Notes: Young B's take in development camp

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Notes: Young B's take in development camp

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
WILMINGTON It might surprise many to find out that goalie Michael Hutchinson has actually been to four straight development camps with the Boston Bruins.

The 21-year-old Ontario native has been around the Baby Bs scene since getting drafted in the third round of the 2008 NHL Draft, and he was back in Boston after spending his first season in the AHL last year.

So it wasnt any shock when former London Knights teammate Jared Knight crashed into him during the first day of camp after taking the puck strong to the net. But Hutchinson was totally fine and ready to be known as more than the goaltender that went full yard sale on the ice before skating off.

I played with him in London and he crashed into me a few times there. So when I saw him coming I just braced myself and he got the better of me that time, said Hutchinson. When he hits you he really knocks you back. He took me from the near side post to the far side post with the impact.

The 6-foot-3, 193-pounder got off to a slow start to his first full pro season with the P-Bruins as he adjusted to live without a billet family on his own fending for himself as a youngster playing with older pros. But Hutchinson got through it with a 13-10-1 record and a .904 save percentage along with a 3.13 goals against average while bouncing back from an ECHL stint in the middle of the year.

It was fun. Overall I was fairly pleased with a few speed bumps thrown in there. Im trying to be a little more consistent this time around, said Hutchinson, who traveled with the team during the Montreal playoff series in the first round. I really want to eliminate the streaks. I learned how to manage my time a little better because you dont have to do it a billet family. At the start of the year it was an adjustment. You had to get your own meal and make sure you had time for your afternoon nap on a game day.

Now Hutchinson and Anton Khudobin are expected to battle it out for the third goaltender spot behind Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask on the depth chart with Khudobin sitting with the inside track heading into this fall.

Im really excited that they brought back Khudobin, said Hutchinson. I think we can really push each other with some healthy competition and its always good to know the goalie that youre going to be paired with.

The contrasting styles of Hutchinson tall and calm very like Rask and Khudobin (an undersized battler like Thomas) mesh nicely with the differences in goaltending at the big club level.

Every first year player goes through itits very rare you find a guy that goes upward all year and climbs a little bit. There are usually some peaks and valleys and Hutchinson had his, said Providence Bruins Bruce Cassidy. Hes a mature guy for his age, as far as goaltenders go, because sometimes you hear that goaltenders can be a little goofy. But I find him to be mature for his age.

Hes a pretty focused guy, hard worker, its just a matter of that big body and developing his technique and his athleticism to the level that it needs to be. I would assume hes going to have a good year for us just because of what I saw last year. Hes a mature guy, hell get better. I dont think youll see him go backwards.

The prospects and youngsters including 19-year-old Tyler Seguin, who isnt taking part in any of the on-ice drills went out for an afternoon of paintball to help bond the disparate group of kids on the roster. The paint ball game went along with a social media class and a cooking class that the Bruins sponsored to help ease the transition for many of the teen-agers and players in their early 20s.

Nomination for rawest player with plenty of upside at the development camp: Robbie OGara. The big-framed defenseman still has another year to go at Milton Academy before going off to Yale University, and appeared every bit the wide-eyed 18-year-old getting his first taste of the big time.

Im just trying to keep up with the speed and the pace of everything thats going on around me, said OGara. Obviously I have plenty of work to do to get physically stronger, but this really gives me something to shoot for in the future.

Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney sees OGara as a big piece of hockey potential with no rush to his development timetable.

Robbie OGaras a piece of clay right now, albeit its a big piece. At 64 it can change. Things have come at him here a little quicker in the last, Id say, eight months. But we got a chance to see him a lot. Hes in our backyard. We went down and spoke to him and hes excited, said Sweeney. This is probably catching him a little off guard in terms of the preparation aspect of it. As I mentioned, you come from the prep school ranks and you know, theres a lot to digest here in a short period of time. The good thing is theres no timetable for him.

Cassidy indicated that the Bruins havent made any hires for the assistant coaches in Providence quite yet, but that interviews were taking place during and after development camp.

No were still in the interview process. I would hope once the development camp is over thats something that gets worked out, said Cassidy. But again thats probably Donny Sweeney, Pete Peter Chiarelli, and Jimmy Jim Benning can give you a better answer there.

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.