Boston, MA --
|Boston Bruins' Petteri Nokelainen, left, from Finland, pressures Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, also from Finland, during second-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Jeff McIntosh) |
Some athletes are not overly candid about their performance, but Petteri Nokelainen will fully admit when there’s a problem.
“It was a pretty rough start for me,” Nokelainen said of his return to the lineup in Wednesday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. “I don’t think I played too good in the first game.”
With veteran left wing Marco Sturm categorized as “day-to-day” the forward stepped into the lineup for the first time since November 6 – a nearly two-week-long break.
“It’s not conditioning or anything like that – you’re working out all the time,” Nokelainen said, “but it’s more about the positioning and sometimes trying to do too much when you come back.
“I just have to calm down a little bit.”
Head coach Claude Julien agreed that being ready and performing well when called upon is crucial to earning a spot in the lineup, both for the healthy scratches in the press box and those players working in Providence.
“The guys that have been in that position, it’s paid off (like) Nokie, who’s played well, but got bumped out with (Chuck) Kobasew’s return – now he’s back in,” said Julien. “If you’re not ready, and you go out there, and you don’t do the job, you might miss out on a great opportunity.”
When Kobasew was injured, Nokelainen played right wing to the fourth line of Shawn Thornton
and Stephane Yelle, and the trio has been reunited during this go-around.
“We played really good (together),” said Nokelainen. “I just have to go back to that same thing, what we were doing then (and) find chemistry with the guys.”
That seems to be the theme in the locker room these days. While the Bruins are 10-1-1 in their last 12 games, a streak dating back to October 25, the team has allowed nine goals in the last three games, including four against Buffalo.
“We talked as a team (and said) we haven’t done that good, even when we’ve been winning, the last two, three games,” said Nokelainen. “We’ve been sliding down a little bit, so we have to get back to the strong game that we had like three, four games ago.
“It’s about the small things. We just have to work hard and find our identity again.”