WILMINGTON, Mass. — The Bruins returned to practice Monday after back-to-back losses this weekend to the Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes, two opponents below Boston in the standings.
Veteran center Patrice Bergeron was the only player absent from practice. Bruins head coach Claude Julien said Bergeron’s absence was just a “maintenance day.”
These were the lines used in practice:
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Reilly Smith
Brad Marchand-Craig Cunningham-Seth Griffith
Chris Kelly-Carl Soderberg-Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Jordan Caron
— Julien has switched up his lines more than usual this season. Recent changes have included swapping his left and right wingers on the top two lines, but the B’s have scored a total of just three goals in 130 minutes of hockey over the last two games.
Reilly Smith skated with David Krejci and Milan Lucic on Monday, a role he’s found himself in a few times over the last few games. Smith normally plays alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Krejci and Smith nearly connected on a 2-on-1 scoring chance in the third period Sunday, but the right winger missed a wide open net and hit the post.
“We had some good chances on that line,” Julien said. “We hit the post late in the third. You make changes when you feel you have to. I thought that was a change that would maybe work. I thought that line had a few chances to score.”
— Simon Gagne is away from the Bruins on a personal leave of absence. His father passed away last month, and Gagne is home in Quebec with his family. Julien doesn’t know when the veteran forward will return to the team.
“Right now, I’m still waiting to hear back from him. … Upper management is dealing with that situation.”
— There’s no question Milan Lucic is struggling. He has an eight-game goalless drought with one goal in his last 15 games. The veteran left winger is rarely shooting the puck during 5-on-5 or the power play, as evidenced by his 1.53 shots on goal per game average in the 15 games he’s played since Dec. 1.
He was demoted to the second line in Marchand’s spot alongside Bergeron and Reilly Smith in Saturday’s loss to the Ottawa Senators, but that didn’t result in any more scoring production from Lucic. As a player who’s consistently scored more than 20 goals per season since 2010-11, Lucic’s inability to generate offense is among the main reasons why Boston ranks 21st in goals scored per game after finishing third last season.
— Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask isn’t playing as well as he did last season, but his play isn’t one of the top five reasons for the team’s current state. He’s given up two goals in five of his last 10 appearances, and the Bruins are 1-1-3 in those games. Rask made 35 saves on 36 shots in Sunday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. If not for Rask’s brilliant performance, the Bruins would have lost in regulation to arguably the worst team in the NHL.
— The Bruins’ margin for error already is slim given their recent struggles, but it will become even smaller over the next week and a half. Boston has games against division leaders the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as matchups with the surging New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets, who are 9-1-0 and 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, respectively.
The B’s need every point possible based on their place in the standings, especially since they have played more games than most teams in the East and won’t have many, if any, games in hand toward the end of the regular season to make up ground on clubs ahead of them.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images