BUFFALO - On Saturday, whenever left wings P.J. Axelsson, Marco Sturm, and Jeremy Reich approached the bench for a shift change, Peter Schaefer's instinct was to roll over the boards and replace them on the ice.
But Schaefer had to check up. For the first time as a Bruin, he played right wing, giving the left side to rookie Milan Lucic on the third line against the Maple Leafs.
"I noticed a couple times last game that I was getting ready to go out for a left wing," Schaefer said before last night's 4-1 win over the Sabres. "I was hopping out and Looch would be on the left side. But we got it sorted out."
The 30-year-old Schaefer, taken by the Canucks in the third round of the 1995 draft, hadn't played right wing since his days in Vancouver. For four full seasons in Ottawa, where he last played before the Bruins acquired him for Shean Donovan July 17, Schaefer was on the left side, using his puck-controlling strength along the boards and hitting centermen with forehand passes entering the offensive zone.
But coach Claude Julien - who put Schaefer on the right side again last night - wants Lucic, primarily a fourth-line left wing this season, to get more ice time. Axelsson and Sturm have been playing consistently all season, so Schaefer became the candidate for a left-to-right switch. The move paid off in the first period last night, when Schaefer winged a wrister past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller at 17:11 for Boston's third goal.
"All those years on the left side, when you're entering the zone, I'd usually try and make passes under the [defenseman's] stick for the center going to the net," said Schaefer (20 shifts, one shot, 18:02 of ice time last night). "I'm so used to making that pass. It comes naturally to me.
"On the right side, you have that same pass but it's on your backhand. That's a little bit of a tougher pass. Once you're in your own end, it's pretty much the same. You cover down low and try to help out."
Schaefer started the season as Marc Savard's wingman on the No. 1 line. But the unit struggled, partly because of Schaefer's lack of offensive production, and he was dropped to the third line.
Including last night's tally, Schaefer has five goals, two of which came in one game.
Lately, the Bruins have gotten solid production from the top two lines. The same couldn't be said about the third line - something Schaefer was hoping to change.
"It's huge - huge," said Schaefer of getting the line going. "There's a lot of great players on first lines around the league and they're playing head-to-head. If you can have a third line that can go out, dominate, score goals, and play in other teams' ends, that's great.
"Creating momentum isn't always about scoring. It's about having a big shift, drawing a penalty. That's huge. It's as important of a role as the other two lines have."
Lucic had his first two-assist game last night.
Eye wide shutAt 13:51 of the first period, a puck skimmed off a stick and plunked Sturm in the face while the left wing was sitting on the Boston bench. Sturm left for the dressing room immediately and didn't return.
According to Julien, one of Sturm's eyes swelled shut, though by the end of the game, it had started to open.
Sturm skated four shifts for 3:09 of ice time. Reich replaced Sturm on the second line during even-strength situations.
"That's why guys who don't play as much have to do a little extra to be ready when stuff like that does happen," said Reich (18 shifts, 10:25 of ice time). "I just have to play solid. Bang and crash, get pucks out. My job is to be dependable."
His old hauntsWhile his teammates traveled to Buffalo after Saturday's 2-1 victory over the Maple Leafs, Glen Metropolit remained in his hometown overnight to tape a feature for CBC Sunday.
The feature, which will air Feb. 8 as part of CBC's "Hockey Day in Canada" (the games of all six Canadian teams will be televised that day), had Metropolit returning to rinks he once played at in Moss Park and Regent Park.
"It's a tough environment," said Metropolit of the areas. "But you don't even realize it. You're growing up and you're a happy kid. You don't know any different.
"I was loved by my mom and family. That's all you need when you're a young kid. I wasn't neglected or anything like that.
"A lot of those kids are not loved. You don't get those hugs and kisses. They try and get attention in other ways. They get behind the 8-ball and get into crime. They see some drug dealers around and see some quick money. So I've seen it go both ways."