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They have head start in the family business

Hockey in the blood for Stastny, Walter

WILMINGTON -- Bruins coach Dave Lewis and his staff still have plenty of decisions to make with regard to what players will make the opening-night roster Oct. 6, but two youngsters who have impressed Lewis off the ice come with strong hockey pedigrees. Ben Walter's father, Ryan, played 15 years in the NHL, as did Yan Statsny's father, Peter, who is in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

``They grow up in an environment where a lot of players don't get that opportunity," said Lewis. ``They're around the rink, their dads played at a high level for a long time. They followed a bit in the shadow of their parents but they bring that tangible element to the game every night."

Lewis said it would be a mistake to look for the same type of performance in the offspring.

``They're not the same, like Brett Hull was not the same as Bobby Hull," he said. ``These guys both bring a real professionalism that I've seen just in a short time, every day to the rink. They tend to do whatever you ask of them. They'll play any position. They've been very upbeat."

Lewis believes their lineage is a positive influence.

``I'm certainly sure that they feel a responsibility they have to follow," said Lewis. ``When you carry a name like that, there's always a responsibility that goes with it. They're both classy guys. They're very honored to be in an environment like this, like when they were little kids coming into the locker room. It's a special place."

Walter, 22, has six NHL games under his belt and Stastny, who turns 24 Sept. 30, has 20. Both centers are fighting for jobs on a team that is relatively deep down the middle. Walter, who played 62 games in Providence last season, appears to be a bit farther away from a spot than Stastny at this point.

``[Walter] hasn't had an opportunity," said Lewis. ``Experience is something he has to gain, whereas Yan has more experience. He's been traded, he's played for different teams, he's played in the minors, so he's got that going for him."

Walter, who had 16 goals and 25 assists with the Baby B's, said he's in the process of trying to prove himself to a new set of coaches and a new general manager in Peter Chiarelli.

``Last year was my first camp," said Walter, who played three years for UMass-Lowell before turning pro. ``Everything was really new and exciting and I wasn't sure what to expect. I've got a year under my belt and I think I came into camp knowing more what to expect and what camp was going to be all about. At the same time, it's a new coaching staff and a new general manager so pretty much everyone is in the same boat anyway in that regard."

Earlier in camp, Walter's father was on hand to watch his son's on-ice workouts. He said his dad continues to be a constant source of support.

``He told me to keep skating, to keep working hard," said Walter. ``The same things he's always told me."

Whether he ends up in Boston or back in Providence is a determination for Lewis to make, but Walter said he's determined to make that choice as hard as possible.

``Obviously, you come to camp and you want to make the team -- that's everyone's goal -- but if you start thinking that these guys have a job and these guys don't, it's a little distracting," he said. ``For me, I try to come in and play well and see what happens in the end.

``I think there's always going to be pressure, but it's good pressure. That is what camp is about, especially when you're a young guy. There are a lot of good players who are competing and you just want to play well and play better than the next guy."

Lewis expects to make cuts after the back-to-back meetings with the Canadiens in Montreal tonight and tomorrow. The coach said veterans Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard and center Patrice Bergeron will play in at least one of the contests. Phil Kessel, the Bruins' top pick in the June draft, will suit up tonight and will likely center a line with left wing Marco Sturm and right wing Glen Murray. Tim Thomas will play two periods in goal tonight and will be relieved by Brian Finley. Hannu Toivonen will play the first two periods tomorrow and Finley will suit up for the third . . . Defenseman Jason York, who played against the Devils Sunday, is sidelined by a hip ailment . . . For the Habs, Cristobal Huet and Carey Price will split the netminding chores tonight. Saku Koivu, who suffered a left eye injury in Game 3 of the playoffs last spring that ended his season, is expected to play for the Canadiens tonight.

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