WILMINGTON, MA – It took nearly half the NHL season, but Jordan Caron is finally getting his look with the Bruins. With news that Chris Bourque was dropped down to the AHL club in Providence it means that the Bruins coaching staff is looking for somebody to step up and seize the left wing job on the third line. Jay Pandolfo is in the mix after getting a look there with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley on Thursday night against the Maple Leafs, but the 22-year-old Caron will get an audition in that spot as well.
“It’s not about lines as much as it’s about improving our team. We’re just trying to make our team better,” said Claude Julien. “From what I’ve been told [Caron] has played well the last five or six games. He’s a player that’s got some experience. We’re trying to improve our team while giving these new guys a chance to prove whether they belong or whether they don’t.
“I thought he played well toward the end of last year. He’s a big body and he was strong along the walls. We asked him to take pucks to the net and go to the net in Providence this year, and he’s done that. Now it’s up to us to give him a chance to show us what he can do.”
The initial thinking going into the NHL lockout was that Caron had the inside track on the third line role with Kelly and Peverley after a strong ending to last season. But then Caron struggled this season with the Providence Bruins before suffering an upper body injury just prior to NHL training camp in January.
Instead Bourque stepped into the vacant wing spot and gave it the best shot he could, but Bruins management finally admitted that things weren’t working this week with the third line. Bourque had only one goal and four points in 18 games for Boston, and both Kelly (one goal in 21 games and a minus-7) and Peverley (three goals and a team-worst minus-9) have been just north of dreadful for the Black and Gold.
Meanwhile Caron had finally caught fire with the P-Bruins. He potted his 10th goal of the season for Providence last weekend, and has seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) and a plus-1 in his last nine games for the B’s farm club. Most of those positive performances came after Caron returned for an absence after taking a puck to the face that left him with a gruesome gash around his eye.
The improvement still leaves Caron with only 15 points and a minus-6 rating in 44 games for Providence, and that’s an underwhelming total for a former first round pick the Bruins coaching staff expected to dominate with his size and strength. But the winger is determined to turn the rest of his season around, and hopefully give the third line exactly what it needs with his 6-foot-2, 202-pound frame and ability to win battles around the net.
“It’s good. The team is doing well right now. I just want to contribute, play my game defensively and produce offensively too,” said Caron, who had seven goals and 15 points in 44 games last season. “Obviously I wanted to be here, but the lockout was bad luck. Obviously I wasn’t having my best season ever in Providence, but being here is like a new start. Hopefully it will go better.
“I wasn’t really happy about going to Providence [during the lockout], but there was nothing that I could really do. I just wanted to be ready when the season did start, but I had some injuries over the last couple of months.”
Now Caron is happy to be getting a chance, but Claude Julien wouldn’t say whether he’ll be in the lineup Saturday afternoon against the Flyers. Sooner or later he will get his chance, and that will allow the Bruins office some to evaluate whether he could be a stabilizing force on the third line.
If not then expect to hear the usual trade names of Brendan Morrow, Ryan Clowe, Ryan Smyth and Jarome Iginla surrounding the Bruins as they look to fill team needs well ahead of the April 3 trade deadline.