Spooner ready for his chance with Bruins

Spooner ready for his chance with Bruins
March 19, 2013, 4:15 pm
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WINNIPEG – It’s crazy how the circle of hockey life goes.

Five years ago David Krejci was the young 21-year-old rookie stepping into the Boston lineup when Marc Savard went down with a broken bone in his back courtesy of a Steve Begin cross-check. Now at almost the same exact point in the season, 21-year-old Ryan Spooner steps into Krejci’s spot after the Czech pivot took a Johnny Boychuk rocket off his left knee.

“He just needs to play his game,” said Claude Julien of Spooner. “They play a very similar system down in Providence, so it’s not like he’s going into uncharted waters. It’s his second call-up, so we’re just giving him little tips here and there at this point.”

Krejci isn’t expected to be felled for as long as Savard was five years ago, of course, and the Bruins are a much more established team now than they were during that unlikely 2007-08 run to the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.

But it nonetheless opens up an opportunity for a young player to perform, and Spooner has wowed those who've watched him play with the Providence Bruins while leading the team in assists (33) and points (45) in his first full pro hockey season.

“He’s playing with a (expletive)-load of skill right now,” said one set of hockey eyes that’s been watching him play with the P-Bruins this season. “If the Bruins give him more than 5 minutes [of ice time] then he'll be good.”

It seems a safe bet that Spooner will get more than the 5:26 of ice time he logged in his February NHL debut against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Spooner will slide directly into Krejci’s top spot among the forward group, and will center the top line with bookend power forwards Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton.

Spooner will try to fight the temptation to get too fancy with the puck, but there’s also no question he’ll be looking to show off the hands and on-ice vision that have made him such a prized prospect in Boston’s system. But he’s also been working hard on his two-way game after coming out of the OHL with a strong reputation as an offensive player with raw defensive habits.

“Coming out of junior hockey the knock on me was that I wasn’t good in the defensive end, and that’s something I’ve tried to focus on. This year for the first time I’ve been a plus player and it’s something that I’m learning,” said Spooner. “[Lucic and Horton] are great hockey players. I’m excited to possibly play with them. I’ll just be grateful for the opportunity.

“Obviously, I’ve always been a skilled player. Playing on that line will complement my skill, but I’m happy to play wherever they want to play me.”

Lucic skated on a line with Spooner during training camp and last season during some preseason games. So there is a bit of familiarity between the two players, and both Lucic and Horton will be doing everything they can as veterans to help bring along a young player that will undoubtedly be a little nervous and unsure of himself with the NHL spotlight trained on him.

“It’s unfortunate with Krejci unable to play, but for me and Nate we need to play straight line hockey and establish a fore-heck,” said Lucic. “The best thing we can do is to keep things simple. If it’s there, make it. But don’t try to force anything.

“Obviously it’s the NHL and every game from here on in is important, but (as a young player) you need to just look at it like you’re just playing another hockey game. Hopefully [Spooner] can help the team. He definitely has really good vision and has done a pretty good job in Providence. If we can get open for him and take our shots, then we’re giving ourselves a good chance to score.”

Spooner showed a little veteran poise and smarts when he was asked whether the idea of playing in his hometown of Kanata, Ontario against the hometown Senators on Thursday night would be exciting. The 21-year-old began to answer in the affirmative before quickly stating: “I’m just focused on tonight and playing the Winnipeg Jets right now.”

That’s the smart answer, and it showed that “Spoons” is both already learning what will be asked of him at the NHL level and responding in the correct way.

Now it’s up to him to make a few plays in the offensive zone for the Bruins, and that should be the easy part for an ultra-talented playmaker with hockey smarts and set of NHL-caliber hands.