NEW YORK —
Eriksson has five goals, including four on the power play. His latest goal was in Saturday's 4-2 loss in Montreal. Patrice Bergeron winged a power-play one-timer on goal. Eriksson, who had been screening Mike Condon, was in the right place to get a piece of the puck and deflect it into the net.
"Just trying to stay in front of the goalie so he can't see the puck," Eriksson said of his net-front approach. "If someone shoots it from the top there, something will happen. Sometimes it goes down to the side there, too, so you have to see where everyone is. I'm just trying to be ready if the rebound comes out or trying to tip it in. Something's going to happen if you're standing in front. That's how I've been playing for many years."
Eriksson will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. The 30-year-old's next contract is likely to be the final big score of his career. So far, he's doing his best to make it a good one.
Through 14 games, Eriksson has five goals and seven assists for 12 points, third most behind David Krejci (17) and Bergeron (14). Eriksson is averaging 19:56 of ice time per game, most among team forwards.
It is the most he's logged in Boston since arriving in 2013 in the Tyler Seguin blockbuster.
Whether Eriksson’s next payday comes with the Bruins may be general manager
’s toughest call to come.
On the power play, while serving as the net-front presence, Eriksson is averaging 3:15 of ice time per game. He's also logging 2:01 on the penalty kill.
Eriksson has been the team's most consistent and versatile forward. He started the year as the No. 1 right wing with Brad Marchand and Bergeron. He moved to left wing to play with Krejci on the second line. He shifted back to the right side in the last two games against the Islanders and Canadiens, ceding his left-side spot to Frank Vatrano.
Through it all, Eriksson's trying not to think about what may come next — a trade or an extension. According to Eriksson, agent J.P. Barry has not had any discussions with Sweeney regarding re-signing in Boston.
"There's not much you can really do about it now," Eriksson said. "I'm trying to focus on playing good and trying to help this team as much as possible. Then we'll see what happens after this year."
Eriksson gives Sweeney a valuable trade chip. He can play either side and in every situation. He's smart. He's strong. He wields one of the best sticks in the NHL. The Bruins could command a first-round pick for Eriksson, which would add to the two they already have in 2016 (their own, plus San Jose's via the Martin Jones trade). Or Eriksson could bring back a defenseman, which is the Bruins' primary need.
Trading Eriksson, however, would not necessarily make the Bruins better. They'd say goodbye to a plug-and-play forward who goes about his business without roiling the room.
"He's so versatile and smart," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I'm sure he prefers to play one side more than the other. Everybody is like that. But at the same time, I don't see a big difference in his game. He continues to do the same things. Those are players that are hard to find. Most of the time, you appreciate them more when they're gone."
Eriksson is in the last season of a six-year, $25 million contract. Based on the market, he'll be able to command at least $5 million annually. The concern is more with term. While Eriksson could score a seven-year maximum deal on the market, his legs project to slow before such term expires.
The Bruins have depth at right wing, the position Eriksson's played the most in Boston. Brett Connolly, David Pastrnak, and Jimmy Hayes are younger. But none is better than Eriksson.
Flipping the lines
Marchand started the game on the third line with Jimmy Hayes and Ryan Spooner. Matt Beleskey took Marchand's usual spot on the No. 1 line alongside Bergeron.
The Bruins are trying to awaken Beleskey's offensive game. They are also looking to give Spooner's line more presence, especially in the defensive zone. Beleskey, Spooner, and Hayes had been chasing the puck.
"I think it was for the sake of making a change here and refresh some things," Julien said. "As far as Marsh is concerned, he walked in here and, besides that penalty he took in Washington, he wants to be a leader. When you're playing with Bergy, you don't have to do much of it. But with Spooner and Hazer, it was his opportunity to take charge of a line and lead by example, which he did tonight."
Marchand had an assist and four shots in 16:25 of ice time. Beleskey had one shot and was credited with four hits in 14:29. Late in the third, Claude Julien reunited Bergeron and Marchand, using the familiar duo with Krejci on the right side as a defensive unit.
High praise for Vatrano
Vatrano played in his second straight game. The East Longmeadow native scored in his NHL debut on Saturday against the Canadiens. But the goal wasn't the only thing Julien liked from the rookie.
"He can shoot the puck like there's no tomorrow," Julien said. "That's his biggest asset — his shot. Last night, I thought he was very physical. I thought he was very good along the walls. You didn't seem him intimidated. He skates well on the forecheck. I thought for a young player that came into his first NHL game, that's probably one of the best I've seen as far as especially for his hometown and against Montreal."
Vatrano was on the ice for 12:04 Sunday, getting off five shots on net.
Sit and watch
Tyler Randell and Joe Morrow were the Bruins' healthy scratches . . . Brett Connolly took a heavy hit from Steve Bernier in the second period. Connolly needed help climbing onto the bench. But the right wing didn't miss a shift.
. . . Torey Krug played a season-low 16:25.