Bruins

Schaller continues to be a New Hampshire success story for B's

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Schaller continues to be a New Hampshire success story for B's

BRIGHTON -- It continues to be a charmed existence for Bruins fourth liner Tim Schaller, who is living the dream as a New Hampshire kid playing for the hometown hockey team.

Schaller came into Bruins camp this fall with very little fanfare after a standout career at Providence College and a solid stint with the Buffalo Sabres organization over the last couple of years. Clearly there was some talent and some accomplishment at the pro level with a season of 14 goals, 43 points and 116 PIMs for the Rochester Americans giving a pretty good indication of his credentials for a bottom-6 role at the NHL level.

Clearly there was also strong motivation for Schaller to excel for the NHL team in front of his friends and family, and become teammates with guys like Patrice Bergeron that he grew up watching on TV as a hockey crazed NH kid. 

All that being said, Claude Julien wasn’t sure what he had with Schaller when he arrived in camp in mid-September.

“He’s one of those players that can certainly score. He’s got a good shot. You saw it against [Winnipeg] as an example,” said Julien. “He’s a good player. He plays hard, he grinds it out and he’s not afraid to go to the front of the net. So definitely he’s been a good player for us.

“Has he surprised me with the scoring? I can’t really tell you that because the few times he played us with Buffalo I can’t really tell you [a scouting report] and I don’t scout the American League. You kind of go with what you’re given and you make your own assessment, and by the time I got here for the World Cup I liked what I saw. He had a chance to come back [to the NHL team] and he’s played fairly well.”

The 26-year-old hadn’t done much at the NHL level in Buffalo in each of the last couple of seasons, but that’s changed this season for the Black and Gold. He was one of the last cuts in B’s training camp, but was quickly recalled prior to the start of the season when Patrice Bergeron suffered through his early year lower body woes.

The rest is pretty solid history for Schaller and a very good body of work for Boston’s rebuilt fourth line this season.

The former Friars hockey forward scored his third goal of the season in Boston’s 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets at TD Gardenon Saturday night, and now has three goals, five points and 13 penalty minutes in 15 games as a fourth line staple.

The score on Saturday night was a beauty as Schaller bombed down the left wing, took a long stretch pass from Torey Krug and launched a rocket off the rush that beat Michael Hutchinson high to his glove hand. The score showed some pretty good hands, a pretty good shot and some very good wheels that give Schaller plenty to work with at the NHL level, and he’s also already shown as well that he can handle himself if things get a little rough and tumble.

“I think I’ve been playing well. I’ve been moving my feet and I think that always creates good things, and I’ve been able to capitalize on some of the chances I’ve gotten,” said Schaller. “They’ve given me some pretty good opportunities here, and I think I’ve made the best of my chances. Hopefully I can keep it going. Hopefully I can keep my feet moving, and keep beating D-men wide.

“It’s helped me knowing what my role was coming in here, and I’ve focused on killing penalties, being good defensively and things like that. It’s good to know the role, and I’m playing well. I got a little time on the power play last night, and that was nice. I’m just building Claude’s trust and hopefully I can keep building it more.”

The only knock against Schaller was a stretch of  handful of games where he took some minor penalties, but the 6-foot-2, 219-pounder has also now gone eight games without taking any kind of penalty while still playing with some good energy. Making that kind of self-correction is one of the best ways to earn Julien’s trust, and just adds to the good things that the Merrimack, New Hampshire native has brought to the B’s table this season. 

Bjork nearing game action, but is it too late for an NHL spot?

Bjork nearing game action, but is it too late for an NHL spot?

BRIGHTON, Mass  -- It’s been a bit of a slow go of it for Anders Bjork in Bruins training camp this fall while coming back from shoulder surgery, and that’s beginning to make an impact on the youngster’s chances of cracking the NHL roster at the start of the season.

It’s no fault of Bjork’s obviously as returning from shoulder surgery is no easy feat in a game where heavy contact to the shoulders is an everyday experience. But as the former Notre Dame standout hasn’t been fully cleared by the medical staff to play in games, he’s fallen behind peers like Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato in the battle for a couple of open top-9 winger spots among the forward group.

Bjork did take some contact in 3-on-3 drills at practice on Sunday at Warrior Ice Arena and is expected to have a doctor’s appointment this week where he could get clearance to play in games.

That’s a better place to be in than Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Fitzgerald, Sean Kuraly, Martin Bakos and Jakub Zboril all currently sitting out practice with injuries, but the odds are getting more likely his season will start in Providence.

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“He’s kind of been in the practices and held out here or there. If I’m not mistaken he’s got an appointment tomorrow that might clarify a little more of where the next step is for him,” said Bruce Cassidy, who did have Bjork skating in a pretty good spot on the right side with Jake DeBrusk and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson at practice on Sunday. “Hopefully that leads to some games for him because it’s tough to make the team if you don’t play any exhibition games if you’re in his position. [Bergeron] is a different animal and [Torey Krug] too because they’ve both been here, but for Bjork he’s probably going to need to play some games. Hopefully he gets that opportunity.”

Bjork was keeping a pretty good approach to the slow, deliberate approach to this fall’s training camp, but undoubtedly knows he’s got a couple of big games at the end of this week to show what he can do before the roster gets cut down.

“I’m feeling good. I’m still technically not cleared for games at this point, which is a little bit frustrating to be honest with you,” said Bjork, who had four goals and 12 points in 30 games last season. “I think the doctors have experience with this and they’re smart, so I have trust in them and trust in the coaching staff as well. It’s good to get a little antsy to play, and that’s building up with me for sure. We’re in the thick of camp, so I’m excited to get things going.”

For a player like Bjork that’s still developing, it might not be the worst thing in the world to start at the AHL level and get plenty of playing time rather than be a 22-year-old playing a potentially sporadic role at the NHL level. 

Morning Skate: Just how good is Tavares going to be in Toronto?

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Morning Skate: Just how good is Tavares going to be in Toronto?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while my fantasy football team is horrendous right now after Yahoo! gave me an “A” for my work on draft day. Damn you, Yahoo!

*It’s really interesting to think about just how impactful the arrival of John Tavares is going to be with the Maple Leafs. Does his arrival automatically catapult Toronto past the Bruins in the Atlantic Division standings? Will his leadership and intangibles takes Toronto’s young guns to an even higher level? Will the Leafs still be held back by their question marks on defense? Those questions won’t be answered until the regular season, but needless to say the media folks in Toronto are a wee bit giddy about the whole thing.

*Speaking of Toronto media watching Tavares, Steve Simmons has done his share and it sounds like he’s sold on the massive impact the former Islanders star will have.

*Interesting piece about how nutrition is becoming the next horizon in pro sports, and specifically in the NHL, where teams will be looking for competitive advantages.

*Former Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec is calling it a career after 11 seasons in the NHL where he was certainly a No. 1 goalie, but never quite the guy that was going to take his team over the top.

*Jason Spezza wants to actually accomplish something on the ice for the Dallas Stars this season, which would certainly be helpful for them after a rough season.

*For something completely different: I wouldn’t plan on Chevy Chase hosting Saturday Night Live again anytime soon.

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