Carl Soderberg is, in some ways, a luxury for Bruins coach Claude Julien. While Soderberg has spent most of the season at left wing, he also can play center, and that has been a big help for the coach as the team has adjusted to the loss of Chris Kelly, the faceoff difficulties of Ryan Spooner, and now the return of Kelly.
While Kelly has played some center — on the third line and the fourth line — since his return, he was on the wing in Saturday’s 4-0 win against the Oilers at TD Garden, with Soderberg stepping back into the center position that he occupied for the bulk of last week.
“One of the reasons I put him at center [Saturday] was to allow Kells to find his game with less responsibilities, but at the same time it allows Carl to skate well, too, and utilize the ice a little bit more,” Julien said. “And when he plays that way he seems to be everywhere on the ice, and on that goal on the turnover he was right on top of it and had that quick release.”
That goal, which Soderberg scored at 13:05 of the third period to make it 3-0, was his second in the team’s last four games; he converted a beauty Monday against the Islanders. He also has three assists in that span.
Soderberg, who did not impress last season in his first NHL action after a two-month layoff and some additional weight put on, has been better than advertised this season, and perhaps better at center than at wing.
Since Spooner was scratched with an illness a week ago (and subsequently sent back to Providence), Soderberg has centered a group that has included Kelly, Loui Eriksson, and Daniel Paille, and has played well with all of them. Eriksson has 3 points (goal, two assists) in those four games, and he should have had a goal, which was erased because of a “distinct kicking motion,” against the Oilers.
It has helped, as Julien said, that Soderberg seems to be thinking less on the ice these days. As the coach said, “If he overthinks, I think it really slows him down.”
But Soderberg has been anything but slow of late and, with Kelly and Eriksson, has formed a third line that has the potential to be what the Bruins have wanted since the vaunted one of 2010-11 was disbanded — defensively responsible, but also able to generate offense.
Acknowledging that he feels comfortable on his line at the moment, Soderberg added, “Loui is back and Kells is back and that’s two great players for us, and the line is a little bit stronger now . . . We played a couple of good games together, too, so I think we have built some chemistry together.”
With Kelly on the line as opposed to Spooner, Soderberg said, “I think we are a little bit heavier in both ends and maybe that’s why we create more scoring chances.”
Good on the draw
Paille has spent his week being shifted between the third and fourth lines, but the one place he has seen consistency is in his ability to draw a penalty. He drew two Saturday, including an interference call that negated an Oilers power play in the second period.
“Most penalties get drawn just by outworking the next guy,” Paille said. “As long as I keep my feet moving, if there’s a little bit of a hook or a hold there’s a slight chance it could be a penalty. So sometimes it’s not going to be called, but it got called a few times [against Edmonton].”
He has drawn three penalties in his last three games, and four in his last five.
Soderberg also has been adept at drawing penalties of late. The forward has drawn four in his last four games, and five in his last six.
A day off
The Bruins took Sunday off. It likely will be their final day off until the Olympic break starts Sunday. They will practice Monday before welcoming the Vancouver Canucks to the Garden for what is likely to be a contentious matchup . . . Backup goaltender Chad Johnson is 10-3-0 with a 2.14 goals against average after winning his first shutout as a Bruin Saturday. He has won all five of his starts in Boston this season, allowing two or fewer goals in each of them, and now has a lifetime record of 7-0-1 at his home rinks, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.