Claude Julien Searching for Answers on Defense As Bruins Open Road Trip


Claude Julien Searching for Answers on Defense As Bruins Open Road Trip WILMINGTON, Mass. — The Bruins are mired in their worst slump of the season. They've lost three straight in regulation for the first time all year, having been outscored 14-6 in the process.

Even in their last win, they gave up a half-dozen goals in an 8-6 victory over Montreal. What had been the strength of the team, its solid defensive play, has now become a question mark.

And one of the biggest questions involved is how to sort out that defense. Bruins coach Claude Julien not only needs to find a way to clean up his club's play in its own zone, but he also has to find the right combination on defense with seven healthy blueliners available for just six spots as the Bruins head to New York to face the Islanders on Thursday in the first of six straight road games.

Usually, deciding who to scratch is a tough but welcome decision for a coach. Islanders counterpart Jack Capuano would certainly welcome some options to pick from, as New York currently has nine players on injured reserve and two more serving suspensions. That includes defensemen Mark Streit (shoulder surgery), Mike Mottau (hip surgery, eye) and Mark Eaton (hip surgery), leaving the Isles with a defense featuring rookie Travis Hamonic, second-year players Andrew MacDonald and Ty Wishart and third-year man Jack Hillen to go along with the likes of former Bruin Milan Jurcina, Radek Martinek and Bruno Gervais.

In other words, it could be a lot worse for Julien, but that probably doesn't make him feel a whole lot better about the current state of his defense. After Wednesday's practice, Julien was asked who would sit against the Islanders.

"That's up in the air right now," Julien said. "I haven't made a decision on that yet. Right now the way we've played lately you could sit more than one, right?"

Julien has rotated the press-box duty between four blueliners in the last 11 games since Mark Stuart and Andrew Ference returned from injuries. Stuart himself was scratched for eight games before playing Sunday and Tuesday, while Adam McQuaid, Steven Kampfer and Johnny Boychuk have each sat once.

Boychuk was a healthy scratch for the first time this season on Tuesday against Toronto, a reflection of his recent struggles as much as it was a numbers crunch.

"You never really think that you're going to be sitting, but that was their choice and you've got to respect that," Boychuk said. "I was maybe rushing my plays a little bit and not making the right plays at the right time.

"I've just got to play the way that I know I can," Boychuk added. "And it will be fine and I'll help the team."

Julien wouldn't commit to when Boychuk would return to the lineup but did discuss what the blueliner needs to work on to reclaim his spot.

"What we talked to him about was easy puck movement," Julien said. "I think his compete level is always there. I think Johnny is a guy who will give you everything he's got every game. He's another guy that's struggled with puck movement. Plays have died in our zone because of that. Taking a step back and looking at it from up there you hope will him find that element of his game again."

Boychuk appears to have taken the message to heart.

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