You don’t need to remind Nick Bonino about his stat line.
How closely does he track it?
“Pretty closely,” the 22-year-old center said Saturday. “It’s frustrating not having a point.”
For a man with no goals and no assists, it’s almost a surprise that Bonino has been a fixture on the so-called “kid line” in Anaheim. The kids on the wing have changed frequently, but the center position has been locked up since Bonino was recalled from the American Hockey League in early November. He’s only been scratched once in 20 games, averaging 9:42 in ice time per contest.
Only one player in the entire NHL – Kings defenseman Matt Greene – has played in more games than Bonino without picking up a goal or an assist. Among forwards, only new York Islanders tough guy Trevor Gillies has played as many games without a point.
The reason Randy Carlyle keeps penciling in Bonino is simple.
“We feel pretty good about Bonino from a standpoint that he’s been a safe enough player,” Carlyle said. “You don’t have to teach him the defensive side. He’s been reacting very well to that.”
Prior to this season, Bonino was known at least as much for his talents on offense. With the exception of his freshman season at Boston University, Bonino has been a point per game player at every level since age 15.
That changed when he made his NHL debut late last season, filling in for Ryan Getzlaf in nine games as the Ducks’ top-line center. He had a goal and an assist while averaging 14:13 time on ice per game.
Speaking of Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry, Bonino said, “when you’re with those two, it’s chances galore.”
Naturally, Bonino’s chances have decreased this season, but they’ve been there.
“I made some passes that goalies have somehow gotten across the crease and stopped, or just went wide, and shots that are going to go in on a different day,” he said. “As long as I keep working hard, the points are going to come.”
For as long as Bonino’s been here, it wasn’t until last night that the Kid Line combined for a goal that was all their own. Bonino didn’t get a goal or an assist, but he started the second-period sequence by winning a faceoff in the defensive zone. That led to a long stretch pass off the glass by Lubomir Visnovsky, which led to a breakaway for Brandon McMillan and Dan Sexton; Sexton finished by deflecting a hard pass from McMillan into the net.
“Any time the whole line gets a goal, it’s something to be happy about,” Bonino said.
Added Carlyle, “if they can get in on the forecheck and utilize their speed, they’re quick players. Last night specifically (they turned a) defensive zone faceoff into a goal at the other end just by transitioning the puck from defense to offense and attacking. That’s one of their assets.
“(Bonino) is still is creating things, but he has to put some pressure on himself to deliver.”
Sounds like he’s feeling it.