Carlo, Liles have made for quite a pair at Bruins camp


Carlo, Liles have made for quite a pair at Bruins camp

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Brandon Carlo and John-Michael Liles have been paired together throughout Bruins training camp and it’s been a well-conceived match that’s brought out the best in both players during the preseason. 

Carlo has been poised, strong, responsible and impactful in his handful of preseason appearances. Liles has been solid, productive and smooth in the puck-moving department. Each of the two D-men count different strengths to their game and have complimented each other well.

The 35-year-old Liles is also almost old enough to be a father to the 19-year-old Carlo, who grew up in Colorado right at the time when the veteran Bruins defenseman was enjoying his best seasons with the Avalanche. Liles played with Carlo’s favorite player growing up, Rob Blake, and now finds himself playing with a young player who hopes to bring some of the same qualities to the table as the towering Blake did in his Hall of Fame career.

“It’s pretty crazy. Rob Blake was my favorite player back in the day, and I remember watching Liles a little bit,” said Carlo. “He focuses on every game with me. Everybody is a different style of player. He’s been in the league for a while and the communication aspect is something he pushes on me every single game.

“I feel like we’ve been good with that, and we get back to the bench after a shift he’s been very helpful and resourceful. We talk about every single shift.

Liles has enjoyed a seemingly endless array of defensemen partners over his 10-plus years in the NHL and he’s been impressed with a player who was just a hopeful second-round pick little more than a year ago. Carlo was also somebody that, not too long ago, was playing himself as Blake or Liles in NHL video games as a diehard Colorado fan growing up.

Now, Carlo is somebody that’s pushing established veteran D-men and perhaps forcing Bruins management to think about moves to eventually clear space for him on the NHL roster as a good-skating, massive defenseman with a lot of upside in the puck-moving department.

“Young guys are playing with older players on their line, and I’ve been playing with Carlo. So, we’ve been trying to talk every situation out during practice and the games,” said the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Liles. “[Carlo] has been good. He’s obviously a big guy and he skates well, and he’s been easy to play. That’s a good compliment for a young kid. Easy to play with is always a good thing.

“He’s got good poise. One of those things that he has a lot is that not only is he a good skater, but he’s got the size where if he gets himself into a situation, he can use his body to protect the puck or shield a guy off. For a lot of guys, that’s not even an option being able to give yourself that extra half-second.”

While it’s been a fun experience for the 6-foot-5 Carlo getting matched with the savvy, experienced Liles, it’s also about continuing to push for a roster spot when the season opens next week in Columbus. It might be a numbers game where Carlo starts in Providence, despite making an overwhelmingly positive impression in camp, but he knows that he’s on the right track to be in Boston much sooner rather than later.

“I feel like I’ve been able to play simple and move the puck well, but overall it’s about building in camp to get to that overall goal,” said Carlo. “Throughout camp last year, I noticed that each and every game got hardest and faster. I’m prepared for that. I’m ready for the speed. I’m ready for the physicality. I’m ready for everything.”


Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

It might have caused a ripple when Ryan Donato wasn’t on the ice on Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis for Bruins practice on the day after his brilliant, three-point NHL debut for the Black and Gold. But the 21-year-old Donato was still back in the Boston area fulfilling some class requirements at Harvard University to help him close out the current semester properly, and not lose the credits that will keep him in line with fulfilling his junior year at Harvard University.

Believe it or not, the schoolwork is important to the newest member of the Boston Bruins and he intends to study and hit the books on his road trips, and also intends to take classes in the summertime to still graduate on time next season.

“I’m planning on finishing the semester academically. I want to finish the semester academically,” said Donato, after Monday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena prior to last night’s debut vs. Columbus. “Obviously it’s going to be something that’s difficult, but for me it was a dream to graduate from Harvard. I’m putting that off a little bit, but I need to be able to finish this semester in order to have that opportunity, and not put it off for another couple of years. I want to finish out the semester.”

Donato is also still living in the Harvard dorms while “moonlighting” as an NHL hockey player for the rest of the season, but that isn’t all so uncommon among some of the college players that leave school early. Charlie McAvoy was similarly living in the Boston University dorms last spring through Boston’s playoff run, and didn’t clear out of his college living situation until after the Black and Gold had been eliminated by the Ottawa Senators last April.

Missing practices on an NHL schedule is certainly a new one with, Donato, however, and takes the student-athlete concept to a whole new level for somebody that's already turned pro. One has to expect this was one of the things being discussed in full when the Donato family, Ryan's agent and the Bruins discussed his contract terms over the weekend before coming to an agreement.

Along with Donato, who is scheduled to fly into St. Louis and play against the Blues on Wednesday night, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes, Jake DeBrusk, Rick Nash and Torey Krug were all missing from the ice at Tuesday’s team practice ahead of a four game road trip against Western Conference opponents.


Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

File photo

Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while not really digging these forecasts of more snow.

*You know, if he weren’t making millions and millions of dollars I might actually feel bad for ol' Claude Julien up in Montreal busting out the “We’re not a very good team” soliloquy with the Habs. That team flat out stinks this season and these past few weeks it can’t be fun at all being the head coach of that dumpster fire.

*Darren Dreger says there is no rush for the Toronto Maple Leafs to bring back Auston Matthews before he’s ready to go, and that’s absolutely the case so close to the playoffs.

*Here are five Hart Trophy-caliber players that won’t get a sniff of the voting, but deserve some attention nonetheless. There are no Bruins players on the list if you’re wondering, but some pretty good ones in Johnny Gaudreau and Aleksander Barkov.

*The NHL general managers are weighing potential changes to the goalie-interference interpretation ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

*While it still looks a Swedish defenseman is going to be the No. 1 overall pick this June, there are some other players rocketing up the list.

*For something completely different: The definitive ranking of Girl Scout cookies from best-to-worst that we’ve all been waiting for.

*Song of the Week: Haven’t done one of these in a long, long time, but I like this Calvin Harris/Katy Perry/Pharrell Williams tune that I hadn’t heard until the past couple of days.