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Rinaldo Willing to do Whatever It Takes to Help Bruins Win

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BOSTON — When Zac Rinaldo stepped foot outside after his flight landed from Hamilton, Ontario, on Monday afternoon, he had the same thought running through his head as every other resident of Boston.

“It was really hot,” he said with a grin, after meeting with the Boston media for the first time at TD Garden on Tuesday. “When I got off the airplane, it was really hot. But other than that, I’m [staying] in the North End right now — beautiful down there."

He paused, adding, “I’m half-Italian, so I can adapt real quick.”

That trait will serve him well as he opens training camp in a new place after being traded for the first time in his professional career. Rinaldo was acquired via trade from Philadelphia on June 29, but this trip marked his first visit to Boston since.

Rinaldo said the trade itself came as a bit of a surprise — so much of a surprise, in fact, that he didn’t even ensure that he had his cell phone on him when he set off that day for a charity event.

“My agent was trying to get a hold of me,” he said. “My agent called my house, and my mom called me, and then I called [Flyers GM] Ron Hextall, and Ron Hextall told me.

“I’m excited. I’m really excited to be a part of the organization. It was a little bit of a surprise to me, but I’m here now, and I’m ready to play.”

Already, Rinaldo feels like he fits in fine in his new city.

He anticipates the same feeling when he steps foot in the Bruins dressing room for the first time during training camp and finds himself surrounded by new teammates.

“These guys probably don’t know me off the ice; they just know me on the ice, and on the ice, they probably hate me,” he laughed, “but off the ice, I’m just a down-to-earth guy. I’m just a 25-year-old kid playing hockey that loves the game. As soon as they see me, they can relate to me in any way that they can.”

And though Rinaldo is confident he can win over the city of Boston with his play on the ice, he is intent on doing so off the ice as well. His philosophy heading into the season — which he describes as a “‘Do anything to help my team win’ kind of mindset” — should serve him well in that regard.

“That’s the last thing I want to come in here doing, is to give a first bad impression,” he said. “You only have one time to give your first impression, and I want to make my first impression a memorable one, so I’m going to do everything that I can to help the team win.

“I’m up for anything to help the team win, so anything that they tell me to do, I’m going to be doing it.”

Rinaldo is well known for the energy he brings to any given game. There is a certain feistiness he brings to the table that he fully intends on maintaining, and one he believes will endear him to a new fan base.

“I’m bringing an energy — I’m bringing life every game, home and away,” he said. “I’m going to be the rough, tough Zac Rinaldo, but I’m also going to add in more hockey sense. I’m going to be shooting the puck, I’m going to be blocking shots, I’m going to be creating more opportunity offensively, whether that be for myself or for my teammates — the little shot off the pad here and there can lead to a rebound to get a goal. The smart chip, the smart dump to get a good forecheck — it’s all going to tie into [helping] to win a hockey game.

“So anything I [can] do to offensively bring more of an oomph to it so we can win a game, is what I’ll be bringing.”

Rinaldo is well-acquainted with the Bruins’ hard-nosed style of play. He spent four years contending against it. Now, he is eager to be a part of it.

“[They are] always tough to play against — no matter what the score is, no matter what the period is, who they have in the lineup, who they don’t have in the lineup, they’re always hard to play against,” he said. “It fits my mold really good.

“Every time I was in Boston, I knew they were a hard team to play against, so I came here with everything I had, every night that I played against Boston, and I made my mark here. So now, I’m here to make my mark for the Boston city and not against the Boston city.”

Already, Rinaldo has spoken to Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney twice — once right after the trade, when they had a 20-minute phone conversation that Rinaldo described as “energetic” and instilled a renewed sense of confidence in his game, and again after he arrived in Boston this week. Rinaldo said that B’s captain Zdeno Chara reached out as well.

He doesn’t know Brad Marchand personally, but he is quite familiar with him, from the jostling they have engaged in here and there on the ice.

“On the ice, playing against him, we don’t really have a crazy relationship against each other, but maybe a stick here, stick there, punch here, punch there — but it hasn’t been nothing other that,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about him, and I’m excited to meet him.”

Rinaldo also has yet to meet Head Coach Claude Julien, but he plans on working hard on the ice to ensure Julien knows he will do anything and everything to improve his new team’s chances of getting a W, night in and night out.

“I’m going to show him on the ice, right?” he said. “It’s all about what I do on the ice. I can be the nice guy out of the room and stuff like that, and in the dressing room, but on the ice is where I’m going to have to show what I’m really about. So on the ice, I’m just showing it.

“I’m really excited for how he coaches the bench, and how the guys are that play — first line to fourth line, we’re going to be a strong team.”

The game Rinaldo will bring to the Garden ice is not solely about energy and tenacity, though that is certainly a big part of it. It is also about grinding, blocking shots, getting in the passing lanes. He said he would welcome the opportunity to serve on the penalty kill, and that his quickness and speed would serve him well in such a role. He wants to play with the puck more and shoot the puck more; in fact, he is so focused on improving his puckhandling that the entirety of this year’s offseason training revolves around it.

Above all, Rinaldo’s game will be about making the Bruins a harder team to play against than they were before he became a part of it.

“I do have those tools in my toolbox — I just have to be given that ice time, be given that opportunity to show those things,” he said. “I have them; in certain situations, I haven’t been able to show them, and in some situations, I’ve had to do other things that don’t allow me to show those other tools that I have. Hopefully here, I can show everything that I have and put everything on the table, and take it from there.

“The more, the merrier for me — the more opportunity I have, the better I play, the more I get into the game.”

Rinaldo is eager to come to training camp and show the Bruins what he can do, but he is also eager to show the ways in which he has improved. He will never abandon the trademark energy he is perhaps most well-known for, but there are definitely areas of his game he knows he must improve in order to ensure that contending with the Bruins remains a difficult task.

“[My game] is going to change in a better way for the team,” he said. “I don’t plan on getting suspended; that’s the last thing I want to do. I don’t plan on taking stupid penalties; that’s the last thing I want to do, is hurt my team.

“Changing for the better will happen. More opportunity, a different role, perhaps, and I’m open to anything to help the team win.”

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