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Chris Kelly on looming line choices: ‘We’ve got a great problem to have’ 04.05.15 at 10:27 am ET
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Chris Kelly is hardly worried about the looming decisions that will have to be made to determine who will play and who won’t come playoff time.

Kelly moved from his left wing spot and centered a line Saturday that had Max Talbot on left wing and newcomer Brett Connolly on the right. This left out Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille. The way Kelly sees it, there are five players trying to make Claude Julien‘s job as difficult as possible with competition in the last week.

“Competition, that’€™s why we all play. Competition is good, and it makes everyone better, I think. We’€™ve got a great problem to have, good players that can play in the lineup, and I think every guy is trying to make it difficult on him to make those tough decisions,” Kelly said. “Ultimately, you want to go out there and play your best hockey and help the team.”

Connolly played in just his second game with the Bruins since returning from a broken finger in his second practice with the Bruins and was relieved to finally contribute. Kelly said he was happy from what he saw from his line during a 2-1 shootout win over the Maple Leafs Saturday.

“We had some pretty good chances,” Kelly said. “I think all three of us, our feet were moving, and we weren’€™t in our end too often, so it was good. A bounce here, a bounce there, maybe we would’€™ve been able to get one.”

Julien insisted after the game that what he’s trying to do is more about keeping everyone fresh than holding an audition for the fourth line in the final week. Read the rest of this entry »

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Brett Connolly shows he can play in different spots, is ‘excited’ to finally contribute at 12:15 am ET
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Brett Connolly

Brett Connolly

Forget whether or not Brett Connolly has one of the best shots in the NHL. The most important thing is that the Bruins are a better team now that he’€™s in the lineup.

How much better remains to be seen. He’€™s not a superstar, but he’€™s an upgrade over Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille, the Bruins’€™ two healthy scratches Saturday. He’€™s better at creating chances, he shoots more and he’€™s a better possession player.

Where Connolly settles into the lineup also remains to be seen. He has played two games so far since returning from a finger injury that delayed his Bruins debut, and he has played with pretty much everyone. He played on the fourth line with Max Talbot and Chris Kelly for most of Saturday’€™s 2-1 shootout win over Toronto, but he also got moved up a couple times to take some shifts with other lines.

“Obviously coach is trying to feel some things out. It was good,”€ Connolly said. “€œI thought that me, Max and Kells had a pretty good start to the third, kind of got better as the game went on, too. It was good. … I’€™ve played with pretty much everybody on the team so far, just trying to feel it out.”

The fourth line didn’€™t find the score sheet Saturday, but Connolly, Talbot and Kelly did combine for seven shots on goal and they all finished with a Corsi better than 70 percent (Connolly was on the ice for 12 five-on-five shot attempts for and five against).

“We had some pretty good chances,”€ Kelly said. “I think all three of us, our feet were moving and we weren’€™t in our end too often, so it was good. A bounce here, a bounce there, maybe we would’€™ve been able to get one.”

The thinking when the Bruins acquired Connolly on March 2 was that he could be a top-six forward, something the Bruins desperately needed at the time. He still might end up there, but David Krejci returning from injury and Ryan Spooner playing much better means there’€™s a little more competition for those spots.

Naturally, that means there’€™s also more competition for fourth-line spots now. Connolly doesn’€™t fit the mold of the old-school, grinding, checking fourth-liner, but the old school is just that — old. Fourth lines need to have some skill now, and the Bruins finally have the pieces they need to make that transition, one they seemed ready to make in the offseason when they let Shawn Thornton walk.

Saturday night offered a glimpse of what a more skilled fourth line can do, even if you factor in that it came against a terrible Maple Leafs team. For what it’€™s worth, Claude Julien said after the game that there could still be some rotation on the fourth line (and every other line, for that matter).

“I feel we’€™ve got a lot of players that can go in and out right now,”€ Julien said. “But at the same time I’€™m trying to create a little bit of competition here. I don’€™t want anybody comfortable, knowing that they’€™re automatics game in and game out.”

Regardless, it’€™s hard to imagine Connolly’€™s spot not being safe. He’€™s probably the top option to move into a top-nine role if someone struggles (Reilly Smith?), but he also makes the fourth line better if he stays there. For his part, Connolly says he’€™ll be happy wherever as long as he’€™s helping the team.

“Very excited to finally be out there and get a couple wins here in my first two games and to be able to contribute a little bit and help the team win,”€ Connolly said. “Again, the team’€™s playing well so far lately. It’€™s been a lot of fun to step in and be a part of it.”

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Brett Connolly says he’s ready to play, hopes to make Bruins debut vs. Red Wings 04.01.15 at 1:01 pm ET
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Brett Connolly

Brett Connolly

WILMINGTON — After taking contact for the first time since suffering a broken finger last month, Brett Connolly said he is ready to play.

Connolly, who broke his right index finger in his second practice with the B’€™s on March 4 and underwent surgery, participated fully in Wednesday’€™s practice. Exactly four weeks from the date of the injury, Connolly skated on the fourth line (something that would seemingly be temporary as he eases his way back) and took turns on Boston’€™s second power play unit.

Following the practice, Connolly said he hopes to play Thursday night against the Red Wings.

“Obviously you want to get in right away,” he said. “I’€™m looking forward to seeing what’€™s going to happen here. I feel I’€™m ready. Again, [I’€™m] excited. With everything that happened, coming in here and getting hurt, obviously you’€™re very disappointed.

“It’€™s been a hard three weeks, not being around the guys on the road and just little things like that, that for a new guy coming in, it’€™s tough. But the guys have been great to me coming in here. I’€™m as comfortable as I’€™ll ever be and I’€™m excited to get in and help the team win.”

Connolly took part in Tuesday’s warmups, which he would not have been allowed to do if he were on injured reserve. Claude Julien clarified after Wednesday’s practice that the team never placed Connolly on IR, but that doctors have yet to give Julien the OK to play the 22-year-old right wing.

“I’m not going to write him off for [Thursday] but I’m certainly not going to say he’s in for sure.”

If Connolly were to play on Boston’€™s fourth line Thursday, Wednesday’€™s lines suggested he could potentially play with Chris Kelly and Max Talbot. That could certainly change, but Connolly is more focused on when he’€™ll play than with whom he’€™ll play.

“For me, I’€™m just looking to come in here and help the team win,’€ he said. ‘€œWherever they put me, that’€™s where I’€™ll be.”

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Brett Connolly will be in Bruins lineup once he’s ready 03.31.15 at 12:57 pm ET
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Brett Connolly

Brett Connolly

Brett Connolly is not yet ready to play. Once he is, he will play, Claude Julien said Tuesday.

Connolly, who continues to skate with the Bruins, traveled with the team for Sunday’€™s game against the Hurricanes, marking the first trip he’€™s made with the team. He is getting more confident in his puck-handling and shooting as his surgically repaired right index finger. He hopes to begin taking contact soon, which is the biggest remaining hurdle.

Wednesday will mark four weeks since the injury, which the team said at the time would keep him out six weeks.

“I know they said six weeks, but four-to-six weeks I think is kind of where I’€™m aiming for,” Connolly said Tuesday. “I’€™m really excited, obviously. It’€™s getting better every day. Some days it feels a lot better, so that’€™s encouraging.”

The Bruins are currently playing David Krejci at right wing on Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand‘€™s line. Once Connolly is ready, however, the team could move Krejci back to center and build a line around Krejci and Connolly.

When Connolly broke his finger in his second practice with the B’€™s, he was skating on a line with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. Julien said it’€™s too soon to say where Connolly will slot into the lineup, but he clarified that it’€™s their intention to get put him in as soon as he’€™s ready.

“I think when the time comes, we’€™ll definitely put him in,” Julien said. “He’€™s a good player. In my mind, there’€™s no doubt we missed him through this stretch. When the time comes I’€™ll make that decision but certainly not open to talking about it right now.”

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Brett Connolly progressing, hopes to return before end of regular season 03.26.15 at 12:15 pm ET
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Brett Connolly

Brett Connolly

Bruins right wing Brett Connolly was initially expected to miss six weeks after a Dennis Seidenberg wrist shot left him with a broken finger in his second practice as a member of the Bruins earlier this month. On Thursday, Connolly skated with his teammates for the first time since the injury, following one order.

“Stay away from Seids,” Connolly recalled his teammates warning him.

Now that the initial despair from Connolly’€™s bad luck has turned into something he can joke about, his attention has been turned to an eventual return — or debut, rather — that could come sooner than initially thought.

After getting back on the ice last Monday and working extensively with strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides, Connolly’€™s progress from his surgically-repaired finger is apparent. Though he hasn’t taken contact, he’€™s handling the puck and shooting. Connolly is not yet taking slap shots, but slappers aren’€™t a priority for the right wing. Once he feels he can properly grip the stick (he says his comfort level there is at 60 percent), be able to fire wristers and snap shots to the best of his abilities and participate in battle drills, he wants to play.

Ideally, Connolly said he would be back able to play again in the final week of the regular season.

“I hope so,” he said of a regular-season return. “I’€™m not too sure yet. My timetable, I know I’€™m getting closer, so I’€™m expecting to be back a few games before this regular season [ends], but we’€™ll see.”

Claude Julien wasn’€™t overly forthright regarding Connolly’€™s timetable and whether he’€™s ahead of schedule. He did say the Bruins have been encouraged with what they’€™ve seen from the 22-year-old and that they’€™re eager to see him play.

The acquisition of Connolly at the trade deadline was an intriguing one for the Bruins. Though trading for the former sixth overall pick (and restricted free agent to-be) was more of a hockey deal for future seasons than a typical deadline acquisition, he was expected to slot into the lineup as a potential top-six right for the B’€™s down the stretch.

That obviously hasn’€™t happened, and Connolly has instead experienced a slow acclimation process to the team and the city. The Bruins are not yet bringing him on road trips, but Connolly said he’€™s established good relationships with his teammates, even if he’€™s spent more time with Whitesides than with any actual players.

“I’€™ve been here for almost a month, so the guys have been great,” Connolly said. “I’€™ve gotten comfortable with not only guys, but the city and knowing your way around, knowing your way to the practice facility and things like that. Just little things that make you a little bit more comfortable. It’€™s obviously not been the three weeks I would have envisioned, but I’€™ve gotten to know the city a little bit, get to know my teammates a little bit better.

“I’€™m excited to play that first game. Obviously we’€™re in a playoff hunt, so I’€™m looking to get back out there as soon as I can.”

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David Krejci could return to Bruins this weekend, Brett Connolly skating 03.17.15 at 11:50 am ET
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The Bruins got a couple of encouraging signs Tuesday morning, as Brett Connolly skated for the second straight day and David Krejci took another step forward in his return from a partially torn MCL.

Connolly (broken finger) skated by himself prior to Tuesday’€™s morning skate, with the Boston Herald noting he is doing doing minimal work with the puck and not shooting. Krejci, meanwhile, took part in morning skate and could return to the Bruins’€™ lineup this weekend, according to Claude Julien.

Connolly has been out with a displaced fracture in his right index finger since getting hit in the hand with a Dennis Seidenberg wrist shot in his second practice with the team on March 4.

The Bruins had traded for his services just two days prior, sending second-round picks in the next two seasons to the Lightning for the 2010 sixth overall pick.

Though his injury didn’€™t impact his skating, the Bruins wanted to wait until after the player’€™s surgery before he started skating. He is not expected to return until late in the regular season at the earliest.

Krejci has been skating since last Monday. He called Tuesday ‘€œanother step forward’€ but said that he isn’€™t ready to pinpoint a return date.

“I don’€™t really have a timeline,” Krejci said. “I’€™ll just take it day-by-day. Whenever it feels 100 percent, I’€™ll be back.”

Krejci has not played since suffering the knee injury on Feb. 20. He has missed a total of 31 games this season due to various injuries.

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Brett Connolly hopes to play for Bruins before playoffs 03.08.15 at 11:45 am ET
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Brett Connolly

Brett Connolly

Bruins right wing Brett Connolly met with reporters prior to Sunday’€™s game, doing so for the first time since breaking the index finger in his right hand in his second practice with the team.

Connolly is expected to miss six weeks, but he hopes he can return before then and get into a regular-season game or two. He underwent surgery Thursday and will have an appointment Monday to see how the finger, which had a plate put over it, is healing.

The trade deadline acquisition said that he knew something was wrong when Dennis Seidenberg‘€™s wrist shot hit him in Wednesday’€™s practice. He didn’€™t react as such, however, as he skated and chatted with the defenseman immediately after.

“Obviously he came to see if I was OK, and you want to lie to him and tell him that you’€™re OK, but when your finger looks broken, it’€™s [obvious],” Connolly said. “For me, I felt bad for him because it was just such a harmless shot. It was just a wrister that was just in a spot that I couldn’€™t get out of the way. It just hit me in a weird spot.”

Connolly had his right hand surgically reconstructed after breaking it in an accident as a five-year-old. He said Sunday that his current injury is unrelated and that he’€™s happy with his latest surgery.

Julien said that Connolly will not travel with the Bruins for the time being. Connolly hopes to begin skating soon and adding more drills and eventual puck work as his finger heals. For now, Julien said the team wants him to focus on feeling better.

“I think right now it’€™s more about his recovery for the first few weeks, at least,” Julien said. “We’€™ve been talking to him. We’€™ve already shown him a lot of stuff about our team, about our system that he’€™s very well aware of before the injury actually, so I’€™m sure that watching us play is going to help him a lot in regards to that. If he’€™s got some questions, we’€™re always there to answer those things, but he’€™ll be fine. He’€™ll have a good idea of what to do when he’€™s ready to come back.”

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