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Paille looking forward to meeting with Sabres

11.07.09 at 8:37 am ET
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Daniel Paille wouldn’t use the word frustrating to describe his situation with the Buffalo Sabres prior to an October 20 trade that brought the gritty winger to Boston.

He wouldn’t deny there’s a little bit of extra motivation for Saturday night’s home tilt against the first place Sabres, however. Just this once anyway, the 25-year-old penalty killer and third-line skater will be looking to show a little something to GM Darcy Regier and head coach Lindy Ruff after Paille found himself trapped in healthy scratch limbo with Buffalo this season.

“There’s definitely motivation. It’s a division rival team and it’s huge because of that, but playing against them for the first time. For sure there is motivation. You just don’t want to get caught up in that,” said Paille, who said playing one playoff game with the Sabres during his first season was one of his career highlights in Buffalo. “I felt like I gave everything I had [in Buffalo], and I’ve got no regrets. It was a positive experience for me, and I felt just the same when I was traded here.

“I always felt good and I worked every night. But there were times I guess where in their opinion I didn’t fit in. You have to respect that and move on.”

Paille only played in two games for the Sabres over the first three weeks of the season, and averaged 10:22 of ice time before heading to the B’s in exchange for a third-round pick and a conditional draft pick. Paille hasn’t missed a game for Boston since arriving with the Spoked B, and he’s made a tangible impact since donning the Black and Gold.

In eight games Paille has piled up four assists and lived up to his reputation as a physical player with good wheels and a solid skill level capable of excelling on the penalty kill. It’s hard to imagine the 25-year-old wasn’t good enough to earn ice time in Buffalo, but he described it as being caught up in a number’s game with a team shifting over to a more defense-based system.

“They had their thoughts and I just kept working. For me, I think it just came down to numbers,” said Paille. “I wasn’t part of it and I’ve moved on. It’s disappointing. Not so much frustrating. Everybody wants to play, and for that particular team I wasn’t a good fit.

“Obviously I was hoping for [playing time] here, but I could just as easily get scratched here too. I just have to make sure I don’t get too comfortable. I have to work hard every day.”

Paille clearly learned something from washing out of the organization that drafted and developed him, and Boston is reaping the benefits.

Give Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli a heap of credit for diagnosing a potentially serious issue early this season when the penalty kill faltered. Bringing Paille into the fold to help add the needed speedy, dangerous element to a sagging special teams unit was exactly what the doctor ordered. The Sabres forward along with Brad Marchand reintroduced an aggressive, fast, hard-nosed brand of penalty killing back to the Bruins – and Paille says it’s a part of the job he’s taken a lot of pride in during his four-year NHL career.

The proof is in the numbers, however, and the B’s have been much more difficult to pin down short-handed since Paille helped fortify a rotation of penalty killing forwards that also includes Patrice Bergeron, Steve Begin, David Krejci and Brad Marchand.

Paille ranks fifth among that quartet of forwards with 1:20 of short-handed ice time per game, and the Bruins have successfully killed off 18-out-of-19 penalties since the Sabres castaway hopped on board. That’s a 94.7 percent success rate over eight games that’s allowed the B’s to climb up to 18th overall with a 78.8 percent success rate while short-handed. Pretty damned good, and one of the big improvements that’s pushing the Bruins back toward respectability after some early troubles with inconsistent play and defensive breakdowns.


– As expected, Bruins forward Mikko Lehtonen was returned to the Providence Bruins on Friday afternoon after filling in for the B’s Thursday night in their 2-1 shootout loss to the Canadiens. Lehtonen was held scoreless in 7:08 of ice time Thursday night, and will head back to the P-Bruins to build on his 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) and 25 penalty minutes in 11 AHL games.

Lehtonen was recalled on an emergency basis on Wednesday night, but was expected to return to Providence once Byron Bitz made it through Friday’s practice without aggravating his groin injury. Bitz thought he’d be ready to go for Saturday’s game against the Northeast Division-leading Sabres, who have allowed the fewest goals (24) in the NHL this season. Bitz skated with Trent Whitfield and Shawn Thornton

“I feel pretty good. It’s one of those things where one day it feels better and hopefully I’m turning the corner here,” said Bitz. “It feels pretty good. Hopefully it holds up. It’s always tough to watch, but it’s out of your control. If you’re injured, you’re injured. You just hope to heal as quickly as you can so you can get back out there.”

Bitz also has the distinction of being David Krejci’s roommate on road trips, and the Cornell alum was admittedly a bit concerned that he might also come down with the H1N1 virus after staying in the same hotel room with the center in Detroit. But he hasn’t started exhibiting any of the telltale symptoms, and hopes he’s out of the woods.

“I thought about that a little bit when I first heard about, but I’ve been feeling fine, knock on wood,” said Bitz. “Everybody is so careful about washing their hands and trying not to spread any kind of a flu bug. I just saw it online that [Krejci] had the swine flu, and I was surprised. He didn’t say anything about feeling under the weather to me.”

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