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Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien

Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien

BOSTON (CBS) — The message from Claude Julien to Brad Marchand was simple during their eight seasons together.

“When I stop talking to you, that’s when you should be concerned,” Marchand recalled Julien telling him.

Julien was maybe a little tougher on the speedy left wing than other players, but Marchand came to realize what Julien was trying to accomplish. Julien believed Marchand could be more than a fourth-liner, more than a punk with a big mouth, more than someone who might eventually go on to a journeyman career.

“I learned a lot,” Marchand said after practice at Warrior Ice Arena on Tuesday. “You go through a lot of different things but I think the biggest thing he preached to me was how to be a good pro and how to be consistent. That’s one thing he talked about a lot was consistency. And if you want to be in this league a long time you have to be able to play and bring your best game every night, or close to it.”

Marchand’s success story – he has 94 goals in 191 games since the start of the 2015-16 season and will be an All-Star this season – is one example of how Julien’s tutelage brought the Bruins from the doldrums to the 2011 Stanley Cup title, the 2013 Eastern Conference title and 419 regular-season wins (the most in Bruins history).

It’s also an example of how Julien, who will make his return to TD Garden as coach of the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday for the first time since he was fired by the Bruins last Feb. 7, continues to affect the Bruins even while shepherding their most hated rival.

Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Pastrnak, Torey Krug … they all learned how to play the sport the right way and become not just regulars in the lineup but high-end stars. Bruce Cassidy, who replaced Julien on an interim basis and then returned this season as the full-time coach, has done a masterful job of continuing the improvement of the veteran players and finding new ways for them to approach the game and have more success in a different NHL environment. And, of course, Cassidy has integrated younger players into the lineup with near flawless execution, sometimes having as many as six or seven rookies dressed for a game.

But many of the players that have surprisingly driven the Bruins to sixth in the overall NHL standings this season got their start with Julien and had the seeds planted for their eventual improvement by the man from Blind River, Ontario.

Even the current Bruins player most associated with Julien’s distrust of younger players and a poster child for why general manager Don Sweeney decided to move forward with a new coach, Ryan Spooner, understands what Julien’s motivation was in being a little tougher on the lightning quick center.

“I just think that he saw some skill in me and maybe he got frustrated at times because I wasn’t really playing to the best that I can be,” Spooner said. “Sometimes it’s kind of easy as a player to look back on it and say he didn’t like me, but I don’t think that was the case. I think that it was a coach that saw some potential in me and maybe he was just frustrated that I wasn’t playing quite how he wanted me to. So that’s on me.”

You can throw Milan Lucic and Johnny Boychuk into the above-mentioned list of players Julien nurtured, and you can see that the Bruins’ success wasn’t predicated on the front office just giving Julien ready-made, veteran NHLers. There was development. Sometimes it took tough love and maybe a benching for Marchand here or a healthy scratch for Lucic there.

Cassidy’s stint behind Boston’s bench hasn’t lacked for those types of scenarios. Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork can tell you about getting scratched, and even Pastrnak can tell you about losing third-period ice time when his competitive level wasn’t where the Bruins needed it. Spooner can tell you about Cassidy’s decision to scratch him in the playoffs.

There’s no doubt the Bruins needed Cassidy’s offensive mind to help them take the next step in their rebooting process. The game has changed and Julien was a little to set in his ways. Cassidy will be the first to admit, however, that a lot of what the Bruins do defensively hasn’t changed since the Julien days. Players continue to add to their game (Julien might be shocked to see Spooner actually hitting opponents and Pastrnak managing the puck better) but their growth wasn’t stunted during Julien’s reign.

Just as the 2011 Cup winners owed a lot to the work of former general Mike O’Connell and his staff for some of the players they put in pace, some of the Bruins’ current success owes a debt of gratitude to Julien. He’s left the Bruins and gone to probably the worst place anyone who wants a little love from Boston could go, but his message still resonates with the Bruins.

His fingerprints are still visible on the players he helped make what they are today.

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Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks

The trip that will have kept the Blackhawks off their United Center ice for 18 days hasn’t resulted in a complete fall.

The Blackhawks have lost four games, a starting goalie and a second-line center during their seasonlong six-game suitcase swing that concludes Wednesday night against the Rangers in New York.

Somehow they’ve managed to stay within striking distance of a playoff spot despite winning just one game — 4-3 against the Oilers in overtime Friday — of the five they have played so far. This despite losing starting goalie Corey Crawford to an upper-body injury, and center Artem Anisimov, the team’s second-leading goal-scorer with 13, to the same.

Players and coaches found themselves trying to accentuate the positive after losing 4-3 in overtime Sunday against the Flames to fall into a the standings in points with them at 42 Western Conference tie with the Flames at 42 points.

Both teams are two points out of the second wild-card spot ndwiched in between and one point behind the Wild.

Rookie goalie Jeff Glass started his second straight game Sunday and made 35 saves to keep the Hawks afloat after they fell behind 3-0. Perhaps the most memorable save he made in his hometown occurred when he stifled Johnny Gaudreau on a breakaway with 2 minutes, 43 seconds left and the Hawks down one.

“Well, we were down 3-0 (so) it’s a great point,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said told reporters in Calgary after the game. “That was a great save. That was like, ‘OK, that was instrumental in getting us a point. Pretty dangerous opportunity to close the game out.’ ”

Glass, who was born and raised in Calgary, wasn’t impressed with his start, which included allowing a last-second goal at the end of the first. But he was impressed with the way the Blackhawks responded during the next two periods.

“You don’t ever want to give up three,” he said. “We did a good job to climb out of that hole. It felt good to get back to all square, but I would have liked another point.”

Top liners Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad each were happy finally to record a point. Both had gone six games without a goal or an assist. Toews’ goal, which came 56 seconds after Jordan Oesterle scored in the second, pulled the Hawks to within one.

Saad, who earlier clanged one off the crossbar, smacked home his game-tying goal off a Toews faceoff win with 1:46 left in regulation.

“We’ll take any point (we) can get,” Saad said. “But obviously we want to get both points, especially with the position we’re in.”

Glass concurred.

“Working in the right direction,” Glass said. “My goal is to get two points every game. We fell short of that (Sunday). Little bit of room to improve for next game, something to shoot for. It’s a step in the right direction.”

The direction the Hawks will be going after Wednesday is home, finally, where they are 10-5-2. They will play eight of nine games there after Wednesday. Where they go in the standings remains to be seen.

“We just kind of limped into the Christmas break,” Kane told reporters in Vancouver on Thursday before the Hawks lost their third in a row. “Let’s get back to the way we want to play. This is an important trip. You look at the teams were playing against, they’re all kind of right around the same spot we are.

“Big games, important points. It’s going to be a dog fight till the end of the season.”

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Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers

PHILADELPHIA – They had this coming to them.

The Toronto Maple Leafs started playing with fire during a sparkling 12-3-1 run over the last month while mostly managing not to get burned. That changed Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center, when the Philadelphia Flyers got a good bounce to tie the game with 14 minutes to play and created a pretty winner inside the final three.

It was the first time all season Toronto had blown a third-period lead. However, it was the 13th time in the last 17 games where they were outshot.

“We’re a good team and even when we’re not playing our best we’ve been able to find ways to win,” Connor Brown said after the 4-2 loss. “We’ve got to nip this in the bud before it becomes a problem.”

The second part of that statement speaks to a growing feeling inside the dressing room that they’ve become too passive. The Leafs played some 1980s-style hockey in the early weeks of the season and have since worked to cut down on the number of high-quality chances against.

That’s lead to more dump-and-chase attacks and less creativity off the rush. It’s also seen them spend more time in the defensive zone, but keep a lot of shots to the outside – sliding down to a middle-of-the-pack possession team in the process.

“The games we’ve been playing have been more of a patient style of game and we’ve got to find a way to create offence in those games and create some more havoc at their net and have some things happen,” said winger James van Riemsdyk. “I think it’s been kind of low-event sort of games and I think we can do some other stuff to be able to be a little bit more dynamic offensively.”

They have been playing much less entertaining hockey, plain and simple, but it’s proven effective at adding points in the standings.

It has come during a stretch where Toronto has often played with Auston Matthews limited or out injured – he missed his sixth game of the season on Tuesday night – and there isn’t a team in the league that wouldn’t be impacted while having its top centre in the press box.

Still, the Leafs have a deep enough group of forwards to generate more than the 22 shots Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott had to face.

He was beaten on a first-period rush by Patrick Marleau – the 38-year-old picked up his 1,000th career point and is on pace for an impressive 28-goal season – and a tip from van Riemsdyk during a second-period power play, the only one Toronto earned in the game.

That had the Leafs ahead 2-1 entering the final 20 minutes and third-period leads have been money in the bank all year thanks to strong goaltending from Frederik Andersen. Toronto was 12-0-0 in those situations before meeting the Orange Crush.

“He’s been outstanding,” defenceman Morgan Rielly said of Andersen. “I think as a team we have to get a bit more comfortable playing with leads because we want to be in that position every night. I think we just have to become more comfortable with it, better at it, more confident.

“Sometimes when you’re up late in the game or tied late in the game you can just become a bit nervous and more hesitant than you are normally and that normally results in chances against.”

Some bad luck opened the door for the Flyers.

After Andersen tried and failed to clear the puck, Travis Konecny tied the game 2-2 with a long shot that ricocheted off two Leafs – Dominic Moore’s stick and Roman Polak’s back – before finding its way in.

Still, Toronto wound up being just three minutes away from guaranteeing itself at least a point and facing an offensive zone faceoff. That was won by Flyers centre Sean Couturier, who broke free of Brown coming through the neutral zone and got a gorgeous between-the-legs pass from Claude Giroux before scoring the winner at 17:05.

“I thought we were set up pretty good, to be honest with you,” said Leafs coach Mike Babcock. “I thought they worked hard and I thought they moved the puck, but I thought we were in a real good situation. In the end, we didn’t execute on things we normally execute on to win.”

There was a hint of regret in the voice of some players while reflecting on a game where they were outshot 39-22 and out-attempted 57-43 at even strength.

“We didn’t get on our toes and go after them,” said Marleau.

Despite being among the NHL’s top-scoring teams, they need to push the play a little more offensively. Too many of the offensive rushes have become one-and-done opportunities.

The Leafs believe they need to establish more of a cycle game to ensure they don’t sit back too much and let opponents grab points from them.

“Puck retrievals is probably the biggest thing,” said Brown. “One-on-one battles – it’s often that first one-on-one battle. If you can win that one you can get rolling around for a bit and spend some time in their zone and make them play defence, more importantly, and get a few chances while you’re at it.

“That’s something I’m sure we’ll focus on. We have been focusing on it, but we’ve got to take it to the next step.”

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Jan Rutta might be the most optimistic Bears fan you’ll find.

Since coming from the Czech Republic, the first-year Blackhawks defenseman has adopted the Bears and even attended a game at Soldier Field.

“I’m not an expert, but I think they’ve got a young team and they’re playing pretty good,” Rutta said. “They’re getting better as the season is going, so they lost a couple close ones, so maybe when they’ll be a few years more experienced, they can win those games and be a really good team.”

Rutta, 27, hasn’t yet adopted the jaded pessimism that comes with being a Bears fan in Chicago. However, his transition on the ice has been seamless.

The Hawks weren’t sure what they had when they signed Rutta to a one-year deal, but he is turning into an integral part of their blue line, a group that is still a work in progress more than a quarter of the way through the season.

“He has come in here and given us some important minutes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We like his quickness into the puck area. We like how he moves. We like how he handles (the puck) and makes plays.”

Rutta, who has three goals and seven assists, said it hasn’t been a huge transition to the smaller rink of the NHL from the Czech League. The only difference he mentioned is that he is put into tight situations with a lot of bodies converging more often during an NHL game than a Czech League game.

“I actually like the smaller rink,” Rutta said. “With my size, I can benefit from it. In the tight areas, you’re put into situations like five times per game, and on the bigger rink you might never be in that situation or it happens one time in the game. But those situations come more frequently.”

That’s where Rutta can still make his biggest improvement as a defenseman, Quenneville said, especially when Rutta is in front of his own net.

“There’s room for growth in his game,” Quenneville said. “But I still think he has all the attributes you look for in today’s type of defenseman — complementary puck movement, supporting of the puck, killing plays with quickness. He’s got all the things that we’re looking for.”

Rutta also discovered he could play on his off side, the left side, if the Hawks need that.

Quenneville especially likes that Rutta is somebody who can help initiate the offense. When the Hawks were struggling in the first month of the season, Quenneville said the disconnect between defense and offense was one reason for the slump. Of late, with the Hawks 4-1-1 in their last six, that is improving.

“I mean, it is 20 games into the season, but it’s only 20 games into the season,” Rutta said. “It’s still a work in progress, but I think the whole defense, we are helping the forwards much more than we did in the first couple games.”

Rutta is feeling more at home in Chicago. He said he likes the steak and sushi options available downtown and he’s used to getting around the city via cab. But on ice is the adjustment that matters most to him, and so far that hasn’t been an issue.

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St. Louis Blues

St. Louis Blues

Before heading off for the airport and a three-game, weeklong trip to western Canada, the Blues held a rare Sunday practice that included some rearranged lines and some new faces.

Jay Bouwmeester and Patrik Berglund both took part in the session, and both will accompany the team on the trip. Part of that is practical; with the team being gone for a week, if they stayed at home they would be skating on their own, and part of it is because both players are apparently getting close to returning.

Coach Mike Yeo said that while neither would play on the trip, which starts in Calgary, then goes to Edmonton and Vancouver, Berglund’s status would be re-assessed when the team got home, and he wouldn’t commit to anything beyond saying he wouldn’t play on this trip. That sounds an awful lot like he could be ready ahead of his originally projected December return.

As for Bouwmeester, he’s further away, but this was the first time he’s skated with his teammates in a practice since taking a puck to his ankle in a scrimmage three days into camp. He took part in some drills, but when the team began doing contact-heavy battle drills, he went off by himself, shooting on one of the goalies. (Berglund, meanwhile, took part in the drills.) Bouwmeester still has a ways to go, but this is the first sign of a light at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s a progression,” Bouwmeester said. “I practiced today. Ideally, if we had ice (separate from the practice), I wouldn’t have practiced. I would have been skating on my own or with other guys. There’s steps you have to take. Morning skates, certain things you can’t do. Hopefully the way things are going, that’s progressing, that will turn pretty quick and I’ll get back out.”

Bouwmeester acknowledged that with the way the team has been playing, there’s not a rush for him to get back out on the ice.

“We’re in a position here, the team’s doing so good, there’s no pressure to force anything,” he said.

More immediately, Yeo did some line rearranging, including breaking up the successful Schenn-Schwartz-Tarasenko line. Beau Bennett was inserted in Tarasenko’s spot, with Tarasenko joining Alexander Steen and Paul Stastny. That dropped Vladimir Sobotka down to the third line, with Oskar Sundqvist and Dmitrij Jaskin, which pushed Magnus Paajarvi to the fourth line.

“Just trying to spark something,” Yeo said. “We’ll think more about it tomorrow. We wanted to give it a look here in practice. It felt like the last couple games things were getting a little stale and so we’ll see what we come up tomorrow.”

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Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars

DENVER — If adversity builds character and road trips create bonding, the Stars are in the right place.

Dallas lost a 5-3 game at Colorado on Tuesday to start a five-game road trip on the wrong skate.

What’s worse, defenseman Stephen Johns left the game with concussion symptoms and goalie Ben Bishop was pulled in the second period after allowing three goals on 17 shots.

Suddenly, a back-to-back in Edmonton and Calgary on Thursday and Friday looks much more challenging for the 5-4-0 Stars.

“By no means did we put out the right effort to win a hockey game,” said captain Jamie Benn, who had a goal and two assists. “These guys came ready to play and we weren’t sharp enough early on. They deserved to win that game.”

The Stars couldn’t build on an early lead and then just seemed to find chaos. Bishop had been a rock in a recent four-game winning streak, but he seemed to get happy feet.

Still, the veteran goalie said “there was no reason” to pull him and that he was “not happy with the decision.”

Hitchcock said the reality of the situation was he just wanted to wake up his team after a slow start.

“It was time to make a change. We were slow and dozey across the board,” Hitchcock said. “The whole team needed a wakeup call. It has nothing to do with Ben Bishop, it has to do with wake up, let’s get playing. I’ll do the same with any other goaltender.”

Still, both defense and goalie were shaky at times.

When Gabriel Landeskog carried a puck in down the right side, it started the Stars defense scrambling, and Bishop tried to poke check the puck away to safety.

Instead, he sent it right to Matt Neito, and Nieto — who finished with a hat trick) — sort of knocked it past him as he struggled to regain his positioning.

That tied the score at 1-1 after one period, but it was clear Dallas was not playing the way Hitchcock had been preaching.

Two minutes into the second period, Bishop got caught behind the net and couldn’t get back in front quickly enough to stop Nieto from scoring his second of the game.

Then, Julius Honka had a giveaway that led to a frenetic shift in the Stars’ end, and Bishop ended up diving forward to try to stop Landeskog, who patiently carried the puck around Bishop and flipped it into the net.

“We played slow. We were light on the puck, we didn’t play through people,” Hitchcock said.

Kari Lehtonen came on in relief and looked pretty good against an aggressive Colorado attack, stopping the first eight shots he saw.

However, with time running down in the second period, Lehtonen overcommitted to a Tyson Barrie slap shot that went hard off the end boards and rebounded all the way out to Mark Barberio at the left point.

Barberio unleashed a tremendous shot, and Lehtonen couldn’t get back across the crease in time, as the eventual game-winning goal slipped past him with 9.8 seconds left in the second period.

Bishop will likely be back as the starter in goal Thursday against the Oilers, but Johns could miss some time.

The Stars have two defensemen — Jamie Oleksiak and Greg Pateryn — who are ready to come in and Hitchcock could decide to use both, as Honka struggled at times.

But whatever happens, they need to respond to a rough performance, or this road trip could get pretty seriously dangerous pretty fast.

“It’s a learning lesson,” Benn said. “Just because you win four in a row doesn’t mean you’re going to come in here and they’re going to give it to us.”