Bruins' Paille plays big as playoffs near

BOSTON -- With 10 seconds remaining in regulation and the Boston Bruins clinging to a one-goal lead against the New York Islanders on Wednesday night at TD Garden, Bruins forward Daniel Paille proved why he deserves to be in the lineup for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Islanders had goaltender Rick DiPietro out of the net for the extra attacker and controlled the offensive zone when the puck made its way out to the blue line to set up a one-time from the point.

In an all-out effort, Paille sacrificed his body and blocked the shot, forcing the puck out of the zone to secure a 3-2 victory for the Bruins. It wasn't the team effort Bruins coach Claude Julien was looking for, especially given Boston's implosion against the Rangers on Monday, losing a three-goal lead and the game 5-3.

But the effort by Paille and his linemates of Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell proved crucial on Wednesday. Thornton and Campbell both scored, while Paille added an assist.

"Thorny and Soupy scored some big goals for us, but how about that block at the end by Dan Paille?" Julien said. "Hopefully that doesn't go unnoticed, because it didn't from our end.

"There's no doubt what Dan did at the end is outstanding," Julien added. "He was recognized by his teammates for that and the rest of his game. If we're going to do well in the playoffs, those are the kinds of things you're going to need from everybody. Those guys were setting a good example."

Julien really wanted to make it a point to focus on the effort by that entire line. He hopes his teammates took notice, too.

"If you can get that kind of effort and production from that fourth line, imagine if the other lines are going and how good we can be," Julien said. "Hopefully the other guys jump on board here and gives us what they can. The fourth line, playing like they did tonight, makes us that much better."

The commitment from that line, along with Tim Thomas' 30-save night, were the only positive things for the Bruins on Wednesday.

Paille has three goals and two assists for five points in his past seven games and has really taken advantage of his opportunity. He's played only 41 games this season, but his play of late has stood out.

There's no doubt what Dan did at the end is outstanding. If we're going to do well in the playoffs, those are the kinds of things you're going to need from everybody.

-- Bruins coach Claude Julien,
on Daniel Paille

"I knew when I got back in, I didn't need much," Paille said. "I just needed a little bit [of playing time] to get out there and Claude put me out there, so I try to make the best of it every time. So far, it's been going well, and obviously you want to keep that going."

"People haven't talked about him much this year because he's been in and out of our lineup. He's had a trying year," explained Julien. "He's getting a lot of attention now because of his play."

When the Bruins acquired Paille in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 20, 2009, Boston knew it was getting a player whose strength is his skating, especially on the forecheck and on the penalty kill. When he's playing with confidence, he's effective and creates scoring chances, too.

"Dan is starting to do that with more confidence every game," Julien said. "That's what's making him a good player again. Obviously, his patience and sticking with it and taking advantage of the opportunity we've given him lately is paying off."

It's apparent Paille's confidence is at an all-time high during his tenure in Boston.

"I think so, especially playing these past few games, these last few weeks," Paille said. "Just being stronger on the puck, I definitely feel a lot more confident out there. Obviously, I want to continue."

If Paille continues to play the way he has, there's a very good possibility rookie Tyler Seguin could be the healthy scratch for the playoffs. That final spot in the lineup could come down to Seguin versus Michael Ryder. But you can be sure Paille will be an important factor in the playoffs.

As much as Julien was pumping the team's fourth line, the coach was clearly disappointed by the top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton.

Julien explained after the game that the reason why he decided to tweak his lines a bit, mainly swapping Krejci for Chris Kelly, was to spark those respective lines because the coach thinks some players are already focused on the playoffs and have forgotten the fact there's still a couple of games remaining.

The Bruins' top line, specifically, produced only one shot after two periods, and it was Krejci who had it.

"I think we expect a little bit more from those guys moving forward," Julien said. "I think that whole line was flat tonight, so we had to split them up."

Julien also switched up his defensive pairing in the second and third periods because he wasn't happy with the play of some of the blueliners.

"It was experimental, but out of necessity," Julien said.

There are only two games remaining in the regular season, and once the puck drops on the playoffs, the Bruins will need contributions from everyone in the lineup if they want to enjoy a long run in an attempt to bring the Cup back to Boston for the first time since 1972.

Each season, there are always certain players who step up and stand out. Paille could be that guy for the Bruins.

"I think we all want to be that guy," said a humble Paille. "Whoever it is, it's going to be huge for us. And maybe we get a playoff run where everyone steps up, so hopefully that really works out for us."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.