Opponents: Celtics are 'missing Ray'

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Opponents: Celtics are 'missing Ray'

The Boston Celtics had little interest in discussing former teammate Ray Allen at the start of this season. Some players politely wished him the best after he signed with the Miami Heat last summer. Kevin Garnett noted he no longer had Allens phone number. Rajon Rondo referred to him as Number 20.
Allen will return to the TD Garden on Sunday for the first time as a member of the Heat. He will face a Celtics team struggling to establish consistency and currently ranked eighth in the Eastern Conference (20-21).
Even though the Celtics have focused on looking forward this season, opponents have noticed a difference in the team without Allen on the floor:
Rip Hamilton (Chicago Bulls)Theyre different. When you go into the game, you know with him, hes coming off curls, hes coming off pindowns. He really spaces the floor for Paul Pierce to go ahead and to what he do, for KG Kevin Garnett to do what he do. It was a guy that you never ever could not guard.
Ramon Sessions (Charlotte Bobcats)You can definitely tell they look different. They just play a little different without him out there. When he comes in, he kind of solidifies that second unit. I think they brought in JT Jason Terry to fill that role. He kind of started off to a slow start but I think once it gets deeper into the season, being a veteran, hell kind of take over that role. You definitely defend them differently any time Rays not out on the court because Ray is a pure shooter and they ran a lot of sets for him with that second unit. Its definitely a different vibe and a different feel with that second unit now that hes not out there. They still play the same way, I think. Of course in the back of their minds, they probably miss him a little bit because hes a guy that can hit big shots. But I think JT will step in and fill that void.
Luol Deng (Chicago Bulls)Its going to be difficult. Ray Allen takes so much attention and he gets guys shots. He made a big difference for them. You could always replace everyone. Its just, how do you do it? Its not going to be one guy. Dont think that youre going to bring one guy in and hes going to just fill in the shoes. It takes a team effort and a team goes in a different direction, whether its Paul Pierce or Kevin or Rajon Rondo who are scoring more. I think people fall into, This guys gone, so this guy has to be that guy. Its never like that. Every individual is different. Thats why every time you get a superstar in the NBA, people want to compare the new player to him and its never the same because everyone is so different, our fingerprints are different. Youre just not going to get the same thing.
Marcin Gortat (Phoenix Suns)Obviously theyre missing their sharpshooter, but still, theyve got so much talent. Theyve got so many guys that can shoot the ball, they still run a great system, theyve still got KG whos running the whole defense, they have Rajon Rondo who can distribute the ball so well. So I dont think theres a huge drop off from Ray Allen. Obviously the team would be better if he would have stayed, but right now theyre still pretty good.
Tony Allen (Memphis Grizzlies)Thats a Hall of Fame kind of guy. So that right there just lets you know, theyre missing Ray. Period, point blank. Theyre missing Ray.

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him.