Smith hopes line change will provide spark

Smith hopes line change will provide spark
November 5, 2013, 1:15 pm
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(USA Today Sports)

BOSTON -- While there’s much ado about Tyler Seguin returning to Boston and Loui Eriksson facing his former team, Reilly Smith has been happy to hang in the background, preparing to play his former Dallas teammates.

Smith has cooled off a little bit offensively with just a single assist and a minus-1 rating in his last five games, and he hasn’t registered a shot on net in four out of those five games while skating with Patrice Bergeron and either Eriksson or Brad Marchand. So perhaps the extra jump skating against the Stars team that drafted and developed him will do the trick.

“There’s definitely that little extra motivation,” said Smith. “But I’m not sure it’s going to be any more exciting than it is when I play against my brother in Detroit. It will be a little weird for that first couple of shifts playing against them, but at the end of the day it’s just another game.”

Smith is speaking of the brotherly battles with Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith that have already taken place this season both in the preseason, and in the regular season as well. Smith had three goals and nine points in 37 games with Dallas last season, and he has played just a career total of 40 games for the Stars.

So perhaps there isn’t the emotion that, say, Eriksson might be feeling after turning in All-Star campaigns and Lady Byng-worthy seasons for the Stars. Perhaps the move back to the third line with Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg is something that can spark Smith after that trio was excellent during the preseason.

“I think I have pretty good chemistry with [Kelly] and Carl,” said Smith. “I know it doesn’t change much for me at all. I think the last few games had been a little slow for me, so maybe this will be a good thing.”

Claude Julien is hoping that change in linemates can spark the cerebral playmaking and surprising grit Smith showed in his first few months in a Bruins uniform. Smith put up six points and a plus-5 in his first eight games this season, but he hasn’t been nearly as visible on the ice since Eriksson went down with the concussion.

There was clear chemistry from their time in Dallas together as well, but now Julien is spreading things out among the forward group and the line combinations the Bruins planned on at the start of the season. The hope is that Soderberg/Kelly/Smith can provide some of the secondary scoring that Boston has lacked through their first 13 games of the season.

“You’re trying to get some stability with your lines,” said Julien. “That’s not always easy. You need guys to play well in their positions. That line was very good in the preseason, and gave us some hope that our third line was going to be productive than it had been the year before.

“We’ll see where that takes us. We’re relying on those three guys.”

Smith will be relying on something, anything to help spark a game that’s flat-lined a bit over the last few weeks.