MONTREAL - Johnny Boychuk, who is a fixture on the Bruins blue line these days, arrived at his first Boston training camp in September 2008 not really knowing whether he even fit into the team’s plans. But the one thing he did know, for certain, is how the front office perceived his abilities.
“The first words out of Don Sweeney’s mouth were, ‘We want you as a defenseman,’ ’’ Boychuk recalled last night, the ink barely dry on his new three-year, $10 million contract extension that will start in October. “I just breathed this big sigh of relief and said, ‘Thank you.’ ’’
Originally a Colorado draft pick (61st overall in 2002), Boychuk played only four games for the Avalanche, called up briefly during the 2007-08 season. A lifelong backliner, he was ordered to the wing for two of those games, and then over the summer was flipped to the Bruins for prospect Matt Hendricks.
In three-plus seasons, the 28-year-old Boychuk has become a top-four defenseman, valued for his righthanded shot (a rarity among defensemen), heavy slapper, and toughness. He’s a throwback blue liner, pairing most often with captain Zdeno Chara and focusing on shutting down the opposition’s most talented lines.
“I thought I had it all along,’’ said the 6-foot-2-inch Boychuk, asked if he felt he had a talent breakthrough once he got his chance with the Bruins. “But Colorado just didn’t want to play me at defense.’’
Glad to be here
Josh Hennessy, the pride of Rockland, Mass., and Milton Academy, wore the Black and Gold for warm-ups last night but spent the rest of the evening on the sidelines. He is with the Bruins as insurance for this long trip, which resumes tomorrow night in Winnipeg.
He was, predictably, wide-eyed to be here, even though he saw plenty of the Bell Centre during his four years playing junior hockey with Quebec City.
“Once the novelty of being around these days wears off, and being with this team that I’ve watched since childhood . . .,’’ mused the 27-year-old Hennessy, “well, once the puck drops, it’s just hockey.’’
Hennessy left home at age 16 to play junior hockey, following two seasons at Milton Academy. He opted to go the junior route, he said, because it would have been three years before he got his first crack at college hockey and he felt the Canadian major junior route was the best for him.
“No regrets, none at all,’’ he said. “I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything, and I’ve been able to make a pretty good living playing hockey, the game I love.’’
The Bruins scrapped their day-of-game workout and didn’t report to the Bell Centre until a couple of hours prior to faceoff.
Given that his squad had scored only once at even strength in its last three games (including two shutouts), coach Claude Julien might have considered scrambling his lines, but he opened with his customary trios, including the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin combination and the “energy’’ line of Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton.
Bergeron connected for a rare power-play goal, the Bruins finishing 1 for 5. They are 2 for 17 over the last seven games . . . Before exiting with a knee injury, Rich Peverley landed one shot on net in 13:07 of ice time . . . Chara ended up with stitches on his chin and an even uglier minus-3. Big Z didn’t have a good game the night before in a 3-0 loss to the Rangers - another sign of the wear and tear in a demanding February schedule . . . David Krejci again went without a point, his seventh straight 0-0-0 . . . Adam McQuaid and Ryan White had a big boy battle in the first period, each landing big punches. Ralph Nader won’t like that. The consumer activist wants to ban all fighting and hits to the head . . . Andrew Ference led the way with six shots, followed by Bergeron with five . . . Brad Marchand, the Little Ball of Hate, was called for another clipping penalty, his second this season, when he dropped Alexei Emelin at the 20:00 mark of the second. Given that he has served a five-game suspension for clipping the Canucks’ Sami Salo, Marchand possibly will hear from league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. He is considered a repeat offender. The fact that it was only a two-minute minor should play in his favor. If he keeps this up, he’ll have to change his nickname to the Nova Scotia Clipper.
Good old days
The Bruins had a rocky 1-4-0 run at the start of last February, then rattled off seven straight wins. The run included a 6-0 record on the road, the first time since 1972 that they swept a half-dozen roadies . . . The Bruins saw old pal Hal Gill on the Montreal defense. The behemoth blue liner, who will be 37 in April, is believed to be on Boston’s shopping list, with the trade deadline approaching Feb. 27. Through 53 games, Pal Hal is 1-7-8 and a minus-7 . . . Montreal’s Max Pacioretty has rebounded well from the shattering hit he took from Chara here last year. With a goal last night, he leads Montreal in scoring at 24-20-44. Former Carolina winger Erik Cole, who also scored, is next at 22-21-43. Losing Cole to free agency last summer could convince the Hurricanes to cling desperately to Tuomo Ruutu, who is also headed to UFA on July 1. Ruutu, another player rumored to be on Boston’s deadline shopping list, suffered a core injury Monday night here in Montreal. He’ll be out three weeks . . . 2011 Cup winner Tomas Kaberle ranks third in assists (23) among Canadiens. He picked up some of those as a Hurricane before being flipped for Jaroslav Spacek (also now on Boston’s shopping list). Kaberle is carrying a minus-16.