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Not even a broken face can upset Ryder

by James Murphy
Michael Ryder just finished his first practice in more than a week and had just addressed the Boston media on his recovery from broken bones and cartilage damage in his sinus area. He told reporters that he could not blow his nose, and if he was to sneeze, he had to do it with his mouth wide-open in order to minimize the pressure on his sinus area. Throughout the interview, Ryder was trying to catch his breath and repeatedly sipped water.

But he also repeatedly smiled.

"Why are you smiling so much?" Ryder was asked after the media scrum broke up and left. "You've got two plates in your head and you're in pain every time you breathe."

"I'm happy with things and with the way the season has gone other than this," Ryder said. "I don't know. I'm just happy to be back around the guys. I love my team, this city and I don't know, things are just so much better now."

For anyone that knows the situation Ryder was in at this time last year, it's easy to understand how he can look past this painful injury.

Ryder feels lucky to have been given another chance, to have a coach that never stopped believing in him, to be having a successful season and to be making a hefty salary playing the game he loves.

"It's tough sitting out, but I'll be back in there soon and I'm looking forward to helping the guys out," said Ryder. "We're going to need to pick it up down the stretch here and we've got something good here, so I'm psyched to get back in there."

This wasn't the case at this time last year as Ryder was struggling through a season he has done his best to forget. After back-to-back 30-goal seasons in Montreal, Ryder stumbled through a season that saw him light the lamp only 14 times. Along the way, he fell out of favor with coach Guy Carbonneau, who ended up scratching Ryder 10 times in the regular season and eight times during the playoffs.

While Ryder admits his performance dropped last season, he remains puzzled as to what went wrong with Carbonneau and the lack of communication that developed.

Ryder never aired the dirty laundry between him and Carbonneau in the Montreal media last spring, but earlier this season he did divulge some of his thoughts and feelings on the topic to the Boston media.

"I don't know really what happened because no one said anything to me," he said. "Was I not playing well, sure, but I just wish there was more communication. When you don't know what's going on, it's pretty tough to tell what you're doing right or if you're doing anything wrong. There were a few coaches I'd talk to and I talked to (assistant coach) Kirk Muller and (GM) Bob Gainey a few times, but never to Carbonneau."

As the scratches became more frequent, the writing was clearly on the wall.

Ryder, an impending unrestricted free agent, wouldn't be back playing in the only city he had known during a career that began with a 63-point rookie campaign in 2003-04. Ryder was on another one-year deal -- his third in a row --with Montreal and there was a mutual feeling as July 1 approached that it would be his last.

"It was time to move on," Ryder said. "They knew it and I knew it; but there's no hard feelings and I'm here now."

Ryder is in the midst of a bounce-back season playing for a coach who has always seemed to bring out the best in him. Claude Julien has coached Ryder for parts of his junior, AHL and NHL careers.

"It's good to know that the coach has confidence in you and knows what to expect out of you," Ryder said. "It definitely gives your game confidence and I think that maybe is a big part of what happened last year with me. Claude has always been straight with me, good or bad, and I appreciate that. We know each other and that definitely helps on and off the ice."

Julien, who coached Ryder in Hull, Hamilton and Montreal, agrees.
"It was time to move on. They knew it and I knew it, but there's no hard feelings and I'm here now." -- Bruins forward Michael Ryder
"When you know a certain player, it's certainly a lot easier to work with him," Julien said. "I've had the privilege of having (Ryder) since he was 17, so I knew what he was capable of doing. I probably have a better idea of what buttons to push, because I know him that well. I thought he was one of those guys that could be a 30-plus goal scorer again. So far, he's shown that he's capable of doing that."

But while Julien thinks that Ryder has been as advertised thus far, he also thinks his longtime pupil has been successful at doing the little things the media and fans sometimes fail to recognize.

"I think all we really heard about him or knew him for was his scoring and what a great shot he has but he doesn't only shoot well, he's very strong on the skates and skates well and along the boards," said David Krejci, one of Ryder's regular linemates this year. "He can really out-muscle the other guy. I was really impressed with that about him."

When healthy, Ryder, Krejci and rookie Blake Wheeler have formed one of the Bruins' best lines. It provides much-needed depth to pull attention away from the top line -- usually Milan Lucic, Marc Savard and Phil Kessel.

Wheeler, who has proven to be quite a sniper himself this season, loves playing with Ryder.

"Well, he has such an unbelievable shot and obviously that's the first thing that comes to mind when I think of him," Wheeler said. "You are always looking for him, because he is so dangerous around any part of the net, he can put the puck away from practically anywhere on the ice. But he is also a strong player and protects the puck in all three zones."

Ryder is more than happy to return the compliments sent his way by his linemates.

"Those two guys are just so skilled and it's great playing with them," Ryder said. "They just see the ice so well and have so many ways they can beat you with. But that's how this whole team is. There is just so much talent here and we really have that depth you need."

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