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Once a stalwart Bruins defenseman, Adam McQuaid enjoying new role in player development

Adam McQuaid (left) wasn't afraid to mix it up during his days with the Bruins, as the Islanders' Matt Martin found out.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Adam McQuaid, now some three months on the job as player development coordinator for the Bruins, spends the bulk of his days shuttling back and forth between Boston and AHL Providence, and also dotting around college rinks to watch games at Boston University, Harvard, Boston College, and Northeastern.

There’s a lot more to the business of hockey and getting players NHL-ready, McQuaid has come to understand, than what he realized during his 10 seasons playing in the NHL.

“I would say I definitely have a huge appreciation for coaches, scouts, management,” mused McQuaid, reached on the phone midweek as he snaked his way through traffic en route to Providence. “There’s so much work going on behind the scenes that I wasn’t aware of as a player. As a player, you are focused on playing, and there’s enough to worry about in that alone — but there’s a lot of people who are incredibly invested in the guys and wanting them to succeed and the team do well.”

McQuaid, 35, officially retired in January, forced to surrender stick and pads because of a debilitating neck injury. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney hired him over the summer, slotting him into the role held by Chris Kelly, who then was promoted to assistant coach under Bruce Cassidy, filling the job vacated when Jay Pandolfo returned to his BU roots as an assistant coach.

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McQuaid, a member of the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup-winning team, enjoys the blend of tracking players in the organization, building the connection between player and management, and sometimes getting on the ice for one-on-one instruction.

“I’m still finding my way, but the more I keep doing the job the more I like it,” he said. “So that’s a good sign. It’s been fun to be back around the rinks and to be back as part of a team and have relationships with guys — that’s the stuff that I really missed. It’s obviously not quite the same as playing, but it’s similar and I’m really enjoying it.”

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McQuaid, originally a Columbus draft pick, joined the Boston organization in May 2007 when then-GM Peter Chiarelli acquired him from the Blue Jackets for a fifth-round draft pick (later sent to Dallas and used by the Stars to select Jamie Benn). McQuaid went from Sudbury of the Ontario Hockey League to AHL Providence, where he tuned up for 2½ seasons before joining Claude Julien’s varsity back line during the 2009-10 season.

Unlike a lot of young players, McQuaid was well aware of the holes in his game upon arriving in the minors, and soon understood the value of player development in getting him ready for the NHL. He said Cassidy, who coached the defensemen his last season-plus in Providence, played a key role in boosting his confidence.

“I knew I had work to do, and I did put a lot of work in,” McQuaid recalled. “That’s part of why when this opportunity presented itself I jumped all over it. My few years in Providence were key to my development. When I look back, I feel they were kind of make-or-break years for me, and there was a really good focus on development at that time with Boston. I can’t speak to other organizations, but I really felt fortunate that I was being invested in and knew I had to continue to put in the work. You know, it doesn’t just end when you get a call-up.”

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LONG ROAD TO RECOVERY

Price not rushing

his return to net

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who entered the NHL’s Players Assistance Program in October, will still be out for another couple weeks at least.Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

The Canadiens, at TD Garden Sunday night for their first matchup with the Bruins this season, arrived in town without franchise goaltender Carey Price, who likely won’t return to their lineup for at least another 10-14 days.

Price on Tuesday issued a statement in which he for the first time publicly acknowledged a struggle with substance abuse, an issue that led to his entry into the NHL’s Players Assistance Program just days before the season’s start in October.

He opted into the program, noted Price, as a means of “working through years of neglecting my own mental health.” He didn’t have the tools, he said, to cope with his addiction.

Price’s transition back into the working world of vulcanized rubber wouldn’t be easy under the best circumstances, but it stands to be more difficult if trying to rescue a floundering Habs squad that stood at 4-10-1 entering the weekend, ranked 29th in the Original 32.

The Habs also were carrying a minus-18 goal differential through 15 games. Only the Blackhawks (minus-19) and Coyotes (minus-33) were worse.

Per coach Dominique Ducharme, the 34-year-old Price has “a number of steps he needs to be taking” before he sees game action. First and foremost, his surgically repaired knee has to be deemed ready. He underwent a scope in July to repair damaged cartilage.

Ducharme noted Price will begin with dry-land training, progress to skating on his own, and then join practices before a likely AHL tuneup. There is no fixed timeline, stressed Ducharme, but a return by mid-December would seem a best-case scenario. No telling how far gone and hard to find the Habs will be by then.

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Under contract for this season and four more at a $10.5 million cap hit, Price remains among the favorites for the February Olympics in Beijing. He backed Canada to its 2014 gold medal in Sochi with a 5-0-0 mark, 0.59 goals-against average, and .972 save percentage.

Don’t be surprised, though, if he takes a pass on Beijing. No doubt the job would be easier than backing his faltering Les Glorieux team, but the pressure cooker of an Olympics halfway around the world would not be a healthy environment for anyone working to overcome substance abuse and its accompanying mental health challenges.

ETC.

Heinen making most

of new opportunity

Former Bruin Danton Heinen (43) is off to a strong start in Pittsburgh.Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Danton Heinen impressed Penguins management in training camp, well before a COVID-19 surge began to deplete coach Mike Sullivan’s lineup. Getting a chance to play higher in the order helped boost the ex-Bruins winger’s profile even more.

Entering the weekend, Heinen’s 4-3—7 line has him tied for third in team scoring, behind Jake Guentzel and Evan Rodrigues (8 points each). Heinen has looked more like the confident player who put up 47 points with the Bruins as a rookie in 2017-18.

“He’s been really good — it hasn’t been just the increased playing opportunity,” said Brian Burke, Pittsburgh’s president of hockey operations. “He jumped in early, scored in Game 1, and just kept going — he’s been a factor.”

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The Penguins coaching staff, said Burke, considers the left winger their “Swiss Army Knife,” able to play up and down the lineup at either wing and also contribute No. 2 power-play duty. He can kill penalties, too, though Pittsburgh has yet to use him in that capacity.

“He’s been a ray of sunshine for us,” noted Burke. “Great kid.”

Heinen, dealt to Anaheim in the 2020 trade deadline deal that brought Nick Ritchie to Boston, over the summer signed a budget-friendly one-year, $1.1 million deal. If he can keep up the beat, he could have a shot re-upping at a pay rate closer to the two-year/$5.6 million deal he signed with Boston in July 2019.

“Came to us with a good price tag,” mused Burke. “The two guys we picked up were Brock McGinn [ex-Hurricanes left winger] and Heinen, and they were bargain prices, sure, but both are truly bargains — they’ve both really outperformed our expectations to this point.”

Carlo could help lagging offense

Brandon Carlo has been a significant shooting threat earlier in his career, and could be for the Bruins in the future.Maddie Meyer/Getty

The hottest hand in the new-look Anaheim lineup belongs to Troy Terry, a 2015 fifth-round draft pick who cracked the varsity full time in 2019-20.

Entering Friday, the 24-year-old Colorado native led the Ducks in scoring (11-8—19 in 14 games) and ranked No. 4 in the NHL. He also owned a 13-game point streak.

At one time, Terry and Brandon Carlo, the 37th pick in the 2015 draft, wore the sweater of the AAA Colorado Thunderbirds. In 2012-13, Terry was the T-birds’ No. 3 scorer (49 points) with Carlo at No. 4 as the U-16 club’s top-scoring defenseman (10-37—47 in 41 games).

Carlo went on to play junior for three seasons at Tri-City (Western Hockey League), where he was drafted by the Bruins after his second season. Terry stayed local, joining Heinen at the University of Denver, where he played for three seasons (one as the Pioneers’ leading scorer), before turning pro.

Carlo’s offensive talents have been downplayed throughout his Boston tenure, as they were during his Tri-City days. At 6 feet 6 inches, he doesn’t have the nimble feet necessary to walk the blue line like Charlie McAvoy or Matt Grzelcyk, but he is an excellent north-south skater and owns a good, heavy shot (employed to take a brief 3-2 lead over the Oilers Thursday night).

Entering Saturday’s matinee with the Devils, Carlo had 26 shots on net, second only to Grzelcyk (29) among Bruins defensemen. McAvoy, by the way, only had 19 shots in 11 games as the club’s No. 1 power-play point man.

Carlo won’t be a candidate for point duty, but while coach Bruce Cassidy tries to wring more scoring out of his mediocre offense, coaxing more dare and shooting out of Carlo might have to be a priority. It’s not like he’s never been that guy.

Beecher back in action

Hard-luck Johnny Beecher, the Bruins’ top draft pick (No. 30) in 2019, finally made it back to the University of Michigan lineup for last weekend’s two-game sweep of Michigan State.

The 6-3 center picked up a goal and assist in the opening 7-2 win and then was blanked in the 3-2 closer.

Beecher required shoulder surgery late last season and, when in Boston for development camp over the summer, was optimistic about being ready to start of the 2021-22 season, until another upper-body injury knocked him five weeks off schedule.

Now a 20-year-old junior, Beecher can return to college for his senior season, which would allow him, per CBA guidelines, to not sign with the Bruins and test the free agent market in the summer of 2023.

Murray another black eye on league

The Ducks on Tuesday placed GM Bob Murray on administrative leave, amid allegations of improper professional conduct. He resigned the next day, effective immediately, to enter an alcohol abuse program.

The NHL quickly put out word that tied an initial investigation of Murray’s conduct to a hotline it has to report forms of abuse across its 32 clubs and league offices.

Murray, the 66-year-old former Blackhawks defenseman, for some time has had a reputation for being demeaning to team staff members. Now it appears he’ll get the help he needs. Given the current climate around the league, particularly in the wake of the botched sexual abuse case in Chicago that led to multiple resignations and dismissals, Murray may never work again in the league.

The good old boy network has lost its footing, albeit due to the decades of banana peels it left strewn over the road for decades.

Loose pucks

Bruins top pick Fabian Lysell is adjusting well with the WHL Vancouver Giants.Bruce Bennett/Getty

Fabian Lysell, the Bruins’ top pick (No. 21) over the summer, has adjusted well to North American hockey with the WHL Vancouver Giants. Through 10 games, the 18-year-old fleet right winger collected 2-10—12, good for fourth in team scoring. “Try to be curious to learn new stuff every day,” the 5-10, 172-pound Lysell said when he was in Boston for rookie camp in September. Lysell, when your faithful puck chronicler asked what he’ll need to improve most to make it to the NHL: “To be honest, I need everything. I definitely have to put on some weight and try to be better at everything. I want to be [a scorer] in the NHL, so I want to work on those strengths — be a faster skater, better stickhandler, better shot, hockey IQ. I think it’s going to come in time.” … Not even 18 months ago, in the run-up to the 2020 draft, Detroit’s disappointment was palpable when the 17-49-5 Red Wings fell from first to fourth in the selection order and lost the chance of nabbing potential franchise winger Alexis Lafreniere. Lo and behold, a month into this season they have the two top-scoring rookies in the league with winger Lucas Raymond (14 points) and defenseman Moritz Seider (11). They plucked Seider with the No. 6 pick in 2019, while Raymond was the 2020 consolation prize with that No. 4 pick, following the Rangers (Lafreniere), Kings (Quinton Byfield), and Senators (Tim Stutzle). With his 14 points, Raymond already is closing in on Lafreniere’s rookie line of 12-9—21 last season. It appears Seider and Raymond could be the primary building blocks of another long-awaited Dead Wings resurgence. Through 13 games this season, by the way, Lafreniere stood a tepid 3-1—4 for the Blueshirts … Ex-Bruin Joe Thornton has yet to deliver with the Panthers (1-0—1 in six games), but GM Bill Zito, his club No. 1 in the overall standings going into the weekend, is convinced Jumbo will be a factor. “Smart, still has plenty of game, and invaluable experience,” noted Zito, whose 42-year-old reserve pivot has 1,686 games on his Hall of Fame résumé. “Long season, I have no doubt he’ll contribute. Great attitude. Loved in the room.” And cheap. Jumbo came aboard on a one-year deal at the league minimum $750,000 … Ex-Bruin Noel Acciari has yet to play for the Panthers. Per Zito, he might not be back until February, with what the club has labeled an upper-body injury. Hurt in an exhibition game, speculation around Sunrise has been that the rock-jawed Acciari tore a pectoral muscle — a painful injury that generally requires months to heal … Ex-BC goaltender Spencer Knight took back-to-back losses vs. the Rangers and Devils this past week, forced to start both games while No. 1 Sergei Bobrovsky dealt with a minor injury. Bobrovsky was back in for Thursday’s 3-2 shootout loss in Pittsburgh … Another ex-BC goalie, Joe Woll, is serving as Jack Campbell’s backup in Toronto now that Petr Mrazek is expected to be sidelined a month with a groin injury. Called up from the AHL Marlies, the 6-4 Woll, who left the Heights in 2019, finally got his first NHL action Saturday night when he started for the Maple Leafs in Buffalo.


Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com.