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Bruins notebook: Drew Stafford takes to playing on the off-wing

March 9, 2017

When Drew Stafford was obtained from the Winnipeg Jets last week for a conditional draft pick, the right-shooting forward was told he might be asked to play on his off wing.

Well, after two games in a Bruins uniform, that time came in last night’s 6-1 blowout of the Red Wings at the Garden.

Interim head coach Bruce Cassidy scratched Peter Cehlarik and moved Stafford on to David Krejci’s left wing on the second line.

“You’ve got to be ready for anything, right?” said Stafford. “It’s part of being a professional about it, making sure I’m ready for the opportunity and do my best to help contribute and hopefully be part of the solution here.”

And Stafford certainly looked ready last night. He assisted on Krejci’s first goal of the game and then scored his first as a Bruin.

“It’s all about opportunity and fit, really,” said Stafford. “I believe in myself and what I can do and how I can play. I’ve been given an opportunity here to play with some pretty good players. I’m just trying to ease myself into it a little bit but at the same time take advantage of this opportunity.”

Back at pivot

Austin Czarnik, all 5-feet-9 and 160 pounds of him, has been trying to prove he belongs for his entire hockey career. He’s been able to confirm it every step along the way so far, but the jury is still out whether he can be an every day player in the NHL.

But with Ryan Spooner out with a concussion, Czarnik is getting another shot at it, skating on the third line with Frank Vatrano, whom he helped score 36 goals in 36 games in Providence last year, and Jimmy Hayes.

After the morning skate, Czarnik felt ready to bring the best of what he had already shown so far, and a little bit more than that.

“They believe in me right now and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to show what I have again,” said Czarnik. “I think now, I’ve played simple so much this year, I can’t start to try to make plays and realize what plays I have to make and not just try to get the puck in. I’m going to try and create space for my linemates.”

Going into last night, Czarnik had 5-8-13 totals and was a minus-10 in 42 NHL games. After suffering a fracture in his foot on Feb.?4 against Toronto, Czarnik was on the shelf for six games before begin sent back to Providence upon being cleared to play. He had a goal and four assists in his five games in Providence.

“I’m comfortable in the middle. I think that’s where I’m supposed to be in my career and being back with Frank’s good because we have chemistry from the last two years. I’m excited for the opportunity,” said Czarnik, who had an uneventful 15:47 of ice time last night (zero shots).

Another injury

The Bruins lost fourth-line forward Tim Schaller in the first period when he crashed feet first into the end boards. He labored to the bench and did not return. Cassidy did not have an update on him after the game. .?.?.

Cehlarik took a seat for the first time since entering the lineup on Feb.?11 against the Canucks. He has two assists in 10 games.

“He’s a little bit snake-bit. If we’re sitting here and he had three or four goals, we might be having a different conversation. But the facts are he doesn’t, even though the chances were there,” said Cassidy. “If this were earlier in the year, you might let it play out a little longer. But it’s not, so we’re going to try Stafford. He’s a good player. He might be a good fit there.

“Give (Stafford) a chance to play the left side and maybe move up in the line and give Peter a chance to go upstairs and watch the game up there. The areas we’re looking for improvement with him is being strong on pucks, managing the puck. That’s the curse of a lot of young players when they start playing against men, and he’s no different.

“He’s going through a bit of it now and we’ll see how it plays out going forward.” .?.?.

With Cehlarik scratched, Hayes made it back into the lineup after being scratched for two games. Hayes had two goals and three assists in 49 games going into last night, and was pointless against the Wings.