Sobotka needs to step up game

Forward isn't playing with normal feistiness

September 22, 2009, 2:01 PM

By: Matt Kalman

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Vladimir Sobotka has to find his most tenacious, aggressive physical game fast or he'll be skating with a spoked 'P' rather than a 'B' on his chest next week.

Sobotka hasn't recorded a point in his first three preseason games for Boston. That would be acceptable if he was banging bodies and wreaking havoc on the fore check. However, he's been more of a passenger than a driver so far in training camp.

If there's one positive at this point, it's that Sobotka recognizes his play hasn't been up to par.

"I need to get more confidence than before. I think it's getting better," Sobotka told ESPNBoston.com after a morning skate at Ristuccia Arena. "I get a little bit nervous in those first games. It's getting better. It's my third year, but still ... not often, but the first games (I got nervous) ..."

The 22-year-old Sobotka is scheduled to continue his quest to find his game tonight in preseason action at Columbus. It's hard to believe that a player with 73 games of regular season NHL experience (plus two playoff games) would still get so nervous he can't throw the crunching body checks he's known for. But his close friend and teammate David Krejci can understand where Sobotka is coming from.

"He's a great player, he knows what he's got to do," said Krejci, who is letting Sobotka crash at his condo during training camp. "He's got some games [in the NHL], some experience, but he's never made it full-time. That's what he wants to do this year and that's what makes him a little nervous."

The Bruins' coaching staff isn't giving up on Sobotka, who was one the best players for Boston's farm club at Providence during a run to the AHL Eastern Conference finals last season. Head coach Claude Julien admitted he even had another chat with the Czech native about getting his confidence up.

Maybe Sobotka is just over thinking things. He arrived in camp determined to establish himself as a full-time NHLer  both because he has pretty much accomplished all he can in the American Hockey League and he's entering the final year of his entry-level contract (he'll be a restricted free agent next summer). Or there's the slight chance that he still needs more seasoning with the Bruins' farm club in Providence. Whatever's going on, Sobotka knows what he has to do the rest of this week to earn a spot on the roster for next week's season-opener.

"If you play 17 minutes, or 15 minutes, and play hard, that's good for me," he said.

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