Kelly was acquired from Ottawa for a second-round pick on Tuesday night but was not at practice Tuesday at Ristucci Arena, as he still needs to sort out some of the visa issues involved in moving from a Canadian-based club to Boston.
Bruins coach Claude Julien wasn’t sure whether Kelly would be available to play Thursday against the Islanders as Boston opens a six-game road trip, but he was certain that Kelly will be a good addition once he is cleared to join the club.
“It’s definitely something we feel is going to help our hockey club,” Julien said. “We feel he’s an experienced player, plays center and plays the wing, takes a lot of draws, [has] experience and playoff experience. I think there’s a lot of things I like, his grit and his compete level, so certainly a great addition for our hockey club.”
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara agreed and has a bit more insight on Kelly, as the two played together in Ottawa in 2005-06.
“He’s always a guy you could rely on,” Chara said. “He’s going to get the job done. He’s a very smart player and he’s always thinking on the ice before he does anything, and that makes a big difference in crucial situations in the game. To have that poise and patience on the ice, it’s always huge.”
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk only knows Kelly as an opponent but has also been impressed by his new teammate in past encounters, which date back to the lockout year when the American Hockey League was particularly loaded with young talent.
“I know from playing against him, he’s a good third-line forward and he’ll bring that grittiness to our team,” Boychuk said. “I played against him in my first year in the minors and he was one of the better players that we played. Even though it was the lockout, you did notice him on the ice, and I noticed him on the ice last year. It’s good to have him.
“He’s good on draws,” Boychuk added. “He battles extremely hard and he can put the puck in the net, not all the time, but when he needs to.”
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli on Tuesday stated that he envisioned Kelly, a natural center who also has experience at wing, staying in the middle and helping to fill the void left by Marc Savard‘s absence, while rookie Tyler Seguin would shift back to wing. Julien was more hesitant to set any specific plans in stone.
“I’d like to see him play with us first,” Julien said. “I want to see how well he fits. Sometimes you predict something for a player and he gives you more than you expect and he’s a great surprise and that’s what I’m hoping is going to happen.”
Julien hasn’t decided exactly how he’ll utilize Kelly, but the Bruins coach is glad to have some options at his disposal. While he’ll now have the unenviable task every night of having to inform a forward he’ll be a healthy scratch, Julien hopes the added competition for playing time will bring the best out of everyone.
“It’s always good, a coach doesn’t mind having extra players,” Julien said. “It creates that competition and gets players out of their comfort zone, and that’s never a bad thing.”