BOSTON – Left, right or center, Jim Montgomery likes what he sees.
It doesn’t matter which side of the ice blue liner Jakub Zboril has lined up so far this preseason, Boston’s new bench boss has been impressed.
“He looks really good on the right side, really good on the left side,” Montgomery said after Monday’s training camp sessions at Warrior Ice Arena. “So I don’t see a difference so far. Now I know it’s easier, I think, to play – defense is much easier when you play your strong side and move the pucks. But he did a great job playing offside, so far.”
Zboril hasn’t played in a regular season game since Dec. 2, 2021 in Nashville when he suffered a torn ACL during awkward play along the boards. The injury came at the worst of times for the defenseman, who was playing some of the best hockey of his professional career while finally starting to establish himself as an everyday NHL player.
Now, some nine months after the injury, Zboril is back in the mix and looking, once again, to prove he belongs at the big club.
“I was just super happy to be back there,” said Zboril, who clocked a game-high 25:05 in Saturday night’s preseason opener in Philadelphia. “I was really excited, and I think it showed, especially in the first half. I got into a few situations that maybe I didn’t have to go through. But overall, I think I played a really good game. It was really special to be there again.”
Despite missing so much time, the 25-year-old doesn’t feel like he’s ‘out of rhythm’ to start training camp.
“It’s on the positive side,” Zboril said. “I feel like I have to keep going, do my best, be confident with the puck, make good plays, and I think things will get better from there.”
Video: Zboril sits with Russo during training camp
With Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk Set to be sidelined for the start of the 2022-23 season, Zboril knows there’s an opportunity for him to grab a spot in the B’s six-man defender squad. But for the moment, he is less focused on substitution and more on advancing his own game.
“Honestly, I’m just trying to focus on myself,” said Zboril, who played 10 games for Boston last season and 54 for his career, including a 2020-21 high of 42. “It’s the same every year. Even if these guys were healthy right now, I would still need to be prepared for training camp and do my best and show myself under the best possible day. Just try to get back to my seat.”
And when it comes to, maybe, switching to the right side, Zboril is fine with that.
“I feel like I’ve played a decent number of games on the right side. I’m a bit used to it now,” Zboril said. “If it happens again, I think I’m ready for it. Some tweaks, like getting back on the pucks, getting the pucks out; you are always on the safe side.
“I like it in the O zone when I get the puck, it’s already on the forehand and I take a few steps to the middle and it all opens up a little faster. I feel like I I’ll do a really good job on the right side too.”
Nick Foligno is ready for a fresh start. He knows his first season in Black & Gold wasn’t what everyone expected, but after a summer in which he was able to focus and train freely without injury or rehabilitation, he feels ready. to show that it can have an impact.
“I got back to Canada, just reset…had a really good summer,” Foligno said. “Good summer training, having a clear mind and coming here ready to be the player I know I can be. So, I feel really good. Excited about the opportunity here with this group.
“We want to win. We feel like we failed last year. I just want to make up for it with the guys we have, [David] Krejci arrives. Now the focus is on what we are trying to do here and with the group and the new coach.
“It’s an exciting time, you can see that in everyone. So I feel rejuvenated and excited and let’s go with the group.”
Although he’s not completely focused on the attacking side of his game, Foligno wants nothing more than to improve his 2021-22 output (2-11-13 in 64 games).
“For me, two goals is not what I expect,” said Foligno. “I know I can score. I’m not worried about that. I think my record speaks for itself, but it’s just about putting myself in a position to do it. I think last year , like I said, I never could And it was just one of those years You just learn from that and put it behind you and prepare to not have that and all effect this year to come.
“I think I know what I bring and I know what I can do. And especially how I feel right now. I look forward to helping this team when I go there with a state of mind. mind to put it all in the past, what happened last year, and just be a good player and teammate like I always was.
“I feel really good. I like my game. I like the trend and as we go on it’s harder and harder to judge on a pre-season game or on a few training sessions.”
Video: Foligno speaks to the media Monday from WIA
Montgomery, too, sees a player who is free from some of the obstacles that hampered him before last season.
“I know looking back at last year, I don’t think he was happy with the way it went, for his own game that I’m talking about. But the thing you have to realize when you sit down , is that he had a big operation in the offseason and he didn’t get to train like he wanted to,” Montgomery said.
“You’re moving to a new town – and that’s not an excuse, but it’s the reality – you’ve moved here with your family and your wife, and you have kids…so you’re getting over a lot. to train the way you want. You make sure your family is comfortable – and he’s a good family man – that’s going to occupy a part of your brain.
As such, Montgomery hopes Foligno’s mix of leadership off the ice and hard work on the ice will make him a valuable asset in the final six.
“Someone who has great leadership and someone we’re looking for to help create a clear identity on the third or fourth line when it comes to possession of the puck, being tough on people, being relentless on pucks. said Montgomery.
“I expect him to be a big part of what we do this year. And because of those things, I think he plays a lot more freely and is in control of the pucks. He creates a lot of loose pucks. in front, and that’s where he’s spent his whole career, it’s in front of the net in that third circle between the two circles where the goals are scored.”
Knowing he’s in a different role at this point in his career, Foligno aims to take on whatever tasks Montgomery throws at him.
“Last year was the hardest trying to find a role,” Foligno said. “And then once I found one, it was just to make sure we were good. And I thought that was the fourth line. We were a really strong line a lot of nights. So, yeah , goals are important – and then when you have opportunities, you have to bury, that’s part of this league. But it’s also what you do away from the puck, especially in the role that you’re asked to – and I’m in a different role in my career now.
“It’s about making sure I’m doing the things necessary to make our line really good every night, but also helping the other guys who do the hard work and those whose job it is to score. goals and so on. I always expect to bring offensive production. I know I can. It was disappointing last year, but I’m looking forward to doing it this year.
Wait, there’s more
- blue lining Hampus Lindholm was paired with fellow Swede Anton Stralman – signed to a PTO over the weekend – during Monday’s camp session. “Lindholm, I think he’s getting better every day – and he was good day one,” Montgomery said. “And then Stralman, you can see he’s in really good shape and he’s finishing plays and making good decisions with the puck. You know he played a lot of games in this league and it showed today.
- Montgomery was pleased with the display of a veteran deep striker AJ Greer at this point in the camp. The Boston University product dropped the gloves with Philadelphia’s Hayden Hodgson in Saturday night’s preseason opener after the Flyers forward awkwardly hit Boston blue defenseman Josiah Didier in the corner. “We love this part, it’s team first,” Montgomery said. “But the way he shoots the puck, the way he forechecks, the way he bursts with speed, causing layers, rolling back the D-men on the other team, like, he does a lot of good things.”
- Foligno on Montgomery’s approach to training camp so far: “I really like him. a time and a place to have a good time, but when it gets down to business, it’s time to work… I think it’s already seeped into the band and we’re having fun, but we’re here to work and get better .”
- Montgomery said starting Saturday morning against Philadelphia, more veterans will be mixed into the lineup. “I expect to play a lot of veterans starting on Saturday. And then obviously in the last game, the following Saturday,” he said. “And they will be mixed in the two games on the road [next week].”
- Forward Eduards Tralmaks, who was injured following a leg-to-leg collision during training on Saturday, is expected to miss about four weeks, according to Montgomery.
Video: Montgomery speaks to the media Monday at WIA
Monday training programs
Pavel Zacha – Patrice Bergeron – Jake DeBrusk
Thirty Frederick – Charlie Coyle – Craig Smith
Chris Wagner – Jack Studnicka – Fabien Lysel
Luke Toporowski – Georgii Merkulov/Samuel Asselin – Justin Brazeau
Hampus Lindholm-Anton Stralman
Derek Forbort – Kai Wissman
Jakub Zboril – Brandon Carlo
Nick Wolf – Victor Berglund
Taylor Room – David Krejci – David Pastrnak
AJ Greer- Tomas Nosek – Marc McLaughlin
Nick FolignoJoonna Koppanen Vinni Lettieri
Jakub Lauko -Johnny Beecher-Oskar Steen/Matthew Poitras
Mike Reilly – Connor Clifton
Dan Renouf – Connor Carrick
jack ahcan -Josiah Didier
Michael Callahan – Jacob Wilson/Ryan Mast