Bruins don't dwell on Pacioretty's return to Boston

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Bruins don't dwell on Pacioretty's return to Boston

BOSTON -- Its pretty clear the Montreal media is pushing the Max Pacioretty making his heroic return against the Bruins story angle this week, but the Bruins arent biting.

Pacioretty has had an eventful week. He injured his right wrist a problem that many in the Habs media corps quickly diagnosed as a broken wrist and then potted two goals in Montreals big 5-1 victory over the Flyers after he was expected to miss the game.

That sets up a dramatic game against the Bruins for the Montreal winger, his first since his season was ended after Zdeno Chara checked him into a Bell Centre stanchion. The violent crash into the turnbuckle ended with Pacioretty unable to move on the ice with a fractured neck vertebrae and a severe concussion, and with rabid Montreal fans calling for criminal charges against the Bs captain in what the NHL ultimately termed a hockey play unworthy of supplemental discipline.

Everybody remembers the March 8 game in Montreal that ended the 6-foot-2, 208-pound Connecticut natives year. Everybody remembers the Dr. Recchi jokes in Quebec when the future Hall of Fame winger took issue with Pacioretty going to the movies just days after being diagnosed with a concussion. Everybody remembers the boos and CNN crews following Chara like he was Frankensteins monster when the hit made the 6-foot-9 defenseman out to be Public Enemy No. 1 in Montreal.

So there are natural narratives for Pacioretty and Chara headed into Thursday nights epic tilt between the Bruins and the Canadiens, but the Bs players arent really worried about any one individual Canadiens player given their 3-5 start to their season.

Theyve got to get back on the winning way, and quell the chatter about Stanley Cup hangovers and substandard offense.

Chara didnt address the media on Thursday, but said on Wednesday hed basically turned the page, whether Pacioretty was on the ice or in the stands.

Im just excited to play the game, said Chara without fully addressing the Pacioretty end of the question. The games are huge. These games are big. Im not even talking about the rivalries. Im just talking about the standings.

Im sure where both teams are they are going to be good games for both teams. Itll be one of those games everyone will be really ready for it. Those games are exciting to play against each other, but theyre also very important games. We dont want to fall any deeper in the standings.

Mix their lackluster opening month with last springs seven game battle between the two teams in the first round of the playoffs, and there are plenty of factors that make these games interesting without rehashing the Pacioretty hit.

Most would argue that the bloodbath game between Montreal and Boston in February of last season with 182 penalty minutes, no less isnt going to happen on the Garden ice tonight no matter which way the game trends. The points are too important to a pair of hockey clubs that had high aspirations heading into the year, but are shooting themselves in the foot in October.

Its going to be a great challenge for both sides, said Kelly. Were both not where we want to be in the standings, and it gives us a great opportunity to play six plus periods against each other where there is some history there.

But what about Pacioretty?

I dont anticipate there being anything. Both Pacioretty and Chara are playing well right now, said Kelly. Its good to see Pacioretty back playing and to see Chara at 100 percent.

I honestly forgot about it. I thought about the playoffs more with Montreal and that seven game series that was one of the best series Ive ever been a part of. That was on my mind more than the Pacioretty hit.

Thursday should be about the Habs and Bruins simply needing a win to stay out of the Northeast Division cellar, not settling individual scores. It could also be a coming out party for a player in Pacioretty thats leading the Canadiens with four goals and nine points this season. That would match Tyler Seguin for Bostons team lead in points, and is more goals that anybody in a Black and Gold uniform this season.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said that the bottom line with Pacioretty is hes healthy and playing well, and the Bruins were happy to see a fellow hockey player able to come back from serious injuries.

The one thing were happy about and that would be for anyone else is that hes healthy, said Julien. "As a player in the league you dont want to see somebody end their career in an unfortunate accident. But what you want to see is a player come back and be healthy.

As far as thats concerned, hes healthy, weve turned the page and now its time to move on.

If anybody knows about unfortunate incidents its the Bruins as they've ssen Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron both felled for long periods of time due to concussions. Luckily for the Habs and Pacioretty, the after-effects of his injury seem to be nothing like the long-term effects on Savard. Much like Bergeron, the Habs forward has returned to full health with last years nasty collision firmly in the rear view mirror.

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. 

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win.