Do Bruins need help on defense?

1/14/2014 - NHL Torey Krug Boston Bruins + more

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Since losing veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to a season-ending knee injury on Dec. 27, the Boston Bruins have lost four of their past seven games.

Until Saturday's 1-0 win over the Sharks at SAP Center in San Jose, the Bruins had been struggling to make the proper adjustments in his absence.

General manager Peter Chiarelli seems to be in a wait-and-see mode on whether to trade for a veteran defenseman. A lot can happen before now and the March 5 trade deadline, but Chiarelli has proven numerous times that he's not afraid to make a deal if he believes it could improve the team.

"I'm confident we have a good group of guys that work really hard and they're responsible defensively," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "I'm sure before or during the [trade] deadline every team tries to improve, so I wouldn't be surprised if we try to improve because everybody tries to be better going into the playoffs."

The Bruins are at their best when everyone on the ice is playing a solid defensive game, so these recent struggles can't solely be blamed on the defensive corps. When Claude Julien and his coaching staff analyze the team's defensive game, they break it down by everyone in the lineup, not just the defensemen.

"It was as a whole that we felt we lost our defensive game, and not so much in one area more than it was the whole team," Julien said.

The aspects of the defensive game that Julien was concerned with seemingly were corrected against San Jose. But it's only one game, and they face Toronto Tuesday night at TD Garden.

Without Seidenberg, Julien has had to tweak his defensive pairings. On the ice and in the locker room, the likes of Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, Adam McQuaid, Torey Krug and Kevan Miller need to focus on the task at hand and not be concerned with whether Chiarelli will make a move.

"We're adjusting," Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said. "It's new for everybody when you miss a guy like [Seidenberg], a regular guy who plays a lot of minutes. There have been new pairings and at the end of the day our game is defensively being stingy and being good around the net, like the game we played in San Jose because that's our style of hockey.

"As long as we put our minds into it defensively, we'll be good. We've got some younger guys and they're growing into their roles. It's a learning curve but we're working towards the right way."

The organization's defensive depth has been challenged time and again this season due to numerous injuries. Hamilton has been dealing with a lower-body injury since Dec. 8 that forced him to miss 10 games before returning for the past five. He didn't play in the final minutes of Saturday's game, and he missed Monday's practice.

Half of the team's current defensive unit is playing in its first full season in the NHL. It's been a challenge, but Julien has given the younger ones an opportunity to grow, learn and be effective.

Bartkowski has seen his ice time increase, and he knows he needs to get better.

"It brings an opportunity for the younger guys to play more," Bartkowski said. "We're going to log more minutes so we like it a lot. We've lost four of the last seven, so it really hasn't shown in the results, but the last game the team started to turn the corner again and started to play a more stingy defensive game, which we normally play."

On paper, Bartkowski has become a top-four defenseman on this team.

"Let's not kid ourselves -- Bartkowski is not Seidenberg," Julien said. "So to think that he's going to go in there and replace him is not right. For him to go in there and be the best we think he can be is something we're looking for."

For his part, Bartkowski is confident that the defense can continue to improve.

"I think we're pretty confident," Bartkowski said. "If we're not confident then there's no real reason to play the game. That's like saying, 'Hey, we're just here to play and waiting for someone to come in.' We've got to keep pushing, keep getting better and prove to [Chiarelli] that we can keep winning games. We have a good team and we don't need to change anything, but at the same time it's something we don't need to think about."

From a goaltending standpoint, Rask hasn't been at his best during this recent stretch. Prior to Saturday's 26-save shutout, Rask had lost three of his past four starts.

"It's really frustrating," Rask said. Pucks were "bouncing off sticks and skates and guys crashing into you, but you can't start feeling bad for yourself, you just have to work hard and battle through it. The game in San Jose was a great show of that as a team. As a goalie, pretty much all you can do is focus on the next puck and try to save it."

If the Bruins can build on Saturday's win and continue to improve defensively, it will be interesting to see if Chiarelli chooses to trade for a veteran defenseman anyway. Overall, the Bruins' depth has proven crucial, but going to the well time and again might not be enough during the playoffs.

"We're pushing it to the limit so far, it's been working pretty good and we feel confident, but it never hurts to get better, right?" Rask said.