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Cunningham Joins Bruins on West Coast Road Trip, Miller Returns to Practice in Anaheim

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Bruins flew out West on Sunday to kick off a four-game road trip that begins against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.

After a full morning and afternoon of travel, the Black and Gold went right to The Rinks Anaheim Ice, the Ducks' training facility, to get in a practice.

Callup Craig Cunningham made the trip with the team and skated in a burgundy jersey for Sunday's skate, along with Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Simon Gagne.

"We’re so far away right now. If something was to happen, we want to make sure we’ve got enough players. That’s why we called him up," Head Coach Claude Julien told reporters in Anaheim on Sunday.

Cunningham started the season with Boston, marking the first time in his fourth year pro that he made the big club's opening night roster. With Campbell sidelined by a core injury, that opened up a spot, and the Bruins deployed a fourth line of Cunningham, Bobby Robins and Daniel Paille for the first three games. David Krejci's return in Game No. 4 caused the lines to be re-worked and Cunningham was assigned to Providence.

This is his first time back with the time since then.

"It's obviously exciting anytime you get called up, and to be on a road trip like this," said Cunningham. "I don't know what's going on [with my role], but it's exciting to be here and I'm looking forward to the opportunity."

"We’ll see what’s going to happen here. We’ve got some extra players here, they’re here for that reason," said Julien. The Bruins brought 14 forwards on the trip with them. Krejci stayed back in Boston to continue to rehab, and is currently placed on Injured Reserve.

"If there’s some injuries or some changes to be made, it’s easier to make [with extra forwards here]," Julien said. "If I didn’t have those players, it’s a lot tougher call to fly them all the way to California on a short notice."

Cunningham played at center in his brief stint with Boston earlier this season, but he'd likely slot in on the wing if he gets into game action on this trip. He mostly skated on the right wing during Sunday's practice, and he's been playing on the wing in Providence.

The call came as a reward for the forward, who put up 13 points in 18 games for Providence this season off four goals and nine assists, and whose strong work ethic is always highlighted by the Bruins' brass.

"He’s a gritty player. He was good on the faceoffs, he was a good penalty killer for us. He plays hard. He’s a hard worker, competitor," said Julien. "So they felt after watching him play lately - I don’t really make those calls, per se, I’ll ask what we need or tell them what we need at different positions - but Peter [Chiarelli], Donny Sweeney, they see those guys play all the time."

"So they reward guys accordingly and he was one guy that had been playing well for them."

"I think just playing with pace," Cunningham said of his improvements since he was sent back down. "Just my overall game. Obviously down there it’s a little bit different role I play, more of an offensive role. But just trying to round out my penalty killing, and the little things that are going to push me over the top."

"I’ve seen him enough in providence to know what kind of player he is - like I said. he’s a real competitor. He comes to play every night," Julien added. "He’s got a lot of the – I’m going to say – the Bergy personality, as far as: he comes, he practices hard every day, once he’s on the ice it’s all business with him. He’s got a real good attitude, real good approach to the game."

No matter what his role will be on this trip and in the future, Cunningham is just grateful for the opportunity to be with the team for now.

"It’s always your dream to play in the NHL. I don’t think that a lot of guys dream of playing in the American League," he said. "So when you’re up and you get sent down, it’s always the goal to get back up as fast as you can."

Miller Back at Practice

Kevan Miller was back on the ice Sunday. He had missed Saturday's practice after getting a "little dinged up" in the overtime win against Winnipeg at TD Garden on Friday night.

"He’s fine, he’s out there practicing today," Julien said. "He was a little banged up. He sat out yesterday and he’s here today practicing."

Back-to-Back Test Awaits

This road trip could be viewed as a daunting week of games for the Bruins, especially starting it off with back-to-back games following a full day of travel through three time zones.

They're also going up against physical, heavy teams with strength down the middle, without David Krejci and defensemen Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid.

"They’re both big teams, absolutely - up front, they’re big teams. I know Anaheim’s had a few injuries on the back end and stuff like that but up front when you look at the [Ryan] Getzlafs and you look at the [Corey] Perrys, they’re all big guys that are scoring for them," said Julien. "They’re top line players. They’re a pretty heavy team. So every time we come out here we always have some tough games."

The one-two punch of Getzlaf and Perry combined for three goals in five minutes and 28 seconds to pull the Ducks within one goal of San Jose in the third period after being down 5-1.

"It is a great challenge for us. Some really good teams, physical teams and hard on the puck. It starts right from the get-go.

But Bergeron and the Bruins are welcoming the first long road trip of the season, particularly at a time when the old road mantra of "keeping it simple" just might serve them well.

"It's something that's always good for a team, to go on the road and just bond together, and be as a team for a full week, and it's definitely something we need to build from," said Bergeron. "Make sure we establish some consistency in our game - and it definitely starts [on Monday]."

Pastrnak Impressing

This trip is David Pastrnak's first time on the West Coast, and first time playing against these heavy Western Conference teams. It will be a good test for his strength, the ability to win one-on-one board battles, and his defensive zone play.

Playing on Bergeron's line means the latter will have to be in check.

But his offensive game is starting to take flight at the NHL level, too, after leading the team with seven shots on goal Friday night, and showing flashes in his game.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Bergeron. "He's definitely a great player. His age doesn't show on the ice, that's for sure. I mean, he's definitely someone who's got a lot of poise with the puck, wants to make plays, brings it to the net and he's not afraid. He wants that puck, which is a good thing."

"I think it was great to play with him last game and definitely having some more practices and games is going to help us as a line to establish some chemistry."

While two games don't make a season - as Julien has stressed - they've certainly shown his ability to be a dynamic player at this level.

"He just seems to enjoy the game and he goes out there and plays the up-tempo game that seems to suit him the best," Julien said on Saturday of Pastrnak. "He was a good player for us [Friday], so to me, arguably maybe one of our best forwards last night so that's a feather in his cap for an 18-year-old who's only playing in his second NHL game."

"I've been trying to shoot a lot and keep it simple in the beginning, and I got a few opportunities to score, but I didn't and it's alright, I have to just keep shooting," said Pastrnak. "And we all have to keep shooting and I'm pretty sure we'll have more goals then after."

"I'm just trying to play my best and enjoy every time that I'm on the ice."

Sunday's Practice Lineup 11/30

Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Gray: Milan Lucic - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
White: Reilly Smith - Chris Kelly - Matt Fraser/Seth Griffith
Burgundy: Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Simon Gagne/Craig Cunningham

Dennis Seidenberg - Kevan Miller
Matt Bartkowski
- Dougie Hamilton
Joe Morrow
- Torey Krug
Zach Trotman

Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg

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