SAN JOSE — Based on the numbers — 31 goals in 31 games in the AHL — it would qualify as a surprise that, until his emergency recall on Monday, Frank Vatrano still called Providence home. What NHL team couldn’t use a player capable of putting up those kind of numbers?
Of course, the AHL is not the NHL, a fact at the forefront of the Bruins’ reasoning behind keeping Vatrano in the minors for now.
“I think we always look at these young kids and we want to see them up here because there’s parts of their game that excite us,” coach Claude Julien said on Monday after the team’s practice at the SAP Center. “But you’ve got to remember the NHL is not really to develop. The American League is to develop. You like to have guys here that are ready.
“There’s examples around the league that we can use, [Jonathan] Drouin is one of them. They feel he has to work on other parts of his game. That’s nothing new. So as much as we like his shot and his scoring, there’s other parts of his game that we want him to work on and it’s a lot more comfortable and easier to work on those parts of their game down in the American League.”
Though Vatrano did travel with the team to San Jose, it is not assured he will play against the Sharks on Tuesday. The Bruins have two players with “question marks,” according to Julien, and both would have to be out for Vatrano to play. Otherwise, the Bruins would have to burn one of their three remaining post-trade deadline recalls — one already was used on Noel Acciari — for Vatrano to see the ice.
One of the question marks is David Krejci, who did not practice with the team on Monday. Loui Eriksson took his place at center, flanked by Vatrano and David Pastrnak. Julien did not divulge the other question mark. Of Krejci, Julien said, “He’s doing OK. Hopefully we see him in the lineup tomorrow. We’ll make a gametime decision, but it’s not too bad.”
Julien indicated it was a precautionary measure, given that the team is in California.
For Vatrano, who spent 30 games with the Bruins from November through January with six goals and one assist, there has been work to do in the AHL, work he knew he needed to do. It’s also been a dream season, one in which it seems that just about every shot he takes goes into the net.
But that’s not enough.
“For a younger player, it’s always about the game without the puck,” Julien said. “It’s in our own end, surprised at times by Ds pinching, turning the pucks over in those areas. His strength is obviously shooting the puck and we want him to get better in those areas, and being stronger on the puck.
“Those are the little details that really make the difference when you get to the NHL and give your team success is guys that are good at it.”
That’s not always easy for young players to swallow. Vatrano’s goal this season was to be back in the NHL, to stay with Boston. That hasn’t happened for the past two months, as he has pushed his way to the top of the goal scoring leaders in the AHL, despite having about 20 fewer games than most of his opponents.
“I understand what needs to be done to have a full-time roster spot up here, but then again the Bruins know what’s best for me,” Vatrano said. “They know when I’m going to be ready to be up here, so I’ve just got to be patient. When it’s my time to stay up here, it’s my time to stay.”
Not that that’s easy.
“No, obviously, patience is tough sometimes, but then again hockey is a job so I’ve got to be patient somehow,” he said. “And they know what’s best for me, so I’m just going to stay positive like I’ve been throughout the process.”
And as for those eager to see Vatrano up in the NHL on a more permanent basis?
“Those are important parts of the game that we want them to improve on,” Julien said. “So, give him a chance to do that. He’s in his first year pro. I think he’s exceeded probably expectations for a guy in his first year. So those are all positive signs here, and he’s had a taste of the NHL. He now has a great idea of how much better he needs to get, so it’s a good sign.”
Cameras on blue lines
The NHL decided to put cameras on the blue lines in each of the 16 arenas that will host playoff games to help with offside calls. The coach’s challenge has been a bit controversial in its first season, both for offside calls and goaltender interference, but the league appears to still be in support of it with this minor adjustment. “I think that’s going to be real helpful, obviously,” Julien said. “You don’t want a game or a series decided by a call that was either wrong or inconclusive. Try and get it done properly as best they can, and I think putting those cameras there would be great.” . . . Asked whether Eriksson had played center before, Julien quipped, “I don’t think so. Didn’t look like it at practice.”
■ When, where: Tuesday, 10 p.m., SAP Center, San Jose, Calif.
■ TV, radio: NESN, WBZ-FM (98.5).
■ Goals: Joe Pavelski 32, Brent Burns 25, Patrick Marleau 20.
■ Assists: Joe Thornton 50, Burns 37, Pavelski 34.
■ Goaltending: Martin Jones (34-18-4, 2.28), James Reimer (1-1-0, 1.54).
■ Head to head: This is the second and final meeting. The Sharks won the first, 5-4, at TD Garden on Nov. 17.
■ Miscellany: Only one playoff-caliber team in the NHL is worse than the Bruins at home: the Sharks (13-15-3).
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.