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Johnny Boychuk should enjoy an expanded role in Boston this season after an exceptional 2011-12 campaign.
In his third full NHL season, the 28-year-old defenseman ranked third among defenseman in plus-minus, with his plus 27-rating trailing only teammate Zdeno Chara and Vancouver's Dan Hamhuis.
One of the younger members of an aging Boston defensive corps, the late-blooming Boychuk has only just entered his prime. With the 26-year-old Adam McQuaid recovering from October surgery and rookie Dougie Hamilton likely to be handled with kid gloves, Boychuk will be asked to make up for any energy lacking in the sprint-style season from the the 30-plus old guard, comprised of Chara, Andrew Ference and Dennis Seidenberg.
Boychuk's physical play will continue to help set the tone for the Bruins as their staunch defense adjusts to new No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask, but his offense could use some improvement.
With just 46 points in his last three seasons, Boychuk will never be an offensive dynamo, but he does have a booming slap shot. If he lets it rip a little bit more often, the Bruins' scrappy forwards could hammer home a few more goals in the dirty areas on tip-ins and rebounds.
Boychuk mustered eight points in 15 games for Austria's EC Red Bull Salzburg during the lockout, showing that he has what it takes to make a bigger offensive contribution. Getting 10 to 15 points from Boychuk this season coupled with his usual top-notch defensive play would be huge for the Bruins.