St. Pierre setting a standard for solid fourth-line play

St. Pierre

St. Pierre

BOSTON — Center Martin St. Pierre today was named to the Canadian AHL All-Star Team for the AHL All-Star Game scheduled for Jan. 26 in Worcester.

While a fine honor, it’s not exactly the prize St. Pierre wants for his recent strong play. He obviously wants to stick with the Boston Bruins beyond his current emergency recall, which will end once fellow forward Petteri Nokelainen is healthy enough to re-enter the line-up and the Bruins are able to suit up 12 forwards.

But there’s no doubt that in his short time with the parent club, St. Pierre has done enough to establish himself as an NHL regular. In seven games, he’s potted one goal and notched two assists while posting a plus-1 rating. He’s ably centered the fourth line flanked by Vladimir Sobotka and Shawn Thornton, and been sprinkled in for penalty killing and power play duty during his tenure.

“I can’t really complain. I’m playing good, I feel good and I’m trying to battle every day as far as trying to earn a job here,” St. Pierre told thebruinsblog.net after the Bruins’ morning skate today at TD Banknorth Garden. “I can’t really worry about the injuries and who’s coming back and who’s not, just got to play your game and hopefully you can stick up here.”

St. Pierre, who was one of two Providence players, along with defenseman Johnny Boychuk, selected to the Canadian squad, has now been picked for the AHL All-Star Game four straight years. He’s been among the top three scorers in the AHL the last three years and this season was again filling the score sheet for the P-Bruins (10-25-35 totals in 30 games) before his recall. Now he just has to find a level of consistency in order to prevent another return to the minors.

“I have to make a name for myself. I think I’ve been stamped as a minor leaguer … I can’t really worry about that,” said St. Pierre, a veteran of just 21 NHL games over four seasons before his current stint. “Obviously, my dream is to play in the NHL full-time and I think I’m on the right path. I’ve got to keep battling and can’t get too comfortable.”

The bonds St. Pierre made in the AHL are paying off for him in the NHL. Together with Martins Karsums and Sobotka, St. Pierre formed one of the top lines in the entire AHL the first two months of this season. And St. Pierre played with Thornton in the Chicago organization a few years ago. The chemistry has carried over in black and gold.

“(Sobotka’s) a great, small player who plays with energy and can put the puck in the net, he’s strong. And I played with Thornty three years ago with Norfolk in the Chicago system, so we have some chemistry. And obviously Thornty’s a tough guy, he creates a lot of open space. But as you saw last game, he can put the puck in net too. So we’ve got a little bit of everything,” St. Pierre explained.

Sometimes a fourth line isn’t asked to ever put the puck in the net. But that’s not the case with head coach Claude Julien’s current Bruins team, as all four lines are given a fair shot to show what they’ve got in all three zones. That’s a role St. Pierre and his linemates can embrace.

“Sometimes, just like last game, your offense … they got maybe seven or eight chances, great scoring chances, but sometimes the puck doesn’t go in the net and we’ll chip in with a goal,” said St. Pierre. “That’s what good teams are about. Sometimes your top line can’t score and the fourth line will chip in with a goal and get the momentum.

“I’ve been in that situation, as far as when I was in Chicago, I got maybe three or four different call-ups and maybe two of those call-ups were just on the fourth line to fill in a spot and maybe (get) five or six minutes a night. But it just goes to show how much depth we have and how much confidence Claude has in our fourth line and the ability to roll the fourth line against some of those top teams.”

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