Bruins notebook: Wagner continues to hold his own, seeking a spot on the roster

Chris Wagner is a pro of the pros.

The veteran winger and Massachusetts native has spent most of the last year in Providence and faces an uphill battle to earn a spot in Boston’s crowded fourth line.

But in last Saturday’s preseason opener, he put on a typical Wagner performance, delivering eight hits and bringing his usual amount of sandpaper. He was happy with this outing, but was not going to be stunned by it.

“I thought the whole game in Philadelphia was a little sloppy, but I thought I played my part as well as I could,” Wagner, 31, said. “I tried to create more offense, but obviously physically, energy, winning face-offs and (a penalty) and all that stuff, I thought I was decent. But it was one game and obviously the first game of the pre-season, so it’s hard to really rate yourself on that.

It seems that Wagner’s main competitor is Oskar Steen for the right-wing position on the fourth row. Marc McLaughlin is also in the mix and played well, but the team still has the option of sending him to Providence without exposing him to waivers, which would make him more likely to go down. Wagner also fits the mold of a player who can be useful as an extra striker who may not play every night, as opposed to a younger player who is still developing, at least in theory.

He also has a fan in the person of Jim Montgomery, Boston’s new coach, which doesn’t hurt.

“I’ve always noticed Wags, even when he was in Anaheim, and obviously the success he’s had here in Boston. His details are top-notch. He’s someone as a coach in whom you have confidence because he executes very well, especially in this fourth-line role,” Montgomery said.

Going forward, it looks like Wagner — in the final year of a contract that will cost him $1.35 million — will get Montgomery a good shot at staying in Boston.

“He reached out this summer. He said everyone had a clean slate, which I thought was great,” Wagner said. “He said he respects my journey to the league and what I’ve done to stay here and how I’m playing the game, so we’ll see what happens. But he’s been very positive with me so far. .

At the end of training camp last season, Wagner – a key fourth-line player on the team’s road to the Stanley Cup Finals – was sent to Providence. It was a blow for a player who didn’t take the easy route to the NHL. But he got down and mentored the young players as best he could. And when he was called for the last game of the regular season, which meant nothing in the standings, Wagner had 11 hits in 15:57 of ice time and, the next thing he knew, he was playing playoff games for the Bruins against Carolina.

“It’s more like ‘what do I have to lose’? Like I said before, I’m proud of myself that I was able to come back and play in the playoffs and play well too. I still think I can play in this league, but time will tell,” he said.

He said he worked hard in the offseason on his foot speed and wanted to test well at the start of camp, which he did. He will let his performances speak for themselves.

When asked if he could handle being sent back to Providence, he answered in typical Wagnerian fashion.

“Will I be able to handle it? As opposed to what?” he said with a wry smile. “It’s my job, so I’ll introduce myself.”

MORE TO COME ON SATURDAY: Montgomery said the David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron lines will play Saturday morning at 1 p.m. at the Garden against the Flyers. Krejci, back after a year in the Czech Republic, has six training sessions under his belt and said he is still getting rid of the rust.

“The legs feel good but, to be honest, I’m still working on getting my hands back and getting those passes and seeing the ice a little better,” Krejci said. “It’s different in scrums or skating in the summer for a few months. Once you come here, it’s faster. It’s something I’ve been working on and trying to read the parts a little better. But that’s what training camp is for and hopefully I get a few (pre-season) games before the first real game.

Despite Krejci’s self-assessment, Montgomery liked what he saw from No. 46.

“I think he’s been good,” Montgomery said. “His ability to make plays, how smart he is… maybe he’s not making plays at his level. This is good news for me. But positionally, defensively, he’s been solid as well. It’s very comforting as a coach.

NO STRALMAN CASE: Anton Stralman, here on tryout, looked pretty smooth playing with compatriot Hampus Lindholm. But if either side is moving toward more concrete engagement, they weren’t showing it.

Stralman said no parameters were set for a deal if both sides see it as a deal, and Montgomery said that while Stralman has skated with the Bruins’ current No. 1 defenseman, he plans to mix his pairs after Thursday’s day off.

Stralman also said that if his career ended now, he would be at peace with it.

“I’ve played 15 years. If it’s the last two weeks, so be it. If not, great. I’m lucky to have played that long,” he said. “And that would be a great bonus, don’t don’t get me wrong. But at the end of the day, it’s hockey and I have other things in my life that I enjoy too, with my family and my four children. That’s what it is and what whatever comes out of it, I’ll live with it.

Stralman’s family is still in Arizona where his children are in school and no decision has been made whether they would come east if he signs.


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