"We sent down Craig Cunningham and we’re sending down Kevan Miller," said Chiarelli. "We’re sending down Kevan – he’s coming onto his tenth game and we don’t want to risk losing him to waivers. We’re calling up David Warsofsky so he’ll be joining us [on the trip to Buffalo]."
Miller is being assigned to Providence after suiting up in his first nine NHL games with Boston. Once he plays in game No. 10, he's subject to waivers, and the Bruins want the defenseman in their organization. The steady play he's shown in those nine games, has proven he's an NHL-caliber player.
"Ten games - once you play your tenth game, you’re exposed to waivers if you send the player down. So we felt that Kevan would probably be a waiver pickup by somebody," Chiarelli added. "We didn’t want to risk it, so I spoke to Kevan beforehand and told him. He understood and I told him I felt good about his play up here and probably the next time we bring him up, will be for good."
It wasn't an easy decision for Chiarelli and the Bruins' brass to make, given Miller's solid play on the blueline, stepping in with injuries.
Miller scored his first NHL goal against Toronto on December 8, and recorded his first NHL assist on December 12 in Edmonton. He was up on his second recall with the Bruins this season.
"It’s kind of a cold business decision," said Chiarelli. "But I first asked him ‘Have you been counting games?’ He said, ‘Yeah,’ so I said ‘So you know what game it is tomorrow night?’ He said, ‘Yeah.'"
The conversation was essentially one that Miller knew was coming. It still doesn't make it easy.
But it does now allow the opportunity for Warsofsky, who - like Miller - has been in the organization for three seasons, to get his first NHL recall, and make his NHL debut on Thursday night in Buffalo.
"Adam [McQuaid] is still a little bit away. So David will play," Chiarelli confirmed.
McQuaid has joined in team skates for the past three days, working his way back from a lower-body injury that has him on injured reserve. But the Bruins are being extra cautious with his recovery, since it's the second time around after he re-aggravated it. (Dougie Hamilton remains out with a lower-body injury for another 1-3 weeks).
The Bruins may even wait until after Christmas for McQuaid to make his return to the lineup.
"It might end up like that," remarked Chiarelli. "So we have three games left, we’ll see how it goes, but that might be the decision."
Warsofsky comes to Boston, having played 160 games with Providence at the AHL Level, accumulating 10 goals and 54 assists for 64 points with a plus-10 rating. This season, the defenseman has 16 points off two goals and 14 assists through 26 games. He's a plus-10.
At 5-foot-9, like Torey Krug, Warsofsky brings an offensive, skating game.
"He’s played very well and he’s a little undersized, but a very good skater and moves the puck well and he’s had a real good year," said Chiarelli.
"He’s able to defend well like Torey, positionally. I think sometimes we thought that he has a higher offensive dimension, and he’s got a good offensive dimension, but with his game, it’s about skating and moving the puck."
Warsofsky is set to make his NHL debut, after plenty of maturation in Providence, and a three-year collegiate career at Boston University that saw the Massachusetts native win the national championship in 2009.
"I think he got frustrated a little bit, as did we, because he came in with some pretty good credentials," said Chiarelli, of the time it has taken for his first NHL callup.
"I think he’s more mature now, I think he’s finding his own game – I’ve seen that this year – and he’s comfortable in his own skin now. So I think you’ll see a confident player that doesn’t try and press too much."
Depth on Defense
Whether it was Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug stepping into the lineup during the 2013 postseason and making an impact, or defensemen like Miller and Warsofsky getting their opportunities up with the big club this year, the Bruins have proven their blueline depth runs deep.
It's also a testament to the system that's preached in Providence seamlessly translating to Boston.
"One, it’s good that you have that depth and these guys play the same system and they’re playing well," said Chiarelli. "Two, it’s good for them. The silver lining to all of this [injury trouble] is it’s good for the young players that they’re getting a chance. You see it in the forwards and in Kevan; they’re getting a chance to play at this level and show us what they can do."
Cunningham Makes NHL Debut
With the Bruins' injury woes up front to Loui Eriksson (concussion), Chris Kelly (broken right fibula) and Daniel Paille (concussion-like symptoms), along with Shawn Thornton out of the lineup, it has opened the door for callups to prove themselves.
Matt Fraser, Ryan Spooner and Nick Johnson could all have extended stays with the club as a result. Jordan Caron has also slotted in.
The Bruins were almost further depleted when Jarome Iginla dislocated his finger in Vancouver, but the winger did not miss any games as a result, and is "good to go" moving forward (aside from a splint he wears on the finger).
But, the brief scare did allow the Bruins to recall another forward from Providence, bringing up Craig Cunningham on an emergency basis for the first NHL regular season recall of his career.
While he had a quick stay, Cunningham got to make his league debut on December 17 against Calgary, registering four shots in 8:16 of ice time, providing reliability and energy alongside Gregory Campbell and Jordan Caron.
"First game jitters and I think you could see it in that first shift but he settled down and gave us what we wanted from him," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said, following Cunningham's debut. "A real good effort."
"I was a little nervous my first shift. The pace is a little quicker than in the American League but after my first shift I thought I settled in," said Cunningham.
The settling comes naturally, because the callups like Cunningham are seasoned in the Spoked-P before donning the Spoked-B.
"The coaching staff down there really prides themselves in the same system up top and it makes it a lot easier," he said.
His teammates also make it easy as well, and right now, Cunningham had plenty of support to fall back on, amidst his brief stay with the big club.
"They said you’re here for a reason and just go out and play your game, it’s just another game, it happens. I had a tough time believing it was just another game but they were great," said the forward, of his Providence teammates currently with Boston.
Cunningham may be headed back to the AHL for the time being, but chances are, he's going there knowing he has what it takes to someday make the jump.
"Don’t be playing bad down there, that’s for sure because you never know when the opportunity is going to present itself," he had said, prior to his NHL debut. "It’s a long season and different injuries happen at different times and different guys get opportunities at different times."
"You want to make sure you’re your best every night and you never know when they’re there watching or where there’s going to be an opportunity up top."
Practice Notebook: Bruins Head to Buffalo
The Bruins hit the ice for about a half hour skate on Wednesday before jetting off for Buffalo. Boston plays a home-and-home against Buffalo on Thursday and Saturday, before ending their three-game stretch before Christmas on December 23 in Nashville.
They're 5-1-0 in their past six games and have won three of their past four games on the road.
The Bruins are usually a game-by-game team, when it comes to focus, but there's no doubt they want to enter the three-day Christmas break strong.
"Well, every game is important. Every game is an opportunity for us to keep climbing and to stay atop of the standings," said Bruins centerman Gregory Campbell. "We have a few games in hand on the teams that are chasing us and Pittsburgh is ahead of us. I guess it’s satisfying to go into a break like Christmas break where it’s not that long, but it’s three days off where you can feel comfortable that roughly half the season under our belt that we’re in a position that we want to be in with how we play."
"So, that road trip was a good opportunity for us to come together and play some good road hockey and we did that, and now it’s about finishing the job here. We do find ourselves sometimes looking ahead and it’s important when you have an opportunity to pick up those points."