Notes: Kampfer sees his playing time dwindle


Notes: Kampfer sees his playing time dwindle

By JoeHaggerty

VANCOUVER It appears Steve Kampfer might be on the outside looking in for the time being.

The 22-year-old defenseman was a healthy scratch Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames, and Claude Julien may stick with that lineup against the Vancouver Canucks this weekend.

Were not going to rotate defensemen just to rotate. Theres a young player going through some growing pains, just like everybody else, said Julien of Kampfer. Hes struggling a little bit as of late with moving the puck and losing some battles.

Every once in a while those guys go through the growing pains, and youve got to take a step back with them, let them watch and then work harder in practice to get better in those areas. When youve got 22 players somebody has got to sit out, and right now were going with some of the experienced players. I thought Johnny Boychuk was going through the same thing a little bit, but then against the Flames I thought he found his game . . .

"Eventually those guys recapture their game through hard work, and through the competition part of it guys will get better. Were hoping thats what happens with Kampfer.

Kampfer has 4 goals and 5 assists along with a plus-10 for the Bruins this season, and has been a rookie revelation as a puck-moving defenseman capable of playing 20 minutes, manning the power play and filling an important role for the Bruins.

But he has only a single assist in his last 12 games and is just a plus-3 over that span. His ice time has been scaled back to under 20 minutes in each of his last five games.

All that preceded the healthy scratch against the Calgary Flames.

While it was clear the arrival of All-Star defenseman Tomas Kaberle was going to reduce Kampfers role, the Bruins are going with the six veterans as defensemen and looking for more experienced blueliners via free agency and trades.

Shane Hnidy was given a tryout Wednesday morning, and there have also been some discussions with other teams.

Credit Kampfer for keeping quiet and simply working hard, especially after the difficult experience of being scratched in his Detroit homecoming against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

But its uncertain when hell again crack the Bruins lineup.

An injury could potentially open things up for Kampfer, but hell still need to prove to the coaching staff hes not stuck behind a rookie wall while coping with the travel rigors of pro hockey for the very first time at the NHL level.

It could be a combination of things. Number one, hes in a different schedule now than what he was used to last year, said Julien. Its his first full season and at the same time hes a first-year player. Early on he was thrown into a situation where we needed him to a puck-moving defenseman, and he provided us with that.

Sometimes things eventually catch up to you a little bit, and you hit that little bump in the road. Right now, where he has a chance to get better is in the mental challenge part of staying with it and working hard and working your way out of it. That will make him a better player down the road. Youve got to make sure you dont push yourself out and get discouraged, and instead take a positive approach and say youre going to work your way out of it. That will make you a better player.

Its clear the coaching staff wants to see more out of Kampfer, but its not clear at all when the young standout defenseman will get his next chance outside of practice.

Milan Lucic had a large contingent of Vancouver reporters around him following practice on Wednesday morning as he held a press conference announcing that his number with the Vancouver Giants (No. 27) will be retired in the Ring of Honor along with other standouts in the Giants franchise.

Its a fitting honor for a Memorial Cup champion that also garnered MVP of the tournament in his final year of junior hockey, but its also something that truly humbled the ever-modest Lucic.

The two years with the Giants was somewhere that I could develop and got me to where I am now, said Lucic. Its an honor to be honored by the Giants, and its something Im really looking forward to.

In celebration of the honor, Julien instructed Lucic to take a victory lap around the ice waving to imaginary fans in the stands as his Bruins teammates clapped, hooted and chanted MVP to celebrate their teammates accomplishments four years ago. Lucic said it all brought back memories of the last time he played a game on the Pacific Coliseum ice while capturing the Memorial Cup back in 2007 before he made the difficult jump to the NHL.

All Bruins players were healthy and accounted for at Bostons practice at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, and there was the distinct sense of lightness and good humor in the air as the Bs buzzed through more than an hour of work on the ice.

Julien had a little fun with the Vancouver media group when the subject came to Tim Thomas, and the season hes been enjoying thus far this season.

Hes . . . ah . . . struggled, said Julien with a smile on his face before giving a serious answer. No, hes played well. His season has gone a lot like last night. Hes been fabulous when weve needed him to be fabulous, and hes having a very good season.

Andrew Ference made the Darth Quaider nickname and T-shirts something of a sensation last week when he donned one in the Bs dressing room at Ristuccia Arena. Adam McQuaid enjoys the nickname and said he got all kinds of text messages from friends and family about the T-shirt last week but also sheepishly admitted that hes never seen the Star Wars movies that the nickname is based on.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons. 

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while hoping that Purple Passion doesn’t try the same comeback as Zima.

*A Seattle investor says that an NHL team coming to that city is much more likely than a return by the NBA to the Pacific Northwestern city.

*Gare Joyce writes eloquently about the loneliness of a hockey scout, and how that world can sometimes come to a crashing halt.  

*Good piece from Arpon Basu giving the sights and sounds of Claude Julien’s second stint behind the bench with the Montreal Canadiens.

*The agent for Russian player Maxim Shalunov says there is a “10 percent chance” that he’s going to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks.

*Mike Babcock says not to expect any big trade deadline deals from the Toronto Maple Leafs as they push for a playoff spot.

*Henrik Zetterberg reflects on a difficult season with the Detroit Red Wings where it looks like things might finally come down to a crashing halt.

*The Minnesota Wild have underrated depth on their team, and the Hockey News says it might just be their scariest attribute.

*For something completely different: as referenced above, it looks like that Zima drink of the 1990s is trying to make a comeback. I was in college when the Zima people were seemingly flooding campuses with advertising and samples back in the day.