By Joe Haggerty
VANCOUVER Tomas Kaberle has toiled for the last five seasons in Toronto without any hope of the playoffs.
So participating in playoff-style games against teams like Calgary and Vancouver in the final days of February is exactly what he had in mind when Brian Burke decided he wasnt part of the plans in Toronto.Kaberle hasn't notched a singleassist in his first two games, buthas stillimpressed the Bruins with his puck movement,the ability to create onthe power play, the important ability tomake other players around himbetter, and the rare trait atabsorbing plenty of ice time in the same efficient manner that Zdeno Chara does.
Its been five years and its difficult to answer questions about why no playoffs. Itll be nice not to have the questions, said Kaberle. Obviously with my last year of my contract and Brian not extending me, it was pretty much saying you have to move on and pretty much time to waive the no trade.
I didnt want to be a bad guy, and overstay my welcome there and then say well see what happens in the summer. He gave me a chance to go somewhere else and I just want to take advantage of that. Boston is a great team, and hopefully its going to work out for me and my teammates as well.
The biggest measuring stick game of the trip comes for the Bruins Saturday night against the Canucks, and many are billing it as a potential preview for the Stanley Cup Finals. Thats something that Kaberle hasnt been a part of for a good long time, and its something hes really looking forward to.
Theyve been on top of their conference all year long. They havent been going through stretches low and high, said Kaberle. They keep it pretty much steady, and its going to be a big challenge from the very first minute. Theres only a couple more days to help Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, Cradles to Crayons and BJ's Wholesale Club, who are teaming up to host the Fourth Annual PJ Drive for Massachusetts' children in need. Throughout the month of February, Bruins fans, families, schools and corporations were encouraged to donate new, unused pajamas for underprivileged children statewide. There are only a couple of days left in the drive. For more information, visit bostonbruins.com.Courtesy of Bruins media relations maven Eric Tosis always-entertaining Bruins Week Ahead, Shawn Thornton and Kaberle were actually defenseman partners for a pair of AHL games in their minor league careers. Thornton and Kaberle were D partners for two games when they both played for the St. Johns Maple Leafs during the 1997-98 season in the AHL (American Hockey League). Thornton was a defenseman at the time.Claude Julien has been pretty happy with what he's seen out of center Chris Kelly in two games thus farwith the Bruins, and the steady, heady center has already earned his coach's trust: "You tell him something once and he gets it. Most of the time you don't even have to say anything to him because he reads the game really well. I think he's a very intelligent player," said Julien. "What we've heard about him and what we've seen of him has been bang-on. We were told by people that had how smart he was -- and how well he can adapt -- and we've seen that in two games."