BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins have righted themselves after a 1-3-0 start and take a 4-4-0 record into their game against the New York Islanders on Thursday at TD Garden.
It was apparent during the early going that the Bruins, in addition to other problems, had difficulties adjusting to the aftermath of defenseman Johnny Boychuk's trade to the Islanders on Oct. 4, four days before the beginning of the regular season.
Boychuk, though, isn't surprised his old team has been playing better.
"They always find a way," Boychuk said Thursday, after the morning skate before his first game against his former team. "I remember after we won [the Stanley Cup in 2011] everybody was saying what a tough time we had [to start the 2011-12 season] and we turned it around in November and went undefeated [12-0-1]. So it's not out of the ordinary."
Boychuk played parts of six seasons with the Bruins and became a defensive stalwart. The Bruins traded him for draft picks to clear a logjam in their defense corps and under the NHL salary cap. Boychuk is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli could see the market setting a price that would be too high for Boychuk to re-sign with Boston.
In his first trip back to Boston on Thursday, Boychuk already had some strange moments.
"It was definitely different," he said. "Just walking into other dressing room was a little bit different."
He tried to predict what it's going to feel like when the puck drops.
"It's going to be a little bit weird," he said. "You're used to practicing with them, being around them all the time. Now you're playing against them a few weeks after. It's different even sitting on the bench on the other side. It's definitely different."
The Bruins aren't afraid to admit Boychuk's departure left a hole, even as they are finding ways to replace him.
"There's no doubt we miss him because of what he was in the room, on the ice and everything that he brought," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "But at the same time we're comfortable with the group we have now on defense. Those are things that we have to face sometimes as a team that's up at the cap; you have to make those hard decisions. So there's no doubt that the first game back for him is going to be special and first game for us seeing him on the other side is certainly going to be different. But at the end of the day we have a job to do and hopefully he's thinking the same way from his end of it."
The Bruins had acquired Boychuk from the Colorado Avalanche in a trade for forward Matt Hendricks in 2008. Boychuk played one NHL game in 2008-09, spending the rest of the season with Providence of the American Hockey League. He had 20 goals and 66 points in 78 games and earned the Eddie Shore Award as the most outstanding defenseman in the AHL.
The next season Boychuk became a full-time NHL player. For that he's grateful to Chiarelli and the Bruins, even after the trade to Long Island.
"It's tough to be angry because he was in a situation where he had to make a move," Boychuk said. "It's part of the business nowadays with the cap. I mean, how can I be angry at him when they gave me the opportunity to play in the NHL and gave me an opportunity to be a regular player in this League? So I can't be angry at them because they gave me the opportunity to be here."
Boychuk also can't be mad because of the opportunity he's getting from the Islanders, including a chance to shine on the power play. He had a career-best 23 points last season, and already has two goals and six points in six games this season.
Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid, Boychuk's teammate in Boston and Providence, said he isn't surprised by Boychuk's increased offensive production.
"I saw it in Providence when we played together there," McQuaid said. "It's obviously no secret he had a cannon back there. So you know, you get an opportunity, he's doing well. You like to see that for a guy like him."
Getting points against the Bruins always is a challenge. That'll be just a part of what Boychuk has to confront in his first game back at TD Garden.
"When you're going into the corner with [Bruins forward Milan Lucic], it's going to be different but I'm going to have finish my check on him. And vice versa," Boychuk said. "If he's coming down he can hit and he's going to even though we're best friends. It's going to be different; though after the game we're friends."