WILMINGTON, Mass. — Michael Ryder says he’s changed linemates so much this season that an in-game switch like the one he experienced Tuesday night in the win over New Jersey is no big deal.
After one full roll out of the Bruins’ lines, Ryder settled in next to Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi until head coach Claude Julien shifted the veteran winger to a line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton in Brad Marchand’s place.
While the line juggling isn’t worth making a stink about, Ryder’s lack of production regardless of who he skates with is a major issue right now. Ryder has scored just once in his last 16 games, and three times in 25 contests heading into tomorrow night’s showdown with his former team from Montreal.
“I can’t score. But that happens, you know. I had a few chances a couple games ago. And I don’t know,” said Ryder in regards to where his game is right now when asked after practice at Ristuccia Arena today.
Last week in Columbus, Julien tried to get Ryder’s attention by making him a healthy scratch for the first time in his three seasons with Boston.
“Definitely [I was disappointed], especially when it’s not because of an injury, “said Ryder, who had skate in 172 consecutive regular-season games prior to the benching. “But there’s nothing you can do. Hopefully there’s more games in front of me.”
Ryder says he didn’t change anything about his game because of the scratch. Nonetheless, the next game he came out and fired seven shots on goal in the loss to Nashville. Early in the loss at Toronto he was active as well, but disappeared like most of his teammates the rest of that night. He didn’t do much against the Devils other than blow one gimme, which went off a defenseman’s skate into Martin Brodeur’s midsection. A simple flick of the wrist and lift of the puck would’ve avoided that unfortunate result and gotten Ryder back on the score sheet.
Unlike many players, Ryder’s only at his best when he’s scoring. Sure his stickhandling can sometimes open up a teammate and every once in a while he might intercept a puck in the neutral zone. But when he’s not scoring, he’s mostly just taking up a lineup spot.
For part of last month, he looked like he would keep a hot hand and be someone the Bruins could rely on down the stretch to put up points. Instead, he’s now in a situation where he doesn’t know whether he’ll be in the lineup from game to game and can’t seem to give the Bruins a solid reason to keep him in there regularly.
Ryder skated with Marchand, Bergeron and Recchi again today, in an obvious mental ploy by Julien to keep Ryder’s confidence high and also let Marchand know he has to earn the spot on the second line he won with his all-around play in early January.
Ryder and Julien have been together for many years with many different teams. The coach usually knows how to push the player’s buttons. Ryder’s not sure how to describe where their relationship is now.
“I don’t know, I’ve been with him so long. He kind of knows me and I have no idea [where we stand],” said Ryder.
Ryder said he didn’t necessarily agree with the decision to scratch him but “it’s a coach’s decision. So whatever they decide, there’s not much I can really do about it.” Well, there is one thing he could do — score some goals.
Ryder has picked a terrible time to revert to his 2009-10 form, as the Bruins need him to produce and he’s heading into free agency this summer. He’s going to turn 31 next week and could really make a decent pay day with a strong finish, especially considering the expected dearth of available goal-scorers on the market.
As a healthy scratch, Ryder can’t do anything to benefit his or the Bruins’ cause. That’s why this stretch of games since the healthy scratch is so vital to establish himself as a lineup regular before the playoffs. Tyler Seguin’s improved play and Daniel Paille’s decent amount of chemistry with Thornton and Campbell have provided Julien with multiple options.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen for next year. But I haven’t really thought about it much. But it’s still in the back of your mind,” said Ryder. “You know, you want to play and you want to show people you can play. For me, I’ve just got to work hard. I think people know I can play. So it’s just a matter when I’m back in the lineup showing that I can do that.”
There’s no telling how many more chances he’ll get to show what he can do, so Ryder might want to start that display as soon as he can.