Bruins Set on Right Side But Have Decisions to Make When Marco Sturm Returns

Bruins Set on Right Side But Have Decisions to Make When Marco Sturm Returns While the Bruins boast a deep and talented corps of centers, they struggled to find consistent scoring on the wings last season. That shortcoming was addressed in the club's biggest move of the offseason, as Boston acquired Nathan Horton from Florida.

With Horton added to the mix, how does Boston stack up on the right wing heading into the 2010-11 season?

Who's Back
The Bruins have four players back from last year who spent the bulk of their time on the right side. Leading the way will be Mark Recchi, who continues to add value to the club in all areas, despite turning 42 in February. He was fourth on the team with 18-25-43 totals last year, but with his leadership and experience, his contributions go far beyond his stat line.

Michael Ryder also returns, at least for now. He struggled mightily last year with just 18-15-33 totals despite playing all 82 games and could be a cap casualty if he doesn't produce early on before Marco Sturm returns from injury. Ryder has done it in the past, scoring 27 goals in 2008-09 and reaching the 30-goal mark twice with Montreal, so he is capable of a bounceback year.

Shawn Thornton re-signed for two more years this summer and will continue to ride shotgun on the right side of the fourth line, taking care of the bulk of the team's pugilistic duties after piling up 141 penalty minutes and 21 fighting majors last year. Also returning is Brad Marchand, who will be battling for a spot somewhere in the lineup after playing 20 games with the big club last year. He managed just one assist, but did have 13-19-32 totals in 34 games with Providence. He'll be asked to play more of an energy role in Boston, and he has the agitating skills to do it. He also has the versatility to play center or left wing. Recchi and Thornton also have plenty of experience on the other wing, giving Claude Julien plenty of flexibility in filling out his line combinations.

Who's Gone
The big departure is Miroslav Satan, who didn't sign with Boston until January but came on strong down the stretch and played very well in the playoffs alongside David Krejci. He had just 9-5-14 totals in 36 games but added five goals and five assists in 13 playoff games. He remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent and the Bruins could revisit that scenario again if injuries strike during the season, but heading into camp the club will give some younger skaters an opportunity to show what they can do. One youngster who won't be taking advantage of that chance is Mikko Lehtonen, 23, who signed with Skelleftea (Sweden) after leading Providence with 23-27-50 totals last year.

Who's New
Nathan Horton was the Bruins' biggest pickup this summer, coming over from Florida in a deal for Dennis Wideman and a first-round pick. Horton, 25, has scored 20-plus goals in each of the last five seasons, including a career-high 31 in 2006-07. With a chance to play with an elite playmaking center like Marc Savard, those numbers should increase this year. Horton will have the biggest impact this year, but the Bruins also have high hopes for Jared Knight, a second-round pick (32nd overall) this June who had 36-21-57 totals in 63 games with London (OHL) despite being diagnosed with diabetes during the season.

In the System
In addition to Knight, the Bruins several other potential impact players at the position in the pipeline. Jordan Caron, the club's first-round pick in 2009, might be the closest to contributing, as he looks to build off a 26-27-53 year in 43 games in the QMJHL last season. Just 19, Caron has a nice blend of skill and size (6-foot-3, 204 pounds), but his skating is a work in progress.

Things drop off a bit from there, with Yannick Riendeau unlikely to replicate his prodigious junior scoring totals (126 points, plus 52 more in the playoffs in 2008-09) in the pro game (five points in 22 games with Providence last year). Jordan Knackstedt showed up out of shape for training camp last year and had a slow start in Providence, but he came on strong with 8-9-17 totals in his final 23 games, though he remains a long shot to become an NHL regular. Tyler Randell put up just 9-12-21 totals in 47 games with Kitchener (OHL) and Alexander Fallstrom had 5-7-12 totals in 32 games for Ted Donato at Harvard.

Roster Prediction
At least to start the season, the top four right wings appear set with Horton, Ryder, Recchi and Thornton. Ryder's status could change quickly though if he struggles again early. Conversely, a fast start might also attract trade interest, and the Bruins could solve their cap problems before Sturm returns by dealing Ryder.

Marchand has the inside track on the 13th forward role after spending much of last year up with the big club, though the Bruins could give him more time to develop in Providence and go with a cheaper veteran alternative like Jeremy Reich, a left wing who can also play the right side. Caron will also get a long look in camp but might be a year away from being able to make that leap.

NESN.com will analyze a different position on the Bruins roster every day this week.

Wednesday, Sept. 1: Center

Friday, Sept. 3: Left Wing

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