BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins are struggling to score of late, so coach Claude Julien decided to switch his lines during practice Sunday morning at TD Garden, as the team prepared to host the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night.
After Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs, the Bruins returned to Boston with a 1-3 record on its recent four-game road trip. With only two of the team’s four lines playing consistently all season, Julien felt a change was necessary, so he moved winger Milan Lucic off the team’s top line and has him playing with center Rich Peverley and winger Jordan Caron.
The Bruins’ Brad Marchand has been moved to play alongside David Krejci and Nathan Horton, who had been Lucic’s linemates. Daniel Paille is now with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin. The fourth line now is comprised of Jay Pandolfo, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton.
Even though the line of Bergeron, Marchand and Seguin has been the Bruins’ most productive all season, Julien wants to see more from the others.
“You can’t win with one line, so we’re trying to get a spark out of our team,” Julien said.
Lucic hasn’t scored since Feb. 24, a span of 15 games. Horton has only two goals in the last 14 games. Marchand has one goal in the last 10 games. Paille has three in the last nine.
Krejci believes the Bruins need a change right now.
“We obviously lost three out of four games, change it up a little bit and hopefully it will help,” Krejci said. “I think we looked good out there this morning, so hopefully it will work [Monday].
“We’re struggling right now and we need to start winning games. We need points in the standings and Coach feels like we need to change the lines a little bit, so be it. I thought we looked pretty good, all four lines, and hopefully we can come out strong tomorrow and get the job done.”
Boston (43) is two points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the top spot in the Northeast Division. It’s an important week for the Bruins as they host both the Maple Leafs and Canadiens, and since Boston has scored only six goals in the last four games, Julien thought it would be best to shake things up.
“We need a spark, and I guess that’s what Coach thinks we need,” Bergeron said.
When asked if he’s disappointed that his line was split up, Bergeron answered as a true teammate and leader.
“There’s nothing you can do,” he said. “It’s about doing it for the team. That’s what Claude feels it’s time for and there’s nothing you can say about it.”
The team’s energy line of Paille, Campbell and Thornton has played well all season, and even during Saturday’s loss that trio created energy and produced scoring chances. Even though it’s been one of the consistent lines, Julien felt change was needed and the players understand that.
“We’re struggling to score and I think he just wanted to see a change for a little bit and try to get guys to refresh their minds, and maybe it’s something that will start kicking in some goals,” Paille said. “Right now we’ll play however it is and see how it goes for tomorrow, but I think we all need to step up, and not just one guy.”
After playing well with a 27-save performance to help Boston to a 2-1 win over the Senators on Thursday at Ottawa, Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin made his second consecutive start on Saturday. It’s the first time in his Bruins career he’s played back-to-back games. He didn’t play the entire game, however, as Julien pulled Khudobin after Toronto took a 3-0 lead at 1:34 of the third period in hopes of creating a spark. Boston scored two goals but still came up short. Rask finished the game and made two saves.
After practice on Sunday, Rask said he has no issues with his partner playing in consecutive games against divisional opponents.
“I thought he deserved to play and it was extra rest for me, so it was good for both of us,” Rask said.
“I’d like to play every game, obviously, but I didn’t take it too personally. I’ve played good games, I realize that, it was tough losses when I allowed those two [third-period] goals in Pittsburgh and Winnipeg, we lose the games but I wasn’t awful, so it shouldn’t break my confidence.”
Julien explained his reasoning for going with Khudobin the last two games.
“Khudobin has played well for us this year. After playing that game in Ottawa where he was really good, he deserved a second start,” Julien said.
When the team is struggling, it’s common for Julien to insert a fun drill at the start of practice, and that’s what he did on Sunday morning.
Players were required to switch their sticks to the opposite hand during a game of shinny. Righties were shooting left-handed and vice versa. The players were having fun with it and looked more like amateurs than pros.
“Ironically we scored more goals than we did the whole road trip,” Julien said with a smile. “Maybe tomorrow righties will play left, and lefties will shoot right and see if we can generate more offense.”
The players understood what the drill was meant to do and it seemed to work.
“Everybody is disappointed with that last road trip, and we had a little fun to kind of lighten the mood again and bring some fun back, so hopefully it will help us for tomorrow night,” Paille said.
Despite the team’s recent skid, the Bruins are not panicking. Despite the coach’s decision to shake up the lines, the team believes it’ll get through its slump.
“We’ll get through it, I have no doubt in my mind,” Julien said. “We have to fight through this right now and try to turn it around as quick as we can.”