Connor Clifton, in the last year of a three-year bargain basement contract, said he has not yet talked to Bruins’ management about an extension. And for the record, the defenseman said he’s not overly concerned with his next deal. This Bruins’ season has been too much fun to obsess about business.

But that business will take care of itself – whether it’s here or somewhere else – if Clifton continues to play like he has been. After a little bit of lull in his game when his role was somewhat reduced with the return of the Charlie McAvoy, he looked very much back on the beam in the Bruins 7-3 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday.

He’s no longer that guy who’s desperately clinging to the sixth D-man spot.

“I think I’ve finally found some confidence and it’s been building from game one,” said Clifton. “I honestly think playing more minutes earlier in the year helped that and now my role’s been more limited and I’ve been trying to play that same way with less minutes, which is obviously an adjustment. But it’s been going pretty well. I talked to (coach Jim Montgomery). I thought I lost my game a couple games ago but I thought (Monday) night was really good after two games ago, because I kind of struggled honestly. So it’s just finding that balance and trying to maintain that confidence for me.”

Clifton, with three goals and eight assists, is plus-13 in 31 games, felt he needed to pick it up at both ends of the ice.

“I just felt like I wasn’t closing as fast,” said Clifton. “Earlier in the year, I was just closing so hard and we were playing with the puck. They’d get it in our D-zone, we’d get it back and we’d be going on the rush. It was less time in the D-zone. And I just felt like, after having some conversation with the coaching staff, I hadn’t been doing as good of a job. It felt good (Monday).”


While most people understandably have been wondering what David Pastrnak’s contract might look like – and when it’s going to get done – Clifton is in line for a decent raise himself. He’s been on a three-year deal that has paid him $1 million per season. With right-shot defensemen being the commodity that they are around the league, it could make for a challenging negotiation.
But for now, that’s not at the forefront of his mind.

“I’m not too worried about it,” said the 27-year-old Clifton. “Is it on my mind every once in a while.? Yeah, I think about it. But we’re having such a great year. It’s such a special group and I’m taking it one day at time right now because it’s been great.”

ZBORIL ON OUTSIDE: Coach Jim Montgomery admitted the development of defenseman Jakub Zboril is a concern. He has not played since Nov. 23 in Florida, when he coughed up the puck in a costly mistake. But unfortunately for Zboril, said Montgomery, there are higher priorities right now.

“It’s a tough situation,” conceded Montgomery. “We stay in communication with him about his development. We want to get him in a game. But we’re in the winning business and we have six defensemen who are playing really well. And the team’s doing well.”

NOTES: Though holiday roster freeze is on, teams are still allowed to call players up from the AHL and the Bruins officially called up Craig Smith after making a paper transaction on Monday night after he cleared waivers earlier in the day for cap flexibility. Smith took his regular shift with the fourth line on Wednesday. … The Bruins have a tough two-game set before the three-day holiday break, hosting the Winnipeg Jets (21-10-1) on Thursday and visiting the New Jersey Devils (21-9-2) on Friday, though the young Devils have been slumping of late.

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