WILMINGTON -- Tim Thomas waddled into the dressing room in full goalie gear, practice over, and paused. The newest addition to the room was the object of his attention.
"It's good to see, I guess, on a day-to-day basis, where you're at," he said. "And where you want to be."
The newest addition, somewhat painful for the Bruins to see, was a large copy of the NHL standings that coach Dave Lewis ordered as a wall fixture in the room, to be updated daily. In case anyone in Black and Gold didn't know, the 2006-07 Bruins yesterday were 14th in the Eastern Conference. Only the 1-6-0-1 Flyers stood between the 2-4-0-1 Bruins and an express ticket to oblivion.
Did the cold, hard truth bring a sense of urgency to the room?
"Yeah ... yeah," said Thomas, the coach's choice to man the net tomorrow night when the Canadiens come to town. "But also, look at some of the other teams down in the standings right now -- they're not teams that you'd necessarily expect. Philly. The Rangers are below a playoff spot. The Red Wings are below a playoff spot.
"I know it's early, and you don't want to be down at the bottom next to Philly. But it kind of gives you some hope that it's early, because you know that the Red Wings are going to end up in the playoffs, and the Rangers, with the lineup they have. So, good to know it's early yet."
Yes, the season is only in its third week, but the stumbling start has cast a failure-to-launch suspicion over the Hub of Hockey. The Bruins don't score enough. There has been nothing special, or even noteworthy, about their special teams. Goaltending has been spotty. Hannu Toivonen was given the hook in Saturday's loss to Buffalo, leaving Lewis still searching for answers at what is every team's most critical -- and often most vulnerable -- position.
"One consistent is, we have to improve," noted Lewis, upbeat, though realistic, amid the early gloom. "Our special teams have been poor. Our defensive zone -- our goals against -- has not been good. The goaltending's been inconsistent. We have to improve in all those areas."
All of which factored in Lewis ordering up the big board with the standings. The point? Focus, focus, focus, said the coach.
"You want the players aware of their environment on the ice," said Lewis. "You want them aware of where they are in the locker room, where they are in the standings, aware of the schedule. Just more awareness all around, to challenge them mentally a little bit."
Lewis said he intends to hit the players with pop quizzes.
"One day, I'll just ask 'em, 'OK, where is New Jersey in the standings?"' he said. "Or maybe it will be, 'How many goals has the best team allowed?' It's all to get them focused -- thinking."
Moves in offingAccording to general manager Peter Chiarelli, a defenseman will be called up from Providence before today's workout at Ristuccia Arena.
Chiarelli also said he is pondering whether to call up a forward from the WannaB's.
Reached late in the afternoon, assistant GM Jeff Gorton said the defenseman most likely would come from the likes of Jonathan Sigalet, Matt Lashoff, Bobby Allen, or Jay Leach.
"They've all done pretty well," said Gorton, before scouting the Holy Cross-Merrimack matchup last night at North Andover.
Lashoff, a 20-year-old chosen No. 22 overall in the '05 draft, has the most points (1-1--2 in five games) among the four defensemen.
Forward David Krejci leads Providence in scoring with 0-5--5 totals in five games. Providence doesn't play until Friday, when Bridgeport visits the Dunk. Center Nate Thompson, who made his NHL debut Saturday against the Sabres, was returned to the Baby B's yesterday.
As for the varsity's slow start, Chiarelli reiterated that he is concerned.
"But if you look at the last two games, I think there were positives," he said. "There was the win over Calgary. Even the Buffalo game, I thought we started OK. Then along the way here we've lost some guys to injury -- [Brad ] Stuart, [Marco ] Sturm, [Mark] Mowers and [Andrew] Alberts. Those are legitimate losses.
"But you can't keep saying that after each loss, either, which is why I say I have concerns."
Sturm improvingSturm, hobbled since taking a Stuart slapper off the knee in practice last week, skated on his own for the first time before practice. "It's getting better every day," said the veteran wing. Nonetheless, Sturm said the shot, which hit him high on the left kneecap, caused some swelling, and he said, "water on the knee" remains a problem. He doubts he can play tomorrow ... Stuart, who fractured the pinkie on his right hand Saturday night, will not need surgery, according to Lewis. He had the finger splinted and taped to the adjacent finger, and likely will miss at least two weeks ... Toivonen reported to work with his golden locks severely cropped, in what would best be described as a boys' regular (circa 1963). "Just took some off the top," said the 22-year-old, who, sans his long hair, looked young enough that a truant officer could have been summoned to the rink's parking lot ... The legendary Derek Sanderson, who recently withdrew from his restaurant venture on Cape Cod, swung by for a visit. The Turk, now 60, remains active as an investment adviser with Howland Capital Management ... Thomas reported no lingering effects from the ice chip that hit him in the left eye during Monday's practice. "Feels fine," he said, noting it felt like he was pelted in the eye with a marble. "When I got home yesterday, my wife asked me why I'd been crying. But other than that, it's all right."
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.