|Boston Bruins' Mark Stuart (45) and Milan Lucic (62), of Denmark, keep the puck away from New York Islanders' Darryl Bootland (27) during their preseason NHL game in St. John's, Newfoundland on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2007.(AP PHOTO/Rhonda Hayward, The Canadian Press) Canada |
Bruins back liner Mark Stuart is one of the guys who is fighting for a job with the big club during this preseason and that fight went into high gear on Tuesday night when he traveled to St. John's, Newfoundland to take part in the B's first exhibition game of the 2007 preseason.
Before the game, the solidly built D-man told BostonBruins.com that he knows that he has to continue to play his game with passion and poise to win a place on the Boston blue line. But many Bruins fans have him penciled into the lineup already.
Over the weekend, the large number of fans who came to the TD Banknorth Garden during the Fan Fest and Season Ticket Holder barbeque buoyed Stuart and showed him that his own brand of enthusiasm for the sport continues to be reciprocated in the stands and has been noticed by the Bruins faithful.
"That was really cool," said Mark, "they stuck around for the practice and the stuff after the scrimmages.
"I was really surprised when I got up to the concourse…it was packed."
Stuart said that he tried to go up to some fans and say "Hello," but that no introductions were necessary. The fans knew exactly who he is.
"People were coming up to me and saying, 'Hi' so that was cool," said the humble D-man. "It was just good to see people excited…it kind of gets you pumped up a little bit, too."
Anyone who has seen Stuwie play needs no further introduction to the defenseman and knows that he does not need any more pumping up. On the ice, the mild mannered person you meet in the locker room can often turn into what his teammates call "a monster" on the ice. As such, he has thrown some memorable hits with his formidable physique -- but in the 2007 preseason, Stuart is working on intangibles.
"I am just trying to work hard and work on some little things," said Stuart. "I just want to keep getting better, and I think I've done that so far.
"I just want to continue to do that (in) the exhibition games."
Last night he did just that.
"I just kind of know what to expect," said Stuart about this year's preseason. "And I have a little more confidence as well…I'm not really gripping my stick as tight as I have in the past, and I am not as afraid to make mistakes."
Against the Isles on Tuesday, there were no mistakes and while his steady defensive play might have gone unnoticed to the fans that packed the building, and got to witness four rounds of boxing action, there's no doubt that management noticed.
"It was nice (to play a game)," said Stuart. "There was a really good pace and I think that we played pretty physical.
"We were really going at them all night."
Paired with Zdeno Chara
for most of the evening, and giving him second defenseman type minutes, Stuart looked at home on the Boston blue line -- and perhaps he is ready to move in.