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TAMPA — Approximately a week before the 2012 NHL draft, Benoit Pouliot received a telephone call from the Bruins. Pouliot’s then-employer informed him that he would not be returning to Boston for the 2012-13 season.
On June 23, the second day of the draft, the Bruins traded Pouliot to Tampa Bay for Michel Ouellet and a 2012 fifth-round pick.
Pouliot, signed by the Bruins as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2011, didn’t last a full year in Boston.
“It’s always tough, especially after I had a pretty decent year in my role when I played in Boston,” Pouliot said of being moved. “It was hard. At the same time right now, I’m so happy to be here and playing.”
Last season, Pouliot scored 16 goals and 16 assists in 74 games. He was the No. 3 left wing alongside Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. The Bruins are still searching for Pouliot’s replacement.
Chris Bourque has seen the most shifts with Kelly and Peverley. Coach Claude Julien also has given Daniel Paille some looks, especially late in games when the Bruins are leading, on the third line. Third-line left wing is the Bruins’ primary target for an upgrade via trade prior to the April 3 deadline.
Pouliot, meanwhile, has found a niche in Tampa Bay. He has been skating with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis on the No. 2 line. Pouliot has five goals and eight assists, but was held off the scoresheet in Thursday night’s 4-2 loss to the Bruins.
“Playing with better linemates,” cracked Kelly. “For Benny, coming in last year at the start was tough for him. It was all, ‘Stanley Cup, Stanley Cup, Stanley Cup.’ He handled himself extremely well. Once that kind of passed, we were able to build some pretty good chemistry.’’
The Bruins were satisfied with Pouliot’s results, but they wanted to give Jordan Caron (who is back at Providence, returning from a shoulder injury) a full-time opportunity on the third line. Also, the Bruins would not have been amenable to giving Pouliot the raise he could have earned.
Pouliot would have been a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Had Pouliot filed for arbitration, the left wing could have at least doubled his 2011-12 salary of $1.1 million. The Lightning were also concerned about how Pouliot might have fared in arbitration. They didn’t qualify Pouliot after obtaining him from the Bruins, which officially made him an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2012. That day, Tampa signed Pouliot to a one-year, $1.8 million extension.
The Rangers’ Rick Nash missed his second straight game on Thursday because of a suspected concussion.
On Feb. 12, Milan Lucic checked Nash into the TD Garden boards. A story in Wednesday’s New York Post indicated that Nash might have suffered the injury on that play. Nash finished that game and appeared in the next two. Lucic was not penalized, nor was he subject to supplemental discipline.
“I read that this morning and I don’t even know exactly when that happened. Nothing sticks out in my mind as far as that’s concerned,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “I can’t even comment on that because I’m as dumbfounded as anybody else.”
Lightning coach Guy Boucher is a fan of the Bruins organization. “When you play Boston, you don’t just play a team, you play a culture,” Boucher said. “It’s the same culture for a while, same core players. They’ve won. They reproduce the same good things. They have a lot of depth at all positions. There’s no flaws in that lineup. They make mistakes like everybody. But if you look at the lineup, there are no weaknesses there. You can’t expect to attack their weakness and defend against their strengths.” . . . Lucic returned to the Bruins’ lineup against Tampa after missing Sunday’s 3-2 win over Winnipeg because of a personal matter, and posted a game-high seven hits . . . Dougie Hamilton played a career-low 10:00. He was on the ice for both of Tampa’s goals, and played just 2:08 in the third period. Because of Tampa’s big guns, Julien gave big minutes to Zdeno Chara (26:23) and Dennis Seidenberg (26:12) . . . Peverley, who skated in Lucic’s spot for most of Sunday’s game, was back on the third line . . . Ex-Bruin Nate Thompson is a Boucher favorite. Thompson, placed on waivers by the Bruins in 2008, has played multiple roles for Boucher. “He pays the price,” Boucher said. “He’ll block a shot with his teeth if he has to. He’s relentless.’’ . . . The Bruins traveled to Fort Lauderdale after the game. They will conclude their Florida swing on Sunday against the Panthers.