Former Canadiens agitator looking to fit in on fourth line
September 14, 2009, 3:40 PM
By: Matt Kalman
BOSTON -- No one really anticipated any bad blood from the recent Montreal-Boston wars to carry over into the Bruins' dressing room this season, but veteran winger Shawn Thornton has already taken precautions to prove there are no remaining vendettas between himself and former Canadiens agitator Steve Begin.
Begin, who signed with the Bruins as an unrestricted free agent over the summer after finishing up last season with Dallas, had been a proverbial thorn in the Bruins' side as a member of the hated Habs both with his rough stuff -- he actually fractured a bone in center Marc Savard's back with a crosscheck late in the 2007-08 season -- and his play: His line with Tom Kostopoulos and Bryan Smolinski made life hell for the Bruins in the '08 playoff series.
Thornton, the Bruins' perennial leader in fighting majors, pounded Begin in a preseason game between the Bruins and Habs last year in part as retaliation for the hit on Savard. But this fall, Thornton made a different gesture toward the Quebec native. He requested that Begin's stall in the TD Garden and Ristuccia Arena locker rooms be placed next to his. Although building a bond with his former foe and probably regular linemate would seem like reason No. 1 for the request, the rarely serious Thornton said there was another reason.
"I requested it. I didn't want him sitting next to a French guy so I'd have to hear that gibberish all day. So I make him speak English all the time now," explained Thornton with a smirk after one of the two practice sessions on the second day of training camp Monday.
But sitting next to Thornton comes with a price to pay for Begin.
"He doesn't stop [talking]. He's got a big mouth. But it's fun to be beside him. He's funny," said Begin, who's expected to fill the fourth-line hole left by the departure of Stephane Yelle.
If Begin decides to converse in his native tongue, Thornton said he could handle little French. "I can order breakfast for him if he forgets one day," Thornton said. More important to the Bruins, however, is how the two get along on the ice, where the ability of the Bruins' fourth line to wreak havoc and create some scoring chances can take heat off the other three lines and allow head coach Claude Julien to balance out ice time. In that vein, Begin might be the perfect fit.
"He's going to be great," Thornton said. "He works his ass off every shift and he gives it everything he has. He's a pain to play against. Those are the guys that you want with you instead of against you."
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. He has been on the Bruins beat since the lockout for numerous publications and has been covering the Boston sports scene for a decade. Send any questions for Matt to his mailbag and he might answer them in his Bruins mailbag.