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Forechecking at forefront

Forwards create goals by making good reads

By Jake Seiner
Globe Correspondent / November 17, 2011

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WILMINGTON—It might be too soon to say the hangover has passed, but at least the headaches and grogginess have subsided.

A six-game winning streak - like the one the Bruins carry into tonight’s game with Columbus - will do that.

Earning 12 points in six games hasn’t exactly rocketed the Bruins up the standings - they are last in the Northeast Division and tied for 11th in the Eastern Conference - but it has eased concerns about their ability to refocus after last year’s Stanley Cup-winning campaign.

“It was more about the execution and the skating,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “Our legs started going a little better. Our execution became better. Because of that, all the other things fell into place.’’

One key area of improvement has been the forecheck. Decision-making inside the opponent’s blue line is crucial in a game that hinges so much on possession.

In Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over New Jersey, the bottom-six skaters exemplified the Bruins’ improved decision-making.

In the third, Gregory Campbell earned a primary assist after forcing a turnover from New Jersey goalie Johan Hedberg. Campbell saw Hedberg trying to play the puck behind his cage, and noted some confusion between him and the Devils in the area.

He immediately moved to pressure Hedberg. There was no hesitation. Campbell picked off Hedberg’s pass and flipped the puck to Chris Kelly all alone in front for an easy goal.

“Our guys are making better reads and we’re on them quickly,’’ Julien said.

Later, Campbell picked up a second assist on a Shawn Thornton goal after reading that Thornton’s dump into the zone would whip up the left boards.

A solid forecheck led to Kelly’s goal last Saturday against Buffalo; his defensive pressure led to a turnover. In the game before that, against Edmonton, pressure from Kelly and Jordan Caron prompted an Oiler turnover to Zach Hamill, which led to a Caron goal.

“It was on the list of things that needed to be better, for sure,’’ Kelly said. “It’s funny that the whole game kind of goes into one. You get a good forecheck, it means you’re playing less in your own end.’’

“It’s really helped our offensive game and the opportunities we’ve had from that,’’ Julien said. “Those kinds of things are really important to us right now as far as our success is concerned.’’

Ference practices

Defenseman Andrew Ference returned to practice yesterday after missing nearly a week of workouts with a lower-body injury. Julien had positive reviews for Ference’s work in practice, but wouldn’t say whether Ference would be a game-time decision tonight. “I don’t think we’re even at that stage yet for Andrew,’’ Julien said. “I don’t know if he’s been assessed well enough to make that comment, but maybe that’ll change.’’ Ference called himself day to day.

Breathing easier

Daniel Paille (nose) practiced for the first time since having the stents removed from his nostrils. “I was skating out there, and I don’t feel out of breath, which is good,’’ he said. “I felt pretty comfortable out there.’’ . . . Goalie Tuukka Rask caused a scene at Ristuccia yesterday when he slammed his stick on the crossbar four times after allowing a goal during three-on-two drills. The outburst didn’t shock Julien. “Tuukka has a temper,’’ said Julien. “It’s not the first time he’s exhibited that.’’ . . . Boston’s average of 3.44 goals per game is tied for second in the NHL with the Washington Capitals. The Bruins were averaging 2.2 prior to the six-game win streak.

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