Vladimir Sobotka doesn’t say much. Instead, he lets his work on the ice do the talking.
In his first NHL season, the B’s forward is getting attention for the “grit” in his game, playing hard and keeping opponents on their toes. Since playing his first game on November 24, Sobotka has notched three assists, and, most recently, his first NHL goal.
Despite his modest point totals, the center’s teammates speak volumes about him, and focus most often on his work ethic.
“He’s a great little player,” said Glen Metropolit. “Since he’s been called up, he’s been getting more comfortable, and it doesn’t seem like he ever takes a game off.”
The older players on the team, including linemate Jeremy Reich, like the newbie’s style of play.
|Boston Bruins Vladimir Sobotka (60), of the Czech Republic, protects the puck from Detroit Red Wings' Andreas Lilja (3), of Sweden, in the first period of the NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008 in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm) |
“He’s really getting strong down low, and I think more people are starting to notice,” said Reich. “He’s very skilled, and he’s not afraid to go into the corner as well.”
The “fourth line," which usually consists of Reich, Sobotka and Shawn Thornton
, has been focused on keeping it simple.
"You know, getting the puck in the other team’s end and just working their defensemen,” said Reich, explaining the line’s strategy.
Head coach Claude Julien, too, has taken notice, and he likes what he’s been seeing from not only Sobotka but all the young players.
“It’s almost second nature for them to go out there now,” he said. “I think by adopting that attitude, they have made their line better, and they take a lot of pride in what they do.”
Off the ice, Sobotka is finding his place, as well.
In a locker room full of close friends and, as Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli mentioned after the trade deadline on Tuesday, as part of a team with a lot of chemistry, Sobotka has his own set of confidantes.
“He’s [almost] the only guy I can talk to in Czech,” said Krejci, who has played with Sobotka since they were both on the AHL Providence Bruins earlier this year. “But I don’t know, we just talk about stupid stuff, anyway.”
The guys can often be seen joking around with each other on and off the ice, and while the forward has himself been heard teasing teammates, he’s not immune to their rebuttals, and is even on the receiving end of some good jokes -- in several different languages.
But despite the good-natured ribbing, Sobotka has earned the utmost respect from the others on the Black & Gold.
“There’s no doubt those players in that locker room recognize [his] efforts and what [he does] for us, and it’s well deserved,” said Coach Julien.
Furthermore, young players help energize veterans, Metro explained.
“He’s good, fun to watch out there,” he said. “We build off it too….You see a kid slide and block a shot, or see them do something just a little bit out of his character.
"Maybe they do something that you thought they didn’t have, but they just bring it.
“You can’t help but feed off it.”
Talking to Sobotka, however, it’s clear that all the compliments haven’t gone to his head. After this morning’s practice, he was, as usual, all business, focused on tonight’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“We have to keep going,” said the forward. “It’s a really important game for us, so we’ve just got to win.”