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Chiarelli On Toucher & Rich: Surprised By Bruins Early-Season ‘Battle Level’

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General Manager of the Boston Bruins Peter Chiarelli. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

General Manager of the Boston Bruins Peter Chiarelli. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) –  It may be early, but the Boston Bruins are the best team in the Eastern Conference after picking up their fifth win of the season Tuesday night over the New Jersey Devils.

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich on Wednesday morning, and though he’s not surprised at the success, he’s surprised at how good the Bruins are playing so early.

“What I’ve been surprised at is the battle level; the consistent battle level right from the beginning,” said Chiarelli. “When you don’t have that, it’s the players aren’t in sync and minds are on other things. I’ve been surprised and happy with that, because I’ve seen a good battle level in every game.”

Read: Bruins Show True Resiliency In Shootout Win Over Devils

While the team is rolling, the one area of concern is the third line. The Kelly-Peverley-Bourque line is the only line that hasn’t scored this season.

“I don’t have an answer for that; they’re out of sorts. Chris Bourque is a newcomer to that line; but I don’t want him to shoulder the blame,” said Chiarelli. “They’re just not clicking right now.”

“He’s a grittier player with a good off skill set. He needs to keep his feet moving to succeed at this level,” Chiarelli said of the struggling Bourque. “We like the left shot skill set that he brings, and right now it’s not clicking. We’ll have to see how that goes.”

Chiarelli also touched on the Tim Thomas situation, with the netminder sitting out this season for “personal” reasons but still going towards the Bruins salary cap in accordance to an NHL rule. Chiarelli has taken steps to appeal that rule, but there is not much the NHL or he can do about it.

“It’s just a rule. (Thomas) was signed when he was 35-years-old, and the rule states when you sign a player 35 or older to a multi-year deal, if that players retires or doesn’t play or goes to the minors, he’ll always be on the cap for the duration of the contract,” he said.

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But should a team need to add salary come the April 3 trade deadline, Chiarelli could use Thomas as a trading chip.

“There may be a team at the deadline that is maybe not making the playoffs and kind of strip down a little bit, so they may need a salary cap hit to get to the floor,” he explained. “We have, including LTI on (Marc) Savard, we have close $9 million in cap space, which translates at the deadline to $50 million in salaries to add to. We’re in good condition cap-wise, but it is an unfortunate rule.”

Chiarelli also discusses the Bruins’ goalie rotation, and the play of rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton:

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