|10.05.10 at 7:38 am ET|
PRAGUE — Jordan Caron entered the preseason as the savvy hockey fan’s sleeper pick for the Calder trophy, someone whose offensive capabilities could prove more valuable in the coming season for the Bruins than second overall pick Tyler Seguin. At practically each checkpoint, anyone who entered camp high on Caron looked smarter and smarter. The team’s 2009 first-round pick scored a hat trick in the first rookie exhibition at the Garden against the Islanders, and when the team suited up Saturday’s tilt with the Belfast Giants, they did so with Caron as their second-line right wing.
Yet over the course of this European trip, Caron has battled issues that were previously nonexistent, and as a result has been bumped from the second line by third-year man Blake Wheeler. Caron, who is now splitting time with Michael Ryder as the third line right wing, has showed symptoms of fatigue from a long buildup to the season, according to coach Claude Julien. Mark Recchi feels his former linemate is battling confidence issues. Whatever is going on with Caron, he’s not prepared to let it define him as he enters his first professional season.
“It’s been a long camp for me, but I don’t want to take that as an excuse,” said Caron, whose English is still coming along. “I guess it has been a long training camp for me, but I have to get over it and just try to do my best.”
Even without making excuses, Caron could identify that he’s now playing in a far different league and environment than before. He pointed to the exhibition game in Montreal as his wake-up call that he’s become an NHL caliber player, but also stated that the competition is much tougher.
“Everything is faster, everything is stronger. You can tell the guys are much stronger, just in front of the net and in battling for pucks,” Caron said. “You don’t play against 18 or 19-year-old guys, you play against men. I think that’s the biggest difference.
“It’s pretty hard just to play against older guys like this, but I don’t want to make any excuses. I just need to do my best.”
Recchi and Patrice Bergeron, both of whom played with Caron throughout the beginning of the preseason on the second line, grabbed lunch on Monday to discuss Caron and how to help him with whatever jitters he may be showing. The two figured it would be best if Bergeron, who not long ago went through the rookie process and is also from Quebec, sat the youngster down for dinner on Monday as part of the continued mentorship for Caron.
“I’ve talked with Bergy a lot, and he says sometimes you don’t even have to battle,” Caron said. You have to be be smart and postition yourself in the right place and it will be easier.
“Having him speaking French, he really takes care of me in every aspect. Any type of question [I have], I can go right up to him and ask him.”
It isn’t a secret that Recchi, 42, has seen everything in this league, and he’s no stranger to seeing a player fight through a rookie wall. He likens the case of Caron to that of another Jordan in Jordan Staal, who in 2006-07 showed the same things with the Penguins he is currently seeing from Caron.
“I think you’re so intense and you’re so nervous over the course of the whole time, and you can’t sustain it,” Recchi said. “I remember Jordan Staal. He was great, great, great, then he hit a little bit of a wall, and then just before the season he got good again, and then he took off into the season. I remember getting close to the end of camp, he got a little bit tired. It was the same thing [as Caron]. ‘¦ It happens. It’s a lot. They had rookie camp, so they’ve been going at it for a while, and they may skate a lot earlier than most older guys do.”
Now skating with Seguin, a player with whom he’s gotten pretty close throughout development camp, rookie camp, and training camp, Caron isn’t too concerned with which line he ends up on. For now, he’s sticking to the conservative “if I make the team” mentality made famous by Seguin.
Julien has left the door open for him to “prove” that he belongs on the second line, which Caron admits he would love to play on. Recchi said that the rookie “got” the message that he needed to revert back to the player he was long before being moved off the second line. The veteran is confident that Caron has a long career of him, and that it will kick into high gear once he breaks the habit of overthinking things on the ice.
“I think he got really nervous in Belfast, just because [the season is] getting close,” Recchi said. “‘¦That’s like with anybody. When you start losing your confidence, you start thinking too much and then you don’t reach as quick, nothing comes naturally. It’s a natural thing for a young kid.”
|10.04.10 at 3:36 pm ET|
PRAGUE — Bruins center David Krejci is excited to be in the Czech Republic with his teammates, but on Monday the 24-year-old spoke of what it was like to leave his native town of Sternberk for the QMJHL when he was 18.
“I had a new family I didn’t know, a different language I didn’t know, new country, new culture, everything. It was really tough, but there’s a point at three or four months, if you get past it, you kind of get used to it,” Krejci said on Monday. “You start learning the language, and you mature much faster than if you’d stay here.
“I think that’s helped me a lot with my hockey, too. I was training my body and myself that I was playing professional hockey already when I was in juniors. I had no friends, no family, so I was preparing myself for every practice, for every game, and I believe it helped me a lot.”
For the entire story on Krejci, click here. In the meantime, enjoy some pictures of the Bruins from Monday’s practice at Tesla Arena.
|10.04.10 at 1:35 pm ET|
PRAGUE — It was just around when David Krejci talked about taking teammates out for goulash that this picky-eating reporter realized that he just may be out of luck when it comes to sustenance in the Czech Republic. Not to worry, thanks to the mini-mart down the street.
|10.04.10 at 12:00 pm ET|
PRAGUE — Here are some shots of Zdeno Chara and David Krejci talking to the Czech media. The cameras have come out in full force, for the players, both of whom were born in what was at the time Czechoslovakia. The majority of the media attention’s attention has been on Krejci, whose hometown, Sternberk is still a part of the Czech Republic, with Chara’s native Trencin falling in Slovakia.
|10.04.10 at 10:06 am ET|
PRAGUE — The Bruins couldn’t get enough going offensively to make a blip on the radar in the first period and a half against the Belfast Giants, so changes could be in the works as they gear up for NHL competition at the end of the week.
The team may have gotten a bit of a head start, moving Jordan Caron off the second line and placing Blake Wheeler on the other wing with Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron. Caron had been moved off the line as the Belfast game went on. On Tuesday, he skated with Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder’s line, which Daniel Paille had also joined for the practice. Wheeler has now gone from potential third-line center to third-line wing to potential second-line wing.
Claude Julien said after the practice that the team had begun noticing a more tired Caron, which was the reason for the offensive adjustments.
“I think what we took time to realize was that he was at the rookie camp. They had a couple of games, he worked hard that week [before training camp opened]. He hasn’t had as much of a break as the other players. What I’m feeling is that the fatigue is probably showing a little bit, so sometimes you pull a guy back a little bit and let him go back and maybe show us that he can regain that speed that he had earlier on. I just felt like he’s slowed down a little bit, so we want to give him that chance to hopefully regain that. That’s up to him to show us that he can keep up the pace here.
“That’s the only question when you’re talking about Jordan,” he added. “I think he’s strong, he protects the puck well, he takes it to the net. He’s got so many qualities. Right now it’s probably a matter of [whether he can] sustain the tempo of the game at this level and keep his game as consistent as possible. This is what he’s got to prove to us.”
|10.04.10 at 9:13 am ET|
PRAGUE — There’s no way anyone going on this Belfast-Prague-Liberec-Prague excursion wasn’t psyched out of their minds for the trip. There’s also no way a writer whose dealings with foreign cities stopped at Quebec wouldn’t have some reservations about new territories and a new language.
This one just didn’t think he’d have his, “I’m a goner” moment so soon in.
So we arrived on Sunday night, and it was beautiful. I actually slept for a little more than 14 hours as soon as I got to the hotel and got up just before 10 a.m. for the 11 a.m. practice. I called a cab, wrote down the address for the arena, which was about 15 minutes away tops, and enjoyed some very limited conversation with the driver, who knew just a few words of English. Either way, I would soon be at Tesla Arena.
No I wouldn’t.
About 15 minutes into the ride the cab pulls into some sketchy alley-ish place. There’s a mechanic on the right, and a guy smoking a cigarette down the street.
“No,” I say calmly, though I’m naturally worried.
The cab driver points to the address I had written down. “Yes.”
“Sorry, but no,” I say, growing more concerned with each passing second. “Hockey.”
“No ‘okay.’ Hockey,” I say, air-stickhandling. “Hockey.”
By now I figure I have seen my family and friends for the last time. That guy down the street is smoking his cigarette and wondering what the hell is going on. Or is he? Maybe he’s in on the ruse too. I try again.
“Hockey, please. Hockey.”
That’s when I remembered the conversation I’d had a day earlier with my last cab driver about Czech players.
“Dominik Hasek! Jaromir Jagr!”
He drove me to the arena, which was maybe 45 seconds from where we were, and I have just now gotten the blood back in my face.
|10.04.10 at 8:58 am ET|
PRAGUE — Claude Julien said on Monday that Tim Thomas would be in net for the Bruins when they square off with HC Liberec at Tipsport Arena in Liberec. Thomas, who had offseason hip surgery, has played in one preseason game thus far, the team’s exhibition with the Capitals last Wednesday at TD Garde.
“I feel pretty good,” Thomas said Monday of his preseason. “It’s a building process and it’s coming along. I’m trying to make games every day. You might not get that every day, but if you get it the majority of the days, then you’re doing a pretty good job and I think that’s what I’m accomplishing.”
As for the recovery from the surgery, the team brought him along rather slowly in training camp despite the fact that he was able to participate in captain’s practices in September. Any health concerns seem to be a thing of the past, with the team’s chief concerns likely centered around how ready he is for the season.
“I haven’t heard anything on the negative side of that and I think it’s just slowly bringing him into the groove of things,” Julien said. “Obviously, anybody who started off a little late and had some days off is maybe not caught up quite yet to the rest of the team, but we’re working with him in order for him to be that. I think health-wise he’s doing pretty good and he’ll play for him tomorrow in that game. We’ve got to help him overcome that little hump there and get him as ready as he can be.”
KEEPING UP WITH APPEARANCES
Thomas is rocking a whole new getup when it comes to his equipment this season, going with an all-white look rather than his usual golden getup. He tops off the atire change with a white mask that has some traces of a light grey, the only coloring being an American flag on the back.
“I’ve been told for years that white makes you look bigger,” Thomas said. “… Hopefully I look bigger than ever.”
That’s a change from the typical American person, who generally seeks the help of vertical stripes to look as thin as they can.
“Yeah but I’m hoping that if the pads look bigger it will make my stomach look smaller.”