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Riley Nash expects to contribute to Bruins

Center could wind up at wing in deep forward lineup

by Matt Kalman / Correspondent

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins saw Riley Nash at his best toward the end of last season and it probably helped the forward get a two-year, $1.8 million contract as a free agent.

Nash, who had nine goals and 13 assists in 64 games for the Carolina Hurricanes last season, had two assists in a 3-2 overtime win against the Bruins at TD Garden on March 10.

"I had a decent game here at the end of the year," Nash said after taking part in an informal skate at Boston University on Wednesday. "You can ask any player, there's some rinks that you feel comfortable in. And Boston's always been one. I don't know what it is, the fans, the excitement level, being in Boston and you're more engaged. I just always seem to find my game here. So hopefully I can continue that playing for the other side this time."

The Bruins were so interested in Nash they were one of a few teams to pursue him on the first day of free agency. Nash's comfort in Boston influenced his decision, as did the opportunity he would have to play a significant role in the bottom six.

"That was one thing that we looked at. [Coach Claude Julien] loves having a strong bottom six and making sure they can play against anyone and play any role," Nash, 27, said. "So I knew that if I play well I'll get opportunities, and I think that goes for everyone on the team."

Nash's 22 points last season were three fewer than the NHL career best he set the season before. He averaged a career-high 16:19 of ice time in 2014-15 before dropping to 12:57 last season. Although he said he believes he has more to give the Bruins, he knows there's a niche he has to fill in a crowded lineup. He'll have to be responsible without the puck, kill penalties and win faceoffs.

"I would love to expand that role. I think any guy would," he said. "But I just want to be someone that's reliable, play anywhere. I played center for most of the year last year and I wound up playing wing for about 30 games. Had some success out there. So I just want to be someone that coach can rely on, whether it's playing 10 minutes a night or 15 minutes a night. Someone that he's not nervous about putting over the boards."

The right-handed shot will probably have to play on the wing because of the Bruins' center depth. Boston's top two centers are Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, and David Backes, Ryan Spooner and Dominic Moore are available to fill the bottom two spots. Playing wing might help Nash expand his contributions.

"I think on any team you want your centermen to be your strongest players," Nash said. "I'm fine with it. I'm fine with playing out there. You feel you have a little bit more energy in the [offensive] zone because you don't have to battle down low as much."

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