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Simon Gagne makes Bruins debut

Simon Gagne makes his presence known to Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard in the first period.PAUL SANCYA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT — His payroll close to NHL maximum, his team in need of recovering its mojo, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli sat alone in the stands at Joe Louis Arena during his squad’s late-morning workout on Wednesday. Absent a trade by the pensive and patient GM, the only answers at the moment must come from the working parts at hand.

“It’s a matter of getting our confidence,’’ noted coach Claude Julien, his club a sputtering 1-3-0 prior to taking on the Wings for the second time in a week, “and getting our noses a little more dirty.’’

With that in mind, the Bruins ushered Simon Gagne into their lineup, the former Flyer returning to the NHL after a one-year health-and-welfare hiatus. He began the night as a fourth-line right winger, riding with Daniel Paille and Ryan Spooner, the rookie who has been slow to create the kind of offensive magic he did in two AHL seasons. Gagne was elevated to the first line in the third period, playing with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Gagne was scoreless but active in 12 minutes and 13 seconds of ice time in the Bruins’ 3-2 shootout victory.

Gagne, who the Bruins once tried to acquire in a deal that would have sent Ray Bourque to the Flyers, won’t improve the club’s grit factor.


But his years of experience (597 points prior to joining Boston) could help settle the club’s bad case of out-of-the-gate jitters.

“I have a little bit of the butterflies moving,’’ said the eager 34-year-old career left winger, prior to suiting up for his 800th NHL game. “It’s going to be a fun one.’’

Good humor has been in short supply for the Bruins, considered in the preseason to be among this season’s league heavyweights, capable of returning to the Cup Final for what would be a third time in five years. A very short supply of goals (four in their first four games) has led to some very long faces.


The other change had Matt Bartkowski sitting in favor of fellow defenseman Kevan Miller. Bartkowski’s poor coverage in the defensive zone on Monday led to Avalanche forward Danny Briere being left open in front of the crease to pot the winner with 0.4 seconds left in regulation.

Bartkowski is somewhat of an ill fit in Julien’s disciplined system, and mental lapses such as the one Monday could make him a frequent visitor to the press box on game nights.

Miller, though not as mobile as Bartkowski, brings the kind of grit Julien talked about when he noted his desire for dirtier noses.

The former UVM standout fills some of the void, at least from the strength perspective, left on the roster when Johnny Boychuk was dealt to the Islanders just before the start of the season.

Late in the first period, with the Wings on the power play, Gagne paired with Krejci on the penalty-killing unit.

Beefed-up game

A bigger, stronger Dougie Hamilton, who worked out diligently over the summer under the off-ice tutelage of his father, is 25 pounds heavier than when the Bruins made him the ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft.

All of 190 pounds back then, the third-year NHLer is now 215, noticeably bigger in his upper arms and chest.

“And I think I’m going to get bigger,’’ said the 6-foot-5-inch Hamilton, who was paired again with captain Zdeno Chara against the Red Wings. “I still think I’m kind of skinny. But I just want it to be part of the natural growing process.’’


The Bruins saw how fast-tracking the strength game can go a few years ago when forward Brandon Bochenski returned after a summer’s advanced course in body building at Incredible Hulk University.

Too bulky to be effective, he was demoted to Providence a quarter of the way through the 2007-08 season and was later dealt to Anaheim for Sherriff Shane Hnidy.

The 32-year-old Bochenski is back this season in the KHL, playing for Astana Barys.

Getting the nod

Tuukka Rask made 18 saves for his second victory of the season. Ex-University of Maine stopper Jimmy Howard was forced to be far more active (37 saves) . . . With the Bruins back at it Thursday night in Montreal, it could mean rookie backup Niklas Svedberg (the loser against the Avalanche) gets the start against the Habs . . . Matt Fraser, previously on Boston’s fourth line, was bumped to the sidelines by Gagne . . . Following Thursday’s game, the Bruins will be off until their first visit to Buffalo on Saturday night. And next week brings two old friends back to Causeway Street, with Jumbo Joe Thornton and the Sharks in town on Tuesday and Boychuk in with the Islanders on Thursday. Boychuk has been an offensive force for the Fish Sticks thus far, collecting six points in three games, a scoring rate some eight times higher than his career average.


Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.