"With his absence, you're not going to know until the season starts," Paille told the Boston Herald on Tuesday. "That's when you'll have those moments when you think, 'Jeez, Shawn would have said this.' Or he would have brought something to the table."
Paille saw his friend at Thornton's annual Putts and Punches for Parkinson's charity golf tournament, held in Middleton, Mass. The Bruins chose to let Thornton sign with the Florida Panthers as an unrestricted free agent.
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The Panthers visit the Bruins at TD Garden on Nov. 4.
"It'll be weird," Thornton said. "I had never played a game in the Garden until I had a Bruins jersey on, so every game I played there has been with the Spoked-B, so, yeah, it'll be different.
He added humorously, "Maybe I'll pull a groin or something."
In seven seasons with Boston, Thornton, 37, was an enforcer on the ice but brought harmony to the Bruins dressing room.
"It'll be different," goalie Tuukka Rask told CSN Boston. "He's a pretty vocal guy in the locker room and on the ice. He's also a great guy off the ice and in the community. … I don't think people necessarily talk about it too much, but you need that kind of leadership inside the locker room. You can't just be quiet in there."
Thornton, Paille and Gregory Campbell comprised the Bruins' Merlot Line, a nickname conjured from their practice-jersey color to avoid a "fourth line" designation.
Paille and Campbell also could be split this season by coach Claude Julien, with the absence of wing Jarome Iginla (free agent, Colorado Avalanche) and the emergence of young centers Ryan Spooner and Alexander Khokhlachev causing the need to mix and match.
"It's definitely going to be a big change for both of us this year," Paille told the Herald of himself and Campbell. "We really don't know where we're going to be playing, with whom we'll be playing with for that matter. But I think we'll enjoy the moment and embrace it, and if we happen to play with different players, I think we'll enjoy it.
"It's definitely going to be a huge change not having [Thornton] there. We had established ourselves for so long, and now with Shawn not there, we're going to have to reinvent that. I think we have the skill and have the ability to do it and do it all year long."