Bruins Will Continue to Shuffle Defensive Pairings Early in Search for Chemistry

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WILMINGTON, Mass. — All seven defensemen on the Bruins' roster to begin this season spent time in Boston last year.

That familiarity should help in forging some chemistry on the blue line, but finding the right mix can still take time. The Bruins found that out the hard way in Prague, as their initial defensive pairings failed to generate the kind of cohesion the Bruins sought in a 5-2 loss to Phoenix in the season opener last Saturday.

"If you look at the first game we obviously weren't as good, [we had] a lot of breakdowns," said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. "We weren't solid in our own zone, gave up second-chance opportunities like on my goal [when Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt gained position on Seidenberg for a rebound]. But in the second game we were much better moving the puck, moving our feet."

The Bruins switched things up midway through the season opener, splitting up Seidenberg and Matt Hunwick. Seidenberg moved alongside Mark Stuart, while Hunwick was teamed with Andrew Ference. Those combinations, along with the top pairing of Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk, proved a much better fit in the second game, as the Bruins bounced back to blank the Coyotes 3-0 on Sunday.

But the Bruins' defense is still a work in progress, and the tinkering to find the perfect combinations will continue.

"It looks like it," said Seidenberg. "In the first game me and Hunny [Hunwick] got taken apart. It didn't really work out like we thought it would. But I think in the second game it seems at least that we figured it out a little bit with the way we paired up the D's. So I think we're going to stay with that for the next game at least."

Seidenberg, 29, is entering his eighth NHL season, and knows from experience that while some pairings mesh immediately, it often takes time for a defense to come together.

"It's tough to say," said Seidenberg. "Sometimes you just click and you know how the other guy plays. Other times, you need a couple games to get adjusted to the way he moves the puck or the way he positions himself."

That happened even with the player Seidenberg considers his most compatible partner, as it took a while for Seidenberg to jell with former Philadelphia and Carolina teammate Joni Pitkanen.

"I played with him quite a bit in Philly and then in Carolina for a couple years," said Seidenberg. "So I think we meshed together pretty well, but it took me a while to figure him out and get used to him."

It took less time for Seidenberg to adjust to playing with Chara after arriving from Florida in a deadline deal last March, but Seidenberg sees Chara as the exception to most rules when it comes to playing defense.

"I think everybody would like to play with Z," said Seidenberg. "He's a big guy and he makes it easy to play with him. He takes up a lot of room and wins a lot of battles, so that definitely helps a lot."

So far this season, Seidenberg hasn't been reunited with Chara, though in the preseason Bruins coach Claude Julien noted that he may put them together as a shutdown pair against teams with a dominant top line, while keeping them separated against more balanced opponents.

"I think it doesn't really matter who Z is playing with," said Seidenberg. "You see him play with Johnny and he plays great. He plays with me and he plays good, or maybe the other way around.

"Probably the other way around," added Seidenberg with a laugh. "So it doesn't really matter who Z plays with. He could play back there by himself and still do well."

That may be, but most defensemen need to find the right partner to bring out the best in their game, which is why the Bruins are still exploring all their options to find the best combinations for their blue line.

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