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: