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Bruins notebook

Julien pulled right switch

Email|Print| Text size + By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / November 21, 2007

TORONTO - Early in last night's 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs, Bruins coach Claude Julien noticed that Toronto counterpart Paul Maurice was trying to keep No. 1 center Mats Sundin away from Marc Savard and Boston's top line.

So Julien improvised, replacing the offensive-minded Phil Kessel on the second line - the second-year NHLer had skated between Marco Sturm and Chuck Kobasew since the Bruins lost Patrice Bergeron Oct. 27 - with Glen Metropolit, who plays a sounder two-way game.

The move paid off in several ways.

Kessel, who hadn't scored since Nov. 1, notched a power-play goal with 47.9 seconds remaining in the second period, ending his seven-game drought. Kessel and third-line mates Peter Schaefer and Brandon Bochenski played a responsible two-way game during even-strength situations.

In turn, Metropolit, Sturm, and Kobasew were on the ice for the team's final two goals. On the other end, they helped hold Sundin to only one shot - which ended up behind Tuukka Rask after skimming off the stick of Aaron Ward and changing direction.

"I put Metro there, and that gave us a second sturdy line," said Julien. "That allowed Phil, Schaefer, and Bochenski to do a good job. I thought they both handled the switch extremely well."

Kobasew had a team-high four shots and 3 points.

Playing it saferLast season, Andrew Alberts led the Bruins with 124 penalty minutes.

And though Alberts was whistled for seven penalty minutes in a 7-4 loss to Montreal last Saturday, the defenseman has spent only 17 minutes in the box this season and is on pace for only 73.4 this season, a far more palatable number for both player and coach.

During a meeting at the start of the year, Julien told Alberts, known for his thunderous checks, that he'd often take himself out of position by looking to clean an opponent's clock. To recover, Alberts would have to resort to hooking or holding.

"I'm not really going out of my way to make big hits this year, and he's all right with that," said Alberts, who landed a game-high six thumps last night. "It's better D to keep myself out of the box. That's one less penalty the team has to kill.

"It's simplifying - not getting too excited like the last couple years. My eyes would light up for a big hit. I'd take myself out of position and get beat. This year, it's being a little more conservative about taking myself out of the play."

Times are a-changin'

Like many big North American cities, parts of Toronto are undergoing gentrification, with rough patches being smoothed over.

For Metropolit, raised about 10 minutes away from Air Canada Centre among the projects of downtown Toronto, such development brings mixed emotions.

"Every time I come back, I'm driving by there and thinking, 'Am I getting that old or what?' It's kind of sad because that's what you knew growing up," said Metropolit. "That's your environment."

A group of his Toronto friends and former schoolmates watched the center during yesterday's morning skate, prompting Metropolit to quip that they came because the session was free.

Saving his neck

Local mask maker Tony Priolo, who counts Tim Thomas among his clients, was at the rink yesterday. Recently, Thomas's Itech neck guard, which he adjusts on his own for a better fit, cracked while the Bruins were traveling. Thomas wants Priolo to manufacture multiple neck guards so that he doesn't have to tweak each one . . . Thomas will be excused from today's practice at Ristuccia Arena because of personal reasons . . . Matt Hunwick was a healthy scratch. Bobby Allen was the sixth defenseman, skating 14 shifts for 9:38 of ice time.

Long division

The Bruins wrapped up their nine-game string against division rivals, their longest of the season, with a 4-3-2 record. They were without Bergeron for all nine games. "Two points over .500," mused Julien. "Wish it could have been a little better. If you're not greedy, you'll never make progress. We're definitely happy because it could have been worse. We're always looking at the loss of Bergeron and seeing how guys are going to handle the situation. So far we're doing well. But I know we need to get a little more consistent with our game. We can't win, lose, win, lose, and expect to make the playoffs." . . . With back-to-back games against the Islanders coming up on Friday and Saturday, Rask may have earned himself another start this weekend, although Julien didn't tip his hand. "I'm one of those coaches that likes to take games one at a time," said Julien. "But with a performance like that, you'll see him play in the NHL again. When is that going to be? The next game? The game after? We'll have to wait and see."

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