Bruins Need Zach Hamill to Take Advantage of Latest Opportunity With Big Club

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Bruins Need Zach Hamill to Take Advantage of Latest Opportunity With Big Club BOSTON — Bruins fans finally got a glimpse of Zach Hamill when the youngster made his Garden debut on Saturday.

They also got a look at what could have been, as San Jose rookie Logan Couture happened to be in town for the very same game. Couture scored the opening goal in a 2-0 Sharks win, his 23rd tally of the season to lead all NHL rookies.

Couture, of course, was selected by San Jose with the ninth overall pick in the 2007 draft, one spot after the Bruins took Hamill at No. 8.

Hamill became acquaintances waiting for their names to be called on that draft night in Columbus, and Hamill described his friendly rival as "a nice guy." Hamill also admitted Couture's success serves as motivation for him to get his own NHL career off the ground.

"We were both right there [in the draft] and obviously he's had a good year," Hamill said. "So to see what he's doing and you kind of want to get in there and do what he's doing. You see him doing that and you want to do the same thing. It definitely would be nice."

It would be a stretch to expect Hamill to make that kind of impact this season. But it would be nice for the Bruins to finally see a return on their investment of such a high draft pick. And it might just be Hamill's last — and best — chance to show he can contribute at this level.

"When you grow up you always say you want to play in the NHL," Hamill said. "But when you kind of get up here, you want to stay and not just stay, but start contributing and go forward from there."

The opportunity is there for Hamill. He was inserted into the lineup Saturday because Daniel Paille has been suspended for four games, and he'll have at least a few more games to show what he can do before Paille is eligible to return.

But the Bruins actually have a more long-term need that Hamill could address, as they face the possibility of being without Marc Savard for the rest of the season. Hamill won't replace what a healthy Savard would bring to the Bruins' lineup, but he could help fill some of the void by adding another playmaking center to the mix. Hamill knew Savard's latest injury could open the door for him, but did his best to focus on improving his own game in Providence rather than fretting over what was going on with the big club.

"I was looking at the depth charts and trying to look at things, and it just kind of gets in your head too much," Hamill said. "The more you think, the tougher it gets, and honestly the last month or two I haven't looked at it at all. Obviously you hear what happened to Savard, but for the last two months I just put it in the back of my mind and getting ready to play every night I haven't thought of that stuff at all and it's definitely helped and being here shows that."

Hamill turned things around in the last couple of months after a rough start to the season. He had just one point in eight games in October, but turned things around after that and was second on Providence in scoring with 28 points in 44 games at the time of his recall.

"I was just trying to get my game back and have more confidence and be more creative every night," Hamill said. "I want to go in there every night and be that difference-maker. I think I've done that for the last month or two."

Now Hamill has to do the same in Boston. He didn't make a huge impression on Saturday, playing just 10:35 over 13 shifts with no shots. But no Bruin was able to generate much offense as the Sharks blanked Boston.
 
"It was his first game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It wasn't an easy game and I don't think he got a ton of ice time, but when it's a player's first game, you give him the benefit of the doubt. I don't think he was any worse or any better than anybody, but I thought he was OK. I thought his battle level, for Zach, was good. I thought his positioning, his smarts, you could tell were there. So we'll probably see more as we move on here."

It appears Hamill will have a chance to show more. Julien inserted him between Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder on Saturday. Both have struggled to score of late with Wheeler mired in an 11-game goal drought and Ryder having gone eight games without a goal, but have proven capable scorers in the past. Hamill will try to get them going again, and Wheeler was already impressed with the youngster.

"He played well." Wheeler said. "He played well defensively. He's a responsible player, and those things will translate into offense at this level."

The Bruins hope they will. Hamill hopes so as well, as the clock is ticking for him. Not only will Paille return next week, but the trade deadline looms less than a month away, and the Bruins could be in the market for veteran help up front if Hamill isn't able to prove he's ready to contribute in Boston. 

Can Hamill produce at the NHL level this year or will the Bruins need to explore other options if Savard is shut down for the season? Share your thoughts below.

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