Bruins notes: Paille peaking at right moment

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Bruins notes: Paille peaking at right moment

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON When youre on a playoff-level team, youd much rather be playing your best hockey at the end of the year than the beginning.

Thats exactly where Daniel Paille finds himself this season.

He had a sluggish start out of the gate and in Europe, was suspended for four games for his blindside hit on Raymond Sawada in the brawl game against the Dallas Stars, and has sat out more games (41) than hes played this season (38).

Paille still has the skating speed, the penalty-killing instincts and the necessary grit to thrive in a fourth line role as hes begun to over the last month and the 26-year-old is playing some of his best hockey of the season with the playoffs less than two weeks away.

The left wing has three points (2 goals and an assist) along with a plus-2 in his last five games while skating with some combination of Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Michael Ryder. Hes also been part of a penalty kill crew thats stopped the opposition in 18 of their last 20 chances while stabilizing a special teams unit that had really scuffled at the end of March.

I feel great. I think I feel faster and just more patient on a lot of plays, said Paille. I feel really happy with my play right now.

I focus on the penalty kill more than anything else. Coach Claude Julien trusts me out there, so I do whatever I can to not get scored against. Hopefully that continues as we keep moving on here.

Paille knows that the playoffs are coming and that he wants to be a part of it as he was last season, and that hustling, killing penalties and making plays are the magic formula to make certain hes in the lineup.

I try not get ahead of myself so the focus is on playing as well as possible in the games we have left in the year, said Paille. For me its plain and simple how I need to play. I enjoy that energy role and Im having a lot of fun with it right now.

Last year was a little bit easier because I was playing in every game, but its something Ive been battling through. With the way Ive been playing lately, hopefully I can keep that going through into the playoffs and to next year as well.

The nine points in 38 games for the season certainly indicate its less than Paille might have envisioned during the season. There were probably even some that thought hed be a problem once he and Andrew Ference disagreed over the defensemans comments following his hit on Sawada, but Paille never went off the Bs reservation and kept the team above petty individual concerns.

That won him some major points with his coach, and is certainly a big fat mark in the plus column when it comes to filling out Bostons postseason lineup.

First off, a player like Paille is more important than people think. He didnt have a great start to the season, and sometimes we put him in the lineup and he wasnt quite giving us the play we thought we could get from him, said Julien. Part of it is because he wasnt playing much, so hes not all to blame on that. At the same time you expect players to push themselves and make sure they make a good impression.

But through all of this up and down -- whether it was his fault or not his fault -- hes always been positive, hes been good with his teammates. Hes never disrupted the room, and hes been nothing but a great support guy. Weve been talking to him and he wants to play. He wants to play bad. But he also puts the team ahead of all that stuff, and whatever is frustrated inside of him -- he doesnt let it show.

There are four games left, and Julien is paying close attention to Paille, Ryder, Seguin, Thornton and other forwards fighting to keep away from healthy scratch status once Bostons playoff run begins at TD Garden on April 14.

Ive been here all year itching to play, and were getting to that time now with the playoffs and were going to playing a regular lineup in the playoffs, said Paille. Im giving everything I got on every shift and trying to maintain that. I hope the coaching staff recognizes that and keeps me in there.

Tyler Seguin has been growing out what hes calling a beard over the last week in anticipation of the playoffs, and with the knowledge that hell be shaving his head for the Cuts for a Cause charity event next week at Ned Devines in Boston.

If I have a clean shaved face and a shaved head then Im going to look like a 12-year-old out there, said the 19-year-old Seguin, who wouldnt shoot down the possibility of using some Just For Men hair coloring on the beard if its needed.

Brad Marchand was asked what hed be doing if he wasnt a hockey player given the training camp disappointments hed experienced over the last couple of years heading into this season, and had some fun with the answer before shining a light on what his life is like back in Nova Scotia.

Id probably be living on the streets somewhere, said a chuckling Marchand. I dont know. I always wanted to be a cop before I thought this was a possibility here, and my dad has a company back home that maybe Id be working for. So maybe I would have jumped on that.

The Bruins had a very easygoing Sunday practice with a scrimmage and shootout rather than a hard skate, but the players already had their minds focused on the New York Rangers Monday night, given that the Rangers could be a first-round playoff opponent.

There is always the possibility that we could meet this team in the playoffs, and that makes it an important one, said Julien. It was a good game with them last team and we lost 1-0 when their goaltender stood tall in the third period, so maybe this is our opportunity to get a better start and get a different result.

Shawn Thornton is still considered day-to-day as he battles some swelling in his sinuses stemming from the gash on his forehead, but he will make the trip to New York City with the rest of his teammates for Monday nights game.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs\

Mueller aims to take advantage of opportunity in tonight's Bruins-Wings game

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Mueller aims to take advantage of opportunity in tonight's Bruins-Wings game

BRIGHTON -- Tonight’s Bruins-Red Wings game against the Red Wings should be a big chance for training-camp invite Peter Mueller as he readies to skate in a second straight exhibition game after a quiet night in the opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

The former 22-goal scorer with the Coyotes felt he was “solid” and “held his own” while not getting any shots on neta againsy Columbus. The veteran winger feels like he’s again starting to pick up the NHL pace after spending the last three years in Europe, and that’s mandatory to start making plays. 

“It was a good adjustment, but hopefully tonight I show a little more skill, a few more pucks to the net and create some more offense,” said Mueller. “I would rather play in most of the [exhibition] games, to be honest with you, and to get in-game-like scenarios and prepare yourself for each and every game. In my position I’m happy that I’m playing tonight and hopefully I can keep trying to impress the people [making decisions].”

The 26-year-old former first-round pick will be in a favorable spot, skating in a possible third-line, right-wing audition with Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey. He'll also serve as another established player in a more veteran-laden lineup Wednesday night vs. the Winged Wheels at TD Garden. With Frankie Vatrano out for the next three months, these are the kind of chances Mueller needs to knock out of the park if he wants to fend off younger competition for one of those B’s roster spots up front. 

“It definitely favors the type of game I want to play,” said Mueller, when asked about the chance to skate in a spot with Spooner and Beleskey that he would likely fill whre he to crack the NHL roster. “With two skill guys, hopefully we can create some chemistry and some offense early and obviously that helps with the flow of the game. Hopefully I can just showcase my skills and the work ethic that I’m trying to bring to the team. Overall, hopefully we have a good game tonight.”

Sean Kuraly is also playing in his second straight exhibition, and will move over to the left wing skating with Austin Czarnik and left wing Zachary Senyshyn in what amounts to a kid line for the Bruins. One would expect the same goaltending rotation in this game, with Malcolm Subban getting the first two periods and Daniel Vladar getting the game’s final 20 minutes. Here are the line combos and D-pairings according to the rushes during morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena:
 
Beleskey-Spooner-Mueller
Kuraly-Czarnik-Senyshyn
Gabrielle-Moore-Ferlin
Blidh-Acciari-Hickman
 
Grzelcyk-McQuaid
Lauzon-C. Miller
Arnesson-Casto
 
Subban
Vladar
 

Bruins' Zboril uses criticism and Twitter hate as motivation

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Bruins' Zboril uses criticism and Twitter hate as motivation

BRIGHTON -- It’s easy to see that Jakub Zboril , one of the Bruins' 2015 first-round pick, has come a long way in a year.

“I feel more comfortable,” said Zboril. “After last year, when all of the people saying something about what they didn’t like about me, it really pushed me forward. I told myself I wanted to be in better shape and so I worked really hard at it.”

The 19-year-old wasn’t in very good shape for last season's training camp after coming back from a knee injury, and that carried over into a junior season for the Saint John Sea Dogs (6 goals and 20 points in 50 games). That was a drop from his 13 goals and 33 points in 44 games prior to hearing his name called by the B’s on draft night.

Zboril was back at peak effectiveness in the playoffs for the Sea Dogs with a couple of goals and 10 points in 17 games, but the chain of events caused some to wonder if the Bruins had drafted something of a bust.

It seems ludicrous, considering Zboril is a 19-year-old talented enough to be selected 13th overall in the entire NHL draft, and even more so now that he’s showing much more in his second camp with Boston. It was some good and some bad for Zboril in his preseason debut against Columbus on Monday with a misplay leading to a goal against, but Zboril also kicked off the transition pass that helped the Bruins score their first goal of game.

“From last year I think he’s made big strides,” said assistant coach Jay Pandolfo. “He’s a young kid that’s only 19 years old, and he’s going to keep getting better. So that’s what you want. The structure in his game and the overall attitude [is better]. He was a little young last year. He’s in better shape. He’s done a lot of things that we got on him for last year, and he’s taken it and listened, he’s working hard. He’s done a good job.”

It’s a long shot for Zboril to crack the B’s roster this fall, so he’s likely headed back to Saint John for another junior hockey season after watching fellow prospect Thomas Chabot get a lot of the No. 1 D-man playing time last season. He quickly shot down any possibilities of playing in Europe rather than going back to the Quebec Major Junior League, and said there could still be plenty to learn in his final junior season.

“Right now where I am, I can just learn from myself and pushing myself,” said Zboril, of going back to junior. “What I can take from last year is that my role on the team changed, and I had to be more of a shutdown D. I had to show my defensive abilities, so I improved a lot from the year before. I think I can be more of a defensive defenseman too, so there’s that.”

Still, the so-so season last year had its impact in a positive fashion with Zboril really stepping up his game. But it’s also had its drawbacks as the Czech-born defenseman was forced to deactivate his Twitter account because of the harsh criticism and messages he was getting from hockey fans. Disappointingly, Zboril said most of it was coming from people in Boston that claim to be Bruins fans, and that it was like “people just spitting on you.”

“It was really pushing me down a lot,” said Zboril. “After some games when you know you weren’t playing really good, then you go on Twitter and you just see . . . people just spitting on you. So I had to delete it.”

Zboril said he’s much happier since getting off social media. But it’s a shame that a bright young prospect’s first impression of his future NHL city was the flaming dumpster of keyboard warriors that should forever be known as “Bruins Hockey Twitter.”