Michael Ryder Making Case to Stay With Bruins With Improved Play

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Michael Ryder Making Case to Stay With Bruins With Improved Play BOSTON — Michael Ryder knew there was a target on his back coming into this season.

The Bruins will be facing a major salary cap crunch once Marc Savard and Marco Sturm are ready to come off long-term injured reserve, and Ryder's $4-million cap hit would be an obvious option to delete after he slumped to just 18 goals and 33 points last season.

But so far this year, Ryder is doing his best to make any such move a difficult one for the Bruins, as he's re-emerged as one of Boston's best forwards with a surprisingly strong start."Sometimes I have a tendency to start off slow," admitted Ryder after Saturday's 2-1 shootout loss to St. Louis. "This year I wanted to try to change it around and try to be consistent right off the hop. As a team we wanted to get off to a good start and I wanted to do everything I could to help them."

Ryder has delivered. He already has 4-5-9 totals through 11 games after setting up Greg Campbell's third-period goal to force overtime on Saturday. He has points in eight of the first 11 games this year and hasn't had back-to-back games without a point.

That's quite a turnaround from a year ago, when Ryder had just 3-3-6 totals through 18 games and suffered through a 10-game stretch from Oct. 22 through Nov. 12 without a single point.

"I think I'm just working harder away from the puck in the right ways," said Ryder. "Last year was a rough year for everybody, and when things don't go right sometimes you think too much and your confidence goes down. This year I came in a little stronger and a little heavier and that helps a lot. I feel a lot better on the ice.

"I think confidence has a lot to do with it," added Ryder. "I wanted to make sure I came back and didn't have the same year as last year. I just wanted to do what I can to help the team, work hard in those other areas and the results are coming."

Ryder is contributing beyond the goals and assists. He's playing better in all three zones, skating well and providing a physical presence. Those elements were on display on Saturday, as he made a key backcheck to break up a bid by Eric Brewer at the end of regulation, and also helped set a tone with a huge hit on former teammate Vladimir Sobotka.

Bruins coach Claude Julien has been impressed with all of the elements of Ryder's game this season.

"I would say since the beginning of the year, since he came to camp [he's played well]," said Julien. "Honestly, I think he’s a pretty smart individual and he could see the writing on the wall and what everybody was writing about him and he decided that he was obviously going to get off to a better start this year.

"Last year was a tough year for him," added Julien. "I mean, we remember people for how they finish and we forget that he scored 27 goals I think for us the year before, so he had a tough year last year and I guess his commitment to bounce back is there and he just keeps proving it. Not only has he scored some goals for us, but as you mentioned, he's made some good plays, he's skating hard, and he's obviously being physical as well."

The hit on Sobotka was the most obvious example of Ryder's renewed physical game. He caught the St. Louis forward with his head down in the right corner of the Blues zone, and blasted him so hard that Sobotka actually took out defenseman Alex Pietrangelo as well.

"I didn't see that," said Ryder of the two-for-one hit. "That's all right. I'll take that I guess.

"Tonight was one of those games where it was physical and a lot of battling," said Ryder. "When I play physical it seems like a lot of things fall into place. I just tried to get some momentum on our side, get the crowd into it. When I do that it helps my game a lot."

And having Ryder play that way has helped the Bruins get off to a solid 7-3-1 start to the season.

"Rides played hard," said Campbell. "He had his feet moving. He was into the game. He was throwing his body around, which was good. He's a pretty dangerous player when he's doing those things. He's got good speed and good vision and he competes, and he was competing tonight and he was pretty valuable for us."

Maybe valuable enough to stick around a little longer than many expected coming into the season.

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