Pandolfo travels with Bruins to Buffalo

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Pandolfo travels with Bruins to Buffalo

BUFFALO Jay Pandolfo has already joked several times that hes enjoying life as a member of the NHL practice squad with the Boston Bruins.

There is, of course, no such thing as the practice squad in the NHL as there is within the NFL. The 38-year-old Pandolfo is a on a professional tryout agreement with the Bruins that was activated during NHL training camp, and has been practicing and skating with the Bruins over the last month.

He hadnt been traveling with the Black and Gold over the seasons first three weeks, but did make the trip to Buffalo this weekend with Boston getting ready for a tilt against the Sabres. The former New Jersey Devils forward still hasnt signed a contract with the Bruins as of this weekend, but Pandolfo hoped an invitation on the road trip was a good sign something might be upcoming.

Weve been talking and its been good being around the guys and getting comfortable. Theyve been honest with me right from the start, and that makes it easier as a player if you know exactly whats going on, said Pandolfo. I appreciate that theyve done that. Its made it easier for me so I can come in and be patient. They were honest with me right from the start of camp.

Perhaps theres a chance the Bruins can now sign Pandolfo to a one-year deal after moving Tim Thomas contract and 5 million cap hit to the New York Islanders. Pandolfo would certainly give the Bruins another veteran bottom-six forward capable of killing penalties should more injuries hit in Boston.

Its a pretty good bet Pandolfo will head down to Providence to play in a few games ifwhen the Bruins do officially bring him into the fold. That would likely happen before he gets pressed into NHL duty with Boston.

You can be in the best shape in the world, but being in game shape is totally different, said Pandolfo. I would think playing in Providence is something that could definitely happen, I would guess. Thats something just to get into game shape rather than getting thrown into games. Im sure thats something that will get talked about.

Either way, its been a nice experience for the former Burlington High superstar, who has been able to practice with the Bruins while settling in with his family in their Winchester home over the last month. Getting to jump into some NHL games with the Black and Gold down the line would simply end up making it the perfect situation for a local guy thats been such a good pro over the last 15 years.

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

While the Bruins technically operated, and operated well, short one coach once assistant coach Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien behind the Boston bench, that’s not expected to continue for the upcoming season.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed this week that the B’s will be retaining the current assistant coach group of Joe Sacco, Jay Pandolfo and Bob Essensa to work under Cassidy as full-time head coach, and that they’ll be looking to add one more person to his staff.

“I think our staff did a very good job jumping in and picking up, because we didn’t add to it at the time [of Cassidy’s promotion] when we subtracted from the group. It will stay as is,” said Sweeney. “We will also be looking to add to it to complement that group. Bruce and I have already spoken briefly about it, but we haven’t identified yet and we’ve already received some people that would have some interest. We’ll pursue that accordingly.”

Sacco handled the defensemen and the penalty kill in the final few months of the season, and Pandolfo worked with the forwards in his very first season as an NHL assistant coach following a stint in player development. Essensa, of course, worked with the goaltenders and as the “eye in the sky” from the press box once Pandolfo moved to the bench following the coaching change. So the natural assumption would be that the Bruins would hire another former defenseman to work with the D-men given the backgrounds of Sacco and Pandolfo as forwards.

“We haven’t gotten too far out in front of it. But, Joe Sacco moved from the front of the bench to the D, and did a terrific job [while playing a] big part of the penalty kill all year. Jay [Pandolfo] came down from the press box, worked with the forwards, which he had worked with all year. But now he’s in the heat of the battle. They were terrific. We were a true staff,” said Cassidy. “Goalie Bob [Essensa] became a little bit more of an eye in the sky for us up there. We had Kim [Brandvold], who was our skating coach, helped a lot with the practices, with the pace we were trying to establish. I can’t thank them enough.

“Going forward, we’re going to meet and decide what’s the best fit for us [as an assistant hire]. Obviously those two have a forward background, I have a defense background, so maybe that’s an area we have to look at, what’s the best complement. But we’d be getting ahead of ourselves if I said today that we’re pinpointing an exact thing. We’ve got to look at it and say, ‘OK, who’s the best fit. What makes us the most successful?’ We’ll go from there with the candidates we get.”

The situation automatically leads one to wonder if P-Bruins head coach Kevin Dean would be a possible candidate as a longtime Cassidy assistant at the AHL level, or if Dean wants to continue on his track as a head coach. If not Dean then perhaps Providence Bruins assistant coach and former Bruins D-man Jay Leach might also be a strong candidate after his first season working with the young P-Bruins at the AHL level.

While it’s clear the Bruins still have some discussions before potentially making a move on hiring an NHL assistant for Cassidy’s staff, they have made a determination about their scouting staff. The B’s never replaced the head of amateur scouting position when Keith Gretzky was hired as an assistant general manager with the Edmonton Oilers, and it will instead be Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley that will run Boston’s draft board in June.

“Scotty Bradley has stepped back into that role, which he’s very comfortable doing. He holds the title of Assistant General Manager and he’ll oversee the draft. We’re very comfortable with the people he’s worked with in recent years that have been a big, big part of our recent drafts. Our meetings went well,” said Sweeney. “They were just at the U-18s and had other subsequent meetings, so there will be some banter in the upcoming [scouting] meetings, in terms of where we end up finalizing our list. Scotty will oversee that.”

It’s not exactly foreign territory for Bradley, who previously held the head scouting position with the Black and Gold and played an instrumental role in drafting players like Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. But there’s also some question as to how big a role Gretzky played in drafting the massive wave of talented prospects now pushing their way through Boston’s system, and how much his presence will be missed at NHL Draft weekend moving forward.  

Saturday, April 29: The race for the top pick in NHL Draft

Saturday, April 29: The race for the top pick in NHL Draft

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while tipping my hat to the Celtics after an emotional, impressive showing against the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.

*It’s a tight race for the No. 1 overall ranking headed into this summer’s NHL Draft and it also doesn’t necessarily seem like a surefire superstar player right off the bat either.

*The New York Rangers seem to have a little more respect for the “underdog” Ottawa Senators headed into Game 2 of their series.

*Speaking of the Senators, it looks like they may once again have the best player in the series with the dominant Erik Karlsson at the top of his game while presiding over the best-of-seven playoff match.

*The Carolina Hurricanes are rolling the dice that they can sign Scott Darling to be their No. 1 goalie before he gets to unrestricted free agency.

*PHT writer James O’Brien helps break down the method that the Vegas Golden Knights are going to use to build their team, but the bottom line is they don’t want to be boring.

*Milan Lucic is enjoying the ride with the Edmonton Oilers as they’ve taken a 2-0 lead in their series against the Ducks.

*For something completely different: Interesting news about M. Night Shyamalan, who is making a sequel that will tie together two of his hit movies.