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BRUINS NOTEBOOK

Tim Schaller making it hard to keep him out of the lineup

The Blues’ Jori Lehtera knocks Tim Schaller to the ice during the first period Tuesday night.Jim Davis/Globe staff

Tim Schaller did not make the varsity Bruins roster out of training camp. He was a healthy scratch for the first two games of his NHL recall. He fought his way onto the fourth line in his Bruins debut against Winnipeg on Oct. 17.

On Tuesday against St. Louis, Schaller started the game on the third line for the first time this season.

It seems as though promotions, whether it be from league to league or line to line, are on Schaller’s mind.

“I know I don’t have the best hands in the league. I know I don’t have the best shot in the league,” said the native of Merrimack, N.H. “But I know my role. I know how to play it. I’m good defensively. I’m smart out there. I’m taking everything I know and everything I have in my ability to be the best I can. I think it’s showed.”

Aside from a lone scratch against Colorado on Nov. 13, Schaller hasn’t given the coaching staff many reasons to take him out of uniform. In 16 games, he has three goals and two assists while averaging 11:50 of ice time.

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During five-on-five play, Schaller averaged 1.99 points per 60 minutes, the fourth-highest rate on the team after Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and David Backes, indicating how he’s made the most of his opportunities.

On Oct. 10, three days before the season opener, the Bruins placed Schaller on waivers to be assigned to Providence. He went unclaimed. But two days later, because of an injury to Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins brought him back to serve as an extra body during their three-game season-opening trip.

Schaller has developed from the 13th forward to a reliable grinder. But he has not been satisfied to fill a fourth-line role.

“I was definitely disappointed when I got sent down there for a day,” Schaller said. “But I know I did something good up here to get called back up right away. To stay up here, be in the lineup, and produce a little bit is definitely something I hoped would happen.

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“I do set high goals for myself. I’m knocking off some of those goals with scoring and good penalty killing. I’m doing everything I wanted to do here. What’s good is I know can get better too.”

Against the Jets last Saturday, Schaller snapped a shot from the left circle past goalie Michael Hutchinson. He also got some power-play time on the No. 2 unit.

Against the Blues, Schaller started alongside Ryan Spooner and Austin Czarnik, two offense-first players.

“My theory all along is good defense leads to good offense,” said Schaller. “If I can be good structurally defensively, get pucks out, get pucks deep, and really wear their D-men down, offense will definitely come from that.

“My confidence is growing every game. When I get the puck on my stick, maybe I’m more aware of my surroundings when I’m out there now.”

Pastrnak out again

Pastrnak was well enough to participate in Tuesday’s morning skate — his first skate with his teammates since Nov. 13 — but he was ruled out against St. Louis, marking his third straight game out of uniform.

Riley Nash filled Pastrnak’s spot alongside Marchand and Bergeron for the third straight game.

Nash assisted on Dominic Moore’s shorthanded goal.

“Progressing,” coach Claude Julien said. “Still day to day.”

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Backes faces old pals

Backes, a lifelong Blue before this season, was facing his old team for the first time. He played 727 games for St. Louis before signing a five-year, $30 million deal with the Bruins on July 1. “We’re almost 20 games into the season,” Backes said. “The newness of that has started to wear off. We’re ready to go out there as a group and win games. That’s really my focus. On the individual side, I’m trying to be a piece of this puzzle and fit in where I can help.” Backes was St. Louis’s captain for the last five seasons. He was succeeded by Alex Pietrangelo, a close friend off the ice.

In their thoughts

Ex-Bruin Craig Cunningham, the team’s fourth-round pick in 2010, remains in critical but stable condition after collapsing Saturday before an AHL game between Tucson and Manitoba. Cunningham appeared in 34 games for the Bruins while spending most of his Black-and-Gold career in Providence. The Coyotes claimed Cunningham on waivers on March 2, 2015, and he had been playing for their Tucson affiliate. “You really couldn’t find a better individual as far as a teammate and as far as a player to coach,” said Julien. “On the ice, he’s just one of those guys that leaves it all out there. Quality, quality person. There’s no doubt everybody’s a little bit sensitive to what’s happened to him. We’re all praying and wishing him well.” . . . Spooner started the game on the third line. But he finished the game centering the fourth line between Sean Kuraly and Jimmy Hayes. Spooner got caught in his own zone on several shifts for extended cycles. During six-on-five play, Spooner had an excellent chance to tie the game when he found the rebound of a David Krejci shot. But Jake Allen pushed from right to left to stuff Spooner’s tying bid with 1:30 remaining in regulation . . . Matt Beleskey, playing on the second line with Krejci and Backes, recorded five shots in 16:54 of play. “Matt Beleskey couldn’t play there at the beginning of the year, the way he was playing,” Julien said. “He’s played better. We’ve given him an opportunity to play with that line.” . . . Frank Vatrano skated Tuesday for the first time since undergoing foot surgery Sept. 26 . . . Anton Khudobin will play one more game for Providence Wednesday on his conditioning stint. He may be available for recall for the back-to-back set against Ottawa and Calgary Thursday and Friday . . . Colin Miller was due to be the healthy scratch for the fourth straight game.

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Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.