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Rinaldo Re-Energized

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins - Everything Zac Rinaldo does, he does with energy.

On the ice. Off the ice. Around town.

For five years, the forward had put that energy towards the Philadelphia Flyers. Since being acquired by the Bruins via trade on June 29, Rinaldo has already started directing that towards the Spoked-B, and the Boston faithful.

“I try and play every game where I am like it’s my last,” Rinaldo recently told via phone, before heading to Boston to spend a few days getting to know the city, the organization and the local media.

“When I’ve been in Boston, I’ve always made my mark in Boston - I know that Boston’s a really tough team and a tough city, so every time I walked into that rink, I made sure that I put on a show.”

“I think when I played against the Bruins, I really got underneath [their skin] when I was there, but now that I’m part of them and a part of this city, part of the fanbase there, now I’m going to - I want them to know everything that I did against the Bruins I’m going to be doing against every other team, just a little harder.”

Rinaldo never leaves his energy supply untapped. He empties it every game, yet somehow keeps finding ways to re-fill it.

“That’s just me personally, I’m a very energetic person, I’m like that off and on the ice,” he said. “So when I step out on the ice, all of the fans will be able to feel my energy when I’m on the ice.”

“And with my teammates, my energy is just going to feed them and hopefully give them a spark, whether it’s me making a smart play with the puck or me hitting someone and giving the guys a little more energy.”

Upon hearing of the trade, Rinaldo - if it’s even possible for him to find more energy - was re-energized.

“It was a very energetic conversation, [Sweeney] and I had, from the beginning to the end,” said Rinaldo. “Nothing but positive things that we both talked about and we’re ready to do whatever it takes to win. It was a very energetic conversation, a very positive conversation.”

“We felt he was a player that - we wanted a little more energy - I talked about playing with a little more energy in our lineup, and it’s ready-made in that regard,” General Manager Don Sweeney told reporters on July 1 after the opening of free agency. “He’s a player that’s still young and he plays with a tremendous amount of courage.”

In getting Rinaldo, the Bruins sent a 2017 third round pick to the Flyers.

“He’s got a tremendous enthusiasm for the game, and speaking with him, [he] was very, very excited about being a member of the Boston Bruins and doing whatever he could to help us win,” Sweeney had said.

“So [the media] are evaluating the prices paid and such, and the rest of us our evaluating the conversations we’re having and what those prices are going to be, so when you find a deal that you feel helps your hockey club, that’s what you’re trying to do.”

The 5’11” 185-pound native of Mississauga, Ontario has been traded before, when he was playing close to home in the Ontario Hockey League. He played a season and a half for the London Knights during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons before being traded to the Barrie Colts.

“I was a little bit surprised, but I’ve been traded before in the OHL and was with two different teams in three years, so I know it’s part of the business, I know it happens to everyone in the League,” he said. “So I was prepared for it if the call came. I was prepared for it, so I took it with open arms.”

Soon after his own trade, Rinaldo saw the conversation he had with Sweeney take even more shape, when the Bruins signed free agent Matt Beleskey and acquired Jimmy Hayes from Florida.

“I saw a couple of days later, they picked up Beleskey and Hayes, and that fired me up even more,” said Rinaldo. “Beleskey’s a very high energy guy and I know Hayes is a big man that will definitely throw his weight around too, so when I saw that, that got me excited even more to come to Boston. So the way they’re doing things is right up my alley.”

“When I come into camp and the season starts, I think I’ll fit in just fine and I’m going to be open to everything that they tell me… I’m going to do everything that I can to help Boston win every single game to get to the playoffs and make a great run in the playoffs.”

Rinaldo first made the jump from juniors to pro in 2010-11 with the American Hockey League’s Adirondack Phantoms. He made his NHL debut in the postseason, suiting up for two games with Philadelphia in 2011, playing in Game 5 of the first round against Buffalo and then against Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal.

The winger is still young at 25 years old. He is entering his fifth pro season after being drafted by Philadelphia in 2008 (sixth round, 178th overall). He has 223 games of NHL experience - all with Philadelphia. He has eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points with 572 penalty minutes. He led the Flyers in penalty minutes for the last four seasons. He also has 14 games of Stanley Cup Playoffs experience.

He played 58 games during 2014-15, registering one goal and five assists for six points, and leading team with 102 penalty minutes.

Some may see the lack of scoring, and the abundance of penalty minutes, and look the other way.

Rinaldo’s energy is always there, but he feels he has more to give. Sweeney and the Bruins see that, too.

“We’re certainly hoping that he can continue to move forward in his career,” Sweeney said. “I mean, the skating piece, the courage piece, maybe there’s a penalty killing component to it, but that remains to be seen…there’s more to give from this player than the crash and bang style that he’s accustomed to playing and we’re going to go to work on that.”

The “intangibles” in hockey are oft talked about, and aren’t easy to measure. Rinaldo’s best asset may be his work ethic and openness to change. Both will serve him well in Boston, even if his role has not yet been defined.

“I like switching it up. I don’t like getting too comfortable - I’m not saying that I was too comfortable [in Philly], but a change always does give me a little boost of energy and to be honest with you, a little more confidence,” said Rinaldo.

“I’m happy that the team wants me and that gave me a little boost of energy, boost of confidence also, so I’m going to keep my head held high, knowing I’m not a first, second year guy - I’m going into my fifth year, so I have my feet wet with a little more experience. It gave me little boost of confidence is what it did.”

Rinaldo knows there’s a discussion to be had about crossing the line when it comes to his physicality game in and game out. He is used to the question by now, the same way new teammate Brad Marchand became used to it.

“I’ve been thinking - everyone’s been asking me about that over the last few years and I feel like, it’s my fifth year, and I’ve learned much over the last six years of my career, not even just in the NHL, in the AHL as well,” he said. “So I know, I know what I need to do, I know that fine line, I know when to shut my mouth and not make the split decision on hitting someone. I’m more mature in that way, so I’m going to stay away from the B.S., as they call it.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to play rough and tough, especially now that I’m a Bruin, but I’m not going to be crossing the line. I’ve learned the hard way throughout the years.”

Opponents don’t enjoy playing against Rinaldo. Just ask a Bruin like Adam McQuaid, who has had his fair share of tussles with the winger.

“I’m going in there [in September]… They probably think differently of me, because of playing against them - who knows what they think - but I’m really down to earth and I plan on getting along with everybody,” Rinaldo said. “So I’m not too worried about that stuff.” 

His teammates will like hard work, though -- and energy, plenty of energy.

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