Bruins Boychuk back to battling for a lineup spot on crowded back end

Boychuk/By S. Bradley

WILMINGTON, Mass. — A healthy scratch for 24 games as a rookie last season, Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk is no stranger to the press box or what it takes to fight one’s way back into a team’s top six.

And so on the morning after his first healthy scratch of this season, Boychuk was trying his best to stay positive after practice at Ristuccia Arena.

“Just work hard, stay positive, just [do] things that I did last year and make sure to learn from this experience,” said Boychuk of his plans for getting Claude Julien to re-insert him in the lineup.

With seven available defensemen, Julien has a nightly decision to make about who plays and who sits. For eight games, Mark Stuart was the odd man out, and then Steven Kampfer sat out Sunday’s game in Detroit. Last night was Boychuk’s turn. As of his post-practice media briefing this morning, Julien hadn’t decided how long or short Boychuk’s stint as the seventh defenseman might be.

“That’s up in the air right now. I haven’t made a decision that yet,” said the coach. “But it’s the same old, same old. Right now, the way we’ve played lately, I guess you could sit more than one, right? But it’s one of those things, decisions that I have to make on a daily basis here and I don’t think there are any rights or wrongs, and even the decisions can be debatable. That’s something I’ll finalize tomorrow.”

Boychuk said he didn’t expect to be scratched against Toronto but he understood why the decision was made.

“I did but I didn’t. I never really [thought] that I was going to be sitting, but that was their choice and you’ve got to respect that,” he said. “I’ve been maybe rushing my plays a little bit and not making the passes, the right plays at the right time. So I respect their decision.”

Signed to a two-year deal for close to $2 million per season last summer after a five-goal rookie campaign, Boychuk was expected to be a puck-moving, point-producing member of Boston’s top four. Instead, he has posted just 1-8-9 totals in 46 games.

Now Julien is hoping Boychuk can solve the problems in his game to help the Bruins cure what ails them as a team.

“I think the fact that what we talked to him about is easy puck movement,” said the coach. “Right now, I think his compete level is always there and Johnny is always a guy that’ll give you everything he’s got every game. But he’s another guy that’s struggled with puck movement and plays have died in our own zone because of that. Taking a step back again and looking at it from up there you hope will help him find that element of his game again.”

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