WILMINGTON, Mass. — After a disappointing effort Thursday against Minnesota, Bruins coach Claude Julien shuffled his line combinations in practice on Friday in hopes of getting the offense back on track for Saturday’s showdown with the Canadiens in Montreal.
The new units didn’t get to stay together long though, as Nathan Horton left practice early with an undisclosed injury.
“He’s got a little discomfort right now,” Julien said. “So we told him to go off. I guess those situations are always day to day and we’ll see [Saturday].”
Julien said Horton will travel with the team to Montreal, but declined to elaborate on the exact nature of the injury.
Horton had been moved down to a line with David Krejci and Blake Wheeler, while Michael Ryder moved up alongside Marc Savard and Milan Lucic. The other lines remained intact, with Tyler Seguin between Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi, and Greg Campbell flanked by Brad Marchand and Shawn Thornton. Daniel Paille opened the practice skating with Campbell’s line but moved up with Krejci during drills after Horton left.
“Hopefully a little bit more production and a bit more sustained offensive zone presence,” Julien said when asked what he is looking to get from the new combinations. “Sometimes you’ve got to make those changes, so we’re going to give it a try. We did that in Buffalo in the third period for a bit and it kind of worked. It seemed to give those lines a little bit of a spark, so hopefully we get the same [Saturday].”
The Bruins could use some more consistent production from those lines. Horton had no goals and just one assist in nine games before collecting a goal and an assist in Toronto on Monday, but he fell silent again against the Wild. Lucic remains the Bruins’ leading scorer with 16 goals and 28 points, but he’s 0-1-1 in his last nine games, while Savard has just 2-4-6 totals and is a minus-8 in 16 games since his return from post-concussion syndrome last month.
Savard hit his lowest point Thursday when his giveaway early in the third period set up Minnesota’s game-winning goal and got the center benched for most of the remainder of the game.
“He’s still trying to find some consistency in his game,” Julien said of Savard. “I’ve seen him play some real good games, and some other games he’s struggled. [It] was one of those decisions you make as a coach to give your team the best chance to win, but Savvy is still such a skilled and good player.”
Savard, meanwhile, is trying to put both his miscue and the benching behind him.
“You’ve got to move on,” Savard said. “It was tough to swallow, but we have a huge game tomorrow night, probably our biggest of the year, so hopefully we can respond to that.”
Savard will try to respond with Ryder now on his right wing. Ryder has been slumping of late himself with no points in his last four games, but Savard feels they both can get going again.
“Just looking for something new I guess,” Savard said. “I’ve played with Mike before, so hopefully we can generate some stuff. [He has] a great shot, him and Horts are similar in a lot of ways, so hopefully we can get some goals.”
Julien is also hoping that Horton and Krejci can recapture some of their early-season magic. Horton began the year with 8-10-18 totals in his first 17 games, playing primarily on a line with Krejci and Lucic. Krejci has a knack for snapping linemates out of slumps, though he has just one point in his last five games.
“I think there’s some familiarity there,” Julien said of putting Horton back with Krejci. “Being used to playing with each other before will hopefully help as well.”
It will help even more if Horton’s “discomfort” doesn’t keep him out of the lineup as the Bruins try to maintain their hold on first place in the Northeast Division in Saturday’s showdown in Montreal.
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