Spooner ready to play childhood-favorite Habs if called upon

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Spooner ready to play childhood-favorite Habs if called upon

BOSTON -- Bruins prospect Ryan Spooner surprisingly grew up a Montreal Canadiens fan with his dad in town of Kanata, Ontario where the Ottawa Senators play their home games at Scotiabank Place.

So it could be a pretty big thrill for the 21-year-old to potentially suit up and play against the Canadiens on Wednesday night at the Bell Centre for his NHL debut after being brought up on emergency recall from the AHL. Whether or not he gets that chance will likely depend on the health status of Brad Marchand, but Spooner couldnt have drawn up a better scenario for his first NHL game.

Growing up I was a big Montreal fan. My dad was a big Montreal fan and obviously I was trying to be like him, admitted Spooner, who did play one preseason game at the Bell Centre. After getting drafted by Boston Im obviously a Bruins fan now, but playing at the Bell Centre would be pretty cool.

I got to play a preseason game. It was obviously loud and a little intimidating, but it would be cool if I get a chance to play there.

Spooner has 30 points (9 goals, 21 assists) in 34 games for the Providence Bruins this season, and is pretty clearly Bostons best offensive prospect among their forwards at the AHL level. He projects as a top-six forward, but he was wearing a fourth-line Merlot practice jersey this afternoon at the Bell Centre.

Thanks to the NHL lockout, Claude Julien was granted a comprehensive look at Spooner over the last five months in an impressive first full pro season within the Bruins organization.

It goes without saying that Julien liked what he saw in Spooner as the youngster was learning the pro game.

Youve heard me say this a lot that some of those younger guys coming up just need to experience the pro game. Some of the college guys are already playing against older guys, but junior players are playing against 16-19 year-olds before playing against men, said Julien. Theres an adjustment that needs to be made there, going into the corners and dealing with stronger individuals.

So he needed to learn the pro game, but the one thing I saw is that his skill level is definitely at the NHL level. He can definitely skate well and everything else. Some of the goals he scored were highlight goals, so theres no doubt hes on the right track. Id be very surprised not to see this guy as a full-time NHL guy down the road.

While its still up in the air if Spooner will play depending on what happens with Marchand (upper body) over the next couple of days, the former 2010 second round pick says hes ready if called upon after putting in a half-season with Providence.

For me some of the stuff off the ice is more important. I lived with a billet family for five years, but now Im living on my own so I need to cook for myself and make sure I go to bed at reasonable times. I needed to be more mature, said Spooner. Ive played a lot of in Providence, and been lucky with my linemates. I played a lot with Jamie Tardif and Chris Bourque and they were able to show me the ropes as older guys.

Spooner is another in a long line of promising Bruins players that could now be called upon to aid the big club, and theres no better place to be tested than the belly of the beast in Montreal.

Morning Skate: Guy Boucher proves to be a man of the people

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Morning Skate: Guy Boucher proves to be a man of the people

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while putting the pieces together now that the hockey season is O-V-A-H here in Boston. 
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bruce Arthur takes a look at the end of the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who put on a good show with their young, talented crew. 
 
-- In the interest of self-promotion, here is this morning’s interview with Toucher and Rich where I talked about the Bruins taking a step forward despite their season being over. 
 
-- He might look and sound like a Bond Villain, but Guy Boucher was far from it in stopping to shake hands with Senators fans at the airport after their playoff win over the B’s. 
 
-- Interesting that John Stevens is named head coach of the Los Angeles Kings, since the change isn’t expected to be a big departure from what was already going on there. 
 
-- The San Jose Sharks are all done for this season, and one wonders if GM Doug Wilson is going to have to choose between Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau moving forward. 

 -- Speaking of the Senators, PHT writer James O’Brien has Clarke MacArthur and Craig Anderson making Ottawa’s playoff victory all the more emotional

 -- For something completely different: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is coming to a theatre near you soon, and here’s a review. I’m looking forward to this one.

Haggerty: Cassidy should be rewarded for a job well done

Haggerty: Cassidy should be rewarded for a job well done

BOSTON -- After the Bruins were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs Sunday, nearly every player was in agreement in identifying the turning point of the season:

The coaching change.

The B's went 18-8-1 in the regular season after Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien and rallied to make the playoffs after a late-season, four-game tailspin had them in danger of missing out for the third straight year. And despite being ravaged by injuries, they showed fight and spirit in pushing Ottawa to six games, including a road victory in a double-overtime, Game 5 thriller, before eventually succumbing in overtime, 3-2, on Sunday.

Certainly there were moments of sloppiness -- ill-timed penalties, moments when the Bruins simply couldn't bust through Ottawa's 1-3-1 trap -- but Boston's gutty playoff showing, coupled with the regular-season surge, makes it seem clear Cassidy deserves to be awarded the full-time head coaching gig. 

Several Bruins players voiced their endorsement of Cassidy on Sunday, lauding him for bringing energy, offensive thrust, and open-mindedness to using younger players. 

"The results speak for themselves," said David Backes, who played some of his best hockey in Games 5 and 6 once he was paired with center Sean Kuraly. "We were climbing uphill when [Cassidy] took over and we made our way [to the playoffs] . . . [He] certainly did a heck of a job."

And how does Cassidy -- who had gone more than 13 years since his last NHL head coaching job before replacing Julien on an interim basis, and spending the previous eight seasons at the AHL level in Providence -- feel? 

"Absolutely. 100 percent," said Cassidy, when asked if he wanted the Boston job on a permanent basis.

And if he got it, perhaps those improvements would continue.

"Maybe a full year with him, he changes a few things," said Backes.

"That will be determined going forward by management whether I continue to be the head coach, and what players will be here will [also] be determined by management," said Cassidy. "So it's a tough question to answer [on what improvements need to be made]. I think we scored some goals this year. We were good on the rush as well and the power play . . . and we were always a good forechecking team. This series took on a personality that we were going to have to score on the forecheck. 

"I thought that's why you see guys like [Noel] Acciari and Kuraly get into the lineup and really contribute. It's the strength of their game, and maybe less so from other guys that are more line rush guys. Don't forget, we had a lot of neophytes going into this series in terms of National Hockey League playoffs. So there's a learning curve for them and that's part of the growth process that we hope that, if we're sitting here next year at this time talking about advancing, that they learn something from this year. That's what every team goes through and the [David] Pastrnaks of the world, [Charlie] McAvoy . . . pick your players that are new to it, and [they] have to learn from [it]."

The decision to start Anton Khudobin in Brooklyn late in the regular season after the Bruins had lost four in a row was a turning point-type move, where Cassidy certainly pushed some buttons with No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask. And his insertion of Kuraly for Ryan Spooner in Game 5 worked on every level, and probably prolonged the series. So give him credit for both of those things along with the pumped-up offense he helped orchestrate in the final few months of the regular season. 

The Bruins won't be making any public statements or pronouncements on Monday, but one has to assume Cassidy holds the inside track on the job after guiding the team back into the playoffs for the first time in three years. Certainly there may be courtesy interviews for other candidates like Providence College coach Nate Leaman, but it's difficult to see anything else Cassidy would have to accomplish to be fit for the position. 

As Backes said himself, the results speak for themselves.