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Spooner's Opportunity

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

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WINNIPEG, MB - Two days ago, B's prospect Ryan Spooner quietly helped the Providence Bruins to a St. Patrick's Day victory and three-game weekend sweep with two goals and two assists.

By the time Monday had rolled around, the 21-year-old center was on his way West to join the big club in Winnipeg, and possibly get the call to help them complete a series sweep of the Jets.

With David Krejci still out day-to-day after leaving Sunday's game in Pittsburgh, Spooner had been recalled by the B's Monday afternoon on an emergency basis. By Tuesday morning, the focused and methodical centerman was taking a seat next to Dougie Hamilton, and carrying his equipment bag from the bus at MTS Centre to the locker room for pregame skate.

Fitted in his No. 51 helmet (he wears 24 for Providence), Spooner walked through the tunnel at the corner of the rink and took the ice, getting in a stretch near the boards, as the B's scattered about and prepped for morning skate.

Two minutes in, with no Krejci on the ice, and the 5'10" 175-pound Spooner took his first rush centering towering power forwards Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton.

Quite a moment for the center in just his second recall with the spoked-B (and second pregame skate), after being called up on February 5 when Brad Marchand was out of the lineup, and making his NHL debut in Montreal against the Canadiens on February 6.

“It’s pretty exciting, I’ve been waiting for this for a while. Even if I don’t get to play, it’s exciting," Spooner had said prior to his first NHL game in Habs territory.

This time around, the center knows he'll be in the lineup, alongside two of the NHL's best power forwards, but don't look for him to get wrapped up in the opportunity.

"They're definitely really good players," said Spooner on taking rushes with the duo, as he sat in the visiting team locker room surrounded by media. "For me, I've never played with players with that kind of skill before, so I'm excited to get the chance."

For Spooner, his mindset on the ice, much like his demeanor off of it, will be to stay calm and keep it simple.

"Just play simple, not try to get too fancy with the puck," he said. "Playing with two guys like that, just get the puck in deep, they're so good in the corners. They're great shooters too."

"This is something that we're giving him the opportunity, being a real good centerman, to play with some good players," Coach Julien said of Spooner following morning skate, when he also announced that Krejci would not be in the lineup. "He's a great playmaker, so I think it's a great opportunity for Spoons to take it and see where he goes with that."

"If it doesn't' work out we can always make some changes, but we've seen him play enough that he can probably be a good fit there."

With his second recall, the forward who's racked up 45 points, including a team-high 33 assists, in 50 games to lead the P-Bruins this season, said that the jump from the AHL to the NHL gets easier the next time around.

"I think the most important thing is you just have to get comfortable," said Spooner, on having the experience of getting the call once before. "Obviously, the first game I was definitely really nervous. Even when I started off in the American Hockey League this year, I was pretty intimidated there for a little bit. But, I guess once you get comfortable with it all then it gets a lot easier."

Coach Julien and his staff, along with the B's, also do their part in making a call-up like Spooner feel comfortable, and stress the simple approach like Spooner noted.

"Again, he just has to go out there – we told him just to play his game," said Coach. "I've see him play enough, they play a very similar system down there [in Providence], so it's not like he's going into uncharted waters."

"He knows exactly what we expect of him, it's his second call-up, so just give him little tips there at the end on his faceoffs, everything else trying to help him out."

The B's also know what to expect of him. Last recall, Coach Julien had commented more in-depth about what he's seen from the center in Providence in his transition year to the pro game from the Ontario Hockey League.

“A lot of good things,” Coach had said on the morning of February 5, after Spooner joined Boston for the first time. “He fit in. He fit in, absolutely, and you saw him in that exhibition game we played against the Providence team, and he was good. He kept up the pace and played against our guys and certainly was good.

“Like every young player, [the] first few years you kind of feel your way through, and that’s what he’s doing right now. But the one thing I saw is just the skill level is definitely one of the NHL. He can skate well and some of the goals he scored were highlight goals, so there’s no doubt he’s on the right track."

“I‘d be very surprised not to see this guy play as a full-time NHLer down the road.”

For Spooner, playing against the Jets with Lucic and Horton could very well be the best opportunity so far in his brief pro career. But the calm and collected center is going to approach tonight like any other game.

"Right now, I'm just going to prepare to play tonight," said Spooner. "So I'm going to go [to the hotel], get a nice nap in and get ready for the game."

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