Task at hand? Players get it
WILMINGTON — When your opponents have the puck more and put a high number of pucks on goal, odds of success will not play in your favor.
“They’re spending way too much time in our own end,’’ Bruins coach Claude Julien said after yesterday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “Pretty basic. But that’s what it is. You want to spend more time with the puck. You want to spend it in the offensive end, not in the defensive zone and defending all the time.’’
Tonight against Columbus, the first stop in a three-city road swing (Nashville and Toronto later in the week), the Bruins will attempt to wipe out a four-game winless streak. During their stumble, a confluence of shortcomings has halted a seven-game winning streak.
Inefficient puck retrieval and transition from defense to offense. Not enough speed with the puck in the neutral zone. Too little time spent in the offensive zone. Few sustained scoring rushes. Gaps between defensemen and forwards.
The end result: 38 shots allowed per game in the last four setbacks.
“When you look at the games where we’re successful, we don’t give up that many shots,’’ said Dennis Seidenberg. “We just have to work harder at coming back to our own zone by putting more pressure on the puck carrier. He can’t just skate in, take a wrister, and go from there. Us as defensemen have to hold a better gap. Forwards have to do a better job of putting more pressure on their guys.’’
The coaching staff believes that either Steven Kampfer (concussion) or Andrew Ference (leg) will be available tonight. When both players were sidelined, the Bruins had to rely on rookie Matt Bartkowski, who proved far from ready for NHL play.
Yesterday, Kampfer was paired with Seidenberg, indicating that he might be closer. Ference skated with Shane Hnidy, who won’t be cleared to play until later this month. All three traveled with the team to Columbus yesterday.
“It’s Claude’s decision,’’ said Kampfer, who will require final clearance from team doctors before suiting up. “I feel good. I feel ready to go.’’
Competition is good The NHL standard is for teams to feature two power-play units. But with the Bruins’ man-advantage still yet to find its rhythm, the plan is to roll out three forward units.
Yesterday, the No. 3 formation of Mark Recchi, Chris Kelly, and Michael Ryder saw regular repetitions in practice. The first (Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Nathan Horton) and second units (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Rich Peverley) also went through power-play drills.
Julien explained that the personnel on the third unit could be effective. He described Kelly as a smart player who can find openings in the net-front areas. Recchi might be the team’s best puck-tipper. Ryder’s wrister is among the team’s sharpest.
But the presence of the third line is also about competition. If the Kelly trio pushes the other two lines, it’s doing its job.
“Maybe a little bit of competition to get guys to earn their time on the power play and work a little harder,’’ said Julien.
Bergeron even-keeled Bergeron, third on the team in scoring, has gone without a point for the last six games. It’s his longest 0-0—0 run of 2010-11. Twice this season, Bergeron didn’t score in four-game stretches. “You want to score every game,’’ Bergeron said. “You want to help as much as you can. I know it’s going to come. It’s been there all year. Just a little rough stretch here. I can’t squeeze the stick too much. Just have to go out there and play.’’ . . . For the second straight practice, Tyler Seguin skated as a spare forward on the third line. He could be a healthy scratch for the third straight game tonight . . . At the conclusion of practice, a Kelly shot glanced off Tuukka Rask’s right index finger. The shot prompted some naughty words from Rask and ended his practice. Rask had the finger bandaged after practice . . . Zdeno Chara returned to practice after being given a sick day Sunday.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.