TAMPA – The first lesson of playing on Marc Savard's wing: be ready.
Like a potpourri of Bruins forwards before him, veteran Daniel Paille has learned that lesson in a hurry.
"There were a couple times last game when I didn't even think he was looking at me," said Paille after the morning skate at the St. Pete Times Forum in preparation for the Bruins' game with Tampa Bay Thursday night. "And he was giving me a backhand saucer pass from across the ice, and I was in full stride, so it's just that at any of those times, he's going to hit me at any time, so one of those things I've learned is to be ready."
Paille's readiness paid off Tuesday night in Buffalo, as he recorded a two-goal game (just his third multi-point game this season) while skating next to Savard and opposite right winger Miroslav Satan for the second straight game. Assuming the Bruins don't mess with their newly found winning formula, Paille should be back in that spot against the Lightning.
A former 19-goal scorer with Buffalo earlier in his career, Paille has been a bit snake-bit (like most of his teammates on the offensively challenged Bruins) since joining Boston. However, considering he has been cast mostly in a checking role and started the season in the Sabres' press box for a few weeks, nine goals in 51 games is a respectable total, especially with the Bruins needing all the help they can get.
Without stepping too far away from his main role as a top penalty-killer and defensive player, Paille wants to make the most of his opportunity to team up with Boston's best playmaker.
"That's his whole career; [Savard] puts up points. I just want to help out a little bit more with what he does, and Miro," said Paille. "They're both so patient with it. I want to do the best I can to make them better, whether it's just working hard in the corners and creating opportunities. They find a way every time, so it's not that hard."
* Tuukka Rask should get his fifth straight start in net for the Bruins. Tim Thomas spent a portion of the Bruins' optional skate working 1-on-1 with goaltending coach Bob Essensa on moving post to post and controlling rebounds.
* The Florida road trip can sometimes lull a team from the Northeast into a dangerous comfort zone. Factor in the Bruins finally snapping their losing streak and that a handful of them are heading to the Olympics next week, and the formula for distraction is there. Head coach Claude Julien, however, sees a focused bunch.
"I haven't seen our guys lose their focus. I thought we practiced well [Wednesday] and after a couple wins coming here, you never know whether guys are going to put their guard down a little bit," he said. "They haven't shown any signs. I think we realize what's at stake here in these next two weeks. We want to get ourselves back into that playoff spot."
* Former Bruins center Nate Thompson, who the Bruins lost on waivers in fall 2008, has now moved to the Lightning after he was caught up in a numbers game on Long Island. He's scoreless in his first eight games with the Lightning, but played a season-high 17:38 Tuesday. He's hoping his solid combination of penalty killing, faceoff winning and rugged play in the corners can finally make him a permanent NHLer.
"I know [Lightning coach] Rick Tocchet, when he played, he was more of a North-South type of player and I played the same way. So hopefully my style will kind of fit in here," Thompson said.
The Lightning have won four in a row heading into their date with the Bruins.