Bruins notebook

Power play has become high-voltage unit

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / December 17, 2008
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WILMINGTON - The Bruins have gone on the power play only 109 times, second fewest in the NHL behind New Jersey (94). The Bruins, however, have made the most of their opportunities.

The Bruins have scored 27 power-play goals, good for a 24.8 percent efficiency rate, third highest after Detroit (28 percent) and Philadelphia (26.4 percent).

And everyone wants a piece of that action.

"We've got a lot of guys right now that aren't playing on the power play that could easily be on the power play," said coach Claude Julien, whose breadth and depth on offense (3.47 goals per game, the best mark in the Eastern Conference) has left some hot sticks on the bench during man-advantage situations. "I think with the skill level we feel we have on our hockey club, we could almost go with three units."

When Marco Sturm was knocked out of the lineup Nov. 19 because of a neck injury, the Bruins lost one of the key cogs of their No. 1 power-play unit: the lefthanded goal-line and net-front attacker, a position that requires versatility, vision, hands, and toughness. During Sturm's 12-game absence, Julien tabbed P.J. Axelsson for the first unit.

More recently, in power-play situations when Axelsson had been deployed on previous penalty kills, Julien has used Milan Lucic down low. Lucic mostly had been used as a screen on the second unit, asked to make space in the slot, cut down netminders' sightlines, and be in position for tips and rebounds.

"You just have to read off [Marc Savard] most," Lucic said. "If he's got the puck, I move out to the goal line and give him a down-low out. When you're playing as the down-low guy, you've got to make more plays when you get the puck. It's easier and harder, in another standpoint, to stand in front of the net. You're getting shots taken at you all the time. But down there [on the goal line], you're moving in and out, in and out, in and out, and being with the puck more on the power play."

Players seeking increases in power-play time include Chuck Kobasew (only 55 seconds of power-play ice time per outing despite averaging 0.78 points per game, fourth highest on the team) and Blake Wheeler (a mere 22 seconds of PP time per match despite recording nine goals, third highest on the club). An embarrassment of riches, indeed.

Hearing postponed
Glen Murray's grievance hearing, originally scheduled for yesterday in Toronto, has been postponed until Jan. 16. Under dispute is whether the Bruins improperly bought out Murray because of his existing ankle injury . . . Andrew Ference, still on crutches while recovering from surgery to repair his fractured tibia, is scheduled to undergo a CAT scan Friday. Ference said rehab has been going well . . . During yesterday's optional practice at Ristuccia Arena, vice president Cam Neely took to the ice with stick and skates . . . Sturm was one of eight Bruins to participate in the optional on-ice session. Sturm remains on long-term injured reserve, but is day to day . . . Aaron Ward (ankle) didn't skate, but Julien was hopeful he could return to the ice either today or tomorrow. "He's still doing everything else off the ice," Julien said of Ward, who skated only two shifts during last Friday's 7-3 victory over Atlanta. "When he comes back, he'll be further ahead than when he came back. It was a bit of a setback, but we took a cautious approach so hopefully it doesn't happen again." . . . The Bruins dropped off $25,000 worth of loot they purchased earlier this month as part of their annual toy drive. The Bruins made deliveries yesterday to seven hospitals.

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