Merrimack’s Tim Schaller aims for big hit with Boston Bruins
This is the week Merrimack’s Tim Schaller has waited the last three months for.
Heck, perhaps his entire hockey lifetime.
Schaller begins his first Boston Bruins training camp on Thursday in Brighton, Mass. He’s spent the last three years in the Buffalo Sabres organization, going back and forth between the Sabres and their AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.
And now, after signing with Boston as a free agent in June, he’s vying for a spot on the team he grew up passionately rooting for. Schaller’s first career NHL goal, in fact, came at the Boston Garden in a late December 2014 game vs. the Bruins.
“I’m very excited,” Schaller said. “I find myself losing sleep on how exciting it’s going to be. I’ve had to calm myself down. I’m a hockey player.”
And Schaller says he’s a hockey player who has learned from mistaken strategy of the past. The last couple of years, he’s reported to camp in good shape, but not great shape, especially with his skating.
“The last couple of seasons I was in good shape,but not real good skating shape,” he said. “I could feel it. So this summer I decided to skate more. I made the decision myself.”
A decision that had him skating to the tune of three to four days a week at Skate 3 in Tyngsborough, Mass., with a couple of other players and one of his former coaches with the New England Huskies junior
team, Tim Pelletier.
“It worked out well,” Schaller said. “Somebody dropped his name and I called him and things fell into place. I wanted to do some new drills, and some things I used to do. We put in a good plan. We put our minds together and it came out great.”
So now Schaller begins his quest to make the Bruins right out of camp as a third or fourth line forward, the same role he had with the Sabres. It’s possible he could be sent to Providence as camp goes on, and be one of the Bruins who goes back and forth during the year as he did in Buffalo. His contract is two-way.
But that’s something he’d love to avoid. Just how does he expect to make an impact in camp?
“Being in shape is vital,” Schaller said. “I think what I can bring to the team is energy and physical play. If I can deliver a hit every shift, disrupt the defensemen, I’ll have a great chance and will be doing my job.”
Schaller’s workouts early this week moved from Skate 3 to the Bruins’ new state-of-the-art practice facility, Warrior Ice Arena, as they’ve moved out of the old, outdated facility in Wilmington, Mass. He’s been taking part in “captains practices” with other Bruins players, without any coaching staff direction. That starts Thursday.
“It’s awesome, state-of-the-art,” Schaller said. “They’ve got everything you need there.”
And Schaller, the former Providence College standout, thinks he’s done everything he can to seize the moment.
“I’ve never felt this good at this time in the (late) summer,” he said. “It’s been a long summer. I’m ready.”