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Hamill avoids the middle man

He’s taken flight since shift to wing

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / November 11, 2011

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In September, for the fourth time, Zach Hamill failed to make the Bruins out of training camp. The No. 8 overall pick in the 2007 draft was assigned to Providence, which was no surprise given his so-so performance and the team’s depth at center.

But where it was his fourth time being assigned out of camp, this most recent transaction led to a different landing spot. Hamill has been a center his entire pro and amateur career. But this time, he started out the AHL season on right wing.

It seems to have taken.

Hamill was recalled by the Bruins on Wednesday on an emergency basis because of injuries to Rich Peverley (undisclosed) and Daniel Paille (nose). Hamill was deserving because he has been arguably Providence’s best player. Last night against the Oilers, Hamill played in place of Peverley on the third line. Peverley skated yesterday morning but missed his second straight game.

In the first period, Hamill set up the Bruins’ second goal. He intercepted a Ben Eager pass in the offensive zone, then considered his options. Hamill could put the puck on net or slide it to Jordan Caron, his former Providence linemate. Hamill chose the latter, and Caron scored his first goal of the season at 8:55, giving the Bruins a 2-0 lead.

“Just having the confidence to hold onto the puck, be patient, and find Jordan in the slot,’’ Hamill said. “It’s creating chances. All I can ask for and all I can do.’’

In 9:27 of ice time, Hamill landed two shots and recorded one assist. He even got some power-play time at the point late in the first period.

“I was really impressed with his game tonight,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “Not because of the plays. He’s a skilled player. He can make plays. That’s something we already knew. But of how smart he was all over the ice, the decisions he made, where he was positionally, all that stuff, he played like a veteran tonight.’’

In 14 games in Providence, Hamill has five goals and five assists while riding on the first line alongside rookie Carter Camper and left wing Lane MacDermid. As a pro, Hamill’s career high for goals is 14 in 75 games in 2009-10.

“I’ve been shooting the puck more and going to the net more,’’ Hamill said. “Those are two things I wanted to key on. I’ve been doing that. I think I’m first or second on the team in shots. It’s definitely something I look at. At the same time, I’m trying to get pucks to the net. Not try and make fancy plays. Just take it to the net.’’

This summer, first-year Providence coach Bruce Cassidy hinted that a position change might be coming. Peverley, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, Chris Kelly, and Gregory Campbell are ahead of Hamill on the depth chart at center.

On the right wing, Hamill is playing an up-and-down game. He’s working in the danger areas. He’s becoming stronger on the puck. It may very well be his future NHL position.

“I think I’ve played less than five shifts at center,’’ Hamill said. “I’m playing right wing pretty much the whole time. It’s been pretty good.’’

Hamill will be sent back to Providence once the Bruins get healthy. But in case of injuries or if another team is interested in a trade, Hamill may draw interest because of his improved play.

Paille improving

Paille didn’t play last night after undergoing surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital on Wednesday. He is considered day-to-day.

“He’s already much better today,’’ Julien said. “I don’t know how well he’s going to be tomorrow, whether he’s able to skate with us or not, or whether he’s going to take a few more days.’’

With Paille unavailable, Benoit Pouliot skated on the left side on the fourth line alongside Campbell and Shawn Thornton.

Ference injured

Andrew Ference departed in the second period because of a lower-body injury and didn’t return. Julien said he didn’t know the severity of Ference’s injury. Ference skated only 1:58 in the second, and 9:22 total. He has had knee and groin injuries in the past . . . Krejci had 3:08 of ice time on the penalty kill, second-most among forwards behind Kelly (4:37). Krejci has killed penalties regularly the last two games because of Peverley’s absence . . . Johnny Boychuk led all players with five blocked shots . . . On Wednesday night, Julien watched Tampa Bay roll out its 1-3-1 formation against Philadelphia. He then watched the Flyers play keepaway, reducing the game to a standstill, until the Lightning reluctantly started to forecheck. Julien didn’t care to disclose whether he stood behind Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher or Philadelphia counterpart Peter Laviolette. “I don’t think there’s any one person to blame,’’ Julien said. “I think we just have to take a look at it. It certainly wasn’t fun to watch. But do you blame the team that had the puck? Or do you blame the team that was defending? I don’t have an answer or comment on that.’’

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

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