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Thursday, January 17, 2013
Ready to enjoy the ride

By James Murphy
ESPNBoston.com

With a new season upon us and fans starving for hockey after the NHL lockout, there were plenty of questions to answer in our latest mailbag. We've waited long enough. Let's begin...

Q. Hey guys, things look great up and down this lineup. The only questionable part is Chris Bourque. What do you expect out of him on the third line? I think he'll do very well with the skill and experience of Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly, but I haven't seen him play enough. What are your thoughts? Other than Dougie Hamilton, he's the only question mark. -- Yev K. (New York)

A. Yev, I have to say, my original thoughts on Chris Bourque were that it was a total PR move when they acquired him last May. Obviously the name Bourque holds great prestige amongst Bruins fans thanks to Chris' father, Hall of Famer Ray Bourque. But Chris has never really lived up to the potential of a 33rd pick (2004) overall. However, I'll eat crow if Bourque continues to fit in and play the way he has so far. It would definitely be good for the Bruins if Bourque could become that third-line winger and bring more offensive depth there. He had 93 points with Hershey in the AHL, so the skill is there and now he needs to continue to work hard and play a solid two-way game. Bourque -- even though he is only turning 27 this month -- realizes this is probably his last shot and he's making the most of it. I think he will make the team and be a positive factor this season.

Milan Lucic
All eyes will be on Milan Lucic, who just signed an extension for $6 million per season over three seasons and is coming off a rough playoffs.

Q. Other than Tuukka Rask, which other Bruins player do you think is under the most pressure heading into the season? And how do you think that player will respond? -- Mikey (Boston)

A. I think after six days of training camp, the player feeling the most pressure is Milan Lucic. Coming into camp, I had Tyler Seguin right there, but based on the fact he is already basically in game shape after ripping up the Swiss League -- and Lucic appears to be far from game shape, is coming off a terrible playoffs and just signed an extension for $6 million per season over three seasons -- I have Lucic as the man under a microscope. Oh, let's not forget Lucic and his wife, Brittany, are expecting their first child on Jan. 27. Yes, Lucic had 26 goals last season and 30 the season before, but even he has admitted he can be better. He will have to be now with all that pressure.

Q. I know people are excited about Zdeno Chara and Hamilton playing together, but do you think there's any concern about having two guys that are that big -- and maybe not quite as quick -- on the ice at the same time? -- JT (Hartford, Conn.)

A. It appears that won't be the case, as head coach Claude Julien has paired Dougie Hamilton up with Dennis Seidenberg throughout camp and plans on keeping it that way to start the season. I do agree with you, though, that a Chara-Hamilton pairing wouldn't have been a great idea, if not for the reasons you mentioned, also for the fact that it would put too much pressure on Hamilton to start his NHL career playing with a future Hall of Famer like Chara.

Q. Do you think David Krejci is ever going to develop into the 80- to 85-point-per-year player a lot of us thought he'd be? Or is he just not consistent enough to reach that level? -- Jim P. (Springfield, Mass.)

A. I think I got this question in a mailbag just prior to the start of last season, and at that time, I thought Krejci was poised to become that 80- to 85-point-per-year player in the 2011-12 season. He was coming off an amazing playoff performance with 23 points in 25 games in the Bruins' Stanley Cup run, and the time seemed right for him to continue that success. But as you pointed out, he had some bad streaks and just never seemed to take it to the next level. While this is a shortened season and hard to evaluate, I believe Krejci will have a strong season because I really think he is motivated by the doubt and trade rumors surrounding him. He has a chip on his shoulder, and I think it will translate into a big season.

Q. Do you think the Bruins are comfortable with Anton Khudobin as the backup or do you think they're keeping their eyes open for other options? -- Rick (Boston)

A. Rick, based on the recent focus on building goaltending depth, I feel the Bruins are always keeping their eyes open for help between the pipes, and that isn't necessarily a reflection on their current goalies, like Khudobin. That being said, everyone from management to scouts to coaches that I have spoken to regarding Khudobin raves about him and believes he can handle a solid workload if needed. I think they're very confident with a Khudobin-Tuukka Rask tandem, and should either Rask or Khudobin falter, Nicklas Svedberg has played well and in my eyes could be a future star in the NHL.

Q. Will Seguin be a wing again or center this year? -- Mike C. (N. Kingstown, R.I.)

A. Mike, Tyler Seguin will be a wing to start the season, and even if there is some line shuffling to be done, I still see him remaining on the wing. He found success there last season, and the Bruins like the defensive responsibility it teaches him. The Bruins are so deep at center, so unless they trade a pivot, Seguin will be riding the wing.

Q. Any chance Ryan Spooner makes an impact with the Bruins this season? -- Kelly J. (Portland, Maine)

A. Kelly, I said in my 2013 Bruins predictions that Spooner would make the team instead of Jordan Caron, and thanks to Caron's current injury, Spooner was given that chance. Now I'm not saying he won't later in the season, but Spooner failed to prove me right and was sent down to Providence on Thursday. I still hold out hope Spooner reads our blog, though, and makes me look smart!

Q. Given GM Peter Chiarelli's history in Ottawa, do you think he attempts to reunite Chara and Wade Redden as a defensive pairing? -- Brian (Portsmouth, N.H.)

A. Brian, I have been campaigning for this reunion on Twitter, and I do think there is a chance this happens. Redden just cleared waivers and is an unrestricted free agent. An NHL team can definitely get him for cheap right now, and based on the familiarity there, I could see Chiarelli at least looking into this if he hasn't already.