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Matt Grzelcyk knows perhaps better than anyone in the Bruins dressing room what the New England Patriots mean to the region. The 24-year-old blue liner grew up in Charlestown as a Patriots fan and has watched firsthand the team’s dominant run of five Super Bowl titles over the last 17 seasons.

“I can remember when they won their first Super Bowl,” said Grzelcyk. “Obviously they’ve been unbelievable, this stretch they’ve gone on is insane. There’s a reason why they’re so good, you can see how they are on the sidelines with each other, how passionate they are.

“It gives us a little bit of motivation to try to keep up with them. It’s awesome to see and it’s been great to be a part of it and see it firsthand growing up in Boston.”

Grzelcyk was one of several Bruins who attended the Pats’ thrilling 24-20, comeback win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday afternoon in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Also in attendance were Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak, Paul Postma, and Tuukka Rask.

“It’s nice to be a Patriots fan the last few years, a great day yesterday,” said David Krejci. “A few guys went to the game so I’m sure they had a blast. We do have lots of Americans on the team, they have their own team, but playing here I think you have to become a Patriots fan, they always win. It’s good to be a Boston fan.”

The Pats’ victory clinched a spot in their eighth Super Bowl of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era, an unprecedented run of success that has highlighted the golden age of Boston sports.

“You can’t help but get caught up in it. I’ve been in New England 10 years…you can see how teams continually can’t put the Patriots way…they’re in people’s heads,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who visited Patriots training camp this past summer and met with owner Robert Kraft.

“It’s an amazing quality that this team has, the culture that they’ve created, their identity. We’d love to be that, where we’re coming at you, we’re coming at you and it doesn’t matter what happens right until the bitter end. We’ll see where that goes.

“You’ve got to be champions to do that, there’s guys in this locker room that were and would like to again. The younger guys that haven’t hopefully that’s one of the things that they embrace.”

Grzelcyk, one of the Bruins’ five rookies, believes the Patriots provide plenty of lessons he and his fellow youngsters can draw from.

“I think they’re just really good at not overcomplicating things,” said Grzelcyk. “The motto is do your job, just very simple, just go out there and do what’s asked of you. I think that’s something that’s stuck with us. We’re trying to take it one game at a time right now and apply that to our game.”

One of the other special things about Boston sports is the camaraderie between all the teams in town. Last spring, Patriots safety Patrick Chung joined the B’s for a skate at the end of practice and earlier this month Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Rex Burkhead, Jordan Richards, Shea McClellin, and Geneo Grissom attended the B’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Cooks, who purchased a Patrice Bergeron jersey before the game, then joined his teammates for a visit with Boston’s alternate captain following his four-goal outburst in the 7-1 win over the ‘Canes.

In addition to Cassidy’s visit to training camp, a group of Bruins, which included Rask, Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Nash, Brandon Carlo, and Tim Schaller, took in a Patriots practice earlier this fall.

“Year after year, they’ve been really good. Obviously Tom Brady has been around a long time and they have a good coach. It’s fun to watch,” said Krejci. “I picked good years to be playing for Boston and becoming a Patriots fan…once our games are done we try to support the other teams as well.”

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Coming into the season, the Boston Bruins appeared to meet all the qualifications of a team whose window to win a Stanley Cup was closed.

The B’s looked as if they would be heavily reliant on stars who were either in the latter years of their prime or past it; they’d made questionable trades of young stars and had a goalie coming off back-to-back mediocre seasons.

Instead, Boston is not only competitive, but they’re also making a case as the NHL’s second-most-dangerous team behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Boston ranks No. 3 in team Corsi for percentage, second in even-strength goals for percentage, ninth in power play percentage and eighth on the penalty kill.

Simply put: The Bruins’ Stanley Cup window is wide-open.


Elite players are still elite

Years down the road, we might find that age curves shifted in the 2010s. With an emphasis on health, fewer fights and head hits as well as more work being done to study factors like dehydration and workload, it’s possible that hockey players’ primes will last into their 30s instead of ending in the late 20s, as current age curve models suggest.

The Bruins could be evidence of this effect. Forwards Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, ages 32 and 29, respectively, are having among their best seasons in 2017-18.

With a hat trick on Thursday night, Bergeron has 19 goals and 19 assists in 39 games. His 57.9 percent Corsi for percentage ranks third in the NHL among forwards, with only Chicago’s Brandon Saad and Columbus’ Artemi Panarin ahead of him. When Bergeron has been on the ice this season, the B’s have taken 161 more shots than their opponents and outscored them 30-9.

Bergeron’s longtime linemate Marchand is leading the team with 46 points, placing him just inside the top 20 in the league despite missing a handful of games. He ranks fifth in even-strength scoring rate, with 3.39 points per 60 minutes.

These numbers are all on par or better than when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2010-11. Bergeron produced 57 points in 2010-11 with a 54.2 Corsi for percentage, while Marchand had 41 points in 77 games.

Zdeno Chara, who will turn 41 in March, is still playing more than 23 minutes per game, down about just two minutes from 2010-11. And while his shot differential numbers have slipped from seasons past, the 6-foot-9 blueliner still isn’t letting anyone get in front of the net. With Chara on the ice, the Bruins have produced 158 high-danger chances to their opponents’ 129, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Veteran stars David Backes (33) and David Krejci (31) have missed time this season, but when in the lineup they are each making significant contributions. The former Blues captain has 18 points in 27 games and wins 52.9 percent of his faceoffs, while Krejci has 23 points in 26 games.

The combination of all of Boston’s veterans clicking at once has helped push the Bruins to an 8-0-2 record in their past 10 games and moved them into the top five in even-strength goals for and fewest goals allowed.

The youth movement

Bergeron, Marchand, Chara, Backes and Krejci aren’t driving the Bruins’ success alone. For a team that has rarely drafted early in the first round during the past decade, Boston has a remarkable number of key players under the age of 23 playing key roles. In fact, of the Bruins’ top six scorers, four are 23 and under.

That group starts with David Pastrnak, 21-year-old right winger flanking Bergeron and Marchand on Boston’s deadly top line. Last season, the Czech forward broke out to the tune of 70 points in 75 games. He’s been even better this season, with 41 points in 44 games.

The Bruins selected Pastrnak with the 25th overall pick in the 2014 draft. The knock on him was size and strength, but his high-end skill allowed an instant jump from playing in Sweden. Of all the players drafted in 2014, only Leon Draisaitl has more points than Pastrnak.

Another first-rounder Jake DeBrusk, 21, has made an immediate impact in his rookie campaign, scoring 20 even-strength points in 40 games while largely playing alongside Krejci.

The pleasant surprise of the group is Danton Heinen, a fourth-round pick in 2014 who scored more than a point per game at the University of Denver and had a solid 2016-17 in the minors. He’s made the jump smoothly, adding 19 even-strength points in 40 games, playing the majority of his minutes with Riley Nash and Backes.

The biggest difference-maker in the bunch is 20-year-old rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy. He joined the Bruins in the postseason last spring and immediately took on a top-four role. He’s built on that experience this season, averaging 22:47 per game in ice time. The former Boston University blueliner has 24 points, 15 of which have come in even-strength assists. McAvoy has become a consistent puck-moving partner for Chara.

Boston’s collection of under-23s isn’t just bringing them value in the form of impressive production; those players are also allowing the B’s to survive huge veteran contracts.

Take the Chicago Blackhawks for example. With mega deals handed out to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Chicago struggles to find cheap depth that will support its stars. For the Bruins, the total cap hit of DeBrusk, Heinen and McAvoy is just $2.65 million. Boston saved in per-season spending by doing a six-year deal with Pastrnak, whose cap hit is a reasonable $6.66 million.

The youngsters also give the Bruins the type of depth required to go deep in the postseason. Even if players like DeBrusk, Heinen and McAvoy are inexperienced, Boston has them playing alongside veterans who have made deep postseason runs.

The goalie

No matter how deep we dig into the numbers or what technology arises, we might never fully understand a team’s impact on goalie performance. But in Boston’s case, it’s pretty easy to draw a connection between a stronger, deeper team and a better defense corps this season helping out Tuukka Rask.

At his absolute peak, Rask’s even-strength save percentage was an otherworldly .943. That mark slipped for three straight seasons, all the way down to .919 in 2016-17. Normally a goalie’s even-strength numbers are more predictable from season to season than his overall save percentage, so a three-season slide would be cause for concern. But he’s rebounded to a .928 save percentage in 2017-18, which may have something to do with the Bruins allowing the fewest high-danger chances in the NHL, per Natural Stat Trick.

Debates will rage for eternity as to whether teams should pay big money for top-notch goalies, but one thing is clear: Good goaltending is a requirement to win the Stanley Cup. Rask has been excellent in his postseason career, posting a .928 save percentage and giving the B’s quality starts in 62.3 percent of his starts.

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The Bruins are looking forward to their league-mandated, five-day bye week. But they know they have some business to take care of tonight in Pittsburgh before they get to settle in for some much-needed R&R.

“We have five days off after this, leaving on a high note – you don’t want to be thinking about a game that you let slip away for the next five days,” Riley Nash said following an optional morning skate at PPG Paints Arena. “Just sticking with it, doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve been playing well, all the lines have been playing hard.”

The Black & Gold will be attempting to extend their points streak (8-0-2) to 11 games when they take the ice against the Penguins on Sunday night. But the players don’t seem worried about the bye week throwing a wrench into their torrid stretch.

“I think everyone needs the rest. You can look at it anyway you want,” said Nash, who tallied his fifth goal of the season in the B’s 7-1 win over Carolina on Saturday night. “If a team is struggling, it comes at a good time, if you’re doing well it comes at a bad time. It’s just the way you look at it. All in all, I think we can keep it up.

“Over the Christmas break we obviously came back and still played good hockey. I think we’ve shown that after a couple days off we can do it.”

The bye week will be the second of three extended breaks for the Bruins within a month’s span. Boston also had three days off for the holiday break and will have three more at the All-Star break later this month (Jan. 26-28).

“It’s always good to get rest in the middle of the year,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “It’s going to be the second of three in a short period of time. I think for me, it they’re spaced out a little better it’s probably more effective for the players. But it is what it is.

“We’re going to get on feeling good about our game. That’s the good news. And hopefully come back re-energized because we’ve got a lot of hockey. We’re a little behind with our schedule.

“Again, hopefully the guys do take it for what it’s worth and come back ready to go.”

Opposing View

Boston took the first matchup with the Penguins the day after Thanksgiving with a 4-3 victory at TD Garden. David Pastrnak potted the winner five minutes into the third on a breakaway.

Pittsburgh has been up and down since that meeting, posting a 10-9-0 record. The Pens are 5-5-0 over their last 10 and sit 1 point behind Carolina for the East’s second wild card spot.

Cassidy noted the two-time defending champions’ potent special teams as the focus for the B’s this evening. Pittsburgh is first in the league on the power play (25.8%) and 11th on the penalty kill (82.1%).

“Very good special teams. You think of their power play all the time, but their penalty kill is pretty good too,” said Cassidy. “If you can keep it to a 5-on-5 game it plays into our benefit because I think we’re very strong there, our special teams are good as well.

“We’re not going to shy away from that. I think that would be more to their strengths, so hopefully we have the discipline to stay out of the box, check with our feet, good sticks and see where it leads us.”

Question Mark Up Front

Bruce Cassidy said there is one question mark among the forward group, which will be a game-time decision. Cassidy did not specify which player he was referring to, but Ryan Spooner missed the second half of Saturday night’s third period.

“He went off. He missed probably the last 10 minutes. I have no update. I don’t know if I would keep him out of the lineup tomorrow,” Cassidy said following the win over the Hurricanes.

Pasta Snaps Skid

David Pastrnak snapped his 10-game scoreless streak on Saturday night with a one-time power-play blast off a feed from Patrice Bergeron. The 21-year-old winger also notched two assists.

“Obviously it’s nice,” said Pastrnak. “It was a good PP and good battles there and a nice play by Bergy, so it felt nice to get it in…I wasn’t thinking about it until you guys told me – I had no idea. Obviously it’s been a while, but those things happen and it’s normal. It was a lot of help that we were playing really good.”

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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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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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Goals and points are the easy way to determine how well a player is performing.

But there may be one other stat column that best provides a read on the way someone is playing, particularly a defenseman like Matt Grzelcyk. The uptick in the rookie blue liner’s minutes over the last two games makes that clear.

After bottoming out at a season-low 8 minutes on Nov. 29 against Tampa Bay, Grzelcyk has surged to an average of 15 minutes of ice time per game over his last three contests, while becoming increasingly more comfortable on the left side of Boston’s third pairing with Kevan Miller.

“He’s earning the trust of the coaching staff, so good for him,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “He put a year in in Providence [last season], he was asked to do certain things and had a really good game to start here, finished camp well, we just had healthy numbers. He’s had an opportunity and he’s starting to kick the door open.

“That’s what you have to do if you want to stick, you really do. You’ve got to beat somebody out of a job and take advantage of the opportunity and right now he’s done a good job with it.”

Grzelcyk believes being awarded more ice time is the greatest compliment a player can receive.

“It feels nice that they trust you a little bit more in certain situations, especially in the third period,” said Grzelcyk. “You’re getting a little bit more time, so I think that’s huge and it gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Not that his confidence hasn’t already been growing. The Charlestown native is in the midst of his third stint with the Bruins, having played two games a season ago and in the season opener in October. Grzelcyk returned to Providence following Opening Night and played in 14 games before being recalled to the big club again in late November.

Since the call-up, the 23-year-old has played in seven games, notching a goal and two assists to go along with a plus-4 rating. It is a stretch during which the 5-foot-9, 174-pound Grzelcyk has adjusted well to the speed and strength of the NHL game.

“I think being up for two or three weeks or so has helped me adjust a lot. I think my game has grown since then,” said Grzelcyk. “It’s obviously the biggest challenge when you come back up, just the speed of the game and how fast everybody moves the puck.”

Grzelcyk appeared plenty poised during Boston’s 6-1 win over Arizona on Thursday night. On what proved to be the deciding goal, the rookie pinched down the left half wall, won a puck battle, and backhanded a pass to Riley Nash, who had rotated into Grzelcyk’s spot at the point. Nash wristed a shot towards the net with David Backes tipping it by Scott Wedgewood for a 2-1 Bruins lead late in the second period.

“The first period we weren’t sustaining much time in the offensive zone,” said Grzelcyk. “I just tried to keep the puck alive as best we could – I think good things happen when that happens. I started skating back up to the point so their forward kind of dives down and Nasher was wide open. Just tried to get him the puck, he snapped a quick one and Backs made a great tip.”

It was a play he’s not sure he would have made two weeks ago.

“When you initially get called up your first thought is probably not to make a mistake, but I don’t think anyone really benefits if you’re playing like that,” said Grzelcyk. “I think maybe having a few games in a row under my belt kind of helps that confidence and allows me to hang onto pucks more. Just kind of have a little more freedom to be more creative.”

That aggressiveness in the offensive zone is exactly what Cassidy and the rest of the coaching staff have been looking for from Grzelcyk.

“We’ve tried to instill that attack mentality in him, be aggressive not reckless,” said Cassidy. “He needs to survive in this league by playing to his strengths and he has. He’s pushed the pace of the game, breakouts have been clean, neutral zone transitions, added to our offensive blue line play – we saw it on the goal last night.”

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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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Jake DeBrusk was not interested in sugarcoating his situation. To him, a trip to TD Garden’s ninth floor for Saturday night’s contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs was nothing to pleased about.

“You can take it however you want to take it. I believe it’s a negative thing, it’s never good when you’re not helping the team,” DeBrusk said of the first healthy scratch of his young career. “There’s certain reasons why it happened and that’s where you take a positive approach on changing those things so that it doesn’t happen again.

“Taking it day-by-day getting better, but there are some things I learned for sure.”

Watching the game from above provided DeBrusk with a different perspective on the game and allowed him to take a step back from what has been a challenging stretch for the 21-year-old rookie, who has just one goal over his last 11 games.

“It’s not one big thing,” said DeBrusk. “I think I need to calm down and just play hockey, just do what I was doing at the beginning of training camp, being one of the fastest guys, buzzing around out there, being a hound on the forecheck, simple things like that [and] stop thinking so much.”

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is confident in the winger’s ability to bounce back and confirmed that he’ll be back in the lineup on Wednesday night against the Ducks. Boston’s bench boss would like to see more energy in DeBrusk’s skating game, an area he believes has been lacking of late.

“The message was, ‘Hey, watch from up top, there are certain areas of your game that need to be better, certain areas of your game that we like that you have to bring every night.’ We talked about that,” said Cassidy. “His energy is his legs…when he’s skating, the rest kind of falls into place. That’s what we’re looking for.”

In addition to watching from up top, DeBrusk took time to scour film and pick through the different areas of his game. Now, it’s up to him to apply what he absorbed and avoid another trip to the Garden’s ninth floor.

“It shows your character what you do after that. It’s just another test for me,” said DeBrusk, who will start on the right wing alongside Matt Beleskey and Riley Nash against Anaheim. “It’s one of those things when you’re watching players and seeing what makes them successful out there…it’s pretty evident that you need to change quick.

“You don’t want to be healthy scratch…at the same time there’s a lot of things you can learn up there and you learn about yourself up there.”

Krejci Out

David Krejci will not play against the Ducks on Wednesday night, but Cassidy termed the pivot as “probable” to make his return to the lineup on Thursday in Los Angeles.

“Doing much better, looks like [Thursday] will be a good target date for him,” said Cassidy. “He’ll be a game-time decision…for the immediate short term Krech would be the only [injured player] probable for tomorrow.”

Acciari Arrives

Noel Acciari rejoined the team after spending two days in Michigan for the services of one of his best friends and former Providence College teammate, Drew Brown, who passed away over the weekend after a lengthy battle with cancer.

“He was a tough kid, touched a lot of people with his smile. Never complained,” said Acciari. “He will be missed. It’s tough for me and it’s tough for his family right now, but they’re a tough group…he’s in a better place and he’s looking down on us.”

Ducks Banged Up

The Bruins are not alone in their injury woes, as the Ducks may be only team in the league with more players on the shelf. Anaheim (7-7-3) is without Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Cam Fowler, Jared Boll, Patrick Eaves, Ondrej Kase, and goalie Ryan Miller. And on Wednesday morning, Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle termed defenseman Hampus Lindholm as a game-time decision.

“A lot of new faces. When they pre-scout, probably like us, they’re probably getting to the Hockey DB [reference website],” joked Cassidy. “But they still play strong defensively. They’re gonna try to protect the front of the net….they’re gonna be hard to play against.”

1,000 Games for Vermette

Ducks center Antoine Vermette is slated to play his 1,000th career game Wednesday night. The 35-year-old pivot has also suited up for Ottawa, Columbus, Arizona, and Chicago over his 14-year career.

Fellow Quebec native Patrice Bergeron has formed a friendship with Vermette over the years and often trains with him during the offseason.

“It’s definitely a big milestone for him,” said Bergeron. “I’m happy. It’s good timing that we’re playing each other for that game.”

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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.