BOSTON -- Noel Acciari might just be in the proverbial right place at the right time for the Bruins as he's stepped up in the big moments this week as a fourth-line role player.
Acciari, 25, potted a breakaway goal to kick off the scoring in Boston's 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden, and has two goals in the last three games after going scoreless in the first 43 games of his NHL career. For a guy with just six career points, this week stands as a certifiable offensive explosion in some of the most important games of the season.
"The feedback I got back down in Providence is they liked everything about Noel's game," said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. "They just wanted to build his puck skills that side of the game, the offensive side of it. We're starting to see some of the results of his hard work he's put in there. He's got a couple goals for us and he's got some plays around the net, so if he can give us periodic timely scoring, get that out of our fourth line, that's awesome.
"Dom Moore is giving it to us this year. [Riley] Nash has seen more of it lately and become more of a threat, you know, throughout the lineup. Because they're going to play against good lines most nights . . . . if you're able to finish some plays against the other team's top line, it makes them that much more dangerous."
The other side of Acciari's game was on display on Saturday afternoon, as well, when he crushed Keith Yandle on the forecheck and drew a roughing penalty when Yandle's D-partner, Alex Petrovic, came after him following the punishing, purely clean body check. The 5-foot-10, 208-pound Acciari prides himself on playing a heavy, clean game based on maximum effort and massive open-ice hits, and all the better if his honest, hard game gets under the skin of opponents.
It's certainly not the way Brad Marchand has traditionally agitated opponents with well-aimed chirps and borderline activity designed to infuriate, but it accomplishes the same agitating objective.
"I don't intend to be an agitator out there, but if the way I play is agitating, it's not going to change my game," said Acciari. "I just do whatever I have to do. I'm going to get that [reaction] from time to time whenever I throw a hit, so I've just got to be ready for it. They're just being good teammates for their guys. I'll answer whatever I need to.
"Playing a heavy [style] is part of my game, and our line, and, you know, we're going to continue to do that and open up space for each other. We're going to capitalize when we can, and it's working really well right now."
Acciari said he's made a renewed commitment to the hard-hitting aspects of the fourth line job since returning to Boston, and it's something that has allowed him to be a difference-maker as the big hitter alongside Moore and Nash. The fact he also understands and excels at making clean hits that keep him on the right side of the law, and out of the penalty box, makes it all that much more effective.
"I don't think he's ever crossed [the line], to be honest with you," said Cassidy. "He hits guys looking them in the eye. He hits like a football player to me. It's always shoulders squared and going right at the guy. Very rarely do I ever remember him blowing a guy up from behind in a dangerous manner. I don't think he's ever looked for this type of hits.
"He looks for the hits in open ice, which is rare nowadays to even be able to do that. He sneaks up on people and they don't think he's there, and then, bang, he's right in their face. He's just so solid on his skates so he can do it, and if you can do it then, why not [do it]?"
Clearly, a workmanlike player such as Acciari won't be scoring twice every three games. But his heavy, physical presence in the lineup is making the B's tougher to play against. And that's the name of the game at this time of year, when teams need to fight for every last inch,.
Acciari is more than willing to join the fray.