnak struck for the B’s first goal on the man advantage since Brad Marchand’s tally on Nov. 10 in Toronto.

Pastrnak took a feed from Krug, pulled off a backhand toe drag, and ripped a wrister by Cam Talbot to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead with 5:57 left in the first period.

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Anton Khudobin will make his third straight start for the Bruins when they take on the New Jersey Devils tonight here at the Prudential Center.

“Anton will be in…he’s played well,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said following Wednesday’s morning skate. “He deserves to start games, whether they’re all consecutively or not is a decision we’re making. We’ll see how it goes and we’ll worry about the next game on Friday.

“But right now, the guys are playing well in front of him and he looks confident and composed, playing good hockey for us.”

Khudobin remains undefeated in regulation this season (5-0-2) and has won his last two starts, grabbing wins over Los Angeles and San Jose during Boston’s West Coast swing last week. The 31-year-old also started three consecutive games in October (2-0-1) when Tuukka Rask was sidelined with a concussion.

Cassidy acknowledged that while Rask is not pleased with the current situation, he understands it.

“I’ve talked to Tuukka about it, he’s not happy, but he gets it,” said Cassidy. “We’re creating competition, while we’re getting good goaltending out of Anton. Hopefully it makes Tuukka a better goaltender down the road and makes our team better, certainly, when you’re backup is giving you quality starts.”

Rask last started in Anaheim a week ago, allowing four goals in a 4-2 setback against the Ducks.

“We’ve said it and I’m not gonna hide behind it,” said Cassidy, “a lot of what’s happened with Tuukka’s starts is we need one more save or we need to score one more goal. It’s one or the other. If we’re not gonna score then hopefully you get that one more save.

“Been a little bit of the difference with Anton. It’s a 2-1 game [against San Jose] and he keeps it out of the net. We do get the third goal, so we get both in that particular instance. Sometimes that’s what you need and it’s been what’s missing a little bit in Tuukka’s game.”

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Bruce Cassidy had one specific thing in mind when he jettisoned Jake DeBrusk to the press box last weekend against Toronto at TD Garden.

Boston’s bench boss believed the rookie’s skating game was lagging and needed a jolt. So Cassidy made the 21-year-old a healthy scratch against the Leafs and asked him to watch the game from a different perspective.

DeBrusk returned to the lineup in the opener of the Bruins’ three-game West Coast swing and notched an assist against the Ducks, doing it all with a bit of extra pep in his step. Cassidy was pleased with the youngster’s response to a difficult situation and entrusted him yet again with more ice time.

Cassidy’s trust paid off even further on Saturday night as DeBrusk put forth, perhaps, the best game of his short career. The Alberta native turned on the jets and notched a goal and an assist to help pace the Bruins to a crucial 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center.

The win – which also included 36 saves from Anton Khudobin – clinched Boston’s first back-to-back wins of the year and secured a 2-1 road trip through the Golden State, sending the Black & Gold back to the Hub feeling much better about the state of their season.

“He’s got pride and character,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We talked about these young kids coming in here and how he grew last year as a player in Providence. That was part of it with Jake. He wanted his opportunity and didn’t get it last year. He’s gotten it this year. He took a step back, but now he’s taken another one forward.”

DeBrusk, whose first-period tally proved to be the difference, was not the only youngster to come through for Boston. During what turned into a banner night for the B’s young talent, rookies accounted for all three of Boston’s goals.

Peter Cehlarik got the Bruins on the board in the first period with his first career goal, while Danton Heinen added some insurance with a tally late in the third when he capitalized off a Bobby Orr-like rush and feed from Kevan Miller. Fellow rooks Charlie McAvoy and Sean Kuraly also added helpers on DeBrusk’s marker.

“We talked about it in July and August that some of these kids were going to be given an opportunity and you’d never know which ones are gonna step up,” said Cassidy. “It was [Anders] Bjork for a while, he’s injured. Cehlarik comes in and gets his first goal – he’s playing in key situations. Jake has really bounced back from a little banishment up top.

“Charlie, you see it on a nightly basis. Kuraly doesn’t get talked about much, does a good job for us. He’s out there against [Joe] Thornton sometimes in their end, he’s out there against [Logan] Couture. These are world-class players. Good for them.

“We need it, especially being absent some of the guys we rely on… a lot of positives. You hope it pays off in the long run.”

DeBrusk displayed his patented speed on each of the B’s first two goals. On Boston’s first tally early in the opening period, he and Cehlarik played catch through the neutral zone before DeBrusk dashed to the net, dangled through the mighty Brent Burns, and flipped a shot on Sharks goalie Aaron Dell.

Dell made the initial stop as DeBrusk tumbled into him after being tripped by Joakim Ryan, but Cehlarik was there for the follow and punched home the rebound for the first goal of his career to tie the game, 1-1, just 1:27 after San Jose had opened the scoring.

“I personally saw it all last year in Providence, these guys that are playing with us now, including myself,” said DeBrusk, who was a plus-2 and landed four shots on goal in nearly 16 minutes of ice time. “It’s always nice to see. We want it so bad and we’re trying to work as hard as we can to help this team in any way. That’s the biggest way you can help. Good for Danton and awesome for Peter to get his first.”

It was, however, nearly a case of déjà vu for Cehlarik when San Jose challenged the tally for goalie interference. During Boston’s California trip last February, Cehlarik had his first career goal wiped off the board following a review in Los Angeles.

But there was no need to worry this time around, as it was determined that DeBrusk was tripped into the Sharks netminder.

“Last year, having that one called off… hopefully that gets me going now and I can stick around for more,” said Cehlarik. “Every night someone is gonna step up. We’re missing a lot of players so it’s on us [young players] to step up.”

DeBrusk was at it again on the Bruins second goal. With a San Jose power play expiring, McAvoy flipped the puck off the glass with the intent of sending it 200 feet down the ice. But the puck ricocheted off a stanchion and popped out to the neutral zone. DeBrusk chased it down and picked up the puck deep in the San Jose end for a breakaway.

Some indecision from Dell as to whether or not to play the puck left DeBrusk unimpeded and the winger took advantage, firing a shot far side to put the Bruins ahead for good at 10:46 of the first.

“Those were the legs. He tracked down a puck and buried it, split the D with a nice individual move,” said Cassidy. “He’s feeling it a little bit again. That’s the way young guys are. He lost it a bit…it’s up to the staff to make him feel good about his game. But it’s an individual as well. This is the National Hockey League. You’ve got to come ready to play. He seemed to figure out the mental part of it lately.”
A trip to the press box can do that for a player. DeBrusk’s play in the three games since his night on the ninth floor is proof of that.

“It’s hard for it not to be a wake-up call in a sense,” said DeBrusk. “It’s never good being healthy scratched. I take that personally and I wanted to react the way I have reacted in the last couple games. The results have been there…I guess you could call it a wake-up call and it’s been working.”

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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 Matt Beleskey Jersey-Bruins Official Shop

As Matt Beleskey skated to the penalty box, he flipped his hair back into place and took a glance up at the raucous TD Garden crowd. With the cheers continuing to build, he gestured to the Black & Gold faithful to turn up the volume just a little bit more.

The Bruins had just grabbed a 2-1 lead over the Minnesota Wild, and just eight seconds after Frank Vatrano’s tally, Beleskey dropped the gloves with Luke Kunin in front of the Minnesota bench.

It was a quick bout, but one that provided an extra jolt of energy to the Boston bench – and the fans in attendance. For Beleskey, it was mission accomplished.

“You’ve got to have some fun,” said Beleskey, who played just over 11 minutes in the 5-3 win against Minnesota. “It’s fun here in the Garden. They get loud, so you know, you get into the game, and if I can get people out of their seats that’s good.”

Miller Dons the ‘A’

With Backes, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand out of the lineup, the Bruins were in need of a second alternate captain against the Wild. The choice was not a difficult one for Cassidy as he tabbed blue liner Kevan Miller with the ‘A’ on his sweater.

“Kevan’s always been that guy, sticking up for his teammates, practices hard every day, fitness is through the roof. All of the things that you want young kids coming in to notice out of a player,” said Cassidy. “He’s not flashy in terms of leading with numbers. He’s a good soldier for us every night…Kevan is well deserving of a letter.”

Miller was grateful for the recognition, while also taking a predictably team-first approach when addressing the honor.

“It was a huge, huge honor for me,” said Miller. “But I think there’s a lot of guys in here without letters that are just as big of leaders. We can pride ourselves on that as a team that, whether you wear the letter or not, you have a responsibility to lead as a veteran guy.”

Marchand Won’t Travel

Cassidy said following Monday night’s game that Brad Marchand, who missed the win over the Wild with an upper-body injury, would not travel with the team on Tuesday.

Krejci Skates

David Krejci skated for a portion of Boston’s optional practice on Tuesday morning, doing some light skating, shooting, and stickhandling. It was his first time on the ice since suffering an upper-body injury against Vancouver on Oct. 19.

The pivot will not play in any of the remaining three games scheduled for this week.

“He’s back skating. He’s out this week,” said Cassidy. “This is part of the progression of him getting back in the lineup, getting out there and getting his reps.”

Ryan Spooner (torn adductor) also took part in the session, mostly working with skating and skills coach Kim Brandvold.

Khudobin, Acciari Nearing Returns

Anton Khudobin (lower body) and Noel Acciari (broken finger) skated on Tuesday and were expected to travel with the team. Khudobin will back-up Tuukka Rask against the Rangers on Wednesday night barring any physical issues following practice.

Acciari, who has been out since Opening Night, will not play against the Rangers, but Cassidy said “there’s a chance” he could return against Toronto on Friday.

“He’ll be out [Wednesday], but he is a possibility [for later in the week] or he wouldn’t be traveling,” said Cassidy. “Let’s check in again on Thursday, but there’s a chance.”

 

Adidas Black Brad Marchand Jersey-Bruins Official Shop

Brad Marchand is the latest banged-up Bruin, as he will sit out Monday night’s tilt with the Minnesota Wild with a lower-body injury suffered against the Capitals over the weekend. Boston’s top winger joins the list of 11 Bruins who have missed time with injury so far this season.

“He got hit early, got bumped into [John] Carlsson later,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “He had a couple of bumps along the way. He was able to finish the game, so that’s the encouraging part.”

With Marchand sidelined, Anders Bjork will slide up to play the left wing alongside Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. Frank Vatrano will return to the lineup after being the healthy scratch against Washington.

“He’s a big part of our offense, no question,” said Bergeron. “But it’s always about the next man up, whoever is taking that spot, to respond and be good.”

So far this season, the Bruins have dealt with an inordinate amount of injuries to their core with Noel Acciari, David Backes, Bergeron, Anton Khudobin, David Krejci, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Tuukka Rask, and Ryan Spooner all missing time for various ailments.

The one silver lining of what has been a seemingly never-ending string of injuries is the opportunity it has presented to some of Boston’s young players.

“This is the exception not the rule around here to have this many guys out at one time,” said Cassidy. “You may have this many injuries, but they’re spread out. To come all at once is tough. But you plug away and I think we’ve been doing a good job lately of staying in games and finding a formula that’s been successful for us.

“We’re gonna stick with that. Other guys get opportunities. [Marchand] goes out and someone moves up. That’s the only way we can look at it.”