WILMINGTON, Mass. — Every team in every season goes through those dry spells where it seems the back of the net is as far away as Timbuktu and the goaltenders are the size of sumo wrestlers.
And every year on every team, at some point, the head coach has to make some line alterations to try and make the nets seem bigger and the goalies smaller. That seems to be what Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien’s apprach is going to be right now, as he attempts to break his team out of a four-game losing streak and some of his players from lengthy scoring slumps.
The major change at practice today, which figures to stay the same tomorrow night in Carolina, was Phil Kessel shifting to the right of David Krejci and Blake Wheeler switching to Marc Savard’s side. Krejci and Wheeler have played together almost all season, and Kessel and Savard haven’t been separated since late October.
“Just a little bit of a mix there. We haven’t been scoring as much as we’d like to lately. And you’ve got to kind of move guys around a little bit and see if that will spark things,” Julien said after his team’s hourlong on-ice session at Ristuccia Arena. “I think both players that kind of moved around – Wheeler or Kessel – those guys both bring the same sort of things to the lines. So it’s not like one line’s losing something over the other. It’s just a chance, and hopefully it’s a change for better things to come.”
Kessel’s scoreless run is the most glaring because he’s still the team’s leading goal-scorer with 24 and seemed to be emerging as the type of player that could carry the offense through bad times as recently as last month. But now he hasn’t scored since Jan. 3 — a stretch of 12 games.
If Kessel’s distressed. He doesn’t show it. In the locker room today he was smilely and optimistic that with all the chances he’s been getting, the goals are certain to come soon.
“I guess you’ve got to work out of it,” said Kessel, who most disappointingly could’ve ended the game in Nashville with a breakaway in the closing seconds Saturday but was thwarted by goaltender Pekka Rinne. “It’s not going to come … you can’t just sit around and think it’s going to get out of there. Hopefully, it comes soon enough.”
Kessel and Julien had a lengthy, two-way chat after the formal portion of practice to reinforce just that message.
“As I explained to him, don’t wait for it to happen,” the coach said. “Go out there and make it happen. You want to see your players work through it, and that’s his intention and we’re just making sure that we’re encouraging him to take that approach.”
The lines were also changed a bit because of the addition of Chuck Kobasew, out since Feb. 10 with an upper-body injury. Kobasew skated in his rightful spot next to Patrice Bergeron and P.J. Axelsson. Martins Karsums had been filling that spot, but today he skated as one of four burgundy-jersey wearers, along with Shawn Thornton, Byron Bitz and Stephane Yelle. Julien said Kobasew was a “strong possibility” to play against the Hurricanes.
Every Bruins player, except Petteri Nokelainen (eye), was scheduled to leave on the trip today.