BOSTON — Michael Ryder swapped linemates with Shawn Thornton for Monday night's game against New Jersey, but he wanted to make sure the holdovers from the Bruins' "energy line" didn't feel like they were without a tough guy on the unit.
At least that's how Ryder chose to spin it after taking about 10 stitches to his right cheek to close a cut caused by Mattias Tedenby's high stick.
"I knew it was just in the cheekbone there," said Ryder of the scare that came 4:59 into the second period. "I knew that it just got me a little lower [than the eye]. It stung a little bit, you know, it cut me right on the bone, but it makes me look a little tougher, I guess.
"I look like a little tough guy now," added Ryder. "I'm taking Thorty's spot over."
This year, Thornton has been a scorer as much as a brawler, and Ryder didn't miss a beat in that regard either. Ryder took a pass from Patrice Bergeron and scored on a two-man advantage 15:26 into first with a bad-angle shot down low on the left side that staked Boston to a 1-0 lead.
"Bergie just gave it to me and he cut to the net," said Ryder. "I was just looking to find him and I didn't see the hole. But then I looked over and I saw [Martin] Brodeur cheating a little bit for the backdoor [cut] and I had a little opening so I threw it short-side on him."
It was Ryder's fifth goal and 11th point of the season, good for third on the team in both categories as he continues to make up for a forgettable 2009-10 campaign.
"He's scoring more than he did last year, right? That would be a start," said Bruins coach Claude Julien about Ryder's improvements this year. "And he's competing hard. He comes to play every night. He's scored some big goals for us. He's made some big plays too. You look at some of the assists he's got. They've been some pretty good passes for goals, so he's into it. There's no doubt. He's confident right now and I guess he's playing one more confidence than this time last year."
Julien rewarded him for that strong play by putting him on a line with Greg Campbell and Brad Marchand. That line had earned Julien's trust and more ice-time than rookie Tyler Seguin's unit, and Julien wanted to give Ryder more opportunities to build on his strong start to the season.
"I think what you've got to remember too is Michael is playing with Seguin and whoever has been on the left wing, [Daniel] Paille and other guys, when you look at their ice-time, it hasn't always been, maybe to what he's been deserving of," said Julien. "Somewhere you try and find him more ice-time. And I think the more ice-time you get, the more you're getting involved in the game."
Ryder liked what he saw from his new linemates in their first game together, and thinks even better things will come as they get to know each other's tendencies more.
"It felt pretty good," said Ryder. "I think we did well. We got the puck in the offensive zone and moved it around a little bit and had a couple chances. It was our first game together and we've only practiced once, so I think the more we play with each other the more we'll get used to it and know where each other will be on the ice."