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OTTAWA — When Rich Peverley is on his game, the 30-year-old is one of the Bruins’ most versatile players.
Since his arrival from Atlanta on Feb. 18, 2011, Peverley has played on all four lines. He is a natural center who can play both wings. He can man the point and roam down low on the power play. He’s one of the six trusted penalty killers that have helped the Bruins accumulate the league’s best kill rate (92.2 percent). Peverley also wins more faceoffs (59.6 percent) than he loses.
Peverley’s offensive game, however, has eluded him for most of the season. Peverley (4-5—9) has one goal in his last 10 games, and for that reason was in a suit and tie for Thursday’s 2-1, come-from-behind win over the Senators. It was the first time Peverley had been a healthy scratch as a Bruin.
“Obviously, you never want to be a healthy scratch,” Peverley said. “But it was a coach’s decision. I know I need to be a lot better. Hopefully from here on out it will go a lot better and I can use it as motivation.”
During Friday’s practice at Carleton University, Peverley was the No. 3 center between Jay Pandolfo and Jordan Caron. Given the manner in which Peverley can affect the game, it’s unlikely that coach Claude Julien will stretch his press-box attendance to two straight games.
Based on Julien’s words after Thursday’s win, the maneuver was more about grabbing Peverley’s attention than punting him from the lineup.
“Sometimes you’ve got to make those kinds of decisions, hoping that maybe it gives him the jolt he needs to get himself going,” Julien said on Thursday. “We need Rich Peverley. He’s a good player. But he hasn’t been able to find his game so far this year to what he can be. As a coach, you make those kinds of decisions, hoping in the end that it’s the right one to help the player and to help the team.”
The Bruins hope the decision has a long-term effect. Against the Senators, putting Ryan Spooner between Pandolfo and Caron made the Bruins more of a three-line team. All three played less than 10 minutes.
“That was a bit of an experiment,” Julien said of Spooner’s line. “I didn’t quite know what I was going to get. The [Gregory] Campbell line has been playing extremely well. So to me, the Campbell line was part of the top three lines of our team.”
Julien’s preference is to roll four lines. Maple Leafs counterpart Randy Carlyle limits the shifts of bangers Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren. But Carlyle also prefers to spread out his minutes among the rest of his forwards.
If Peverley returns to the lineup Saturday night against Toronto, the Bruins would return to a four-line attack. Peverley could move to the right side. Spooner would center the line and Pandolfo would be the left wing.
Regardless of Saturday’s lineup, the Bruins need more from their third line. It’s one of the areas that general manager Peter Chiarelli will attempt to upgrade via trade. Until then, Peverley will have to find his touch.
The third line hasn’t been on the ice for an opposing five-on-five goal since March 7. They’ve stabilized defensively, but their offense must improve.
“The third line hasn’t been scoring very many goals five on five,” Peverley said. “That definitely needs to be better. Maybe it’s just shooting the puck more or taking the puck to the net more. Maybe a little more jam in front of the net. It’s definitely been a trying season for production.”
As it was drawn up
When Patrice Bergeron lined up against Zack Smith for an offensive-zone faceoff Thursday night, he had his plan devised. Win the draw. Pull the puck back to Zdeno Chara. Go to the front of the net.
Check, check, check.
Bergeron won his 19th faceoff — four more than the other Bruins combined — and delivered the puck to Chara. When the Senators charged at Chara, the captain shuttled the puck to Dennis Seidenberg. As Bergeron set a screen on Senators goalie Robin Lehner, Seidenberg slipped the puck into the net for the winning goal.
It was yet another example of Bergeron being one of the league’s best all-around forwards.
“It was for Z to shoot it, but when they’re coming so hard like that, it was a great play to get it to Seids,” Bergeron said. “I was trying to go to the net and get a screen.”
Johnny Boychuk left practice early after taking a shot off his right leg. He needed help getting off the ice. As of Friday night, the Bruins were unable to determine the severity of the injury because of swelling.
Boychuk’s availability for Saturday’s game is in question. The Bruins recalled Matt Bartkowski from Providence on an emergency basis. Bartkowski has three goals and 21 assists in 56 games this season. Continued...