Kelly's aquisition to shake up Bruins third line

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Kelly's aquisition to shake up Bruins third line

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON -- Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli made sure to mention Chris Kelly's versatility during Tuesday night's press conference. He also made it a point to acknowledge he wants Kelly centering the team's third line, and looks to move rookie Tyler Seguin back to the wing.

Since Boston's "third line" has, of late, consisted of Seguin centering Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, it would seem someone has to either be bumped to the fourth line, become a healthy scratch, or get traded.

The latter may eventually occur, but as of right now, coach Claude Julien has a decision to make with what his GM called the "third line."

But that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"A coach doesn't mind having that extra player, because it just creates that competition and gets players out of their comfort zone," said Julien after Wednesday's practice at Ristuccia Arena. "That's never a bad thing."

Kelly -- a Canadian-born player coming from the Ottawa Senators -- was expected to have some minor visa issues, and was not present at Bruins practice on Wednesday, so the team's third line remained the same.

Afterwards, Wheeler said he had "no idea" when asked if he was preparing to play on a line with Kelly in the middle. His thinking was that that decision would be made on Thursday, prior to the Bruins' game in New York against the Islanders.

Knowing Kelly's versatility, Wheeler had no idea the decision to put the newly-acquired centerman in the middle of his line was already talked about.

"I know he's a really solid two-way player," said Wheeler. "Playing against him, he's a guy that, when he's on the ice, you know he's not going to be easy to get scoring chances against. He's very responsible defensively. At the same time, he's capable of producing offensively as well. So I think he's a guy that fits into what we try to do here extremely well, a guy that I think can be really valuable for us down the stretch."

Julien said he was unsure if Kelly's visa issues would prevent him from missing Thursday's game in New York, but did say that when he does arrive with the club, they'll keep him at his normal position, at center.

"The number one place you'd want to put him, would be at center," said Julien. "He's played there most of his career. And the versatility certainly helps. Right now, with Savard being out, and maybe looking for a little bit more experience down the middle, I think that's probably the area we're going to be looking at."

"It's a great addition," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who played with Kelly in Ottawa. "He's a hard-working player. He's a smart player. He always plays his role well, and for sure, he's going to give us more depth in the middle with the experience he has."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Don’t count the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the Paul George sweepstakes just yet.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Haynes, the Cavaliers are still working on a way to get George with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Ohio.

The latest rumor involves a three way deal being discussed between the Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and Denver Nuggets. According to Hayes, the deal would send George and Kenenth Faried to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Denver.

Presumably, Indiana would end up with good picks and a few young assets.

Click here for the complete story.

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.