EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

November 21, 2008

Axelsson enjoying the ride

Bill Burt

WILMINGTON — Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, the grand-daddy of the New England pro sports scene, twirled his first knuckleball in a Red Sox uniform in 1995. New England Patriots linebacker and stroke survivor Tedy Bruschi, drafted in the second round in 1996, is barely his junior.

And guess who is next on the New England Old Fogie Circuit?

If you guess Boston Bruins forward P.J. Axelsson, you not only are right, you probably need to get a life.

Talk about under the radar.

Axelsson, 33, is in his 11th NHL season (it would've been his 12th if not for the lockout), all with the Bruins.

The soft-spoken left winger is indeed going to Hockey Heaven some day. He has survived some ugly days around here.

"When I first got here, there weren't any champions in Boston," said Axelsson. "Now, everybody is one. The Patriots, Celtics and Red Sox ... It hasn't been easy being compared to those guys.

"Not making the playoffs two years in a row (two different times) was tough to take. But there have been some good times, too. We've had some pretty good teams with Ray Bourque and Joe Thornton."

The native of Kungalv, Sweden, has forever been a third- and fourth-line forward, which is not to be confused with an All-Star. He has 97 goals and 165 assists in 738 games. That averages out to about one point every three games.

Through 20 games this season he doesn't have a goal and "only" five assists.

But he's got an extra big "A" on the front of his sweater and it has nothing to do with his name.

"P.J. plays the point on the power play for us. He's the best penalty killer we have up front," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "He does the little things you don't see on the stat sheet. P.J. is a great team guy and the guys love him."

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