Wheeler isn’t out of place at center

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / November 12, 2010

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By his own admission, there wasn’t much Blake Wheeler had to do.

In Wednesday’s third period against Pittsburgh, as the second man in on the forecheck, Wheeler had a close view of the sublime: a textbook hit and takeaway by Mark Recchi.

As Zbynek Michalek retreated to retrieve the puck, the ageless winger bashed the defenseman into the boards. Following the collision, Recchi stripped Michalek of the puck and turned to look for help. Wheeler got a step on Kris Letang, received Recchi’s feed, and beat goalie Brent Johnson for the Bruins’ fourth goal of the period.

“He pretty much did everything,’’ Wheeler said. “He took the guy out and got the puck. I just had to stay in front of the net.

“We did a good job of getting the puck in deep. I think that was the biggest key. We didn’t do a very good of that the first couple periods.

“He did a great job on the forecheck. I guess that’s the biggest key — stay in front of the net and keep your stick down. He seems to find guys pretty good.’’

For Wheeler, the goal, his second of the season, capped a successful first night at center. He played the position in college, but had been mostly a left wing for his first two NHL seasons.

With David Krejci unavailable for at least another week because of a concussion, Wheeler could find himself between Recchi and Jordan Caron for the next few games.

Wheeler skated 20 shifts against the Penguins for 17:15 of ice time. He put two shots on goal, and after struggling early on faceoffs, he ended the night 7 for 14.

“I thought he did a great job,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “Very reliable. He was conscientious of what he had to do in his own end. At the same time, he scored a big goal for us. I was really happy with how he adapted.’’

Last night, Wheeler remained between Caron and Recchi. In 15:48 of ice time, he recorded two shots and three hits. Wheeler went 4 for 10 on faceoffs.

Habs trade O’Byrne
The Canadiens traded defenseman Ryan O’Byrne to Colorado for forward prospect Michael Bournival. The stay-at-home defenseman had appeared in only three games this season, without a point, and had been bypassed on the depth chart by Alexandre Picard.

On Dec. 4 of last season, O’Byrne made headlines during the Canadiens’ centennial celebration. When his No. 3 was retired in honor of Emile Bouchard, O’Byrne pulled off his jersey to reveal a new No. 20 sweater.

“We all felt for him,’’ said Montreal goalie Carey Price. “He wasn’t playing. He wasn’t getting any ice time. That’s a tough way to play hockey, when you’re skating in the morning and you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I think I’m sad, but it’s a really good opportunity for him.’’

Vandal is sought
TD Garden officials are trying to identify a woman who can be seen on an Internet video kicking a hole in a bathroom pillar. Bruins spokesman Matt Chmura said building officials found the damage after last Saturday night’s game against the Blues. In the video, a woman in a Milan Lucic T-shirt, whose face can be clearly seen, kicks a hole in a support pillar. Then she falls down . . . Prior to last night’s game, the Bruins assigned Jamie Arniel to Providence. They had brought him up on emergency recall Tuesday because Michael Ryder was diagnosed with an undisclosed injury. But Ryder played against Pittsburgh with no limitations . . . Krejci remains on schedule to take an exertion test soon. He has yet to exercise since suffering his concussion last Saturday. “When you get a concussion like that, you have to stop doing things there for a little bit,’’ Julien said. “What’s encouraging right now, as we speak, is that every day he keeps getting better. That’s a good sign because at some point, some of these guys are getting better, then they end up taking some steps back. Knock on wood, so far that hasn’t happened.’’ . . . Montreal rookie P.K. Subban scored his first NHL goal when his long-distance power-play shot made its way through Tuukka Rask in the first period. “It was a horrible shot,’’ Subban said. “Tuukka is a great goalie, but I don’t think he saw it. I think he may have been screened and it just went underneath his pad. Hey, I’ll take it.’’ . . . The Bruins gave up 40-plus shots for the second straight game. “You never really want to give up that many shots,’’ said Dennis Seidenberg.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at; material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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