WILMINGTON. Mass. – During Shawn Thornton’s time with the Bruins, he has very rarely been a healthy scratch while carving out a key enforcer’s role on the NHL’s best fourth line. In fact, he’s almost never been a healthy scratch for the Black and Gold prior to this season, aside from a long stretch in the middle portion of the 2011 run to the Stanley Cup.
But Thornton has already found himself in the press box twice in the season’s first two months in favor of spare forward Jordan Caron, ostensibly to get the young forward some work against opponents that don’t feature much of a fighting element. The balancing act between putting out the best lineup and keeping everybody close to their maximum abilities is a challenge that comes down to the Bruins coaching staff, and it’s something Claude Julien isn’t shying away from.
“[We’re doing it] for all the different reasons. Thornton is a veteran and he knows what his role is. At times he’s played well, but at the same time so has [Caron] and he’s had to sit out,” said Julien. “It just so happens that it was [Thornton] the last two times, but that doesn’t always mean that it’s going to be him.
“It’s something that Thorny understands, and he knows what it’s all about. Like any player he’d like to play every game, but you also know what the situation is. It’s just a minor decision you make along the way like the things we’ve done with the extra [defensemen].”
The first game with Thornton as a healthy scratch worked out with the Bruins pulling out a road victory against the Carolina Hurricanes, but the second game was the 6-1 shellacking at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings. Caron has done little of impact in either one of those games he played in place of Thornton, but the former first-round pick has shown flashes this season.
On the other hand, it was pretty clear the toughness, accountability and intimidation factor that comes along with Thornton was completely missing in Detroit.
Despite all of this the Bruins enforcer is on board with being a healthy scratch as long as it’s what’s best for the team. Clearly a guy like Thornton loves to play, and would rather be playing than eating popcorn in the press box when it comes down to game time.
Still, don’t expect one of the team leaders on the Bruins to rock the boat for his own lineup interests.
“I’m not happy that I was scratched. It’s probably the same exact answer I gave the last time it happened,” said Thornton. “Claude joked with me that I should have been thanking him about not having to play in that Detroit game. But I always want to play. If we want to get people in the lineup and I’m the easy choice for that game, then I understand it.
“I don’t want to say that I’m not happy about it, but it just sucks to be sitting out. It just sucks. I want to play.”
Thornton was actually joking following the victory over the Rangers last week that he was worried after one of his shots ricocheted off the knob of Henrik Lundqvist’s stick for a near-goal. The thinking was that if he scored goals in two straight games vs. King Henrik this season after being a healthy scratch, it might prompt the B’s coaching staff to kick him out of the lineup every time there was a game coming up against the Rangers.
So, Julien will get no resistance from Thornton if the situation arises again for Caron to jump back into the lineup at the expense of the B’s enforcer.
Still, the Bruins might want to think twice about it given how dead the team looked the last time No. 22 was kept out of the mix.