Saturday one of the least appreciated Bruins of the last several seasons and one the fans seemingly loved to hate will be on TD Garden ice for the first time as members of the Atlanta Thrashers.
Both Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler, dealt in February to the Thrashers for Rich Peverley and Boris Valalbik, practiced at their old home rink today in preparation for tomorrow’s Thrashers-Bruins showdown.
Stuart was “Mr. Reliable” on the back end until injuries sidetracked his career last season and this. As a former first-round pick, he barely met expectations in black and gold.
After practice today, Stuart reflected on what it’ll be like to be on the opposite side of the Garden tomorrow, via the AJC.com Thrashers blog:
“It’s going to be different. I’ve only known the other bench for five or six years. It will be a little different. I will be excited but when it comes down to it, it’s just another game that we have to win.”
Wheeler was never booed the way Dennis Wideman was before the defenseman was dealt to Florida. But Wheeler’s inability to put his size to good use or just score at a better clip made him fodder for the message-board dwellers and talk-radio callers who want all their large forwards to be Cam Neely. Wheeler, however, was a finesse player who was an effective penalty-killer for Boston in his first two seasons in the NHL.
Again, via the AJC.com Thrashers blog, Wheeler had this to say:
“There are mixed feelings. You walk around the city and you feel like you haven’t left at all. … I’m excited more than anything. I don’t think it will be that weird. The weirdest thing will be playing against those guys, the guys I’ve played with the last few years, and actually competing against them. After the first shift, things will fall into place.”
There’s really no reason for a Wideman- or Phil Kessel-like reaction to either player by the crowd when they take the ice against the Bruins tomorrow. Neither left under any negative circumstances, and perhaps someday they’ll be the answer to a trivia question if Rich Peverley turns out to be the final piece of the Bruins’ championship puzzle.