WILMINGTON, MA – You can’t beat the commute to work these days if you’re Jay Pandolfo.
The Burlington High legend owns a home in Winchester with his wife and two children, and is shuttling back and forth between the TD Garden and Wilmington’s Ristuccia Arena while on a training camp tryout with the hometown Boston Bruins. It’s obviously a dream-come-true scenario for Pandolfo after growing up a Bruins fan before starring at Boston University and winning a pair of Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils.
“If I get a chance to play with the Bruins it will probably be killing penalties in a bottom-six forward role and adding some depth,” said Pandolfo. “It’s been great in [camp]. Being a kid growing up here and being a huge fan [of the Bruins] it’s great just to wear [the B’s sweater]. Whatever happens, either way it is just great.
“Even talking to [Brian Rolston] and [Mike Mottau] when they came in here last year, they really enjoyed their time in Boston. You know it’s a great group of guys, it’s a great organization and they have a great chance to win another Cup this season. So we’ll see what happens.”
But the 38-year-old Pandolfo can still help an NHL hockey club, and simply wanted a chance to prove it coming out of the 119-day lockout. If the 2012-13 NHL season had been cancelled the chances are very good that Pandolfo would have called it a career, and the likelihood remains that this season might be his last go-round. But there’s also a belief among the B’s brass that Pandolfo’s strengths – penalty killing, shot-blocking and defensive forward play – are exactly the kind of things that would mesh nicely with the current cast of Bruins forward personnel.
He also skated with players like Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Daniel Paille during the NHL lockout – as well as in summers past – and has a good feel for this Bruins club on and off the ice.
“They’ve always been a great group of guys and I was always very comfortable playing for Claude in New Jersey,” said Pandolfo.
That “Claude” is Claude Julien, of course, who fondly remembers his days coaching Pandolfo in New Jersey, when he teamed with John Madden as a pair of PK demons that played a big role in the Devils’ rise to Cup glory.
“He was a really good player and I always thought he was by far our best penalty killer [in New Jersey],” said Julien. “The one thing I’ve always said about him is that he’s never received the credit he deserves. You have guys that are unsung heroes and he was certainly one of those guys.
“That’s from before I even got to New Jersey. They had that tandem of Madden and Pandolfo, but Pando to me was a smart guy that was making really good decisions on that [PK] until. You saw that even today. He’s not afraid to block shots and has some really good qualities. Not only that but he’s really a class act, and to have him on a tryout is something we unanimously agreed on.”
It may come down to a simple numbers game for Pandolfo, who had similar tryout offers from a handful of NHL clubs. But in a short 48-game abbreviated season where the Bruins will be playing every other day in the months of March and April, each NHL club will need a heady veteran capable of remaining effective in spot duty.
That could be exactly the right kind of role for Pandolfo in Black and Gold as his hockey career comes full circle to where it began as a hockey star for the Red Devils and Terriers in the high school and college ranks respectively.