Thomas appreciates 'unwavering support' from team

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Thomas appreciates 'unwavering support' from team

OTTAWA Tim Thomas appreciated his captain and teammate Zdeno Chara selecting him with his second pick in the NHL All-Star Player Draft on Friday night at the Hilton Lac Leamy hotel.

Chara tapped Pavel Datsyuk with his first choice because of his great respect and admiration for the Red Wings superstar, and then wasted no time bringing the Bs goalie out to the stage.

The embattled Thomas under scrutiny for skipping out on a White House ceremony with his Stanley Cup winning teammates due to political reasons further appreciated the support hes received from both his Bs teammates and his NHL All-Star brethren.

He was asked if any of his All-Star peers tossed any ribbing his way over the decision to boycott the White House, and it seemed Thomas answered on behalf of both his Bruins and All-Star teammates.

They have given their full and unwavering support, and I really appreciate that, said Thomas. I did address it. Everything I said in my Facebook statement is what I believe to be absolute truth. I dont believe I need to revisit something that I stated so clearly.

The 37-year-old goalie has been unerringly clear about his desire to close discussions on his individual choice to skip the President Obama visit. Thomas reiterated that several times on Thursday night, and said that he instead hopes the NHL All-Star weekend focus will be on hockey in Ottawa.

This weekend is a celebration of hockey. This game of hockey is a great and its obviously given so much to me, said Thomas. I played all kinds of sports growing up, but this is the one that I love. To be part of an All-Star weekend and celebrate so many aspects of it is awesome.

Theres a fair chance that will happen now that hes addressed the issue head on in front of the national hockey media at one of the leagues showpiece events, and it certainly helped that his Bruins teammates stood behind him. Chara used his actions of selecting Thomas to make his support statement, and Seguin filled in the blanks with his words afterward.

Timmy is the best goaltender in the world and any chance to give him recognition is beyond well-deserved, said Seguin. In the end hes got his opinions. My opinion on his situation doesnt matter in the end. I had a good time at the White House and its something Ill always remember.

I dont really want him to have to be angry or get put on the spot. Either way whether its a good or a bad choice hes still my teammate and Ill have his back on it.

The one question Thomas refused to answer: His reaction to a report Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick called his Monday actions intimated his actions showed a lack of "respect" or "grace."Thomas response was an emphatic no comment and there may be many more of those in the goalies future when the inevitable questions are posed for the rest of this weekend.

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.