Greg Zanon, Mike Mottau Bolster Bruins’ Blue-Line Depth, a Crucial Commodity Come Playoff Time

Greg Zanon, Mike Mottau Bolster Bruins' Blue-Line Depth, a Crucial Commodity Come Playoff TimeBOSTON – The Bruins know all too well just how precious a commodity healthy defensemen can be come playoff time.

They've dealt with the absences of Zdeno Chara, Adam McQuaid, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, Mark Stuart and Matt Hunwick for varying lengths of time in their last three postseason runs.

That history, coupled with the current absence of Johnny Boychuk, made acquiring blue-line depth a priority at Monday's trade deadline. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli delivered with a pair of deals that landed veteran defensemen Greg Zanon and Mike Mottau.

Chiarelli also confirmed in his news conference to discuss the deals that Boychuk did suffer a mild concussion from the brutal hit he took from Chris Neil in Ottawa on Saturday, but stated it was not that specific injury, but the physical nature of the position and the toll it takes that led to these acquisitions.

"That [injury] didn't play into it," Chiarelli said. "What played into it though was I guess, globally, when I've seen over my time in hockey is defensemen can drop like flies. They really can. You can never have enough defensemen and we felt we wanted to have eight NHL defensemen in the mix and that was the blueprint I was working on."

The Bruins will have eight legitimate NHL defensemen for Claude Julien to call upon once Boychuk is healthy, with Zanon and Mottau joining a defense corps that features Chara, Seidenberg, Ference, McQuaid and Joe Corvo. How Julien utilizes those new options will be determined in the coming weeks, but the struggling Corvo could be the most pressed for playing time.

"We're going to have eight defensemen with Johnny healthy so there's going to be two that are out, but we'll figure that out over time," Chiarelli said. "I don't know who will be in to start, maybe the two guys we added won't be in to start when Johnny's healthy –- I'm not sure yet. We've had discussions with our coach leading up to this, that if we were to acquire should he play, we talked about these players prior to making the deal so it's a work in progress."

Zanon offers a different dimension than what Corvo or Steven Kampfer, who was traded to Minnesota for Zanon, bring to the table. Zanon is much more of a stay-at-home defender.

While not overly big at 5-foot-11, 198 pounds, he plays a physical game (77 hits in 39 games with the Wild) and isn't shy about throwing his body in front of the puck to help his goalie (104 blocks). The Bruins saw both elements on display during their recent road trip, when Zanon had four hits and four blocks in the Wild's 2-0 win on Feb. 19.

"Zanon is a terrific shot blocker," Chiarelli said. "He's a real gritty competitor. He's a warrior type defenseman."

That's a style that should fit in well with the Bruins' hard-nosed approach.

"Obviously the Bruins are a good defensive team and they play that physical style," Zanon said. "Definitely watching last year when they were making the run at the Cup, they beat up on teams just with their physical play and being able to get up and down the ice the way they do. I just hope I can fit in with my physical aspect of the game. Obviously I'll do anything to try to prevent a goal and just do anything that the team needs me to do."

Chiarelli got an early taste of Zanon's competitiveness. The defenseman was originally drafted by Ottawa when Chiarelli was in the Senators front office, but Chiarelli couldn't get him to sign a deal.

"I've been following him ever since," Chiarelli said. "You look back and we were, I can recall we were off a little bit on the signing bonus and we decided to walk, and he probably said, 'Screw you,' and he had a good career, so I give him credit. And I watched him and he's a gritty guy and it doesn't surprise me that he had a good career. We've followed him quite a bit."

Local hockey fans no doubt have followed Mottau's progress over the years as well. The Avon, Mass., native and former Boston College star finally comes home in his 12th pro season.

Mottau is also defensive-minded and doesn't put up a lot of points (0-2-2 in 29 games this season, 7-51-58 in 307 career games in the NHL), but he is more of a puck-mover capable of transitioning the play from defense to offense quickly.

"I would say [I'm] just a steady, two-way defenseman who can make a good outlet pass, adding value at some level here," said Mottau, who returned from a 24-game absence on Sunday after suffering a concussion of his own. "Something I can duplicate over and over again is making a good outlet pass, and making good reads relying on my hockey intellect and reading plays and anticipating. It's not sometimes the showiest game that I play, but as far as adding value, that's what I'm looking to do on whatever level that I'm needed."

Zanon and Mottau are also both left-handed shots, adding some versatility to a blue line that features right-handers Chara, Boychuk and Corvo.

"We've been looking for some left-shot Ds," Chiarelli said. "[Mottau] has a good head on his shoulders, good mobility and I find he keeps a nice gap for someone his size, which is hard to do."

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

Mike Mottau photo (right) via Flickr/bridgetds

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