|PETER SCHAEFER Savard linemate?|
Coach Claude Julien said there was no significance behind the lines that were selected to play together yesterday at TD Banknorth Garden on the Bruins' first official day of training camp.
But there are strong indications that Peter Schaefer, who skated with Marc Savard and Martins Karsums in the first session, might be seeing a lot of time with Savard, the Bruins' leading scorer last season.
Come Oct. 5, Schaefer could be the club's No. 1 left wing alongside Savard and Glen Murray when the Bruins open the season against Dallas.
"He's a good guy along the walls," Savard said of Schaefer. "He can get pucks out, get them to me, and Muzz can set up shop and shoot it."
Schaefer, a 30-year-old wing made available because of Ottawa's salary-cap crunch, has a reputation of playing well along the boards. But he's also been dogged for not shooting enough, perhaps a function of his role - grinding two-way winger - with the Senators. Last season, while playing mostly on a line with Daniel Alfredsson, Schaefer recorded 132 shots in 77 games (an average of 1.71 shots per game, 276th in the NHL).
"I guess I've always heard that," said Schaefer. "I've played with pretty good players who like having the puck. So I've just gotten used to getting in there, making plays, and getting those guys the puck. That's why they wanted me there. So that's probably why I've overpassed."
If he plays with Savard and Murray, Schaefer will be asked to do the dirty work along the boards and in the corners, to bang bodies and fish out loose pucks. But with the Bruins still looking for scoring (2.56 goals per game in 2006-07, 25th in the league), Julien and his staff are counting on Schaefer to pop in more than the 12 strikes he recorded last season.
In yesterday's session, Savard connected with Schaefer several times. Savard even told Schaefer that he doesn't want to see the puck returning.
"He made one crazy pass behind the back. Didn't even really know that I'd be ready for it," said Schaefer. "It was right on my stick for me and I just had to shoot it. So, I was like, 'Yeah, that's a pretty sick pass.' Haven't gotten one of those in a long time."
Last year, the Bruins got 11 goals out of P.J. Axelsson, their No. 1 left wing. They're looking for an increase in production, and Schaefer projects to be a bigger offensive threat than the defensive-minded Axelsson.
"If I'm playing with someone else who's getting me the puck, then obviously that's got to change," Schaefer said. "I've got a pretty good shot and a good release. So, if I do shoot the puck a lot more, then obviously there's more opportunities and more rebounds for my linemates."
Hands tiedOne of the surprising aspects of Zdeno Chara's 2006-07 season was that the captain didn't record a fight.
Yesterday, Chara acknowledged there were several reasons he didn't fight. One was that on several occasions, former coach Dave Lewis instructed him not to drop the gloves.
The leaky Boston defense could not afford five minutes without Chara, who logged the heaviest workload of any NHLer last season. There were times when Chara quarterbacked nearly the full two minutes of a power play, while he regularly killed the duration of penalties, perhaps explaining why Lewis put the fighting handcuffs on his captain.
Chara won't be called upon to be an enforcer this season for two reasons: Shawn Thornton and Jeremy Reich will fill that role, and the intimidating defenseman, who sometimes couldn't find a willing combatant last season, might find it challenging to pick a fight.
But from every source, from Julien to general manager Peter Chiarelli to Chara, the promise is the 6-foot-9-inch defenseman will return to his old form this season.
"I have to change a little bit to just be myself and do what I do best," said Chara, who laid a decent thump on Savard yesterday. "That's play hockey, especially defensively, and do what I do best instead of trying to do too much."
Alberts outAndrew Alberts, who's battling a cold, was the lone absentee yesterday. Julien said it was precautionary . . . Aaron Ward, who was 222 pounds two years ago with Carolina, weighed in at a trim 207. The 34-year-old Ward, the second-oldest player on the team (Murray will turn 35 Nov. 1), is entering the final year of his contract, but said he feels like he can still play, especially at a reduced weight . . . Owner Jeremy Jacobs watched parts of each session from the stands alongside Chiarelli and assistant GM Jim Benning. Also in attendance was senior adviser Harry Sinden and most of the team's scouting staff . . . Both groups of veterans performed routine drills, including three-on-three cycling and one-on-one work. The sessions ended with sprints, circling each goal. Assistant coaches Geoff Ward and Doug Houda drew the nets closer after each sprint, but Chara, Reich, and Matt Hendricks were among the players skating full laps along the end boards. "The first day is always a rigorous, long workout," said Mark Mowers. "You're always going to feel tired after it. There's no way around it."
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.