Pouliot, Hamill given chance to fill Marchand's absence

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Pouliot, Hamill given chance to fill Marchand's absence

BOSTON -- With Brad Marchand out until the final game of a four-game road trip against the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 19, the Bruins will have a new look for the next nine days. But the team also got a good sneak peek at a lineup with both Benoit Pouliot and Zach Hamill last week when Marchand missed the blowout win over the Calgary Flames with flu-like symptoms.

With Marchand out Benoit Pouliot will move up to the top left wing spot alongside Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin, and give the Bruins the same kind of speedy, edgy fore-checking ability thats made Marchand and Bergeron such a disruptive pair in the offensive zone.

Meanwhile Zach Hamill gets inserted back into the lineup as the third line center between Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, and will get a long look over the next five games during five-on-five play as well as the penalty kill.

Its not an ideal situation given the energy and offensive production Marchand was providing while pacing for 35 goals and 71 points in a breakout second season. Claude Julien has seen enough evidence that both players can help fill the breach. With so many players on each of those lines that can play center or wing (Bergeron, Seguin, Kelly, Peverley, Hamill) it also allows Julien to mix things up if the first set of line combinations doesnt go swimmingly against Winnipeg tonight.

Pouliot also has four points in his last two games including three assists in the one game he played with Bergeron and Seguin and seemed to gel right away with his new linemates.

Pouliot is a player that I think everybodys seen from Day One to now has improved a lot and fit in better. Hes done exactly what we were anticipating at the beginning when we said lets be patient with this guy and give him a chance, said Julien. You look at the Peverley goal scored against Calgary, he poke checks the puck away on the fore check and he does that a lot.

He has a good stick, he turns a lot of pucks over and he makes plays while contributing now too. Its an opportunity for him to jump in with that line and help out.

With Hamill, hes now crossed over the 10 games and 30 days threshold, and would need to pass through re-entry waivers in order to be sent back to the AHL. So the former first round pick has carved out a versatile role for himself in Boston, and has to prove hes capable of producing as a spare forward that can jump into break glass when emergency situations.
Hamill is with the Bruins for the foreseeable future and hes getting a good look with Marchand out of the lineup, but the last thing his coach wants to see is a comfort zone setting in. The hunger on display while carving out a role for himself in December needs to remain.

Ill see how the game goes with certain guys at certain positions. If it doesnt go well Ill just move guys around so it goes as well as the other lines, said Julien. I dont think anyone should get too comfortable. There are certain guys that have their spots here, but the last thing I want to see is Zach getting comfy.

Nobody is likely to get comfy knowing that things will change once again when Marchand returns, but the smallest guy on the team leaves an awfully big hole to fill for the next five games.

Here are the lines at morning skate with Tuukka Rask expected to get the start against theJets after falling just short in the last game versus Winnipeg:

Pouliot-Bergeron-Seguin
Lucic-Krejci-Horton
Kelly-Hamill-Peverley
Paille-Campbell-Thornton

Chara-Boychuk
Seidenberg-Corvo
Ference-McQuaid

Rask
Thomas

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

CLEVELAND – Gone but definitely not forgotten.

Isaiah Thomas, out for the rest of the playoffs with a right hip injury, wasn’t in the Q Arena physically, but his presence – and his face via FaceTime – were inside the locker room in the initial moments following their 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland.

“We called him right after the game,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “He got to celebrate with us a little bit. It’s sad that he’s not here. We wish he was here with us. We just want him to get better.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens added, “I didn’t even realize that had happened until later on. one of my first text messages was from Isaiah.  He’s hurting not being out there but he’s completely invested, for sure.”

He initially suffered the injury on March 15 at Minnesota, but re-aggravated it in the first half of Boston’s Game 2 loss to the Cavs. Less than 24 hours later, Thomas was deemed out for the remainder of the playoffs.

Instead of Thomas being the rock of sorts that the Celtics lean on with his play, he has become their rallying cry for the remainder of the playoffs.

“All we can do is play hard for him,” Bradley said. “He was excited with the way we played. We’re a family. Other guys got an opportunity to step up for us. Marcus (Smart) had a big game for us. It could be somebody else next game.”

Smart led the Celtics with a career-high 27 points which included a career-best seven 3’s going down.

And most important, the Celtics avoided going down 3-0 which would have all but sealed their fate in this series considering no team in league history has ever come back for a 3-0 series deficit.

Doing so without Thomas, the Celtics’ leading scorer and the top regular season scorer in the Eastern Conference, made the win all that more impressive for Boston.

“It meant a lot,” Horford said. “We know, Isaiah gives us so much and gave us so much this year. For him, we definitely wanted to come out and fight for him and our season and our team. It felt good to keep believing despite being down big. Just felt good to win the game and bring life back to our locker room. Because going down 3-0, that’s a death sentence pretty much. This was big.”

Not only to the Celtics players but also to Thomas who also texted head coach Brad Stevens full of excitement following Boston’s surprising win.

“He was excited,” Horford recalled. “He was ecstatic. I know he wishes he was here being part of it. We just need to keep doing it for him and our group and doing the best we can.”