Noel Acciari has been promoted to the third line for tonight’s game against the Lightning. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)
Forward Noel Acciari has apparently made an impression in his first two games under Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.
Originally an emergency recall (but transitioned into a regular recall midway through his first game up with the club), the 25-year-old banger has chipped in with an assist, four shots on goal, and five hits in a combined 20:27 of time on ice between losses to the Leafs and Senators to start the B’s increasingly do-or-die week.
It’s the workmanlike sample that’s to be expected from Acciari, and one prompted Cassidy, whose team has dropped three games in a row for the first time since he took over for Claude Julien, to give No. 55 an actual promotion for the first time in his NHL career.
Slated as the right-side complement to the Black and Gold’s third line with Ryan Spooner at center and Frank Vatrano to the left when the Bruins play host to the desperate Lightning tonight at TD Garden, Acciari’s boost up to the third line is just one of several made in another day of line changes.
Something that Cassidy has somewhat made his calling card in 18 games behind the bench.
“It gives you guys something to talk about,” Cassidy joked of his line changes after the morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena.
But there is a method to the madness of moving an energy skater to the club’s third line, too.
“I think [Spooner and Vatrano] play well with a guy that gets to the net. Frank’s a shooter, Spooner’s a disher. They need somebody going to the net,” Cassidy, who has tried Jimmy Hayes, Drew Stafford, and Matt Beleskey there before giving Acciari a shot tonight, said. “I thought Noel’s done a good job on the fourth line. They create traffic in front of the net. Clearly he doesn’t have a resume as a goal scorer. We know that. We’re gonna give him an opportunity to get there and see how it works out.”
Of course, this isn’t Cassidy nor the B’s first look at Acciari, who has skated in 21 NHL games this year. Acciari also played in 45 games for the P-Bruins last year with Cassidy at the helm, and it was under Cassidy’s watch a year ago that Acciari tallied seven goals and 19 points and eventually earned his way into a late season, 19-game callup with the Big B’s. The Rhode Island native also had a 30-game run with Providence between NHL recalls this year, too, with six goals and 14 points for the P-Bruins.
“We’ve encouraged all of our forwards to hang onto [the puck] a little more, so that’s part of it. I think part of it is maturity, just playing more hockey and working on building his offensive game,” Cassidy said of Acciari’s offensive development. “He finished last year [in Providence] — I put him in the middle between Vatrano and [Seth] Griffith so he could see more pucks and make more plays because if he’s going to grow and be an NHL player, you have to have a certain level of skill and offensive ability.”
Acciari’s promotion to the Spooner line also keeps the pairs that Cassidy likes to have — Spooner and Vatrano, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and David Krejci and David Pastrnak — together, but puts a player of a different skill-set in a position to add an element that the club believes can lead to a more balanced four-line group for the club.
“Even though you may be a fourth line energy guy first and foremost, and you may be groomed to be a penalty-kill, at the end of the day you still need to make plays in today’s game, you still gotta create some level of offense,” Cassidy said. “We just gotta get the finish. That’s what we’re looking for with [Acciari]. And I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you that he’s frustrated.”
That frustration has bled its way into the record books, too.
Currently, Acciari has fired the eighth-most shots on goal without having recorded a goal in the franchise’s history, with 37 shots and zero goals, and Jeff Hoggan (53 shots and zero goals) is the only other forward in franchise history to put more shots on goal and not scored a goal. Matt Bartkowski, by the way, leads all B’s skaters in club history, with zero goals on 169 shots in a B’s uniform (although as you would remember, Bartkowski did score a playoff goal back in Game 7 against Toronto in 2013).
“But he’s getting opportunities and I think that [finish] will come if he continues to get his opportunities,” Cassidy said of Acciari’s need to bear down in the attacking zone. “I think everybody when they’re in the league a little longer gets more confident.”