Kampfer coming to grips with Cup absence

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Kampfer coming to grips with Cup absence

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- The good news that Marc Savard would see his name inscribed on the Stanley Cup along with the rest of the 2010-11 Boston Bruins was overwhelmingly positive.

But, like most instances of good news, it was tempered by the flip side of that same equation. While Savard and his courageous efforts to play last season through the aftereffects of a hellacious concussion were recognized along with his contributions toward making the Bruins a Cup-worthy organization, several Bruins that made sizable contributions to last seasons club were not.

Rookie defensemen Steve Kampfer and veteran blueliner Shane Hnidy did not get their names chiseled on the Cup along with the rest of their Bs teammates. Both players got their individual days with the Cup this summer, and both will get championship rings from the Bruins. But both also fell short of the league requirements for getting on the Cup, with Hnidy only appearing in three regular-season contests at the end of the year before playing in two postseason games.

Kampfer came up agonizingly short after appearing in 38 regular-season games for the Bruins, and didnt qualify under either Cup criteria: A minimum 41 regular-season games played, or an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Kampfer said that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli informed him last week about the leagues final decision on the Cup names, and the young defensemen took it reasonably well. Kampfer had to know he might not get the leagues blessing given his standing as an NHL newcomer, and he was able to enjoy all of the other spoils that come along with being a Stanley Cup champ.

Peter talked to me the other day and we talked about some of the reasons why my name wasnt on there, said Kampfer. Obviously being my first year I didnt have a background to establish myself in the league, and the NHL has a new policy when it comes to that.

Im happy that I was a part of the team for three-quarters of the year, even if I came up three games short. Ill always be linked with the team because I was there and I was the next defensemen to go in. I cant really change it. But it gives you that hunger to go win it again and make sure your name is on it the next time around.

Several pictures surfaced over the last week that displayed the new Bruins team inscription on the famed hockey chalice, and it included Savards name along with Patrice Bergeron opting for his fully hyphenated name of Patrice Bergeron-Cleary honoring both of his parents.

Surely Kampfer would have loved to honor his family and his own hockey career by having his name scrawled on the Cup alongside the 22 Bs teammates that are just beginning a 60-year stretch of inscription on the Cup. But Kampfer is also 23 years old, and well aware hes got a lifetime to once again ascend the NHL mountaintop.

I was ecstatic to be a part of it and glad that we were the Stanley Cup champs, said Kampfer. I think that Im hungrier now, but I dont think that changes things at all. If you asked anybody in this room if theyre hungry to win again, theyll say, 'Absolutely', because its the pinnacle of hockey. You cant get any better than that.

One thing would be better than that the next time: Kampfer getting his name immortalized on the Cup along with his Black and Gold teammates.

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

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him. 

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win.