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Hamill ready to assist

Playmaker eager for additional roles

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / December 22, 2011
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WILMINGTON - Ask Zach Hamill what role he enjoys playing and his answer is anything and everything. You name it, he is eager to try it.

The 23-year-old forward has played six games for the Bruins this season, and in Monday’s 3-2 win over the Canadiens he logged 13 minutes and 48 seconds of ice time. He began the night on the fourth line, but in the second period was moved up to left wing on the top line with David Krejci and Nathan Horton.

Milan Lucic was back in his usual spot with Krejci and Horton at practice yesterday after serving a one-game suspension, but it was clear Hamill had made an impression.

“He’s come up here every time he’s come up and done a really good job,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “I see a guy competing a lot harder and more confident than I have ever seen. He gets into battle and his playmaking ability is really showing more than ever. He’s made some unbelievable plays with us and we recognize those kinds of things. He’s playing like a guy who wants to stay and we’ve always talked about [that] guys who deserve to be here are going to be here. He hasn’t given us any reason right now to want to change our mind with regards to that.’’

Hamill also saw time on the power play and penalty kill against Montreal, and had an outstanding scoring chance with about eight minutes remaining when Carey Price somehow saved his point-blank one-timer.

“[Horton] made a great play,’’ said Hamill. “I don’t know if there was much more I could have done. I think I was down on one knee and I got a pretty good shot off, but he made a good save. As long as the chances are there, sometimes they don’t go in, but as long as you’re creating chances and taking care of your own end, that’s the most important thing.’’

Hamill enjoyed his time on the top line.

“It’s great to get up there, but it’s a lot better to earn it. I don’t just want to be put up there,’’ said Hamill, the eighth overall pick in the 2007 draft. “[For] the coach to have the confidence in you to play with [Krejci and Horton] and play against their top guys, too. I was happy to fill in for [Lucic] when I could. It was fun.’’

Hamill said his top priority is to help the team.

“Wherever I’m needed, I want to go,’’ he said. “[To have] the confidence of the coaching staff and they’ve kind of shown me the ropes and [taught] me things day by day. To have their confidence not just to go out there five-on-five but power play and penalty killing, it’s slowly starting to happen. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to stay up here to help the team and contribute as much as I can.’’

Hamill went to the coaches and asked about becoming a penalty killer, and has been given a chance.

“The last couple of years, obviously power play I was in a little bit, so I felt like penalty killing is something I’d like to contribute because it gets me on the ice,’’ he said. “This year I asked [Providence coach Bruce Cassidy, saying] I really wanted to be part of the penalty kill. I wanted to be one of the No. 1 or 2 guys to penalty kill and I think that’s helped my game a little bit. Going out there four on five and then as time went on, I was out there three on five. So in my mind, I think penalty killing kind of shows I can play both sides of the puck, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes.’’

Andrew Ference (flu) and Rich Peverley (maintenance) did not practice. “We’re having a good look here at our schedule and what it may do for him,’’ said Julien of Peverley. “We’re going to keep him off for the next couple of days.’’ . . . Julien ran the team through a 40-minute practice with the focus on puck protection. “We kept doing some drills, which might have looked more like a fun day, but it was more about being stronger on the puck,’’ said the coach. “Being able to battle and we wanted to get better at that. That’s another area where we’re trying to improve.’’ . . . The Bruins will practice again today before taking on the Panthers tomorrow night at TD Garden. “It’s like that every year, you want to finish on a positive note so that you can head into Christmas and probably enjoy it a little bit more,’’ said Julien. “Every team I’m sure thinks that the same way. On our end of it, we have no excuse. We’ve had some time off here from playing and hopefully we’ll be the fresher team of the two when that game comes around.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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