Fourth line needs to straighten out
WILMINGTON — By their admission, their game is blue-collar and lunchpail, the kind that delivers more energy than
But for Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton, the two fixtures on the fourth line, their point total can sometimes reflect their performance. In the last seven games, neither forward has scored a point.
“I’m aware of it. We all are,’’ Thornton said of his scoreless streak, following yesterday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “We can be better. Our other three lines have been playing unbelievable hockey. We’ve been successful. We can be better, but I can’t stand here and complain about the lack of point production, because we’ve got the wins and that’s the main thing.
“When you’ve won that many in a row, you’re not going to complain about personal stats. But I think as a line, we can definitely be a little bit better. It’s been kind of a revolving door with me and Soupy the last little bit. Hopefully we can get things going and get back on track.’’
At the start of this season, when Brad Marchand was riding alongside Campbell and Thornton, the fourth line was arguably the team’s most consistent threesome. Coach Claude Julien often sent out the fourth line to start games. He believed they could set the pace, jack up the energy, and establish the physical standard. Most games, Julien was correct.
Marchand was so good that his services were ultimately required on the second line. Campbell has become a Julien favorite because of his consistency and dependability. Thornton has a career-high eight goals. The right wing is logging 10:06 of ice time per game, the most he’s ever averaged as a full-time NHLer.
But for a handful of reasons, the fourth line hasn’t been as thorough as it was earlier. In the last month, three players have skated alongside Campbell and Thornton: Jordan Caron, Tyler Seguin, and Daniel Paille. Because of the consistency of Patrice Bergeron’s unit, the recent dominance of the Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton threesome, and the fresh look that Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley have given the third line, Julien’s taken away some of the fourth line’s ice time. In each of the last five games, Thornton has played fewer than 10 minutes.
“One of the reasons that their ice time is down a little bit is because of the situation,’’ Julien said. “Also, they’ve had different linemates between the two of them. Soupy’s switched from center to wing at times. It’s probably a little bit of that. When Marsh was there, that trio built some chemistry because they were together from the start of the season and things started going well. We had to move Marsh up, and Marsh did a great job with Bergy’s line and helped that line produce a lot more. It’s probably a little bit of everything. I think with time, both of those guys will find that touch.’’
During the last four games of their recent road trip, Campbell and Thornton had to adjust to Seguin. The skilled 19-year-old doesn’t play with traditional fourth-line characteristics. In the last two games, Paille has been back with Campbell and Thornton. In the third period of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Pittsburgh, Paille had several chances on one shift.
“It’s not something we’re going to solely focus on, because I think our line brings a lot of other positive things to this team,’’ Campbell said. “I think we can do a little better job of creating those chances and getting a little bit more offense.’’
Power outage The Bruins are 0 for 12 on the power play in their last six games. They only had one power-play chance Saturday against Pittsburgh.
“That’s a big part of a coach’s game plan whenever you prepare for a game,’’ Julien said of teams remaining disciplined. “You’ve got to stay that way and make sure that’s not what ends up costing you.’’
The Bruins worked on the man-advantage before yesterday’s practice. Tomas Kaberle and Zdeno Chara remained the point men on the first unit, with Bergeron, Peverley, and Michael Ryder working down low. Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk worked the point on the second unit. Krejci, Lucic, and Horton were the down-low men.
Ference not ready
Last week, Julien noted that Andrew Ference might have been able to resume skating yesterday. But Ference, who’s missed the last four games because of a lower-body injury, stayed off the ice. Julien said Ference could skate today or tomorrow. Neither Ference nor Steven Kampfer (concussion) traveled to Montreal yesterday. Kampfer is still experiencing headaches . . . Mark Recchi didn’t practice yesterday because of a personal reason. Recchi will be available for tonight’s game, said Julien . . . Matt Bartkowski should be in the lineup tonight. It will be Bartkowski’s fourth NHL game and first against a team other than Pittsburgh . . . During their last meeting Feb. 9, there were five fights between the Bruins and Canadiens, including a brief scrap between goalies Tim Thomas and Carey Price. Tonight’s game, like most showdowns following hate-filled matches, should be far tamer. “There was a lot of frustration in the last game the last time we played,’’ Julien said. “Part of it was us sticking up for ourselves. They have a tendency of trying to stir the pot and look innocent in those situations. We know what it’s all about. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do. Bottom line is that at the end of the night, you’ve got to come up with a win.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.