BOSTON -- Zach Hamill cooled off after winning six of his first seven faceoffs during the Boston Bruins' 5-2 preseason loss to the New York Rangers at TD Garden, but the rookie still finished the night 9-for-14 at the dots, another sign that the '07 first-round pick's all-around game is starting to reach NHL caliber.
Hamill also scored his second preseason goal and posted an even rating during the defeat, as he continued to make a case for his inclusion on the roster when the regular season opens in less than two weeks. The recent trade of skilled winger Phil Kessel might be another sign that Hamill has a spot with the big club.
"You don't want to pay attention to that stuff," said Hamill, who's in just his second pro season after playing last year with Providence in the American Hockey League. "That's on the business side and that stuff happens in hockey, but you just want to go into every game the same way. There are people here that are established but you want to turn some heads. That's your main goal coming to camp and you take it day by day, whether it's a game or practice."
Hamill has always been known as a gifted offensive player, sort of a poor man's Marc Savard in the passing game. Still a couple weeks away from turning 21, he's gaining strength and honing his defensive zone play, which was on display at even strength and on the penalty kill Saturday.
The Bruins have five more preseason games left. It's a good bet Hamill will see even more playing time as training camp rolls on.
This was Savard's first preseason game action. Early in camp he was nursing a slight knee injury.
"Yeah, obviously I skated eight, 10 times in the summer and then came up here and skated a couple times. I was a little worried about tonight being in a game situation on how I'd feel and I felt really," said Savard, who scored a goal and logged 19:28 of ice time.
*Goaltender Tim Thomas made 14 saves on 19 shots in his first preseason game and was the victim of some funny bounces as well.
"It felt somewhat awkward," said Thomas. "I think part of that was the product of the game and part of that was (my) first game in five months."
Journeyman defenseman Drew Fata, who signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Bruins this summer, made his preseason debut and it took just 2:16 into the game for him to stand up for defense partner Dennis Wideman and duke it out with Rangers forward Aaron Voros. Fata didn't think twice about dropping the gloves despite the stitched-up gash under his right eye that was caused by a high stick he took in practice yesterday.
"It's mostly just mental. There's nothing really there, it's just a glorified cut," said Fata, who is also sporting a shiner on the same eye.
Fata is one of a number of players battling for the seventh defenseman spot. Beyond sticking up for teammates, he knows the things the Bruins are looking for from their players.
"For the most part they're just working for guys that work hard and work smart," he said. "And for the most part you've just got to go out there and work hard and have some fun."
Winger Steve Begin registered his second fighting major of the exhibition schedule after he stuck up for Fata and pounded Rangers forward Dane Byers. Begin might be taking some risks by fighting in meaningless games, but head coach Claude Julien doesn't want to calm the forward's enthusiasm.
"The thing is, it's hard to change a guy who's been like that his whole life, his whole career," said the coach. "That's what Steve Begin is. & That's the thing we like about Steve Begin. It doesn't matter if it's an exhibition game, who it is, he's going to play the same way night in and night out."
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.