THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Bruins are just missing

They need shooters to sharpen their aim

Email|Print| Text size + By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / November 6, 2007

According to the Bruins, their 3-2 regulation setback and 2-1 shootout loss to the East-leading Senators this past weekend can be looked at in two ways.

Good and bad.

"We've still got to improve because we lost both games," Peter Schaefer said after Sunday's game at TD Banknorth Garden. "But it just shows that we can play with one of the best teams in the league. We've just got to get a little bit smarter and stay out of the box."

In both games, Boston's special-teams flubs helped the Senators. On Saturday at Scotiabank Place, the Senators scored all three goals on the power play. On the other end, the Bruins couldn't score on their only man-advantage opportunity.

The Bruins cleaned up their penalty kill Sunday, hanging an 0-for-7 on the quick-strike Senators. But the Bruins failed to convert any of their five man-advantage chances, and allowed penalty-killer Antoine Vermette to score the tying goal while Boston had an extra skater.

The Bruins are 1-1-1 in the first three of nine straight against Northeast Division opponents. Tim Thomas, tapped to start all three (partly because of Manny Fernandez's left knee strain), has stopped 104 of 111 total shots, displaying the form that has made him one of the league's hottest netminders (fifth in goals-against average and third in save percentage before last night's games).

But the Bruins (7-5-1 overall) have leaned on Thomas far too often, putting the goalie at risk of flaming out because of the high-pressure situations.

During the three-game stretch, the Bruins have scored seven goals and have been outshot by a 111-65 count. Through 13 matches, the Bruins are averaging 2.38 goals per game, which was 27th in the league going into last night's games, better than only Anaheim, Edmonton, and the Rangers.

Even worse, they haven't put opposing goaltenders under heat. The Bruins have managed just 24.3 shots per game, second-fewest in the NHL behind Vancouver.

And it has been an unexpected offensive contributor who has scored the most goals.

Chuck Kobasew popped in two in Saturday's 3-2 loss. The speedy right wing canned another Sunday, giving him a team-best six strikes.

"I had some great chances," said Kobasew Sunday. "There are highs and lows. Last week, I wasn't scoring. This week, I was fortunate enough to get a couple."

Trouble is, the Bruins were hoping for several other forwards to produce the way Kobasew has. So far, those players haven't been scoring.

Glen Murray, the No. 1 right wing, has gone nine games without a goal. Murray netted a team-leading 28 in 2006-07 and his longest drought was four games. This season, Murray has only one goal, far too few for a shooter earning $4.15 million per year.

While the 35-year-old Murray is an alternate captain and one of the most respected voices in the dressing room, the Bruins might have to consider their options - swapping him for another high-priced veteran or assigning him to Providence - if he can't get his offense rolling.

The Bruins were also counting on Schaefer to be around the net more often. Two seasons ago, Schaefer scored a career-high 20 goals, then followed with 17 last year.

Julien tapped Schaefer and Murray to serve as Marc Savard's wingmen on the No. 1 line. But Schaefer has also scored only once this season, the goal coming Oct. 18. Schaefer didn't record a shot in each of the past three games and is averaging only 1.3 per match.

David Krejci, who started the year as the third-line center and a forward on the second power-play unit, didn't score in 12 games and was assigned to Providence Sunday, replaced by fourth-line checker Petteri Nokelainen.

"It seems like guys are working hard but the pucks are bouncing the wrong way," said Schaefer. "It's just going to take one big game. If we can blow out a team, 8-1, we can get certain guys going.

"We're pretty happy with our record. We've got to keep improving. If we can get a few key guys scoring like myself, we'll be doing a lot better."

Goaltender Jonathan Sigalet, who was on the bench for the two games against Ottawa, was returned to Providence, and the Bruins recalled Tuukka Rask. Rask, 20, is 6-1 with a 2.00 goals-against average for the P-Bruins this season.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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