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Kelly not out of place

He’s a good fit for second-line duty

Tim Thomas and David Krejci don’t look as the Sharks circled after Logan Couture’s strike. Tim Thomas and David Krejci don’t look as the Sharks circled after Logan Couture’s strike. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / October 23, 2011

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Last night, for the second straight game, Chris Kelly served as the Bruins’ No. 2 center. For the second straight game, Kelly submitted a 2-point night.

Top-six duty is not a familiar calling for the veteran pivot. Last season, upon his arrival from Ottawa, Kelly slid into the No. 3 hole. Before he was traded, Kelly skated between Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Neil, better known for using their hands in other ways than putting pucks in nets.

But while David Krejci finds his legs and the rest of the forwards rediscover their rhythm, Kelly should be a reliable temp between Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin.

“He plays a big man’s game,’’ said coach Claude Julien, who named Kelly an alternate captain. “He’s a guy we’ve given a letter to because of his on-ice and off-ice demeanor. He doesn’t want to play second fiddle. He doesn’t want to accept losing. He’s a guy who can be vocal. He certainly has a lot of respect from his teammates.’’

Kelly’s most important quality, the reason the coaching staff can trust him with top-six chores, is his hockey sense. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

Last night, Kelly was in the middle of a scrum around the net in the second period and helped cause a turnover that led to a Lucic goal.

After the following faceoff, Kelly pounced on a loose puck and started the rush the other way with a quick pass to Seguin. Seconds later, Seguin buried a two-on-none rush.

“My role on this team can change from day to day. And I don’t mind that,’’ Kelly said. “I think I’m a pretty versatile person. I can play any position. Whatever they need me to do, like I said when I first came to this team, I’m here to help the team. Wherever they need me.’’

On Thursday, when he debuted between Lucic and Seguin, Kelly took little time making his offensive presence known. In the first period, he scored the decisive goal in the Bruins’ 6-2 win over Toronto.

When Lucic steamed down the left wing, tracked down a puck behind the goal line, and considered his options, he knew Kelly would be where he belonged: in front of the net.

“He’s one of those guys who knows the right way of doing things, like stopping in front of the net,’’ Lucic said. “It was one of those things. I knew he was driving hard to the net. That was my only play coming around the net, trying to get it to him.’’

Kelly had the awareness to kick Lucic’s pass to his blade. Maple Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson stopped Kelly’s first shot, but Kelly stayed with the play and lifted the rebound over the goaltender to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead.

Krejci appeared in his second game last night after missing three because of a core injury. Once Krejci swings back into full NHL pace, he will resume his top-six position. Kelly will slide back into his third-line and penalty-killing jobs. But because of his versatility, this might not be the last time Kelly plays a featured offensive role.

McQuaid skates again

Defenseman Adam McQuaid participated in an optional morning skate, marking the second straight day he took to the TD Garden ice.

“I’m feeling really good,’’ said McQuaid, who was a scratch for the game. “Bit of a process to get back to where I’m at right now. We’ll see from here.’’

McQuaid has missed four straight games because of a neck injury he suffered Oct. 12. He was originally scheduled to return Tuesday against the Hurricanes, but was scratched because of undisclosed symptoms.

“Not really a setback,’’ McQuaid said. “Just wanted to rule out a few more things. If anything, probably just being cautious, making sure we were taking all the right steps, and ruling out all the possibilities.’’

McQuaid might be ready Thursday when the Bruins host the Canadiens in the finale of their four-game homestand.

Fight night again

Shawn Thornton threw down for the second time in two games. With his team down, 2-0, Thornton asked Jim Vandermeer to tangle in the second period. Thornton landed rights and lefts, ending the fight by pulling Vandermeer’s jersey over his head at 10:23. On Thursday, Thornton fought Colton Orr. “It was an excellent time for Shawn to step up and do that for our team,’’ Johnny Boychuk said. “Perfect thing at the right time.’’ . . . Steven Kampfer appeared in his second game of the season. Kampfer was laid low by a knee sprain for the first six games. He had one shot and three giveaways in 11:39 of ice time . . . Seguin was dropped by a slash to the right leg late in the game. He cut his shift short and was in pain on the bench, but said he was fine after the loss . . . Jordan Caron was a healthy scratch for the second straight game.

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

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