Olympian Donatelli crashes into meek lineup of Bruins

March 15, 1992|By Kevin Paul Dupont | Kevin Paul Dupont,Boston Globe

QUEBEC -- Wanted (desperately): One mad-dog forward, interested in long and potentially lucrative hockey career, to play with established NHL franchise. No need to apply. Just show up at Le Colisee with two sticks, some fire in belly and report to visiting dressing room. Note: Anyone with a facsimile of Bobby Schmautz's snarl awarded preferential placement.

That's not exactly the approach the Boston Bruins had taken here for last night's game against the Quebec Nordiques, but they hope they have the man to fit the classified ad. Boston University's Clark Donatelli, last seen as captain of the U.S. Olympic team, was to have made his Bruins debut against the improving Nordiques.

"We'll use him at left wing, right wing . . . wherever we need him," said coach Rick Bowness, his team on a three-game losing streak and in danger of falling back to .500. "We have to get the guys who are here [crashing the net] on a more consistent basis. We don't like to see it just in flashes."

If he can fill the emotional, sparkplug role, Donatelli, 24, may have returned to the NHL at the perfect time and place. Formerly TC with the Minnesota North Stars for 25 games in 1989-90, he could win a permanent spot in the Boston lineup if he simply crashes the net, deals out some punishing body checks and otherwise plays a menacing game without landing too often in the penalty box.

"That's how I got to this level," said Donatelli, asked if management had spelled out his role. "I assume that's what they want, and that's what I'll try to give them. I don't want to change my style now. I like to use my speed, forecheck, create havoc, jump loose pucks and maybe even work on penalty killing. You know, good hustle."

Mired in a 3-8-2 stretch, the Bruins have been wandering aimlessly for the better part of a month. They are still on course for a first-round playoff date with Buffalo, but a 6-3 loss to the Sabres Wednesday showed that their current brand of hockey wouldn't carry them very far in the month of April.

Is Donatelli the answer to all their problems? Hardly. He doesn't have the skill to be, say, a 30-goal scorer, but there are times

when will is more important to a team than skill. Such is the case with the '91-92 Bruins.

Once one of the most feared teams in the NHL, a club that hasn't finished below .500 since 1966-67, the Bruins this season have fought for two points on a nightly basis the way your penny-pinching Uncle Bob might fight over the tab at an expensive restaurant. Time to pay up? Sorry, gotta go.

In an afternoon practice here Thursday, Donatelli, fresh from signing a free-agent contract Tuesday, skated on two lines. He played left wing on a Bob Sweeney-Lyndon Byers combination and later switched to the right side with Scott Arniel and Brent Ashton. Look for him just about anywhere, No. 50 on his back and ideally a scowl on his face.

"We haven't been getting in there for screens and rebounds," said Bowness, saddled with a team high on injuries and short on courage. "When we do get in there, we often pass up chances to shoot the puck because of some stupid pass plays."

Donatelli is not a passer, and puckhandling is far from his forte. However, he showed in the Olympics that he can barrel down the slot and crash the net. NHL defensemen are bigger and stronger than anything he saw at the Olympic level, but he'll have his chances -- the same chances many of his black-and-gold predecessors this year have passed up for reasons unknown and often baffling. Who knows, he could even be seen in one of those rarities known as a fight.

"I think that's part of the game," said Donatelli. "If a fight arises, I'll be there, no problem. I mean, my style . . . it might cause a few people to take exception. In Minny, that's how I played. I'll be ready."

Meanwhile, the Bruins will be waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting.

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