Going forth, Paille earning his keep
Last year, when Game No. 2 of the Bruins season rolled around, Daniel Paille was in the press box instead of on the ice. This season, Paille was doing everything to ensure history didn’t repeat.
After a season-opening loss to Phoenix in 2010-11, Paille was the odd man out for the rematch against the Coyotes. It was the first of 35 times Paille would be a healthy scratch.
“Last year, I just felt weak in certain parts of my game,’’ Paille acknowledged. “This year, I feel really strong.’’
The fate that befell Paille last year felt familiar. Two years ago, the first-round pick of the Sabres in 2002 found himself in his coach’s disfavor. Paille, a bottom-six forward in Buffalo, faced tough competition for a regular job. Tim Kennedy and Matt Ellis were among the grinders that Lindy Ruff tapped instead of Paille. So after Paille dressed for only two games that year, he was traded to the Bruins.
So far, Paille has shown no signs of falling back into a skate-or-sit routine. Late last year, when Paille reclaimed his fourth-line job, he made sure he didn’t let it go.
Throughout the playoffs, whenever Paille, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton hit the ice for their limited shifts, they made an impact with their speed, smarts, and toughness. In the Stanley Cup Final, after Thornton (a healthy scratch for the first two losses) earned the nod in Game 3, the fourth line led the smackdown parade on the cowering Canucks.
Last night, Paille scored his first goal of 2011-12. When Adam McQuaid let a wrister fly from the right point, Paille and Chris Kelly converged on the shooting lane. Paille got a piece of McQuaid’s shot, and the puck skimmed past Mathieu Garon at 4:58 of the second in the Bruins’ 4-1 victory over the Lightning.
“Playing in the playoffs last year kind of opened my eyes on how I need to play,’’ Paille said. “That’s something I want to bring into this year. I don’t want to change a thing from my playoff run. I want to continue that as much as I can.
“Greg and Shawn are great players to play with. We’re not a regular fourth line. We know how to play. We understand where we need to be.
“It’s nice to see us jell like that on the ice as much as we do. If we can help the team as much as we can, whether it’s scoring goals or creating energy, we’re all happy about it.’’
Coach Claude Julien, who promotes a four-line approach, might be more free with his leash early in the season to spread the ice time. Based on its history, the fourth line has not lost any trust in the coach.
Pouliot gets chance The battle for the third-line left wing will continue. Benoit Pouliot, a healthy scratch for the season opener, got his first crack at attempting to win the coaching staff’s trust.
As Jordan Caron watched from the press box, Pouliot turned in 7:42 of up-and-down, hard-hat hockey. Pouliot had two shots and two hits.
“Everybody seemed to like him tonight for the amount of ice he got,’’ Julien said. “I thought with his energy, he competed hard. He made some good things happen. I like the direction he took tonight. He’s certainly continuing to show us that as he gets more comfortable, he seems to be bringing a little bit more. We all seemed to be happy with his game tonight.’’
Caron, who got the nod against Philadelphia on Thursday, is doing his best to keep the job. In the season opener, Caron didn’t look as comfortable as he did during the preseason.
“Little tired the first few shifts because we were standing there for the celebration,’’ Caron said. “It wasn’t my best game. But it wasn’t bad either. Just have to do the simple things. We had a few chances.’’
Flexible power play Julien is not going with set five-man units on the power play thus far. Instead, he wants his point men - Patrice Bergeron and Joe Corvo on one unit, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg on the other - to be comfortable with both forward threesomes. “That’s all part of having a group back there that you can interchange and manage the ice time properly,’’ Julien said. “You’re not putting a guy out there on the power play who’s tired and just had a full shift because the unit up front is fresh. You make sure you have fresh guys on the ice out there at all times.’’ . . . McQuaid made his season debut and had an assist in 13:19 of ice time. He was unavailable for the opener because of a virus that left him with headaches. Matt Bartkowski was the healthy scratch among defensemen . . . Martin St. Louis scored his 300th career goal last night. “I’m actually happy now because I wasn’t happy when he scored,’’ said Tim Thomas, St. Louis’s college teammate, when informed of the ex-Catamount’s milestone. “I’m sure he’ll remember that one. He didn’t say a word to me, at least from what I heard. I’m kind of in my own world sometimes. But he doesn’t talk a lot. That’s the way we both compete. We don’t do a lot of talking. We let our play do the talking.’’ . . . The Bruins killed all five Tampa power plays. They emphasized pressuring the puck up the ice and not allowing the Lightning to gain easy entries to the offensive zone.