Daniel Paille enjoying strong return to Bruins lineup

DJ Bean
January 04, 2014 - 5:34 pm

Time off can do wonders for a player, even if it’s due to an injury. A good example of that right now would be Daniel Paille.  

Paille is doing it all since returning from a mild concussion: He’s scoring goals, assisting goals and, for the first time all season, taking penalties. 

At the time he was sent back from the team's Canadian road trip and forced to miss eight contests, he had two goals and two assists for four points through 30 games.

Since returning to the lineup last Friday, he’s matched that point total with three goals and an assist for four points. All four of those points have come in the last four games. 

It isn’t that Paille’s necessary doing one thing well, as his goals have come in three different ways: he tipped Zdeno Chara shot past Evgeni Nabokov, scored a breakaway goal off a beautiful rush in which he embarrassed Erik Karlsson in Ottawa and beat Ondrej Pavelec on the doorstep off a cross-ice feed from Torey Krug. 

What is evident is that Paille has been better since returning than he was before the injury. He admits that he’s still feeling some soreness here and there after being off for a few weeks, but the rest has allowed him to pick up better than where he left off.

“I feel normal again, which is huge,” Paille said after Saturday’s game. “It’s been a while since I’ve felt this way. I’m still slightly sore, but I don’t sense any delay or anything like that, so it’s a good thing I guess. For me right now the main focus is to skate and compete like I have been.”

Benefiting from rest doesn’t just apply to Paille. Another good example of that would be Dougie Hamilton, as he played a ton of hockey last season but, in missing 10 games with a lower-body injury before returning this week, got some time off the ice. That time off, coupled with the upcoming Olympic break in February, might benefit in the form of fresher legs come playoff time. 

Paille doesn’t play as many minutes as a top-four defenseman like Hamilton, so while he didn’t exactly need a break, the rest hasn’t hurt his game. 

“That’s what rest does to you,” Claude Julien said. “Unfortunately you can’t do that with every player, but whenever a player gets injured and gets some rest and comes back, it goes to show you how important that part of the game is, and unfortunately we don’t get that luxury. Some guys will obviously in February, but nonetheless it makes a guy come back more energized and obviously he’s been a good player for us since he’s come back.”

Paille’s also been able to handle change well. As was the case in his last game before sitting out, his longtime line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton is missing a part with Thornton suspended. Jordan Caron has manned the right side for the games Paille has been in, but the Bruins played left wing Justin Florek instead of Caron Saturday. As such, Paille moved over to the right side. The line produced a pair of goals.

“That was a reason that line was doing [well], is that he was able to make that transition to the other side,” Julien said of Paille. “I thought he had a great game.”

In a case oddly similar to the 2011-12 season, Paille is also taking penalties for the first time in the middle of the season. Paille had no penalties in the first half (41 games) two seasons ago, and he hadn’t taken a penalty until the Bruins’ 41st game of this season. 

His first penalty two years ago came in the form of a five-minute fighting major, while he’s totaled four penalty minutes over the last two games thanks to a tripping penalty Thursday and a goaltender interference penalty Saturday. 

The second of Paille’s two penalties could have been another goal for the Bruins, as he whiffed on a feed in front and crashed into Pavelec. 

Though he’s making a habit of ruining his Lady Byng campaigns at the halfway point, Paille said though he likes to keep his penalty minutes low, he’d rather not have a zero in the PIM column anyway. 

“It’s a great award, it’s a good sportsmanship award and I try to play the game the right way,” Paille said. “There are times when I don’t get penalties just because I don’t try to play dirty. But I like to play physical when I see the opportunity. But you know the last couple of games the refs called it the other way. I tried to avoid the goalie as quick as I could, but I was kind of focused on the puck and by the time I looked I was into the goalie. And the last game it was a penalty – I tried to get to the puck and I got his feet instead.”

Lady Byng candidate or not, Paille’s brought the good stuff of late for the B’s, proving that time off isn’t always such a bad thing.