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Khokhlachev back with Bruins to play in Classic

by Jon Lane

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Boston Bruins forward Alexander Khokhlachev will get another chance to prove his worth in the NHL, this time on a very big stage.

Opportunity has presented itself more than once for the 22-year-old who was the Bruins' second-round pick (No. 40) in the 2011 NHL Draft. Khokhlachev does not have a goal in his eight NHL games, and Game 9 won't be an ordinary regular-season contest.

Khokhlachev was recalled by the Bruins to play in the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday at Gillette Stadium (1 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN). He's one of a few young players who will be asked to step up in the absence of injured forward David Krejci (upper body), and forward Brad Marchand, who was suspended for three games by the NHL Department of Player Safety for clipping Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki in the first period of Boston's 7-3 win Tuesday.

"I think every call-up is an opportunity," Khokhlachev said Thursday. "Every game I play right now I get better and better and feel better and better. I just try to do my best every time I'm here. It doesn't matter who's hurt. If you got called up you will be in the lineup. It's an opportunity for you every time. I'm not looking for somebody to get injured. I just want to play and show what I can do."

Khokhlachev was second at Providence of the American Hockey League with nine goals and 25 points in 22 games despite missing a month after having hand surgery on Nov. 10. He skated at right wing on the Bruins' third line with center Landon Ferraro and left wing Frank Vatrano at practice Thursday, part of coach Claude Julien's shuffling of his top three lines to compensate for the absence of Marchand and Krejci.

"I think he's shown that he can play at this level when he's been up here," Vatrano said of Khokhlachev. "I've played with him before, and he's a good player; he makes things happen and plays with a lot of confidence.

"He's playing well down in Providence and that's what got him here. Just keep doing what he's doing down there and do it up here. Play with confidence and do what you do here."

Ferraro said it's a matter of Khokhlachev getting fully adjusted to the NHL game. Khokhlachev has played four games for Boston this season, the last on Dec. 18.

"In the American League you sometimes catch a 20-year-old defenseman who's just grown 4 inches and he's still trying to figure out his body," Ferraro said. "Here, it's the best of the best. You have to make your plays when you can, and know and be smart enough to know the best play's to dump it in and get on the forecheck. It's finding that balance, but at the same time playing with confidence knowing what you can do and making sure you show that ability."

At the Winter Classic on New Year's Day, Khokhlachev will get to showcase that ability in the League's grandest regular-season game while trying to manage the emotions of playing before the biggest audience of his life.

"I just need to play my game," Khokhlachev said. "It doesn't matter whether I play in Providence or Boston. I just try to do my best. I don't think I need to switch anything. I just need to play hockey. I'm starting to feel better and better every game. I just try to show my best every call-up. Every chance, every game, I want to try my best and try to help my team win and play my game."


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