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X-factor: Drew Stafford a boon for Bruins

Forward's versatility on second line could be key to Boston's success

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- When the trade deadline was approaching, the Boston Bruins were wallowing in mediocrity. They weren't good enough to make a significant trade or bad enough to sell assets.

Instead, general manager Don Sweeney opted for a seemingly minor move, acquiring forward Drew Stafford from the Winnipeg Jets for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. 

It could prove to be a boon come the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"He's fit in well on both wings," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "He's a good puck protector, makes plays. … As far as I'm concerned he's been an asset for us, wherever he's played. Good solid veteran guy that adds to our mix and plays to his strengths. Hopefully he will keep doing that the more he plays."

 

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The Bruins spent most of the season looking to solidify their second line, centered by David Krejci. Nothing had truly come together. But Stafford was given a chance to work with that line, as a left wing with Krejci and right wing David Pastrnak. He also spent time with two younger players, center Ryan Spooner and forward Frank Vatrano.

The lines varied in their requirements from Stafford, and in their impact on the game, but it was tantalizing for the Bruins to envision him completing a second line that has needed to have more of an impact throughout the season and, given Krejci's postseason history, could turn it on in the playoffs.

Whether or not he remains there, Stafford gives the Bruins a veteran presence, one who can be used on the right wing -- his natural position -- or on the left, shifted around to where he is needed at that particular time.

"At this point of the year, it's about winning any way," said Stafford, who had eight points (four goals, four assists) in 18 games with the Bruins after scoring 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 40 games with the Jets. "I'm doing my best to try and help this team win games in whatever way I can by solid play and making sure I'm doing the right things out there. If that leads to production on the score sheet, individual stats, great.

"But that's just a bonus. It's more about just being part of the solution and being a piece of the puzzle here to win. That's what it's all about."

Even if that doesn't mean that his help comes in the form of goals scored, which it generally hasn't been this season.

Video: OTT@BOS: Stafford nets PPG with slick wraparound

"I've been around long enough, so I know how that works," Stafford said. "The worm usually turns. It's about getting chances. It's about generating."

And, as he said with a smile, "There was a time when I was an offensive player in this League."

That time was as recently as last season, when Stafford scored 38 points for the Jets (21 goals, 17 assists). From 2007-2008 to 2015-2016, Stafford scored at least 14 goals per season eight times, with a high of 31 in 2010-2011 with the Buffalo Sabres.

That dropped off this season, but that doesn't mean there isn't time to pick up the pace in the postseason. And time to become exactly what the Bruins need at exactly the right time.

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