That number 67 looks a little odd on a guy who’s not a rookie or a free-agent invitee.
But there’s a method to Benoit Pouliot’s preferred sweater number that dates back to when he was a little kid.
“I’ve had that since I was young,” the Bruins’ only veteran free-agent signee over the summer told me this week. “I was a big Pittsburgh Penguins fan. With Jagr and Lemieux being 68 and 66, I figured maybe I’ll play in the middle one time.”
Pouliot’s made his career on the wing but with the exception of his time in Montreal (where he wore 57 while Max Pacioretty wore 67), the 6-foot-3 forward has kept the somewhat awkward number. Dreams of playing with Jagr and Lemieux never materialized, but Pouliot did get to experience being a fourth overall pick and he’s been in the NHL for a few years now.
His dreams these days are more about trying to fit in with the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins. Although the stats right now say that Pouliot might be a little behind the likes of rookie Jordan Caron and tryout forward Chris Clark for a spot in the opening night lineup, Pouliot told me in my role as reporter for the Boston Herald that he’s not worried about being on the outside looking in when the puck drops to open the 2011-12 season.
Earlier this week, head coach Claude Julien preached patience with Pouliot. It’ll be interesting to see how much time the Bruins give the enigmatic forward considering there’s so much talent seemingly ready to fill his spot. Of course, he could turn things around production-wise and make the Bruins look wise for trying to help him get a fresh start after he didn’t pan out in Minnesota and Montreal.
If Pouliot fails, it won’t be because of a lack of trying from his teammates. As they’ve done for other newcomers like Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley, the Bruins’ veterans have rolled out the welcome mat on and off the ice to incorporate Pouliot.
“Just trying to get comfortable and make sure he gets used to our style of play,” said center Patrice Bergeron. “It’s different. We’re a type of team that has to work every shift and not just rely on skills. And that’s how we won. So it’s an adjustment for him and so far I think he’s doing real good.”
Pouliot has enjoyed the off-ice camaraderie with his new mates, so now it’s just a matter of finding the right chemistry with them on the ice.
“Awesome. It’s all been good things [off the ice],” he said. “Like the guys take care of me so good. I was worried at first when I came in the room, you have to get used to it. Everything’s been great. They won the Cup last year, so they know what they’re doing and I just listen.”
Pouliot has played both wings this training camp, although he says he’s spent most of his career on the left side. He’s adjusting to playing on his off side, which makes him more valuable to the Bruins and could smooth his transition into the lineup. Wherever he plays, Pouliot will be difficult to miss with that 67 on his back.