Kelly to play pivotal role with Bergeron out

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Kelly to play pivotal role with Bergeron out

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Heading into this weekends start to the Eastern Conference Finals, its not much of an overstatement to say Chris Kelly might be the most important player on the Bruins' roster.

It would haveseemed funny to say when Kelly managed only 5 points in 24 regular seasongames for the Bruins after general manager Peter Chiarelli acquired him from Ottawa for a second-round pick. His lackluster start had people viewing the gritty, two-way center as nothing more than wallpaper on a good hockey team.

But Kelly moved into this seasons playoffs with more than 40 games of postseason experience on his resume as a member of the OttawaSenators and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance already on his resume. Those big-game instincts, and the playoff poise that nearly alwayscomes with them, will be needed as he attempts to authorhis best poor mans Patrice Bergeron impersonation against the Lightning.

Kelly has come a long way from the center who earned amuch-discussed16:47 of ice time in Game 1 against the Canadiens. After that game, he caught the ire of Bs fans everywhere for getting more time on the sheet than the man hes now replacing in Bergeron (15:47).But that was before he exploded offensively against the Habs after getting thrown head first into the post by Scott Gomez in Game Three.

Chiarelli threw out the "P.J. Axelsson" parallel for Kelly at the conclusion of the Montreal series in terms of hockey intelligence and competence in all three zones on the ice, and the seven points in 11 postseason gameswas vitalfor Boston.

Nobody is expecting the Bs offense to continue running with the same efficiency when Bergeron out, but Kelly's put up impressive offensive numbers during the playoffs. As Lloyd Christmas might say in "Dumb and Dumber" about another potential offensive outburst against Tampa Bay, "so you're saying there's a chance."

I think Kelly obviously is -- what he produced offensively, point-wise and goals and all that stuff -- he has certainly been refreshing for us, said coach Claude Julien. We know he was a good, solid two-way player, we maybe didnt expect as much offensively as weve seen so far. So thats been great.

True, Tyler Seguin will get his playoffshot now that Bergeron is sidelined with a mild concussion. But its Kelly who will slide into Bergeron's center spot between Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi and help take controls of a vital forward group. Bergeron, Marchand and Recchi had been rolling for the Black and Gold. They combined for an obscenely good plus-25 in the first 11 games against the Canadiens and the Flyers, and they were a dual threat. Not only were Bergeron and Marchand exploding against other teams' second and third defense pairings, but the trio was locking down other teams' best offensive players in true checking-line fashion.

Marchand and Recchi are great players, said Kelly. Whatever needs to be done or wherever Claude wants to be me, I think there are plenty of guys that are capable of playing with them. If I do end up playing with them then itll be a fun experience. Well see what happens and go forward from there.

Obviously you cant replace Bergie. He does every little thing that maybe goes unnoticed by a lot of people, but it doesnt go unnoticed by us. He does all of the big things that get noticed as well. Hes irreplaceable and hopefully hes good to go against the Lightning.

Kelly will slide right into the defensive responsibilities and faceoff duties Bergeron hasskillfully mastered, and the former Senators center pointed to his experience in Ottawa as the prime reason hed have little trouble moving up the lines. Let's just say he made his bones with a lot of different players during his time in Ottawa.

Wherever the coach needed me to play on any line, any position and any situation, it was a challenge that Ive always been ready to take on," said Kelly.

Going from Peverley and Ryder to Recchi and Marchand might be a little easier than in Ottawa going from Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu to playing with Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza. Its a big difference. Not in a bad way, but they are just very different players. I think itll be a much easier transition than some of the ones Ive made in the past.

Kelly has also been a guy who's taken on a little of the missing Axelsson leadership role within the Bs dressing room.It clearly took some time in the feeling out process to get comfortable blending his leadership voice with the establishment in the room, but Kelly chimes in now when something needs to be said along with the rest of the veteran B's chorus.

Ill do anything I can to help this team, said Kelly. Obviously coming into a dressing room thats as established as this team, you just want to come in and help. Nobody wants to come in and be the loud guy within a group of players that you dont know.

As I got more comfortable and the guys got more comfortable with me, if theres something that needs to be said then I dont mind being the guy to step up and say it. Ninety-nine percent of it is always positive, and everybody here really wants to step up and do the right thing to help the team.

Fold the leadership, faceoff and defensive components into the Kelly tool box and the Bruins are getting a facsimilie of Bergeron without the elite playmaking.

The question against the Lightning: Will Kelly be able to replicate the offense he provided around the net while scoring six points in seven games against the Canadiens, who play similarly to Tampa Bay?

Kellys ability to generate some offense could be the deciding factor in the series, and that means a guy with 35 total games in a Bruins uniform could be the biggest difference-maker in the biggest Bs playoff series in 19 years.

Who would have ever guessed that when Kelly, Peverley and Tomas Kaberle were dealt to the Bruins in February?

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

Talking Points from the Bruins OT winner

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Talking Points from the Bruins OT winner

GOLD STAR: Solid night’s work from Ryan Spooner, who finished with the OT game-winning strike and was solid throughout the game as the de facto No. 1 center. He had four shots on net, six generated shot attempts and won 12-of-19 face offs as he continues to improve in that area while training camp rolls along. Spooner is trying to hold onto the No. 3 center spot in the lineup despite the addition of David Backes via free agency, and Friday night’s big boy performance with speed, playmaking and skill showed exactly what his potential can be when he puts it all together. It was also a nice little bounce-back from an up-and-down game on Wednesday night against the same Detroit team when he struggled in the face off circle and was part of a team-wide malaise.

BLACK EYE: It wasn’t necessarily a bad night for Brian Ferlin, but it was more of the invisible variety with just a registered hit and one face-off taken in 13 minutes of ice time. The forward earned some NHL time with the Bruins a couple of years, has battled concussion woes over the last year plus and is trying to push his way back into the crowded forward picture during this training camp. While he certainly showed some toughness and skill around the net a couple of years and didn’t seem shy about going there on Friday night, the results just weren’t there and Ferlin didn’t have much of a presence in the game. In general it was a pretty decent performance for the Bruins, so Ferlin’s game was quiet more than problematic.

TURNING POINT: Credit the Bruins coaching staff for switching up the lines in the third period, and that sparked the offense a bit after zero goals through the first 40 minutes against Detroit. Zach Senyshyn was moved with Danton Heinen and Riley Nash, and they became a threat in the third period before Heinen broke through for the game-tying goal from his knees. That score allowed the B’s to push things into overtime, and then Spooner made it a quick extra session by snapping home a shot from the slot after a good effort from Joe Morrow down low. It all was made possible by the adjustment to the lines that took place between the second and the third periods.

HONORABLE MENTION: Joe Morrow is battling to hold onto his NHL roster spot with the Bruins, and that is absolutely underscored by the news that Christian Ehrhoff is being brought to Boston on a PTO. So it was expected that the young D-man would come out with something a little extra after a mediocre performance in his preseason debut, and the left shot D-man was an impact player in the win for the Black and Gold. Morrow dropped the gloves with young tough guy Givani Smith in the second period as part of a B’s group that played with a little bit of an edge on Friday night, and then he won a battle down low in overtime to set up the Ryan Spooner game-winner. Morrow had two hits, two shot attempts, the assist and the fight in 19:48 of ice time, and showed that he’s ready to battle in camp to hold onto his spot.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 – the number of goals in two preseason games thus far for Danton Heinen, who scored important game-tying goals in both instances in the shootout loss to the Blue Jackets and Friday night’s overtime win against the Wings.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “The compete level, especially when he got down 4-0 [on Wednesday night], I don’t think it was high enough. So we talked about it, and we expect a better effort for sure.” –Ryan Spooner on Friday morning prior to going out and snatching the win away from the Red Wings in Detroit with an OT game-winner. 

Ehrhoff signs a PTO with the B's after World Cup

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Ehrhoff signs a PTO with the B's after World Cup

The Bruins will add another veteran defenseman to their training camp group fresh off the World Cup of Hockey as German D-man Christian Ehrhoff is headed to Boston on a PTO (professional tryout agreement). CSN has confirmed that Ehrhoff has indeed agreed to a PTO with the Bruins, and he'll report to the team sometime this weekend.

The 34-year-old Ehrhoff had three assists in six World Cup games for Team Europe, and had two goals and 10 points in 48 games for the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks last season while clearly starting to slow down a bit. He’s clearly no longer the player that averaged 14 goals and 47 points for the Vancouver Canucks from 2009-2011, and is another left-shot defenseman to add to a team that already has Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug.

But it behooved the Bruins to bring in at least one “name” veteran D-man on a tryout basis during this training camp with so many needs for upgrades on the back end, and with a host of young players that might not be ready for prime time. This might also be a warning sign for young veteran Joe Morrow, a left shot D-man that has struggled a bit in training camp after coming off an erratic first full season at the NHL level.

Clearly the Bruins need more than Ehrhoff, however, even if he’s somehow re-energized with the Bruins after playing pretty well in the World Cup. The Kings were down enough on his game to put him through waivers last season, but he was a top-4 defenseman for the previous eight seasons for San Jose, Vancouver, Buffalo and Pittsburgh prior to getting bounced around between the Kings and Blackhawks last season.

The added bonus with taking a look at Ehrhoff is that there’s no risk associated with a PTO, and the Bruins can simply walk away with no cost if the B’s coaching staff decides he’s not a good fit for the group in Boston. On the other hand, bringing in a Kris Russell-type would cost a great deal in terms of money and term in a free agent contract, and it might not benefit the Black and Gold club in the end result.