Bruins notebook: Newcomer Drew Stafford joins Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano on third line
The Bruins management and coaching staff understandably did not want to tip their hand on where they expected to use Drew Stafford until he was ready to get in the lineup. But when the veteran forward made his debut last night in a B’s uniform against the New Jersey Devils at the Garden, it was pretty much where everyone expected him to play.
The newest Bruin, obtained in a deadline deal from the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday, started on the right wing on the third line with center Ryan Spooner and left winger Frank Vatrano.
It seemed like a natural fit.
“(Stafford) is a guy that finishes well, he goes to the net. He can make plays. I think on paper he could be a good fit for that line,” interim coach Bruce Cassidy said. “If you look at what Vatrano does well with Spoons, they play with speed and force him to keep up, but I think he’s a guy who’ll finish some plays that those guys will make for him. He’ll go to the net, which I think is important.
“Frankie goes to the net, clearly, but if Frankie’s shooting, we need someone there, and Spoons is usually the guy that’s dishing. So I think it could be a good fit for him. It’s a way to get him in the lineup.”
Spooner had not yet come up to the NHL on a regular basis when Stafford was playing in the Eastern Conference with the Buffalo Sabres, so he didn’t know too much about his new linemate.
“I know that he’s a really good playmaker,” Stafford said at the morning skate. “He’s able to dish the puck and distribute. He’s got a shot on him, too. It seems like he likes to use his edges out there. He’s got good balance protecting the puck. I don’t know too much, but from what guys have to say, he’s an excellent set-up man, he likes making plays and he likes dishing. For me, I like shooting the puck and scoring goals, at least I try, so it would be nice if we could get some chemistry. Same with Frankie on the other side. It seems like he’s got a great shot and he can really snipe.
“Tonight for the first one, we’ll try and keep it simple, play north-south and make sure we’re responsible. Any kind of offense would be a bonus tonight.”
In Winnipeg, Stafford had been pushed down the depth chart by rookie sensation Patrik Laine, and he’s hoping the move will bump up his production again. He’s a four-time 20-plus goalscorer, but he was limited to just four goals and nine assists in 40 games this season and missed time with two separate injuries.
“It’s always nice to get an opportunity to play in a role where I feel like I can succeed and contribute the way that I know that I can,” Stafford said. “It’s unfortunate the way things worked out in Winnipeg. When I signed there, I definitely believed we had an opportunity to build on that playoff run that we had there. The things worked out is just how it is. But I’m looking forward to moving on here and I’m extremely grateful and happy for the opportunity to hopefully get back to playing.”
Hayes sits one out
With the insertion of Stafford into the lineup, Jimmy Hayes took a seat. Hayes had been playing much better the last few weeks, but he remained stuck on two goals.
“He’s played very well for what we’ve asked him to do,” Cassidy said of Hayes. “That line has been a positive line for us. They’ve scored some goals. They’ve kept the puck out of their own net. They’ve limited chances against for the most part. We’re just making a switch. Do we want more production from Jimmy? Yes. We want more production from every line if we can get it. And that’s what was addressed to him. He’s doing a good job, but we’re going to go Stafford in there tonight.
“Monday’s a new day. We’ll see how it all shakes out. It’s no disrespect to Jimmy’s game. He’s done what we’ve asked of him the last three weeks. But, like we’ve said, we’re also trying to create some competition and with a new guy coming in, that’s what it does.” . . .
Matt Beleskey was also scratched as fellow winger Tim Schaller went back in the lineup.
Limited power supply
The B’s power play had hit a rut going into last night. After notching a power-play goal in eight straight games, they had two in the previous six (2-for-13). Cassidy believes some of that is cyclical, but he also thinks there were corrections to be made.
“I think we’ve mismanaged the puck a little bit on our entries,” he said. “We’re usually fairly reliable there. Even some faceoffs we’ve won and haven’t kept it in the zone. Those are two areas — possession time and (offensive)-zone time — that we’ve got to clean up. I believe our power play, like a lot of power plays, if you spend enough time in the offensive zone, you’re going to score, because you’ve got good players out there and you’re going to tire teams out.”