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Home again, Curtis Lazar ready to show how much he’s grown

Curtis Lazar (right) potted his first goal of the season on Saturday in the loss to Tampa Bay.Elsa/Getty

Curtis Lazar thought about his game-tying goal in the third period of the loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last week and saw what a difference experience can make.

A wraparound pass from Brandon Carlo ricocheted Lazar’s direction. He had a clean look at the net, but took his time to probe more. Lazar got to the front and beat Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy with a crafty backhand for his first goal of the season.

“That just comes with experience and repetition,” Lazar said. “I feel like earlier in my career, that’s something that you just shoot it and hope for the best.”


Since coming to Boston a year ago, Lazar’s scored just three goals, but that’s in no way indicative of his ability to find the net. With 28 career goals in parts of eight NHL seasons, he believes it’s an area he can tap into more.

“As I continue to try to grow my game and get more comfortable with the offense, that’s kind of the missing piece for me,” Lazar said. “It has been for a number of years. I feel like I’m no slouch in that regard, but to see it translate and really just take that breath and just kind of take what’s given to me, it was good to see.”

With the Bruins in Vancouver on Wednesday to open a three-game swing through western Canada against the Canucks, Lazar was close to home. He grew up in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, and hadn’t played a game in his home province since 2017. The lingering circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic made this trip different, but he was still excited to return.

“We’re not out of the woods with COVID yet, so it’s kind of hard to see family and friends. But anytime back close to home, it’s special,” he said. “It’s been a few years since I was able to play against the Canucks. They’re the team I grew up cheering for and watching. So it’s always a game I’ve got marked on my calendar.”


With Tomas Frederic out due to a non-COVID illness, Lazar moved from wing to center, his natural position.

“I was taking the reps in practice the past couple days. You feel at home,” Lazar said. “I’m still trying to get used to the wing here and there. All in all, everything’s so situational on the ice. You’re changing positions on the go, the game happens so fast. I definitely am comfortable down the middle, so I’m looking forward to controlling the play a little bit more in the [defensive] zone and getting more involved.”

Curtis Lazar will turn 27 in February.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Even though he’s just 26 years old, Lazar has played for four teams. His versatility has been an asset, but he’s also been searching for a comfort zone.

“Versatility is something that I think is a strong point of my game, but center is my natural position. I do feel more comfortable there,” he said. “But again, wherever I’m called upon, I’m going to go out there and do my job.”

. . .

A seemingly never-ending battle with injuries kept Charlie Coyle last season from being the steadying presence the Bruins were used to having.

But after offseason knee surgery, Coyle has looked more like himself. Bruce Cassidy noted recently that Coyle’s production was flying under the radar, but it wasn’t going unnoticed in the Bruins locker room.


Coyle has 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 21 games, averaging 17:09 on ice a night. He’s centered the second line with a focus on finding the puck and looking to shoot more, but still being a playmaker.

Charlie Coyle has been with the Bruins since the 2018-19 season.Maddie Meyer/Getty

“I think we see the difference right now with him being healthy and when he’s not,” interim head coach Joe Sacco said. “His puck protection is elite, as far as how he holds off checks and fights off people, and his ability to protect the puck down low in tight areas of the ice. So obviously he’s feeling pretty healthy, pretty strong, and he’s got his game going pretty good right now.”

The Bruins needed Coyle to bounce back after David Krejci opted to return to the Czech Republic to be closer to his family. Coyle has filled the void not by trying to be Krejci, but by being the best version of himself and giving the team what its needed.

“He’s done well,” Sacco said. “He’s done a good job. Those are not easy shoes to fill obviously, with Krej being such an offensive player and actually, not just an offensive player, being such a solid two-way player too. . . . Charlie’s come in and what he’s done is he’s played his game.”

. . .

Anton Blidh, out the past three games with an upper body injury, participated in morning skate and is getting closer to a return, Sacco said . . . Karson Kuhlman and Jack Ahcan were healthy scratches.


Julian Benbow can be reached at julian.benbow@globe.com.