- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- There are only 11 games remaining in the lockout-shortened, 2012-13 regular season, and the playoff-bound Boston Bruins are not playing the type of consistent hockey coach Claude Julien wants to see from his team.
Injuries to key players, the addition of new players and the condensed schedule have kept the Bruins from playing the brand of hockey that made them successful, and now there's little room for error with the team battling the Montreal Canadiens for the top spot in the Northeast Division.
After a disappointing 2-1 loss to the Canadiens on Saturday night at Bell Centre in Montreal, Julien had his team back on the practice ice Sunday morning at Ristuccia Arena as they prepare to host the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night at TD Garden.
"We're getting closer to the playoffs and guys understand you've got to fine tune yourself because you can't just expect to play the way you have been lately and get into the playoffs and everything's going to be OK," Julien said. "The closer you get the more excitement you get, as far as seeing the playoffs around the corner, so hopefully our team will get better."
This week, the Bruins lost their most consistent player and leading point-getter in Patrice Bergeron, who suffered his fourth career concussion and is out of the lineup indefinitely. The team added veteran forward Jaromir Jagr, veteran defenseman Wade Redden and young forward Kaspars Daugavins at the trade deadline.
As a result, Julien has been forced to tweak his lineup in an attempt to find synergy, especially on the offensive side because goal scoring has been scarce. Boston has scored only eight goals in its past five games.
"It's about making your own breaks and right now we're certainly not making ours," Julien said. "We need to find a little bit more scoring."
Julien thought the trio of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton was the team's best line against the Canadiens, even though it did not register a point. The coach has made adjustments to other lines, but Julien is reluctant to split up the top line.
"Right now it's hard to break that line," he said. "I'm trying to fix the other lines that aren't bringing much for the time being.
"It's about being a little bit more hungry, and right now we need to be a little bit more hungry."
Sunday's practice focused on scoring, shooting drills and the power play. When Bruins captain Zdeno Chara spoke with the media after practice, his answers were short and to the point when asked what the team needs to do in the final few weeks of the regular season.
"Play and try to get better every game," Chara said.
How can you achieve that?
"Work hard," he said.
The Bruins currently trail the Canadiens by three points for the top spot in the Northeast Division, and Boston believes it can still finish in first place.
"We're running short but hopefully we can really find our groove here before the playoffs," forward Daniel Paille said. "It seems to not be going our way and we just need a little bit better effort from everyone. We're just not supporting each other out there and it definitely needs to change real soon since the end of the season is coming real soon."
Prior to Saturday's loss, the Bruins had been on a three-game winning streak and showed signs of improving. Of the 11 games remaining, the Bruins have only one divisional opponent left (Ottawa at home on April 15).
"We're heading down the right path to get back to our game," Brad Marchand said. "Down the stretch, we need to work hard and try to keep things simple and make sure we're playing good hockey when the playoffs start."
During Sunday's practice, Julien was intense on the ice. Afterward, he spoke with his players about the importance of ramping up their energy, passion and purpose before the postseason.
"Frustration's not going to get you going in the right direction," Julien said. "I'd rather see determination versus frustration. Determination and wanting to turn it around, and that's what we're trying to do here. The more we get on each other, the more frustration there's going to be.
"We need to work through this together. I know we've got a better team than what we've shown and it's going to start showing soon. We're running out of time soon to eventually to get your team on the right track and we realize time is running short right now."