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Beleskey, Hayes eager to help rejuvenate Bruins

by Matt Kalman / NHL.com

BOSTON -- Five days after the Boston Bruins traded forward Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings, they signed unrestricted free agent forward Matt Beleskey.

The timing of those moves was impossible to ignore because Lucic was the Bruins' main source of physicality and offensive production at left wing for most of the past eight seasons, and Beleskey was coming off a 22-goal season while playing a similar role for the Anaheim Ducks.

But Beleskey said Tuesday he doesn't expect to be the next Milan Lucic.

"There's pressure, but I think I put more pressure on myself at the start of every year to be better than I was last year," he said at TD Garden. "You know they had big losses. I suppose those are moves they had to make. But I don't think I'm here to fill anyone's spot. I'm here to be Matt Beleskey and play my game. And that's what I'm going to do."

Beleskey signed a five-year contract July 1 that carries a $3.8 million salary-cap charge. He arrived in Boston this week to meet his new employers and get a feel for his new city.

Beleskey, 27, won't be the only recent acquisition feeling the heat to improve Boston's 22nd-ranked offense and get the Bruins back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs after they missed the postseason for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

Forward Jimmy Hayes, a native of Dorchester, Mass., was acquired July 1 from the Florida Panthers in a trade for forward Reilly Smith and the contract of Marc Savard. The Bruins signed Hayes, a restricted free agent, to a three-year contract that carries a $2.3 million salary-cap charge.

Although Beleskey will have to deal with the pressure of being the higher-profile acquisition, based on his track record and his contract, Hayes will be the latest player to try to make a go of it in his hometown.

Hayes referred to his chance to play for the Bruins as "a dream come true" several times Tuesday. But for every Bob Sweeney or John Carter who has thrived with the Bruins, there have been several like Hal Gill and Kevin Stevens who had more success elsewhere.

Hayes, 25, brushed aside the notion that playing for his hometown Bruins might sidetrack his recent emergence as an everyday NHL player.

"I've probably played more games in this city than I have anywhere in my entire career," said Hayes, who played at Boston College. "So I don't think it's pressure. I think I can handle it. It'll be a great opportunity for me and to be able to wear a jersey that I dreamed of wearing, it's a dream come true for me."

Beleskey had 35 goals over five seasons with the Ducks before breaking out with 22 in 2014-15. He then scored eight times in 16 playoff games.

"I think I got off to a good start, which helped," Beleskey said. "And coach Bruce Boudreau put me in good situations. I played on the power play. I played a lot with Ryan Kesler, who works extremely hard and he's a great player to work with and play with. And I think I took some confidence strides in my game. I knew it was time that I needed to be more than just a grinder that's going to help out and be a guy that's able to lead in situations. And I think I took those steps."

Hayes also had the best season of his career in 2014-15, when he scored 19 goals, up from 11 the previous season. Like Beleskey, Hayes was given an expanded opportunity to contribute and he took advantage of it.

"Last year was basically my first opportunity to play a full season in the NHL," Hayes said. "I got an opportunity to play with some pretty good players and I capitalized on my chances. So I think it took me awhile. It was my fourth year pro, so hopefully I'm coming into it now."

Hayes is 6-foot-6, 221 pounds, so there's little doubt about what his role will be with the Bruins. He'll be expected to throw his weight around over 200 feet and get to the dirty areas for goals.

Although he's 6-foot, 204 pounds, Beleskey also embraces being classified as a power forward.

"I'm going to play my same game, be a power forward, get in on the forecheck and go to the net hard," Beleskey said. "That's what I'm going to do."

The Bruins acquired two large wings because they're already set at center with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, who are signed for the foreseeable future. Fans and pundits have spent the past week mixing and matching the lines the Bruins might use come training camp. But neither player would bite when asked to make a suggestion about the lines to coach Claude Julien.

"They've got a ton of talent up the middle, and I think playing with anybody is going to be a great opportunity for me," Hayes said.

Said Beleskey: "They're [Bergeron and Krejci] obviously great playmakers. You play against them and you watch the way they play, they work hard at both ends, and that's something I enjoy having a guy that's going to work hard at both ends of the ice. They can make great plays in the slot, and hopefully I can get open, get to the net, create a little space for them. Who knows if I'll even play with them? I don't know. It's going to be exciting to come to a new team, meet all the guys and get settled in."

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