A new forward is signed, another goes out with injury. One more forward comes back, and then another hobbles to the injured list. Such has been the fortune of the Boston Bruins lately, and the pattern just won’t seem to give.
The Bruins signed Miroslav Satan, then had him rushing into game action due to Patrice Bergeron‘s broken thumb. Milan Lucic returned only to have Marc Savard leaving that same game with a sprained knee. And just when Mark Stuart returned to on-ice workouts, Andrew Ference goes down and out.
It’s been a one-up, one-down kind of year for the Bruins so far in 2010.
“We can’t hang our heads,” said head coach Claude Julien after the Bruins’ latest loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday.
And so they won’t. The team returned to practice Monday, had spirited 2-on-2 battle drills and welcomed Stuart back into the “contact practice” mix. Afterward, players stuck around to work on different things — namely, the deflection of the point shot. Even defenseman Dennis Wideman took his turn in front of the net as Lucic, Stuart, Johnny Boychuk, Matt Hunwick and Steve Begin threw slap shots and wristers from just inside the blue line.
“Hey!” Wideman yelled in protest when the coordination went awry and two pucks came shooting at him simultaneously. Grinning for a moment, he chirped something at his teammates before they methodically continued on.
“That’s crazy to be in front of those shots,” commented a media member observing the speed of the pucks from ice level.
Crazy, maybe, but often it’s just one way to display guts. Fearlessness to be in “dirty areas.” Willingness to put yourself in the line of fire to keep your team in the pack race.
The players have started to be vocal in their dissatisfaction over the lack of team effort, the fighting spirit, the grind-it-out attitude. They are aware that they’re in a mental battle. And while coaches seek ways to play to the strengths of the pieces they have, the players are starting to own up to their individual performances. It isn’t an easy scenario to be without four key players, but there’s still a good distance left in this marathon — enough time heal up the wounded, keep the team in the pack, and find exactly what they have left in themselves.