Halifax, NS – Tuesday morning, Blake Wheeler has every right to wake up feeling pretty good about himself.
Starting with his assist on Vladimir Sobotka’s preseason-opening goal in the first period of Monday night’s 8-3 win over Montreal, Wheeler was on the ice for half of Boston’s scoring plays. And although his current exhibition points total line reads 0-1-0, Wheeler surely deserves a large share of the credit for the Bruins victory.
But by the sounds of it, Wheeler knows not to take anything for granted and will be sure to hit Tuesday’s practice at Cole Harbour Place with his usual gusto.
“It just felt good to be out there,” said Wheeler. “Getting to go out there and put this uniform on for the first time in the midst of some pretty good company was awesome.
“It was a little nerve wracking at first, but once you get the first couple of shifts out of the way, it felt good.”
The man called “Wheels” used them yesterday, particularly on the Sobotka goal when he dished to the streaking sophomore forward. But Blake’s game is acquiring an edge as well, and that had many people in the press box abuzz about the B’s rookie.
Wheeler freely admits, however, that he has lots to learn about the NHL’s style of play.
“Playing in college, I wouldn’t say that I was mucking it up in the corners very often – especially with the big ice (at Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena) and being a center, it just really wasn’t part of my game,” he explained. “But now I am finding success doing that.
“Freeing up pucks for my linemates, creating space out there, screening the goalie, and just doing whatever it takes to help the guys get opportunities, that’s my role,”
“As long as the puck is going in the net, who cares who’s scoring,” said the collegiate sniper.
While he talked about the game, the former Minnesota Golden Gopher alternated between the demeanor of a seasoned veteran and the giddiness of a kid at Christmas, and on this night, it was obvious that the kid won out.
“To be able to play on a line with guys who have played in the NHL before is pretty awesome,” said Wheeler. “I can’t really think of a better word for it.
“They make the game so easy and all you have to do is keep your head on a swivel and work hard; they will take care of the rest.”
But there is a good chance that having Wheels on the line will keep things rolling, too.