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Bruins notebook

They’re practicing with a specific goal in mind

DAVID KREJCI Finishing touch DAVID KREJCI
Finishing touch
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / February 6, 2010

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WILMINGTON - Yesterday morning at Ristuccia Arena, one day after 47 shots resulted in only two pucks finding their way behind Montreal’s Jaroslav Halak, the coaching staff continued their endless work of building their shooters’ confidence.

Before practice, the Bruins ran through their four-on-three power play, which failed to score in overtime Thursday night when Roman Hamrlik was sent off for tripping.

Then to close practice, the Bruins worked on a net-front drill with foam blocks at each post and fanned out in the shape of a V, helping to keep the pucks corralled in the crease. First, a defenseman would blast a puck on goal while two forwards stacked up in front, serving as screens in the high and low slot, and the third attacker hunted for the rebound.

The message: Turn those around-the-net opportunities into goals instead of saves for opposing goalies.

“I think we’re there,’’ Michael Ryder said. “We’re all around the net. We just have to be a little stronger and bear down a little more when we do get the chances. That’s why we’re getting more shots. We’re around the net more. We’re getting the puck to the net. We knew we had to try and create more, and we’re definitely doing that. We just haven’t been able to find the back of the net. But we can’t get frustrated. We just have to stick with it.’’

After the last two setbacks in which the Bruins have seen only three goals come from 89 combined shots on Halak and Washington’s Jose Theodore, the feeling around the team has gone from frustration to bewilderment - the Bruins allowed the Capitals to score three unanswered third-period goals, then let in two goals in 39 seconds two nights later. Still, players and coaches have been satisfied with the effort and execution recently.

“We feel, in our room anyway, whether it’s the players, coaching staff, or management, that it’s just a matter of time before it turns around,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “You can’t keep playing that way night in and night out and keep getting very little results. There were times last year where I thought our team didn’t play very well and didn’t deserve to win, and we’d come out with wins. Sometimes it goes the other way around. Right now, we deserve to win. But we’re not getting them.’’

Clean break
Too often during their nine-game winless streak, the Bruins have failed to execute clean breakouts, resulting in too much traffic and too little speed in the neutral zone. But in Thursday’s second period, prior to Blake Wheeler’s goal, there was a rare sight: David Krejci carrying the puck with speed through center ice, all because of some defensive-zone work behind him.

Dennis Wideman started the breakout from behind the Boston net, dishing the puck to Ryder an instant before Marc-Andre Bergeron threw a heavy hit. In turn, Ryder chipped a pass off the wall around Maxim Lapierre to Krejci, who had time and space to carry the puck up the ice.

“I like when we have a good breakout,’’ said Krejci. “Then we can have an odd-man rush, two-on-one, three-on-two. That starts with the breakout. That’s what we’ve got to focus on.’’

Krejci attacked the sagging Montreal defensemen, who didn’t have a tight gap with their forwards because of the quick breakout. Then, when Krejci ran out of room, he did what the coaches have been preaching: fling the puck at the net.

“Mike made a great play,’’ Julien said. “That play started in our end. He made a great chip with their player pinching on him. He was poised and made a good pass. David had the room in the neutral zone to skate it in. He did what we often say. When you run out of space and you don’t have a play, throw it at the net. It hit the goalie’s pad and came right out to Blake.’’

Brief respite
Marco Sturm was given a maintenance day yesterday. Julien said Sturm will be in today’s lineup against Vancouver. Sturm, the team’s leading goal scorer, had six shots against Montreal . . . Johnny Oduya, part of the package New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello sent to Atlanta for Ilya Kovalchuk, was a depth defenseman for Julien in 2006-07. But Julien said he could see that Oduya could become much better. “He’s a good defenseman,’’ Julien said. “Great mobility. Skates well. As the year progressed, so did he. He got more confidence. He’s got a real good shot. No doubt he’s a top-four defenseman. When you look for guys that can carry the puck and support the attack, he’s one of those guys.’’ . . . After making Halak and Theodore look like Vezina Trophy candidates, the Bruins only have to stare down Roberto Luongo, who projects to be Martin Brodeur’s backup for Team Canada this month at the Vancouver Olympics. “He’s a great goaltender. Has been for a lot of years,’’ Julien said. “Hasn’t always been on great teams, but he’s certainly one of those guys you can lean on. You know that he competes well.’’

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

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