Benched in Montreal
Pouliot looking to get back on his game
WILMINGTON - On Feb. 9, with one well-placed right hand to David Krejci’s chin, Benoit Pouliot sent the skilled Bruins center off the TD Garden ice for repairs.
Pouliot, who was wearing the hated bleu-blanc-et-rouge of Montreal at the time, made it one of his first priorities to chat with his new teammate upon his recent arrival in Boston.
“I talked to him earlier,’’ said Pouliot, who signed with the Bruins as a free agent in July. “It’s business. I’m on the team now. Things like that happen. When I was in Montreal, guys who had gotten in fights before were best friends.
“I’m not looking to come down here and screw up everything that’s going on around here. I’m looking to try and find a spot and get along with the guys as much as I can.’’
Pouliot was the fourth overall pick in 2005, drafted by Minnesota one slot ahead of former Montreal teammate Carey Price. The 6-foot-3-inch, 199-pound wing is a strong north-south skater with an above-average shot.
Pouliot’s pedigree and skills, however, weren’t good enough for the Canadiens to tender him a contract. Upon the conclusion of 2010-11, Pouliot would have been a restricted free agent. But Montreal declined to send him a qualifying offer, which made him an unrestricted free agent July 1. The 24-year-old is with his third organization.
Pouliot said there was a “lack of trust’’ between him and Montreal coach Jacques Martin.
“First when I got there, he played me 17-18 minutes a game,’’ said Pouliot. “Everything went well. Then it went downhill after that.’’
After being wheeled to the Canadiens for Guillaume Latendresse on Nov. 23, 2009, Pouliot acclimated well to Montreal at first. In 39 games in 2009-10, he had 15 goals and 9 assists.
Last year, his first full season in Montreal, Pouliot recorded 13 goals and 17 assists. He also was credited with 110 hits, third on the team behind Andrei Kostitsyn and Travis Moen.
But by the end of the first round of the playoffs, Pouliot had played himself off Martin’s fourth line and into the press box. In Game 3 against the Bruins, his final appearance as a Canadien, Pouliot skated only five shifts for 3:21 of ice time.
“With the way it went last year, I really didn’t want to follow that up again in Montreal with the relationship with the coaching staff,’’ Pouliot said. “Now it’s a new start.’’
Pouliot wore No. 67 yesterday during his first captain’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. Pouliot is under contract for one year at $1.1 million, but his deal doesn’t make him a lock for a roster spot.
Pouliot projects to be the third-line left wing alongside Chris Kelly. But there are veterans and rookies pushing for Pouliot’s spot, from 35-year-old Chris Clark to 21-year-old Jamie Arniel.
Pouliot must commit to playing a straightforward, north-south, grinding game. Otherwise, the Bruins will quickly learn why two franchises have cut their ties with the top-five pick.
“The way I play is going to bring me somewhere,’’ Pouliot said. “Now that I’m in Boston, I’ve just got to play the way I’m capable of playing.
“I’ve got a couple strengths - shooting and skating. And I’m a big guy. I think I can go in the corners pretty easily. That’s what I’ve got to do when I bring it to Boston.’’
Wishing Savard well Last year, despite battling post-concussion syndrome, Marc Savard made an appearance at training camp. This year, he doesn’t plan on being in Boston for any part of camp. He will not play in 2011-12, and his career is in doubt. “You want him to do well and come back 100 percent,’’ said Patrice Bergeron. “That’s what the team has been doing with me and most of the guys. I think that’s the perfect way to approach this. I’m happy they’re doing that. They’re not rushing him. That being said, it’s sad to see. I wish he’d be here. But I wish him all the best. I hope he starts to turn the corner at some point and feel better. Not even to see him on the ice, but for his health.’’
Cap tally rising Including Brad Marchand’s extension, the Bruins are at approximately $58 million in cap money this season. That sum includes Savard’s hit. The Bruins will place Savard on long-term injured reserve when the season starts, allowing them to exceed the cap by his $4.007 million annual hit. The Bruins are operating under a $1.13 million cap penalty this season, mostly because of bonuses achieved last year by Mark Recchi . . . Pouliot was teammates in junior with Adam McQuaid when they played for Sudbury. Pouliot is friends with Bergeron, as both are represented by local agent Kent Hughes . . . Twenty-nine veterans participated in yesterday’s skate. Most of the players will remain off the ice today in preparation for fitness testing tomorrow . . . NESN will carry one preseason game, Sept. 29 at TD Garden against Ottawa.