WILMINGTON, Mass. –It finally happened Saturday night against Pittsburgh.
Bruins winger Daniel Paille recorded a hit on the score sheet for the first time since returning from the suspension he received for violating Rule 48 with a hit to the head of Dallas’ Raymond Sawada Feb. 3.
Despite Paille’s lack of recorded body contact in his first five games in the lineup since the suspension, he says the league’s discipline hasn’t affected his play.
“I’m trying to get myself a hit every now and then a little bit better. But I haven’t been in a situation … like the one with the suspension. So I do feel a lot better [about my play] ever since,” said Paille after practice at Ristuccia Arena, where he again skated on a line with grinders Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton.
One would think that skating on Boston’s energy line would provide ample opportunity for Paille to throw his weight around. But his average ice time is down close to three minutes this season from last year, and he’s been having somewhat of a tough time adapting to life as a part-time presence in the lineup. Other than the four-game suspension, Paille has been a healthy scratch 31 out of 61 times.
Anyone can notice that Paille’s first game back in the lineup after time off always looks like his first game of the year. He has just two stretches of consecutive games this season longer than that suspension. This after he was a fixture in Buffalo’s lineup for a few seasons until the start of last season, and then became a regular with the Bruins after his trade from the Sabres.
“A little bit,” said Paille in response to a question about this being a season of adjustment. “Obviously a little more to the extent that I’m sitting a lot more games than I’ve played. But it’s definitely something to go through mentally more than physically. You’ve just got to be prepared for every game and you never know what’s going to happen.”
After a 10-goal season last year, Paille has scored just twice this year. With head coach Claude Julien seemingly ready to sit rookie Tyler Seguin against tougher opponents down stretch (like last Thursday against Tampa Bay), there could be more opportunities — including Tuesday night in Montreal — for Paille to get into a groove and contribute both offense and hits.
“Especially, when you get to play consecutive games you feel better and better every game. So my goal’s just to try to stay in,” said Paille. “If he pulls me out, I can’t control that obviously. I get disappointed in myself. But other than that, I can only control when I’m out there. I feel [better] every game.”