Exelby waiting for a chance to prove himself with Bruins


Exelby waiting for a chance to prove himself with Bruins

NORTH SMITHFIELD, RI Garnet Exelby is right out of the veteran pro hockey defenseman handbook.

The 31-year-old has 408 games of NHL experience over seven seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers and Toronto Maple Leafs, and established himself in Atlanta as a sturdy, tough blueliner with the ability to drop the gloves when theres a need for some hockey violence.

Hes seen and done everything at this point in his pro career, and that allows him to be a good veteran influence on a decidedly young P-Bruins defenseman corps in need of some graybeard tutelage. Exelby called that paying it forward after current Toronto Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins took him under his wing during the defensemans early NHL days in Atlanta.

I love it. Its a great way to see the other side of things. It wasnt that long ago that I had some great mentors and veteran guys that helped me when I was first breaking in, said Exelby. I really used that to my advantage when I was younger. Anything I can do to help I definitely will. Anything thats going to help the team is going to make us look better individually.

My first D partner in the NHL was Dallas Eakins and I played almost exclusively with him for two years. I just sponged up as much as he could tell me. I was very close with Brad McCrimmon, and Brad told me to stick close to Dallas and listen to what he said. It helped me a lot, so I anytime I can pay it forward with a tip or two Im going to do that.

But Exelby also hasnt been an NHL regular since registering 51 games for a bad Toronto Maple Leafs outfit in 2009-10, and has a deep hunger to get back to The Show after a couple of years in the American Hockey League. The 31-year-old knew that the Bruins were down a veteran defenseman when they didnt resign Greg Zanon in free agency, and that pushed him in the direction of Boston and a three-way battle with Aaron Johnson and rookie Dougie Hamilton for that sixth spot among the Bs blueline crew.

I know that a guy like me fits well with this organization, said Exelby. Last year I was in the Detroit Red Wings organization last year and that was exactly the opposite in regard to being a good fit. I know they lost one D-man to free agency, so there were some holes up there where they might need a veteran guy up in Boston.

Thats always a part of the decision-making, but Im always trying to get back to the NHL. Thats my No. 1 priority and No. 1 goal. Ive played most of my career and I just want another shot to get there again.

Clearly the 19-year-old Hamilton has the inside track given his first round cachet and the dominance hes shown at the junior hockey level, but that also leaves a potential extra defenseman role for Johnson who couldnt report to Providence after ending the season on an NHL roster with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Exelby. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder will happily play the role of veteran defenseman on an AHL team full of young talent, and then wait for a chance to show that hes still NHL-caliber when theres an opening in Boston.

It also doesnt hurt that his particular set of hockey skills meshes nicely with the blue collar mantra of the Bruins organization.

The physical part of the game is a big part of my game as well, said Exelby. The Bruins are a big, gritty team with a lot of tough, physical players. Thats exactly how I like to play and how Ive always played.

If that chance opens up for me in Boston to step and prove myself or re-prove myself I am willing and ready.

Meanwhile Exelby will wait out the NHL lockout like all the other members of the Providence Bruins roster and try make a good impression as the Big Bs brass is watching.

Backes: Bruins were ‘wounded’ after ugly Detroit loss

Backes: Bruins were ‘wounded’ after ugly Detroit loss

BRIGHTON, Mass – It certainly sounded like there were some things that made the Wednesday night loss in Detroit a little different for the Bruins.

The Bruins media corps conducted postgame interviews in the hallway rather than in the visiting dressing room after what must have been a combustible atmosphere immediately following the shootout defeat. 

There was also evidence of anger in the visitor’s dressing room at Joe Louis Arena, according to reports, with a door off its hinges when the media was able to get a look inside the dressing room area.

David Backes confirmed something was different about the loss after blowing a pair of three-goal leads, and failing to follow up their dreadful no-show vs. the Islanders with a winning performance against another bad team in Detroit. The B’s forward said the plane ride home from Detroit was solemn and quiet, and that it was clear the Bruins team was “wounded” after a crushing loss.

“Both [losses] can be great lessons if we learn from it, and neither was very enjoyable. That was probably the quietest I think our guys were all year on that plane ride home from Detroit,” said Backes. “To me, that’s a great sign that it hit us in the heart, and it hit us where it really mattered. We’re thinking about how we can turn the tide and thinking about we can be victorious the next time out.

“We had the lead, and in a lot of instances you’re expecting, as you should, to come out of there with two points. We’re at the time in the season where wins need to be garnered and taken home.

“There were a lot of aspects where we should have grabbed the game back. When you feel like you’ve had a lot of opportunities to take the game and you don’t do it, it’s not a good feeling. I was reflecting on that during a very quiet team plane ride back from Detroit, and it seemed pretty clear that the whole team was feeling wounded. I think it’s a good sign that guys were feeling that way, and that means they’re going to do everything in their power to not have that feeling again.”

The words are encouraging from a 32-year-old natural leader in Backes, who has seen good times and bad as captain of the St. Louis Blues in his 10-year NHL career. But the proof is ultimately on the ice where the Bruins have games against the Blackhawks and Penguins coming up and face some very stiff tests coming off a couple of losses against the worst teams in the East that exposed Black and Gold fragility at this point in the season. 


After knee injury, Beleskey set to return for Bruins vs. Blackhawks

After knee injury, Beleskey set to return for Bruins vs. Blackhawks

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins, looking for a spark after terrible, back-to-back losses to the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings, are hoping the return of Matt Beleskey from a knee injury can help provide the inspiration. 

The blue-collar left winger has missed the past 23 games with a torn MCL in his right knee suffered in early December against the Buffalo Sabres, but now he’s easing back into the lineup on the fourth line in Friday night’s showdown with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Beleskey was skating with Dominic Moore and Austin Czarnik on the fourth line at morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena and should be expected to throw a few hard hits and play with some intensity in his return.

“I’m ready to go and excited to get back out there,” said Beleskey, who has been skating with the team for roughly a week after giving the knee sufficient time to heal. “I’ve just got to keep it simple and do what I do well: Be hard on pucks, take the body and just try and find your groove. You don’t want to expect too much in your first game back, but you just want to be able to contribute.

“’I’ve been saving [the pent-up energy] for a while, so I’m ready to get back out there and hopefully provide a spark for us.”

The Beleskey return also provides the player with a bit of a reset button after a slow start to the season that saw him with two goals and five points along with a minus-6 rating in 24 games played for the Black and Gold prior to his injury. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairs against the Blackhawks based on morning skate today: