Thursday, April 29, 2010
Ryder warming up at right time
By Matt Kalman ESPNBoston.com
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- When Michael Ryder debuted in black and gold, the sniper was placed next to playmaker Marc Savard.
At the time, the Bruins figured they had the perfect one-two punch to anchor their first line for the foreseeable future. Ah, the best-laid plans of hockey coaches and inconsistent wingers. Through the first handful of games of the 2008-09 season, Savard turned into a goal-scorer with five and Ryder transformed into the set-up guy with four assists.
However, Ryder's inability to do what he was imported from Montreal as a free agent to do -- score goals -- on a line with Savard caused coach Claude Julien to move Ryder to a line with Patrice Bergeron and then, finally, to a spot with David Krejci and Blake Wheeler, a trio that was dominant from November until April.
Through two days of practice in preparation for Boston's Eastern Conference semifinal series with Philadelphia, Julien has reunited Savard and Ryder. While Savard, Boston's leading point-scorer the three seasons prior to this one, is trying to work his way back from the Grade 2 concussion he suffered last month, Ryder is attempting to keep up the hot hand he ignited in the first-round win over Buffalo with two goals and one assist on the heels of a dreadful regular season.
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"I don't think I've got to change anything. I've just got to play the same way, keep skating, being physical and shooting the puck," said Ryder after Thursday's practice at Ristuccia Arena. "I know Savvy's going to find me when he gets it.
"I'm not sure what's going to happen [on the left side], but we're just getting used to each other in practice still. Me and Savvy played together a bit this year. Hopefully we can get some chemistry. Savvy's going to be excited to play and I've just got to make sure I feed off him."
Those stints this season with Savard were short-lived both because of injuries to the center and the ineffectiveness of Ryder, who spent most of the regular season searching for his game. He finished with just 18 goals, down from 27 the year before, and shuffled from line to line and off and on the power play.
Recalling the season-opening games he spent playing with Ryder in '08, Savard explained how things are going to work better for the Bruins with he and Ryder riding together.
"I'm the scorer on this line now, so that's the good news," he joked.
Then he broke down the key for him and Ryder to click in as basic terms as possible.
"He's got a great shot and if I can find him, like I've said before, if he gets three good chances you know he's going to put one in for sure," Savard said. "Hopefully we can look to get him the puck in those scoring situations and we'll get some success out of it."
After Vladimir Sobotka skated the left wing with Savard and Ryder Wednesday, Daniel Paille filled that spot Thursday. There's no telling who will be there Friday and beyond.
Ryder's game was resurrected with Sobotka playing center and setting a physical tone against the Sabres. However, Ryder's not worried that he'll lose that edge playing with the more finesse pivot Savard.
"When I'm moving my feet and being physical, everything else seems to fall into place. That's what I have to do," said Ryder. "It's going to be a grinding, grueling series and that's what we have to do to win. So I'll just keep doing it."
Even if they revert to the days of Savard scoring and Ryder dishing, the Bruins will benefit from having a third scoring line that could make Philadelphia pay over the course of a playoff series.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPN Boston and runs TheBruinsBlog.net. His first book, 100 Things Bruins Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, will be published by Triumph Books in the fall and can be pre-ordered here.