Marc McLaughlin scores twice, makes Bruins’ roster decisions even tougher

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In the battle for bottom-six jobs, Marc McLaughlin could have been a relatively easy cut -- not because he didn’t deserve a roster spot or couldn’t handle it, but because he could be sent down to AHL Providence without having to go through waivers.

In theory, that could put the 23-year-old Billerica native at a disadvantage as the Bruins’ front office stacks him up against the likes of Jack Studnicka, Trent Frederic, A.J. Greer and Oskar Steen, all of whom could be claimed off waivers by another team if the Bruins cut them. He’s also fighting an uphill battle against veterans like Nick Foligno and Tomas Nosek, who are on NHL contracts and more established in the league.

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McLaughlin apparently has no interest in making the Bruins’ decision an easy one, though. After Greer stated his case with a two-goal game on Tuesday, McLaughlin did the same with a pair of goals in the Bruins’ 4-0 win over the Flyers Saturday at TD Garden.

Both goals came from the area where McLaughlin is going to have make his name offensively: In front of the net. On the first, a power-play goal, the Boston College alum got in perfect position to tip in Jack Ahcan’s shot from the point. On the second, he crashed the crease and eventually banged in a rebound after a couple tries.

It wasn’t just the goals, though. McLaughlin led the Bruins with four shots on goal Saturday, he won a number of board battles, and he was a key part of a penalty kill that killed off all four Philadelphia power plays. He had a good clear from below the goal line on one, and broke up a zone entry at the blue line on another. In McLaughlin’s 11:01 of 5-on-5 ice time, the Bruins out-attempted the Flyers 8-2. Only Taylor Hall (6-0) had a better Corsi-for percentage on the day.

McLaughlin knows that the penalty-killing, in particular, will be critical if he’s going to run with a fourth-line role. Fortunately for him, he’s done a lot of it at every level he’s played.

“Penalty kill has been a part of my game all growing up,” McLaughlin said. “I did it a lot in college. I’m hoping that’s gonna be a big part of my pro game. Obviously you have to work into that role, but it’s been good this preseason to get some reps at it and get a feel for what it’s like at the pro level. Hopefully I have a role there, for sure.”

Saturday's performance comes after a solid game on Tuesday as well, when McLaughlin had an assist and was part of a young line with Greer and Jack Studnicka that dominated against the Rangers. On Saturday, he did it with a bunch of different linemates, as the Bruins were forced to change things up due to in-game injuries to Hall and Fabian Lysell (neither of which were serious, according to Bruins coach Jim Montgomery).

McLaughlin feels like he belongs.

“Yeah, absolutely. I feel confident,” he said. “I feel like my skating’s gotten a little better. I think I can manage the puck a little bit better, but I think I was in the right areas in front of the net today. I think that really plays to my game, getting to the front of the net, getting shots off, being a big body. I was happy with that. Just keep competing.”

He knows he still has work to do to win a spot on the opening-night roster. While he’s not getting caught up in other players’ contract statuses and waiver situations, he does recognize that there’s a lot of competition for not a lot of spots.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with that [contract situations]. I think it’s moreso I’m young, I just got here. Obviously I played here a little bit in the spring, but everything has to be earned for me,” McLaughlin said. “I’ve kind of been keeping that mindset, that I need to earn everything. I’m still a young guy. I need to show up every day and I need to earn the spot. It’s not getting handed to me. I’m just trying to compete as hard as I can and push for that position, for sure.”

Montgomery has said that he wants everyone battling for roster spots to make the decisions as hard as possible for the coaches and front office. So far, McLaughlin is doing that.

“He’s a very conscientious young man, tries to do things the right way all the time, whether it’s practice or games, and he pays attention to detail,” Montgomery said of McLaughlin. “There’s a young man whose growth will grow as he grows, understanding how we want to play and also professional hockey.

“…It’s great. We have a lot of good depth up front, and on the back end. So, decisions are getting tougher and tougher, and that’s what us as coaches and management are looking to see.”

Don’t be surprised if McLaughlin winds up making the decision so tough that he makes the team and it’s someone else who gets cut -- contract and waiver situations be damned.

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