Kelly working to hit 'top of his game'

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Kelly working to hit 'top of his game'

WILMINGTON Perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to Chris Kelly was scoring 20 goals in his first full season with the Boston Bruins.
It wasnt that bad a deal for Kelly, of course. He can put 20-goal scorer down on his NHL resume for the rest of his career and it added a few dollars to his asking price when he hit unrestricted free agency last summer before inking a four-year, 12 million contract with the Bruins.
But it also raised the expectations for the third line center, and hes been a slow starter this time around. Kelly doesnt have a goal after 11 games this season, and has managed only three assists along with a minus-3 rating.
Claude Julien said there are some of his players that arent where they should be right now, and its difficult to imagine that Kelly isnt one of the players his head coach is referring to.
He had a great start last year. He scored some goals and had some decent points, said Julien. Now all of a sudden the expectations get higher, and certainly he would be the first guy to tell you that hes not at the top of his game quite yet.
But at the same time hes a veteran and he knows what to do.
Its been part of a slow building process for the third line as Chris Bourque and Rich Peverley only have a single goal each through the first quarter of the season, and the offensive production has been down for the entire line.
The goals have been a little slow to come by so far this season, but our line is playing good defense and were winning games, said Kelly. It might be a different story if the team was struggling right now, but its giving players time to find their games.
Its been difficult for anybody to miss the sluggish start to the year offensively, but Julien said that his alternate captain has been steady in the other areas of his game. Solid defensive play and good face-off numbers are just as important to Kellys effectiveness as any goals scored along the way, and hes been far from a liability this season.
Kelly has been a big part of a penalty killing unit thats been outstanding for us, said Julien. Hes been great on draws and hes been great when asked to play against other teams top lines especially after power plays when I throw him out there with different wingers.
The only part thats frustrating for him and something that we know can be a lot better, its the offensive production.
For the record, Kelly is a part of a Bs penalty kill unit that leads the NHL while killing 93.5 percent of the power plays they face, and the pivot is winning 59.4 percent of his face-offs this season.
That might not be racking up goals at a 20-goal pace for the season, but its part of the package Kelly offers as a third line center providing depth, versatility and value.

Coyotes hire Craig Cunningham as scout

Coyotes hire Craig Cunningham as scout

The Coyotes have hired former player Craig Cunningham as a pro scout, keeping the 26-year-old in hockey after a cardiac episode ended his playing career this season. 

Drafted by the Bruins in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Cunningham played 34 games for Boston over parts of two seasons before he was waived and claimed by Arizona. He totaled 19 games for the Coyotes, but served as captain of the Tucson Roadrunners, the team’s AHL affiliate. 

Cunningham was hospitalized after he collapsed during pregame warmups on Nov. 19. He was kept alive by continual CPR, but had his lower left leg amputated the next months due to an infection from the episode. 

Known as a high-character player who was popular with his teammates, Cunningham’s transition to scouting lets him further his career after a scary break. 

"I'm very excited to begin the next chapter of my life with the Coyotes," Cunningham said in a statement released by the team. "I'm very grateful to John Chayka, Dave Tippett, the Coyotes and Roadrunners organizations, and all of the great fans across Arizona for the incredible support I've received over the past year. I'm looking forward to helping the Coyotes and I can't wait to get started in my new role."

Said Chayka, the team’s general manager: ”We're thrilled to have Craig join our hockey operations department as a pro scout. Craig was a smart, hard-working player with an incredible passion for the game. We're confident that he will bring those same qualities to the Coyotes in his new role and that he will be an invaluable asset to our organization. We look forward to Craig helping us in several areas and are excited that he is staying with the club."
 

Morning Skate: Overreacting to the Oilers' window

Morning Skate: Overreacting to the Oilers' window

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while really enjoying what the CW does season in and season out with the Flash.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Don Brennan says that the Senators fans not showing up for Game 6 is their way of sticking it to Sens owner Eugene Melnyk.

*The talk is turning to the next captain of the Buffalo Sabres, and what they can do to help open up communication up and down the roster.  

*A guy that wore a Habs toque on his twitter avatar writes a glowing, praise-filled article about the performance of PK Subban during these Stanley Cup playoffs. He’s undoubtedly been good, but he just might have been wearing his Montreal Canadiens footie pajamas when he wrote this one, and rattling his fist at Habs management all the while.

*Interesting piece by Jason Gregor about the “window to win” for the Edmonton Oilers, and an odd notion that the window will close when Connor McDavid has moved out of his entry level contract. I’d say that’s kind of ludicrous.

*The Colorado Avalanche coaching staff has been let go after last year’s dreadful season, and that’s too bad for a really good guy in former Providence College head coach Tim Army. I’m sure he won’t be out of work long.

*Colin White made his Stanley Cup playoff and NHL debut for the Ottawa Senators in Game 6, and helped push Ottawa to a Game 7. It will be interesting to watch the Massachusetts native and former Boston College standout develop with the Senators as White was one of the players that the Bruins skipped over to instead draft Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft. The others, Mathew Barzal, Travis Konecny and Kyle Connor, are all either in the NHL or knocking on the door as well, and it’s going to be a challenging road for both of Boston’s forward prospects to live up the justification of the B’s drafting them first. Granted DeBrusk and Senyshyn are also both doing their thing for the P-Bruins as they push into the conference finals of the Calder Cup playoffs, and they’re both bright prospects in their own right. It’s going to take years to determine the rights and wrongs of that first round, but White getting into the lineup for the Senators is proof of just how high that organization is on him.

*Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan says that Sidney Crosby handled the targeted abuse well from the Senators in a Game 6 loss that will push to a Game 7 between the Penguins and the Senators.

*For something completely different: A great message from Brookline homey and former Sox GM wonder boy Theo Epstein in his commencement address to Yale University.