TAMPA — Daniel Paille took his usual spot on the Bruins’ fourth line during Wednesday’s practice alongside Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
On Thursday night, however, if the Bruins have a late lead over the Lightning, Paille probably won’t be a fourth-line wing.
For most of Sunday’s win over Winnipeg, coach Claude Julien reorganized his lines. One of the units Julien rolled out was a third line of Paille with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. In the games they’ve skated together, the three have played with pace, consistency, and smarts. It is the type of line every coach likes to deploy in the third period.
In Wednesday’s practice, Chris Bourque skated with Kelly, Peverley, and Jay Pandolfo. Bourque will likely start Thursday’s game with Kelly and Peverley, but could cede some of his late shifts to Paille.
“Especially late in the game, if you have the lead or something, it gives you a pretty good defensive player who’s done that job for a long time,” Julien said of Paille. “It also gives you a little more experience right now when you compare him to Chris [Bourque]. He’s filled that void extremely well. We all know Dan is very capable of scoring goals, as well. When he’s on top of his game and he skates the way he can skate, he makes things happen out there on the ice. He’s a luxury type of player to have on the fourth line. No doubt he’d probably be playing on a higher line on most other teams.”
Julien continues to emphasize four-line play. The crash-and-bang nature of Julien’s fourth-line grinders makes them effective early when the Bruins try to establish atmosphere. Their physical play in the first and second periods can make legs rubbery and wills shrink in the third.
But given the 48-game schedule and the significance of every point, Julien has been quicker to limit his fourth line’s ice time in the third. Paille’s speed and chemistry with Kelly and Peverley have made him a natural fit to earn a third-period promotion.
Aside from experience, Paille is also a faster straight-line skater than Bourque.
“I just look at myself and try to compare to Kells and Pevs, just how they think the game’s played,” Paille said. “I try to continue on and make sure that I kind of click with them. Whether it’s a whole game or a couple shifts, I’m not too sure, but I try to make the best of every opportunity.”
Praise for Ruff
The Sabres on Wednesday fired Lindy Ruff, their coach since 1997.
Ruff and Julien had not seen eye to eye earlier this season. Ruff called a timeout late in Buffalo’s 7-4 win Jan. 31 after Julien sent out Lane MacDermid to start a shift against Thomas Vanek, who had scored three goals. Ruff replaced Vanek with enforcer John Scott.
But Julien praised Ruff for his long run in Buffalo.
“When you see a coach like that last that long behind the bench for one team, you’ve got to be proud of his accomplishment,” Julien said. “He deserves a lot of praise vs. what just happened to him. I’ve said all along, if I could last that long in one place, I’d be extremely happy. He’s done a great job there. I know he brought his team to the finals one year against Dallas with the controversial goal. That will always stick with the Sabres organization. He hasn’t always had the best teams. But he’s probably got the most out of his players.”
Paille was Buffalo’s first-round pick in 2002. He had to transition from a skilled junior to a depth forward in the Buffalo system. In 2009, Ruff made Paille a regular healthy scratch before he was traded to Boston.
“He definitely changed my perspective as a person and what I need to achieve in my life and my goals,” Paille said. “He definitely helped out early in my career with that.”
Every player practiced on Wednesday. The Bruins had seven players missing from Tuesday’s session because of flu-like symptoms. “Let’s knock on wood here that nothing else happens,” said Julien. “But the guys that were missing from practice [Tuesday] are all feeling much better.” . . . Thursday will mark the Bruins’ first look at the Lightning. They were scheduled to play at TD Garden Feb. 9, but the game was postponed because of the blizzard. “They’ve focused a lot more on their defensive game in their own end,” Julien said. “We’re probably going to be facing a team that’s a little more rounded vs. a real powerful offense. But the offense is still there. They’re still capable of scoring goals.” . . . Ex-Bruin Benoit Pouliot has been skating for Tampa Bay recently with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, and has five goals and eight assists in 15 games.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.