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Carlo aiming for healthy season with Bruins

Defenseman eager to boost Boston, experience Stanley Cup Playoffs for first time

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Brandon Carlo has played 158 regular-season games in his NHL career. He has played none in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That's not because the Boston Bruins haven't made the postseason. Instead, just as the regular season was winding down in each of the past two seasons, Carlo was injured and watched the Bruins play without him.

It's not something the 21-year-old defenseman wants to repeat.

"From my experience in the NHL so far, it's been two years where I've been up in the press box watching the playoffs," Carlo said after Bruins captain's practice Thursday. "It's really hard for me and overall I just want to put that past me, focus on this next year, because I'm really damn excited about what's going forward. I'm here and feeling well."

Last season ended for Carlo when he fractured his left ankle against the Florida Panthers on March 31 and needed surgery. The previous season, Carlo sustained a concussion in the regular-season finale against the Washington Capitals on April 8, 2017. That also kept him out of the playoffs.

He knows there was nothing he could have done about the most recent injury -- "Maybe work on my soccer skills a little bit, I was trying to kick the puck there. Pretty embarrassing," he said -- but that doesn't make it sting any less.

"Just kind of a coincidence," said Carlo, who had six assists in 76 games last season. "But I feel like coming back stronger this year is just going to help me in all those situations in the corners. Hopefully resist injury."

Video: BOS@ANA: Carlo hammers opening goal past Bernier

He said he has no restrictions heading into training camp. Carlo experienced discomfort and pain as recently as 1 1/2 months ago, when he first returned to the ice, but that has dissipated with the scar tissue breaking down.

"Feeling really good," he said. "It just took a little bit of time to heal so I listened to the doctor's orders. … As soon as I got back on the ice it hurt initially, but now we're really getting back into it and it's feeling good."

Before he was injured, the smooth-skating, defensive-minded Carlo had found his stride again in an up-and-down season. He's learned how to forget the past and his mistakes instead of letting them weigh on him.

But he rejoins a crowded roster in Boston this season. The Bruins have eight NHL-caliber defensemen, with the addition of John Moore, 27, who signed a five-year, $13.75 million contract (average annual value $2.75 million) July 1.

Carlo spent his first NHL season skating alongside captain Zdeno Chara and his second with Torey Krug, so it remains to be seen where he might fit in this season.

"I want to improve a lot of things in my game," Carlo said. "I think every player in this locker room is looking to do that, especially the younger guys. … For myself, I think just playing with confidence, playing a little bit of a grittier style, and just believing in myself is the biggest thing I can do right now. My skills will follow along."

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