BOSTON – Thursday night’s game between the Bruins
and Oilers was touted by many as a clash between two former
first-round draft picks, Edmonton’s Taylor Hall and
Boston’s Tyler Seguin, a full season removed from being
selected 1-2 by the Oilers and Bruins in the 2010 Entry Draft.
Both phenoms had big nights, with Seguin (1-1—2) outdoing Hall (0-1—1) and the Bruins running away from the Oilers late. But just outside the spotlight, another former Bruin first rounder had a solid outing for himself, too.
Jordan Caron, taken 25th overall in 2009, has been in and out of the lineup this season, and was a healthy scratch for three straight games last month. But he’s played in the last five, and Thursday night picked up his first goal of the season. It won’t win any beauty contests, but his dribbler through a crossed-up Devan Dubnyk, off a feed from 2007 first-rounder Zach Hamill, counts just the same.
Caron slotted into the wing on a line with Hamill and Chris Kelly, and looked plenty comfortable putting his big frame in front of the net and in the way of Oiler puck movers.
“He’s a young player, and the more he plays, the more comfortable he gets,” coach Claude Julien said. “He’s another guy like Zach (Hamill). We like his hockey sense, makes smart decisions, and for the most part, he’s always in the right place, so he’s certainly becoming a pretty good player for us.”
Caron is starting to get the hang of making regular starts, and he said it has led to more confidence, which he said was the toughest part of his learning curve last year.
“I think just by getting more ice time, and coming to the rink knowing you’re playing, you don’t have to worry about all those things, and it does help a lot,” he said. “I’ve been working hard since the start of the season. I think right now, I’m getting rewarded for that. It’s a long season, there’s going to be ups and downs, just got to make sure I’m pushing hard every game of the season, and there’ll be more good nights than bad.”
Caron’s spot in the roster may hinge on the health of Rich Peverley, who could return to the ice as soon as Saturday if his recent regular practice appearances are any indication. Either way, Caron has certainly made the choice to pull him out of uniform a little more difficult over the last couple of weeks.
Down goes Ference
Andrew Ference led the Bruins in time on ice in the first period, but played just two shifts in the second before disappearing with a lower-body injury, according to Julien.
The defenseman played an unremarkable 1:37 shift on the power play at the start of the second period, took a 27-second break and went back on the ice with 3:50 gone in the middle frame after Brad Marchand tipped a Joe Corvo shot to make it 3-2.
He chased Edmonton’s Lennart Petrell and Anton Lander in the corner to Tuukka Rask’s left, and after a turnover sent the Bruins back up ice, he stood up and slowly followed the play before going to the bench after just 21 seconds on the ice, and wasn’t heard from again.
“Only a lower-body injury right now, and I don’t know the severity of it, so that’s all I can give you,” Julien said after the game.
Ference’s absence obviously left a huge hole, particularly on the power play. Yet the Bruins responded with aplomb, particularly the rearguard, which shuffled defensive pairs and showed few signs of tiring out.
“Any time you go down to five D, it’s in the back of your mind that you have to reserve your energy and pick your spots,” defenseman Joe Corvo said. “I thought we did a good job of managing our shifts and keeping the minutes down.”
To wit, even warhorse Zdeno Chara wasn’t thrown into the mix too much more than usual, though his 28:34 on ice was the highest of the season and led the team.
The only sign that the depleted backline was suffering came late in the third, when Ryan Smyth cut the Bruins’ lead to one goal on the power play. The Oilers had overloaded to the left wing throughout the man advantage, and when they altered tactics to simply start closing in on the Bruin net, Smyth was able to get position on Boychuk and tap in an Eric Belanger feed for his second goal of the night.
“Our guys just kind of got caught,” Julien said. “They were tired at the end, but even when they were tired in the second half of the power play, they were really smart at getting into the shooting lanes and keeping the puck to the outside.”
If Ference’s injury ends up sidelining him for Saturday’s game against Buffalo, it will likely signal the return of Steve Kampfer, a healthy scratch for the last six games. It’ll mean some reshuffling, but the Bruins’ defense corps showed Thursday that they’re capable of handling a little change.