A healthy scratch for six of the Boston Bruins’ previous 11 games, winger Byron Bitz got a chance to get back in the lineup Tuesday night when Shawn Thornton had to pull out with an undisclosed injury.
The temptation might’ve been there for the rookie to make a splash in an effort to force the coaching staff to keep his name on the big board every night. And there’s no doubt that Bitz wants to make himself indispensable to the Bruins, but he doesn’t plan on doing it by attempting anything that will sidetrack his game or put the team at risk. He doesn’t hit the ice trying to line up an opponent for a glass-shattering hit or try to make a move at the other club’s blue line that might leave a defenseman in the dust.
“Sometimes for a guy like me in my role, keeping it simple is what has gotten me noticed,” Bitz said today after the club practiced at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass. “So those kind of go hand in hand — chipping those pucks, finishing my hits, driving to the net — all that stuff is simple stuff. But that has gotten me noticed.”
Just 24 and used to being a full-time player during his years at Cornell and more recently with Providence (AHL), Bitz has had to get used to sometimes sitting out a series of games at a time. Luckily, Bitz can spend time after formal practice working on his game with the likes of veteran Shane Hnidy, who has also spent a large chunk of time on the sidelines lately.
“You do extra stuff with those guys, like me and Shane and whoever else it is. You do drills together and you’re able to battle with each other, so you still have that feel of another guy battling for the puck with you,” said Bitz. “So it’s good to have them out there and we just have to work hard to keep ourselves ready.”
It’s easier for a player to keep his head up when he knows that if he stays ready, he’ll get a shot to play sooner or later. Bitz is just a victim of the Bruins’ depth right now, and performances like Tuesday (9:05 of ice time, three hits) could earn him more of a chance down the road. That’s why he won’t waver from the way he’s approached every day.
“I just prepare for the game as though I’m playing — have a pregame meal, have a nap. I go to the rink as though I’m going to play so when I do get the call it’s not a shock to my body,” Bitz said.
That’s a simple plan, and a winning one.