Sobotka not just winging it
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Anyone can see that Bruins forward Vladimir Sobotka is more comfortable playing center than winger.
And Sobotka won't deny that fact.
"I play center now; I get more pucks and I try to finish my hits and play hard," said Sobotka, who registered six hits for Boston's fourth line Thursday night against New Jersey.
A center for most of his career until last season, Sobotka starred in the AHL as a left winger. But against NHL competition, he struggled on the wing in the first half of training camp and at the start of his most recent call-up from Providence.
Sobotka's effectiveness since moving to the middle against Ottawa on Saturday night has the Boston brass reconsidering its plans for Sobotka's positioning.
"I don't think I would disregard the fact that he can play the wing, but maybe he's more comfortable [at center]. He's played there most of his career," said coach Claude Julien, who should have Sobotka at center again when the Bruins host Edmonton on Saturday (1 p.m.). "At this level, guys are obviously bigger and stronger than in the American league, and for him to battle along the boards all night long might not be the best scenario for him. At center, he probably has a little more space and it still allows him to play gritty.
"Whether we can see the same thing on the wing, I guess at some point we'll probably find out."
Obviously, having a healthy Marc Savard might make it harder for Julien to play Sobotka at center. But with Savard out with a broken foot, Sobotka is making the most of his audition. And he's not only one who has benefited.
Sobotka has been playing between Blake Wheeler and Daniel Paille. Wheeler scored a goal against the Senators this past weekend, and Paille had a few chances against the Devils. Paille knows what it's like to have a center who plays with the strength and grit of Sobotka. Paille's center in Buffalo, Paul Gaustad, fits that description.
Although Gaustad dwarfs 5-foot-11 Sobotka, the effect is still the same.
"I don't know how small [Sobotka] is with his strength," Paille said. "He's got a lot of strength behind his size. I just think he uses that to his advantage and it's hard to take the puck off him."
Jordan Caron, the Bruins' first-round draft pick this year, returned to the lineup with the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL after suffering a broken collarbone in the summer. Caron scored a goal in his team's 4-2 loss to Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Val d'Or (QMJHL) forward Max Sauve (the Bruins' second pick in '08) and London (OHL) goaltender Michael Hutchinson (third round, '08) were named to their respective league's all-star teams for the 2009 Subway Super Series, in which CHL teams will face Team Russia next month.