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Pastrnak already making significant strides

BOSTON -- Whatever the Boston Bruins were hoping to see from David Pastrnak skating alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the second line in Friday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, they are sure to be happy with the result.

In a game where the Bruins’ offense waited until the third period to kick into gear, Pastrnak was impressive from the start, creating scoring chances while registering seven shots on goal in a 2-1 overtime win. Although he didn't score, it was an impressive showing from the 18-year-old rookie winger in his second NHL game.

In 17:02 played, he led the team in power play time on ice (3:44) and was utilized during the game’s 4-on-4 overtime.

“Felt pretty good,” Pastrnak said. “We won in overtime so I’m really happy. It was my first NHL win and I enjoyed it.”

Desperate for offense anywhere he could get it, Bruins coach Claude Julien made the decision to shake up his lines in order to help get Pastrnak acclimated to the NHL as quickly as possible. In skating alongside Bergeron, Pastrnak had plenty of good looks at the net, leading to his high shot total.

In fact, he almost scored what would have been the first goal of the game on a chance in the slot during the first period. Unscreened in front of Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson, Pastrnak whiffed on an attempted shot before quickly recovering and firing a second attempt toward Hutchinson’s glove side. However, Hutchinson was able to snare the puck out of the air, robbing Pastrnak of the goal.

Regardless, Julien was impressed with what he saw.

“I liked him,” Julien said. “He's got speed. He’s got energy. He makes plays. He was throwing pucks at the net. We talk about throwing pucks at the net. Had some good chances but also he made some plays.”

During the third period, Reilly Smith saw some time alongside Bergeron and Pastrnak on the second line in favor of Marchand. He too spoke highly of the Bruins rookie.

“He’s a really skilled player,” Smith said. “I was talking to some of my friends who are playing in the American League and they say he puts on a show every night there so it’s to be expected when he comes up here to do good things. He showed it tonight.”

While Pastrnak may be expected to put on a show offensively every night, his defense figures to be a work in progress. Although he had no major gaffes Friday, Pastrnak did turn the puck over twice. For his part, Pastrnak said improving himself defensively is something he’s working on just like everyone else. Meanwhile, Julien doesn’t seem too concerned.

“Defensively, I haven’t seen him be a real huge liability so he’s done a good job of improving himself,” Julien said. “The coaches have done a great job in Providence of helping him grow in that area. That’s why I’m able to use him from start to finish. I like the dynamic of his game. He’s an exciting player to watch.”

Excitement is something the Bruins surely will need as they get set to take off to the West Coast for a four-game road trip starting on Monday. While the jury still is out on Pastrnak given his youth and inexperience, what he can bring to the Bruins, who have lacked energy many times this season, is invaluable toward the team being able to keep up with four difficult games (Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose and Arizona) on the road.

Of course, there’s sure to be road bumps along the way. But there also will be the nights like Friday, where Pastrnak will get the chance to make something happen and spark the entire team in a close matchup.

“He’s a really skilled player,” Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said. “He makes plays around the net in the offensive zone. I find myself a few times a game being like, ‘Wow. How did he see that?’

“It’s a good example of a guy who’s happy to be around and he works hard every day. For us veterans sometimes we take things for granted. We’re not having fun or working hard, we’re just showing up sometimes and [his energy is] something we have to feed off of him.”