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Loui Eriksson may move to third-line center Tuesday

Loui Eriksson was pressed into service at center against Toronto Saturday.Tom Szczerbowsk/ USA Today Sports

WILMINGTON — When Loui Eriksson jumped on the ice at 4:03 of the third period against the Maple Leafs Saturday, he was in an unfamiliar position. He was skating alongside Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes, making him the de facto center, a spot he hadn’t been put in for (he guesses) about five years.

Though it is not a guarantee — the Bruins still could make a call-up — Eriksson could well find himself back at center against New Jersey Tuesday.

Ryan Spooner, whose undisclosed injury Saturday led to him missing the entire third period and who has been labeled “day-to-day” by coach Claude Julien, will not make the trip with the Bruins. That leaves them with an open third-line center spot, which is where Eriksson comes in.


“Loui’s very capable of doing that,” Julien said. “We’ll see where we go from there.”

Eriksson, of course, is a defensively responsible forward with good instincts and good stickwork. While he has rarely played the position in the NHL, he does not seemed cowed by the likelihood that he might get a game at center.

The last time he played center — save for that shift Saturday — was about five years ago, Eriksson guessed, in a similar situation with the Stars. Someone was injured and he had to step in for a handful of games. But that’s about it for his NHL experience.

Asked what changes he’d have to make in his game, Eriksson said, “Obviously faceoffs, and you have to be the guy who comes home and plays in the defensive zone. It’s a little bit different. Probably going to take a few shifts to get used to it. But I’ve played it before and hopefully I can do something good with it.”

Eriksson has taken just 15 faceoffs this season, winning eight of them, including four in Saturday’s game.


Fortunately for the winger, he has had some of the best to watch for much of this season, playing wing for both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.

“You can definitely learn a lot from those two guys,” Eriksson said. “Everyone knows how good they are playing centerman. It’s a little bit different job. You have to be good in all three zones and really be sharp when you’re out there. I kind of like to play that way anyway, so hopefully I can find a good way to play center.”

Before those few games that Eriksson spent at the position in Dallas, he said, he hadn’t played center since he was much younger. As he put it, “But that was a long time ago. It’s a little bit different playing it in the NHL when you haven’t played it that much.”

Still, he said, “I’m looking forward to the challenge, and hopefully I can help them out there.”Been there before

Tuesday marks a homecoming for Lee Stempniak. And it will not be a new experience.

The oft-traded winger, who has played for nine teams in 11 years, has been through this before, returning to a team from which he was traded.

It doesn’t always happen this quickly, though. Stempniak was traded from New Jersey to Boston less than a month ago, on Feb. 29, leaving a team that had gone into sell mode, but still has not been eliminated from the playoff race.

“I went there on a tryout and I’m really proud of how I played there and earned a spot and earned a big role on the team,” Stempniak said. “It’s never easy being traded, but to come to the Bruins, it’s great.


“We were sort of right in the wild-card hunt with the Devils and then fell out at the end. Now, to come to the Bruins, we’re a team that’s looking to win the Stanley Cup. It’s exciting to be a part of that.”

Liles will sit out

In addition to Spooner, there were two other absences from practice. John-Michael Liles and Brad Marchand. Liles, who suffered a lower-body injury Thursday against Florida, will not be on the trip to New Jersey, though Julien said he was getting better and that he skated by himself Monday. Marchand was “a little under the weather,” according to Julien, but would come with the team to visit the Devils . . . Jonas Gustavsson is the Masterton Trophy nominee of the Boston chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The Masterton, which is decided from a nominee from each NHL city, is awarded to “the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.” Gustavsson played just seven games last season because of injuries, made the Bruins out of camp after being signed to a professional tryout, and got through a recurrence of a heart issue earlier in the season. He has an 11-7-0 record with a 2.63 goals against and a .911 save percentage this season.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.