Chris Wagner is a pro’s pro.

The veteran winger and Massachusetts native spent almost all of last year in Providence and faces an uphill battle to earn a roster spot in Boston’s crowded fourth-line field.

But in last Saturday’s preseason opener, he turned in a typical Wagner performance, delivering a game-high eight hits and bringing his usual amount of sandpaper. He was happy with that outing, but was not about to get giddy over it.

“I thought the whole game in Philly was kind of sloppy, but I thought I played my role as well as I could,” said the 31-year-old Wagner. “I tried to create more offense, but obviously physically, energy, winning faceoffs and (penalty kill) and all that, I thought I was decent at. But it was one game and obviously the first game of preseason, so it’s tough to really grade yourself on that.”

It appears Wagner’s chief competition is Oskar Steen for the right wing spot on the fourth line. Marc McLaughlin is also in the mix and has played well, but the team still has the option of sending him to Providence without exposing him to waivers, which would make him more likely to go down. Wagner also fits the mold of a player who can be useful as an extra forward who may not play every night, as opposed to a younger player who is still developing, at least in theory.

He also has an admirer in Jim Montgomery, Boston’s new coach, which doesn’t hurt.


“I’ve always noticed Wags, even when he was in Anaheim, and then obviously the success he had here in Boston. His details are high-end. He’s someone as a coach you trust because he executes really well, especially in that fourth-line role,” said Montgomery.

As of now, it feels like Wagner – in the final year of a contract that will play him $1.35 million – will get a fair shot from Montgomery to stick in Boston.

“He reached out in the summer. He said everyone has a clean slate, which I thought was awesome,” said Wagner. “He said he respects my path to the league and what I’ve done to stay here and how I play the game, so we’ll see what happens. But he’s been very positive with me so far.”

At the end of training camp last season, Wagner – a key fourth-line player in the team’s run to the Stanley Cup final – was sent to Providence. It was a tough blow for a player who did not take the easy route to the NHL. But he went down and played the mentor role to young players as best as he could. And when he was called up for the final regular-season game, which meant nothing in the standings, Wagner chalked up 11 hits in 15:57 of ice time and, the next thing he knew, he was playing playoff games for the Bruins against Carolina.

“It’s more of a ‘What do I have to lose’ kind of thing’ Like I’ve said before, I’m proud of myself that I was able to come back and play in the playoffs and play decent, too. I still think I can play in this league but time will tell,” he said.

He said he worked hard in the offseason on his foot speed and he wanted to test well at the start of camp, which he did. He’ll let his performances speak for themselves.


When asked if he could handle getting sent back to Providence, he answered in typical Wagner fashion.

“Would I be able to handle? As opposed to what?” he said with a wry grin. “That’s my job, so I’ll show up.”

MORE COMING SATURDAY: Montgomery said the David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron lines will play in Saturday’s 1 p.m. matinee at the Garden against the Flyers. Krejci, back after a year in Czechia, has six practices under his belt and said he’s still kicking off the rust.

“The legs feel good but, to be honest, I’m still working on getting my hands back and get those passes and see the ice a little bit better,” said Krejci. “It’s different in scrimmages or skating in the summer for a couple of months. Once you come here, it’s faster. That’s something I’ve been working on and trying to read the plays a little bit better. But that’s what training camp’s all about and hopefully I get a couple of (preseason) games before the first real game.”

Krejci’s self-assessment notwithstanding, Montgomery has liked what he’s seen from No. 46.

“I thought he’s been good,” said Montgomery. “His ability to make plays, how smart he is … maybe he’s not making the plays to his level. That’s good news to me to hear. But positionally, defensively, he’s been sound as well. That’s very comforting as a coach.”


NO STRALMAN DEAL: Anton Stralman, here on a tryout, has looked pretty smooth playing with his countryman Hampus Lindholm. But if either side is inching toward a more concrete commitment, they weren’t showing it.

Stralman said no parameters are set for a deal if both sides do see a fit, and Montgomery said that, though Stralman has been skating with the Bruins current No. 1 defenseman, he plans to mix up his pairs after Thursday’s off day.

Stralman also said that if his career ended now, he’d be at peace with it.

“I’ve played 15 years. If this is the last couple of weeks of it, so be it. If not, great. I’m fortunate to have been playing this long,” he said. “And this would be a great bonus, don’t get me wrong. But at the end of the day, it’s hockey and I have other stuff in my life that I enjoy, too, with my family and four kids. It is what it is and whatever comes out of it, I’ll live with it.”

Stralman’s family is still in Arizona where his children are in school and no decision has been made if they’d come east should he sign.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.