Rivers doesn't see any trades on the horizon

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Rivers doesn't see any trades on the horizon

Imagine working your hardest and best all week while in the back of your mind there was a chance you'd be shipped off to the other side of the country on a moment's notice.

It would be tough, wouldn't it?

OK . . . now imagine you're getting paid millions and millions of dollars to do it.

Not so tough anymore, huh?

That's the case every season with the NBA trade deadline, and over the years the Celtics have been relatively active.

Regardless, it's pretty clear that if it were up to Doc Rivers, no Celtics players -- or at least the starting unit -- would be traded this season. He has stood by his players multiple times this season, when it would be easy to put the blame on him for some pretty bad losses. Speaking on WEEI Wednesday morning, Rivers again said he'd be surprised if any major moves came.

I dont expect anything big to come down," Rivers said. "I wouldn't be shocked if nothing came down, to be honest."

Rivers isn't sitting shotgun next to Celtics president Danny Ainge when it comes to trading, but if something becomes more serious, he will get the word.

"Danny brings it to me when it's at a point where it can be discussed and it's a possibility," Rivers said. "I really don't want to be involved in all the different scenarios. Every once in a while he'll come in and say, 'Hey listen, this may not happen but there's a chance we can do this. Would you go further with this?'"

But with all the talk around this time, are players letting it get to them?

"I don't think so. You don't hear much about it," Rivers said. "You know, when the whole Rondo stuff was up there was a lot of talk, obviously. But other than that, the guys are pretty good. Now listen, the guys that people are talking about are veterans. You hear Ray Allen's name, you hear Paul's name. And honestly I don't think any of that will happen. So they've been through it through their career. So it probably bothers them less than it would some of the younger players."

But with this year's Celtics team, a game like Wednesday night's doesn't give much hope to a run at the playoffs. But at the same time, they had four solid wins before Wednesday night. The lockout-shortened season isn't ideal for this veteran squad, but Rivers feels like getting to the playoffs -- and hopefully avoiding that seventh or eighth seed -- is all the C's need, and suddenly they get on a less hectic playing schedule.

"This is a tough year to try to judge. And I think it's tough really guys because of the season. The amount of games, I don't think you see the best quality every night. I think with us it affects us more in some ways because of our age and who we are. But we also know that if you get to the playoffs, and you're healthy and rested -- because the playoffs you get more rest.

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.