Not all the news was good for the Bruins this past week though. After staying relatively healthy for the first two months of the season, Boston has been hit with a few key injuries. Daniel Paille missed just one game with a mild concussion and Zdeno Chara also looks like he will be sidelined only briefly with a lower-body injury, though any absence of the big guy on the blue line is of considerable concern. Gregory Campbell is also out, and could take longer to return with a fractured foot.
Chara's status was the focus of many of the questions received this week. I've tried to answer as many of those as possible while also hitting on a variety of other topics in the latest edition of the Bruins mailbag. As always, I'd like to thank all the readers who sent in questions and apologize in advance if I wasn't able to get to yours. Please keep submitting your questions and I'll answer as many of them as I can as we continue on in the season.
Zdeno Chara's injury makes me wonder. Who can this team least afford to lose for a significant amount of time, Tim Thomas or Zdeno Chara?
–Tim, Watertown, Mass.
Fortunately, it doesn't look like the Bruins won't have to find out just yet. Chara's injury does not appear serious and he should be back in the lineup soon. The Bruins certainly don't want to lose either of those guys for any length of time. Despite his incredible run over the last season and a half, I think the Bruins could better weather a Thomas absence than they could manage without Chara for an extended stretch of games. That's mostly because the Bruins have a more than capable backup to turn to in Tuukka Rask. The dropoff from Thomas to Rask is far smaller than the chasm between the play of Chara and Steven Kampfer.
Granted, with a six-man defensive unit, the task of filling the void left by Chara can be spread out over a handful of players and the responsibility won't fall completely on Kampfer. But Chara has such an impact on the ice with his size, presence and unique skill set for a guy that big, not to mention his leadership skills, that I would have to say his loss would be more difficult to overcome. Here's hoping the Bruins don't have to put that theory to the test though.
With Big Z out for a bit, Kampfer will be stepping in. What is his future with the team? He seems to be weak defensively, but has incredible offensive potential. Those kinds of defensemen don't seem to fit in [Claude] Julien's system. What is your overall evaluation on Kampfer?
—Paul, Leominster, Mass.
While he obviously can't come close to replacing what Chara brings to the lineup, Kampfer is solid injury insurance to have to fill in when needed. I wouldn't play him over anyone in the Bruins' current top six if everyone is healthy, but right now he is the best of the remaining options within the organization to step in when the need arises. There have been issues with his defensive play at times but he's not really a liability in that regard. I'm not sure I see the incredible offensive potential though. I think he raised some unrealistic expectations in that regard with the strong start he had when first called up last year. He put up 4-4-8 totals in his first 20 games, but had just two points in his final 18. This year he has just one assist in six games, with no points in his last five. Even within that first 20 games, almost all of his production came in one 12-game stretch, with 4-3-7 totals from Dec. 28 to Jan. 18. He's had just one goal in his other 32 career games. And that is more in line with his production before turning pro. Kampfer had just seven total goals in four seasons at Michigan and never scored more than three in a year. He is a mobile defenseman who can move the puck well, but I don't think he’ll ever be a huge point producer.
As for his future with the team, a lot will depend on what the Bruins decide to do with pending free agents Johnny Boychuk and Joe Corvo. If they are re-signed, then the current top six will return intact and I doubt Kampfer would crack that. Even if one or both of those veterans leaves, Kampfer will still have to contend with 2011 first-round pick Dougie Hamilton, whom the Bruins expect to push for a spot with the big club next year, plus guys from Providence like Matt Bartkowski, Colby Cohen and David Warsofsky looking to make the leap to the NHL. That's assuming the Bruins don't also add another veteran to replace Boychuk and/or Corvo if they leave. This will be a big year for Kampfer to show where he belongs in Boston's long-term plans. He might not get a lot of opportunities to play as the seventh defenseman, but he has to take advantage of whatever time he does get if he wants to make a case for an expanded role.
Zdeno Chara’s going on the road trip and we have two days off between Ottawa and Philadelphia. Chances he returns on Saturday?
–via Twitter @bruinsgirl33 (Sara T.)
I'd say there's a good chance of Chara being back by Saturday. He returned to the ice Wednesday morning in Ottawa for the first time since being hurt last Saturday in Columbus. He's unlikely to play Wednesday night, but didn't completely rule it out when talking to reporters after his workout. Still, I doubt he'll play against the Senators, but with two more days to heal and a chance to test the leg further in practices Thursday and Friday I think Saturday is definitely a possibility.
Hi Doug, Do you think that Boston may give Lane MacDermid a chance this season with the big club? He is one of only a couple of Baby B's with a plus, showing that he is defensively responsible, along with a couple of goals and five assists. He would certainly add another wave of grit to the B's.
–Peter Corrado, East Haven, Conn.
I've been an advocate of MacDermid for a while. I was very impressed by him in training camp this year and he's continued to improve every time I've seen him in Providence. He certainly adds an element of toughness, but he can play the game as well. He is not strictly a fourth-line enforcer. He's been used on the penalty kill in Providence and chips in some points, which he also managed to do in the preseason with the big club. I think there's a chance he could get his first taste of regular-season action at some point this season. He certainly would be the likely choice for a call-up if Shawn Thornton were forced to miss any time and if MacDermid continues to progress, he may even get a look at sometime later this year regardless.
Hey Doug, any chance that we see Dougie Hamilton this season with the big club? And how is he looking to you down in Providence?
—James Nason, Lancester, N.H.
Hamilton will not play in Boston this year. Once returned to his junior club, a player cannot be recalled to the NHL expect under emergency circumstances. And he is actually still in the Ontario Hockey League with Niagara, not in Providence. He is not eligible to play in the AHL at this point either. He can join Providence at the end of the season once Niagara's season is over as Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner did last spring, though that IceDogs team is pretty loaded and their playoff run may last longer than Providence's.
Hamilton is doing extremely well in the OHL this year, leading all defensemen in scoring and ranking sixth overall in the league with 12-33-45 totals through 30 games. He was also named to Canada's World Junior Championship squad on Wednesday, and will get a chance to showcase his skills at an even higher level in that tournament later this month. As mentioned above, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli stated last week when Hamilton was signed to an entry-level deal that he expected Hamilton to compete for a spot in Boston next year, so it's possible he may never make a stop in Providence.
I realize this has been around for a while, but when and who changed the uniform regulations? At one time, the home team always wore white, and the visitors had their travel uniforms. For example, Montreal came to Garden with their Bleu, Blanc and Rouge. The Rangers wore Blue if memory serves me right. Also, as the Bruins took to the ice, before the start of the game, their song was, I believe, "Gay Paree." Is this song still being used? Thank you for your time, a longtime Bruins fan.
—Jim Angelo, Belmont, N.H.
While often associated with being part of the "new NHL" era ushered in with the rules changes made following the owners' lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, the uniform switch was actually made prior to the stoppage at the start of the 2003-04 season. One of the primary reasons for the change was the rise of alternate third jerseys being worn by many teams. Most of the alternate sweaters are dark colors, and teams want to wear them at home in front of the fans most likely to buy them, so it was easier to flip the home and away colors rather than force teams to bring both sets on a road trip if they needed to wear the "home" whites on the road against a team using its alternates that night. It is interesting to note that the switch, while driven by modern marketing forces, was actually a return to the past, as it wasn't until 1951-52 that the NHL implemented a rule mandating the home teams wear white.
As for the song, times have changed there as well. The Bruins take the ice to AC/DC's "Thunderstuck" these days. That's for right before the anthems and faceoff. The music during the pregame warm-ups is frequently tweaked, usually with player input. Johnny Boychuk had control of the playlist last season, which included at different points Metallica's version of "Whiskey in the Jar," Wiz Khalifa's "Black and Yellow" and selections from everyone from the Dropkick Murphys to Snoop Dogg. It's an eclectic mix, but sorry to report "Gay Paree" no longer makes the cut.
Hi Doug, Every night while watching my favorite team I hear Benoit Pouliot's name pronounced in a way that doesn't sound French. Could you please find out the correct way? Thanks.
–Margie E, Newton, Mass.
Well, in the Bruins media guide, the correct pronunciation is listed as: BEHN-wah POO-lee-oh. I can't guarantee that's the only way you'll hear it pronounced, but that's the official way.
Have questions for Doug Flynn’s mailbag? Leave them in the comments section below, send them to him via Twitter @douglasflynn or send them here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week. Be sure to check back to see if your question was answered.
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