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Kobasew prefers the reserved role

By Brendan Hall
Globe Correspondent / September 30, 2009

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WILMINGTON - There are few in the Bruins locker room as reserved as Chuck Kobasew.

Take, for instance, his shorthanded goal in the Bruins’ 6-5 preseason shootout loss at Columbus Sept. 22. Coming through the slot, the 27-year-old right wing took a feed from Drew Larman and backhanded the puck past Mathieu Garon to tie the score, 2-2, one of Boston’s niftiest goals of the preseason.

“I just come off the bench,’’ he said when asked about the goal after yesterday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena.

Soft-spoken? Yes. But his relentless style on the ice resonates within the dressing room, and he should be a key component when the Bruins open their season tomorrow night at home against Washington.

Entering his seventh season in the NHL, Kobasew has built a reputation as a gritty performer whose style often gets overlooked. On the Bruins’ third line with Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron - coach Claude Julien called it “arguably our best line in the playoffs’’ - Kobasew’s style serves the line’s defense-first, crash-the-net attitude well.

“We all kind of go [into] those areas well, we have a great sense for it, we communicate well,’’ said Recchi, who played with Kobasew and Bergeron after arriving from Tampa Bay last February at the trade deadline. “We have a great relationship off the ice as much as on the ice.’’

A healthy Kobasew is good for 20-plus goals a season. He scored 21 last season in a 42-point campaign. He can also kill penalties, and, when necessary, he will drop the gloves, as he did last Saturday with Michael Blunden in a 4-2 loss to visiting Columbus, the Bruins’ final preseason tuneup.

Kobasew might even be used as a point man on the power play. Asked about his expectations, Kobasew was typically terse: “I’ve got to play better on both ends of the ice. I’ve got to contribute more offensively, improve my forecheck.’’

But for the most part, much of the same will be expected. Not that it should be a problem.

“He’s one of our most reliable guys on the team,’’ said Recchi. “He will come out every night, work hard for you, and be there as a teammate.’’

Recchi called Kobasew “one of the team’s unsung heroes,’’ a sentiment Julien concurred with.

“He’s one of those streaky goal scorers; when he gets on a roll, he scores in bunches,’’ Julien said. “But one thing you never question with Chuck is his work ethic. He works hard every night, competes hard every night, and he’s a very focused individual. He’s very professional, devoted to his job.’’

No word on Krejci
Julien would not say whether David Krejci, who missed the preseason while recovering from hip surgery, will play tomorrow. “Honestly, I’d like to keep that decision for game day,’’ Julien said. “He’s feeling good. It’s very positive right now and I’m not going to hide that fact, but we have to make sure he’s ready to take the brunt of the physical play that comes along with that.’’

Itching to get back
Second-year defenseman Matt Hunwick, who missed last year’s playoffs because of a ruptured spleen, is eager to get going. “When I went out, it was so hard for me to watch the game from the bed, or elsewhere in the arena,’’ said Hunwick, who had 27 points in 53 games last season. “At that time, I was just itching to get on the ice and practice. Now that I’ve had a full summer, it’s kind of a normal life, where you have that end-of-summer itch to get back on the ice and practice with teammates.’’ . . . Special-teams play was a topic in Julien’s meeting with the media. The coach believes the team will do just fine despite limited opportunities in the preseason. “The good part is, we have a lot of guys from last year,’’ Julien said. “You hope that they find that chemistry quick.’’

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