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Bruins: Zero hour

Changes loom after latest flop

CSI: TD Banknorth Garden.

The Bruins were butchered inside their own home last night, all but disemboweled in a 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, a humiliating defeat that likely will lead -- perhaps as early as today -- to an overhaul in the coaching staff, perhaps even the front office.

Only days after club owner Jeremy Jacobs, in comments printed Sunday by the Globe, called for the need to fix his broken hockey team, the Bruins turned in two of their worst performances in memory, beginning with Tuesday night's humiliating 6-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks. Less than 48 hours later, they returned to their building again, only to suffer a third-period implosion that included four LA goals, one an Alexander Frolov penalty shot.

''We sucked!" said irate coach Mike Sullivan.

Indeed, they did, in front of 13,766 witnesses, only a smattering of whom remained to the bitter, ugly end to serenade the Black and Gold with boos as they straggled off the ice.

''I thought hell was Tuesday," said starting goalie Andrew Raycroft, referring to the depth the Bruins have buried themselves this week. ''It's China now."

Raycroft, again standing guard behind a listless offense and a confused defense, allowed the half-dozen goals on 42 shots before being yanked in favor of Tim Thomas with 10:55 gone in the final period. As he departed, the frustrated Raycroft skated to the Boston bench and slammed his stick atop the dasher, fracturing the shaft. He dropped the splintered mess at the open door of the bench and disappeared down the hallway as Thomas, mopping up for a second time in as many games, took position in the 24-square-foot minefield.

''It wasn't the crowd," explained Raycroft, who lately has been unfairly riddled by mock cheers inside his own building. ''Circumstances, I guess. It is frustrating. It's the way it is . . . I shouldn't have done it. I usually don't do stupid stuff like that."

Raycroft spent most of the final 9:05 in the runway, some 10 feet behind the Boston bench, never removing his helmet, his catching glove, or blocker.

Sullivan, meanwhile, was at a loss to explain his team's failings. His squad looked atrocious Tuesday, the night ex-captain Joe Thornton returned to Boston. For two periods last night, the Bruins looked better, but still not good. Then came the third period, when the Kings rattled off the four-spot, running the score to 5-0 by the 5:17 mark.

Rarely, if ever, have the Bruins in the last 40 years looked as disheveled, aimless, hopeless, and clueless on Causeway Street. Jacobs, in Sunday's Globe, said he and team president Harry Sinden would have to come up with an answer to remedy the club's woes.

If Mssrs. Jacobs and Sinden have that answer, and they likewise have any hope of salvaging a season that is all but lost, they will have to deliver it in the next few hours. The Dallas Stars await a matinee here tomorrow.

Sullivan is likely to pay the immediate price, because that has been a common occurrence in the Hub of Hockey for decades. He may not be the problem, but it's clear he isn't the answer, and Jacobs is in answer mode. Most important, the players clearly are not responding to what Sullivan is preaching. They may not have quit on the coach, but their play looks as if they expect him to be turfed.

General manager Mike O'Connell would be the one to deliver the blow to Sullivan. However, Jacobs's comments did not include O'Connell as part of the equation when he mentioned finding a solution. Ultimately, it would be Sinden's call if O'Connell is dismissed, too. Yesterday, ex-Bruins defenseman Mike Milbury stepped down as the Islanders GM at the same time he announced Steve Stirling had been fired as coach.

''It's difficult for me to understand what has taken place the last three days," said Sullivan, his club now 16-21-4-2 and sinking ever lower in the Eastern Conference standings. ''This team has come a long way in the last three weeks, and it started with a work ethic . . . the last three days is, is difficult for me to understand. To get beat in front of our fans like that is discouraging and demoralizing. No one wants to be part of it. Are our guys discouraged? Sure, they are. I am, I'll tell you that."

The Bruins were without two key players -- Glen Murray (bone bruise in right foot) and Hal Gill (pinched nerve in neck) -- which explains some of the letdown. The team should be better with those two regulars in uniform, although neither can boast strong seasons.

The letdown has been across the board. Their only goals in the last two games were delivered by rookie defenseman Milan Jurcina, who potted a pair against the Sharks. Otherwise, they are futile when in possession of the puck, and even worse when forced to defend. Any worse, and the officiating crew will have to step aside for the police to ring the rink with yellow tape.

Meanwhile, as the forensics are collected, Sinden and Jacobs sort through the evidence. Once one of the city's proudest franchises, rendered all but an expansion franchise via its failed business plan prior to the lockout, the 2005-06 Bruins have become a painful, sorrowful sight.

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