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Stepping Up in Kelly's Absence

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

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BOSTON, MA - When GM Peter Chiarelli announced Wednesday that Chris Kelly was out indefinitely with a broken left tibia he suffered during Monday's game in Ottawa, the Bruins center was fourth among all NHL players in faceoff percentage, having won 143 of 236 faceoffs for a 60.6 percent success rate.

Prior to Thursday night's match-up against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden, Kelly's teammates talked about the tough loss of their friend from the lineup.

"I think we’re all a little bit disappointed with the result, with what happened to Chris, and not only on the ice but off the ice the leadership that he brings," said Daniel Paille following the Bruins' pregame skate Thursday morning.

"On the ice obviously with the penalty kill that he helps us out with throughout the whole year and his play on the ice, but we’ve got to learn to battle through it."

"It’s our first major injury of the year right now and we’re fortunate to be in that position, I know other teams are like Florida they have about six, seven guys that are out of the line-up so hopefully it doesn’t too long for him to get back and we see him real soon."

Paille had his own injury that kept him out two games, after being high-sticked by Sabres defenseman Tyler Meyers on January 31, but was able to jump right back into the lineup.

"We had some injuries in the past and we’ve been able to battle through that," said Paille, on the team fighting through the adversity. "With Kells being out, he’s definitely one key element for us but I think we need to fight for when he comes back that we’re in the same position we’re in when he does come back."

Paille's fellow Merlot liner Shawn Thornton saw firsthand when Kelly went down against Ottawa, and knows how tough a loss it will be for the B's.

"I don't where to start," said Thornton. "He's an unbelievable two-way center for us. He's great in the room."

"I think that's what hits me first, probably because I'm stuck sitting close to him," he smiled.

"He's been unbelievable in this room ever since he arrived. His leadership, his work ethic is kind of contagious. He's not afraid to call guys out when they're not working as hard as him."

But Thornton also knows that the Bruins are deeps down the middle, and will have to step up in their teammate's absence.

"We’re lucky to have guys like Pevs and even Seguin that have played center most of their career that can step in there and be comfortable in that position," Coach Julien told media.

"Pevs is going to have to fill some big shoes there, Kells being a real versatile centerman that can do a lot of different things for our team. The other thing about Rich is he’s extremely good on faceoffs. That’s an area that we don’t lose a lot except that we’re now done to one left centerman, which is Campbell."

Luckily, Peverley is a natural center who has been taking enough faceoffs this season for the B's to not even miss a beat, and the two centers above him on the depth chart have been consistently strong as well. Bergeron sits at second in the entire NHL on the faceoff dot at 61-percent (winning 292 of 479), while Krejci is 14th in the NHL at 56.4 percent.

"I've always played center before," Peverley said prior to Tuesday night's match-up in Pittsburgh, where he centered a line with Jay Pandolfo and Jordan Caron. "Chris and I switch off a lot too, so it's not like it's that foreign."

Not foreign at all, for Peverley, who may have taken less faceoffs than Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci this season, but going on strictly faceoff wing percentage alone, leads the Bruins with 61.2 percent, having won 98 of the 160 draws he's taken, including 18 out of 30 on the shutdown penalty kill.

As far as the wing spots go on the third line without Kelly, like the game against Pittsburgh, Pandolfo has been on the left wing and Caron in his natural right position.

"He’s played most of his career in junior on the right side, anyways. He’s very comfortable in those areas," said Coach Julien of Caron. "I mean, every team has those players that can move around."

"And we’re no different."

Another area the B's will lose Kelly is on the penalty kill, but the versatility on their roster should keep the PK going strong.

"There are still guys like David Krejci [who's] killed penalties for us, Jordan’s another guy that can kill penalties. We’ve got Pando now who has been known for that. We don’t lack in that area and sometimes with David it’s an opportunity for me to come back with that line after a kill. His wingers are wingers that should get a certain amount of ice time if they’re playing the way they can, so that’s an opportunity to get them, or not push them out of the game by getting that line to come out right after a kill."

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