Soderberg starting to settle in to NHL style

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Everyone in the hockey world has been waiting to see why the Boston Bruins had so much interest in forward Carl Soderberg since he arrived in North America.

He had spent 10 seasons playing in the Swedish Elite League and had never played a game in the NHL. The Bruins originally acquired him from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for goaltender Hannu Toivonen on July 23, 2007.

Soderberg, 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, finally signed a contract with the Bruins on April 8 and played six games in the final weeks of last season. He also played two games in the Stanley Cup finals against the Chicago Blackhawks.

During those eight games, Soderberg seemed lost and didn't look like the type of player who had been hyped as the next best thing to come out of Sweden.

He arrived at camp in September in great shape and he's played 16 of 22 games this season.

Similar to last season, it's taken him a little bit to get going, but he's played well the past few games and it's evident he's making things happen when he's on the ice and finally fitting into the Bruins' style of play.

"I can't say enough about him right now. I really like the direction his game is going in," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "He's a heavy player around that net area, and he'll go through anybody to get to that puck. Those kinds of players, teams don't have enough of."

Soderberg missed the first six games of the season due to a foot injury, which also slowed his progress. He's healthy now and producing in all areas.

"Better and better all the time," Soderberg said. "The game here is a little bit different but I'm getting better at it now, and I have good linemates, as well."

He's been on the Bruins' third line with Chris Kelly and Reilly Smith for the majority of the season, and that trio has found its chemistry. Soderberg notched his third goal and ninth point of the season in a 3-2 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues Thursday night at TD Garden. He's playing physical, winning puck battles and putting the puck on net consistently.

"That's kind of my game and I played the same way in Sweden, so I'm used to it," he said. "I feel sharp enough, both my shape and [gaining experience] makes me way better, so I'm working on [improving]."

Kelly has been impressed with Soderberg's transition.

"It takes some time to adjust to the North American game," Kelly said. "It's a different game and every instinct that comes natural to him, now they're asking him to do a little bit differently because the European game is obviously different than the North American game. He's done a great job of adjusting and he's gotten better every game."

Last season, Soderberg led the Swedish Elite League with 31 goals. He's not expecting to match that total in the NHL.

"No, not really. I can score goals and last season was really great for me, but in the past I've been more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, so I guess I'm a little bit of both but I don't expect too many," he said.

From day one, Julien has been saying that once Soderberg is able to make the proper adjustments, he would become a good player in the NHL. He's showing signs of that now.

"Carl's a good player and he led the Swedish League in scoring last year, so obviously he's a talented player," Kelly said. "He got his feet wet last year, which obviously helped him. He knew what to expect coming into camp."

After the team's loss to the Blues on Thursday, Julien admitted that Kelly is dealing with a minor upper-body issue, which is hindering his ability to win faceoffs. So Soderberg took the drops in that game and finished 6-for-8.

"Maybe I'll get Carl to take some more, he did it well [Thursday] night in the circle," Kelly said. "It's a luxury to have [multiple] guys on one line to take draws."

Boston's third line is beginning to have success overall. With Kelly centering Soderberg and Smith, they're using their speed and skill to contribute. It's no secret the Bruins have a deep lineup, and when Julien is able to roll all four lines on a consistent basis, Boston will have success. That's what the coach has seen the past eight games.

"That's one of our strengths," Kelly said. "For portions of last year that wasn't the case. We're a good team, a deep team, and when the bottom two lines are contributing, it takes the pressure off the top two lines."