Erik Haula has excelled for the Bruins since being pair on a forward line with David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall. Duane Burleson/Associated Press

To say that the first 25 games of Erik Haula’s Bruins career had been a disappointment would be an understatement.

But if the last two games are any indication of what the veteran can bring to this team, then the Bruins stretch run may be more entertaining than we all might have thought.

In Saturday’s comeback win over the Sabres, Haula made a nice under-the-radar play by driving to the net to open a good shooting lane for Taylor Hall’s game-tying goal.

But on Sunday, Haula took center stage when his second-period laser – off a rush on which he showed off his speed – turned out to be the game-winner and was a the catalyst for the Bruins runaway win.

That Haula’s improved play over the weekend occurred after he was moved up to center Hall and David Pastrnak is no coincidence, though he felt like his game was moving in the right direction after being scratched for one game on Nov. 28 and moving over to the wing for a time.

“I was really excited. Two great players and getting the opportunity with those two is exciting. It’s been a good couple of wins. We’ve been building, and talking a lot, so hopefully we can keep building off that,” said Haula.


“I felt like my game was headed to the right direction before all this stuff happened (with the line changes). I thought my game elevated when I got put on the wing and I feel like it’s been trending towards what I expect for myself, so hopefully I can keep building and produce a little more here.”

After signing a two-year deal with an average annual value of $2.375 million with the Bruins in the offseason, Haula had a strong preseason and looked like he was going to have a positive impact on this team. Up until the weekend, it hadn’t really happened. He went into Sunday’s game with 1-4-5 totals.

“Of course it’s (frustrating),” said Haula. “The positive about it was that I was getting a lot of chances, so I was doing something right. But some of it was on me and some of it was puck luck. I’ve definitely hit enough posts to go around for this year, so hopefully I can start hitting the net a little more and go from there. But for sure it was a frustrating. But it’s a new year, so hopefully good things are going to come.”

One thing that has changed is that his giddy-up has improved noticeably. Not only did he use his speed on the goal, he nearly had a second one when he turned on the burners for a short-handed breakaway but he hit the post late in the second.

“My legs feel good,” said Haula. “Even (Saturday) I felt like I was skating and just trying to work on it. It’s one of my strengths. It’s vital for my game and my line’s game that I bring it every night, so that’s definitely an emphasis, push the D back and create some room for Taylor and David. Obviously good players can create off that, like we saw (Saturday) and even today a couple of times, so I’m just trying to bring that and working on that.”

AFTER GETTING BANGED up in Saturday’s game, Curtis Lazar took warmups but was a late scratch. Taking his place was Oskar Steen after he was activated off the taxi squad. Steen continued to show that he’s an NHL-caliber player, earning a couple of in-tight scoring chances before finally picking up the primary assist on Tomas Nosek’s nail-in-the-coffin goal in the third period.


Though it’s his current lot in life that he can be sent back to Providence, his play is not being ignored, said Coach Bruce Cassidy. There may not be room for him right now, but Steen is in the process of making room.

“What’s happened is he’s come up and played well but you’ve got this depth in our lineup, contract situations, roster issues, so it becomes asset management. He doesn’t need waivers,” said Cassidy. “It happens to certain guys in the league and then you eventually push your way through and you won’t get taken out. And then you adjust your roster. That happens to a lot of different teams … so, yeah, we’ve got a decision to make when it comes to him, and those are good decisions when guys push their way up.”

JEREMY SWAYMAN MAY may not possess the pugnacity of Tim Thomas, but he showed his ornery side in the second period when, toward the end of a scrum in front of his net, he took a pop at Sam Gagner, earning matching minors with Wings’ veteran.

“I didn’t like the situation and I was getting kind of being held by the back of my helmet. I’m going to stand up for myself,” said Swayman. “And at the same time, if he’s going to mess with my guys, I’m going to make sure I do my part and protect my guys. I felt we did a good job at that and it felt like we were a team there for a sec and it was great.”

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