Danton Heinen

Boston Bruins center Danton Heinen

BOSTON — Danton Heinen didn’t even get a point out of the play, but he’s in no position to turn away from any good vibes he can create.

In the third period of the Boston Bruins’ 6-4 victory over the Calgary Flames on Thursday, Heinen — mired in a season-long scoring slump — was in the right spot in the defensive zone to block a shot and then he muscled it out of the defensive zone. Eventually, David Krejci collected it in the neutral zone and he fed Jake DeBrusk for the backhand shot that wound up being the game-winner.

It may not have been a sexy play by Heinen, but the goal would not have materialized without it.

“I’ll take every positive I can get right now,” said Heinen with a sheepish laugh. “It was nice to be part of that goal and its nice to see Jake put it in, but yeah, I’ll take all the positive I can get right now.”

After being the B’s fifth-leading scorer last year with 16-31-47 totals as a rookie, Heinen has just 4-6-10 totals. That’s a problem, no question.

But while Ryan Donato’s responsible play with and without the puck still comes and goes and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson’s competitiveness remains inconsistent — causing those players to be scratched in recent games — Heinen’s remained a reliable player. He’s a plus player (plus-2), which is no small feat when over half the team is in the red.

That reliability has kept him in the lineup and has allowed him countless opportunities to break out of this monumental funk. But at some point, he’s going to have to break through on the score sheet. “If you look at his...chances for and against for us, you’d like to see more finish,” said coach Bruce Cassidy after the game on Thursday. “He has had chances. We’ve talked about maybe shooting in different spots, but that’s tough in the heat of the moment. Players shoot where they see net or where they’re comfortable, but against, he’s always pretty low, no matter who he plays with. We can rely on him for that and hopefully it comes around. And until someone pushes him out of his spot, we like that part of his game.”

We’d like the offense to come as well. We’re greedy. We want it all.”

In Friday’s practice, Cassidy reunited the kid line of Heinen, JFK and Donato. The coach was very clear that nothing is set in stone. He’s still trying to figure out who the best fit would be on David Krejci’s right side. Krejci was given the day off to be with his wife and newborn boy, so a second line consisted of DeBrusk and the returning David Backes being centered by Colby Cave. One easy move would be to simply drop Krejci back between DeBrusk and Backes and have Cave sit and keep the three young players together.

There’s no guarantee that Cassidy will do that but, with the ability to control their competition a little more with the next three games at the Garden, it might be a good time to give that combo another look.

“What I liked about them is that they’re young so they’ll talk to one another,” said Cassidy after practice. “JFK is kind of a quiet guy. Not that you’re trying to make a guy feel comfortable but I think it helped him to play with guys who are more his peers. And they have the ability to score. JFK can make plays and we’ve seen Danton score and we’ve seen Ryan score. Going forward, it might be a good line as well so you thinking now and later.”

We shall see.

Catching the Sabres

The Bruins begin the second half of their season tonight with a rather large game against the Buffalo Sabres. The two teams are in a points tie for the third spot in the Atlantic Division (the B’s have the edge in regulation/overtime wins). It is the last meeting of the regular season between the two teams, with the B’s taking the two games in Buffalo and the Sabres taking the first game in Boston. The Sabres will be without Jack Eichel (upper body), who shredded the B’s in Buffalo’s 4-2 win at the Garden on Dec. 16.

“You hate to call a game a four-pointer at this time of the year, but we know, our guys are aware of where people are in the standings,” said Cassidy. “We don’t want to overplay the game. But second half starts (tonight) so hopefully we’re nailing down our overall game, identifying roles better. That’s on me. Maybe we need to start having a little more consistency in our lines. I think we all understand that, at some point you do have to let these guys grow together as linemates. So we’re trying to get to there.

“And then, obviously, the meaning of the game. Yeah, we’ve played them hard. Buffalo’s a different team than they used to be. They’re legit. They’re playing hard. They won (Thursday) night without their best player (against Florida) so they’re learning how to win. That’s part of the message from us. Be respectful. I think some of our guys who’ve been around a long time still think of Buffalo as the old Buffalo. Things have changed. They’re a good hockey team. I want to make sure guys are aware of that, but focused on our game.”

Drawing back in

Backes will return after serving a three-game suspension for a high hit on New Jersey’s Blake Coleman that cost him participation in the Winter Classic, but doesn’t expect to make major adjustments in his game any more than he feels he already has.

“I think I’ve really adjusted my game to fit with what the rules are,” said Backes. “There was no malice or intent on the hit. If I was headhunting or looking for some blood, then maybe I need to look in the mirror but I don’t think that was the case when we’re trying to tie the game up late in the game. I was just a little ill-timed with my hit. If I take hitting out of my game I’ll be pretty useless in pretty quick order so I’ve got to play my game and let the chips fall where they will.”

Also, as expected, Tuukka Rask will start against the Sabres.