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Bruins Notebook

Resting on morals

Julien gives his team a well-deserved break

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / December 14, 2009

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Satisfied with his club’s recent success and work ethic, coach Claude Julien declared yesterday a day of rest, somewhat surprising because he already had tomorrow booked as an offday, and also slightly out of character considering his club forfeited a second-period lead Saturday night on Long Island and left a 3-2 loser to the Islanders in overtime.

“We have to remember,’’ Julien has said frequently in his two-plus seasons behind the Boston bench, “these guys aren’t machines.’’

The Bruins, though, have been almost robotic in their success lately, posting an impressive 8-1-2 record since a 4-1 loss to the Islanders Nov. 16. The club’s power play has improved dramatically, especially over the last two weeks, and its penalty killing now ranks No. 1 in the league, tied with San Jose at 85.7 percent.

Long gone, it appears, is the viral case of melancholia that pervaded the roster the first month of the season. In hindsight, Julien categorizes his club’s early inconsistency as a failure to engage emotionally.

“Emotion has a lot to do with success,’’ Julien offered Saturday morning, prior to what turned into a solid effort against the Islanders, even if the outcome fell short. “We were going out there and just playing the game, thinking that, hopefully, it would be enough to win. And if not, then [we were thinking], ‘OK, maybe the next game.’ Well, that’s not good enough.’’

A number of elements have factored into the turnaround, but one of the biggest keys was upgrading the penalty killing, which coincided with the Oct. 18 trade that sent Chuck Kobasew to Minnesota and brought in PK specialist Daniel Paille from Buffalo.

Prior to Paille’s addition, the Bruins were burned for a pair of power-play goals in three of their first seven games. In 24 games since, they have given up only six power-play goals, and never more than one per game. Their rate since Paille’s arrival has been a dazzling 92.4 percent (73 for 79). In one 13-game stretch, the Bruins allowed only one power-play goal, killing 38 of 39 (97.4 percent).

Upgrading the PK was one of general manager Peter Chiarelli’s stated objectives going into the summer. The Bruins were a mid-pack (tied 11th overall with Montreal) PK squad in 2008-09, which in part explains why Chiarelli and Co. allowed free agent P.J. Axelsson to leave for Sweden.

New look to Flyers
The Flyers will be on Causeway Street tonight, the last meeting prior to their open-air shinny at Fenway Park in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic. This will be Boston’s first look at the Broad Streeters since Peter Laviolette took over the bench Dec. 4.

Laviolette, a former assistant coach with the Bruins, has his greatest challenge in net, where the Flyers have been severely lacking since the end of the Ron Hextall era, now almost a dozen years in the rearview mirror. General manager Paul Holmgren gambled that a rehabbed Ray Emery, who underwent a career makeover in Russia last season, and journeyman Brian Boucher would seal the net this season. But Emery recently underwent abdominal surgery, leaving Boucher and rookie Johan Backlund to get the job done.

On Saturday, Holmgren signed ex-Bruin goalie John Grahame, out of work since a failed Russian tour of his own last season, to a tryout contract with the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL.

Point the way
With 51 games to go, if the Bruins continue their .613 rate of picking up points, they will finish 2009-10 with 101 points, what would be their fourth time over 100 points in the last eight seasons . . . As of yesterday, the Bruins ranked 23d on the power play (17.9 percent), well below last season when they ranked fourth, tied with Anaheim at 23.6 percent. The power play has gone 8 for 26 (30.8 percent) the last six games, including an 0 for 3 against the Islanders . . . The Flyers have gone 2-8-0 in their last 10 games. Prior to last night’s action, Tampa Bay, Florida, Carolina, and Columbus also had won only two of their last 10 . . . Prior to undergoing surgery, Emery hadn’t won a game since Nov. 16 . . . Michael Ryder, with his goal and assist on Long Island, had his first multiple-point game since potting a pair of goals against Atlanta Nov. 19. The ex-Hab is now 8-6 -14 for the season, a pace for about 37 points, considerably short of his 26-27 -53 last season, not to mention his $4 million salary. Julien popped him up to the No. 1 line for a shift in the third period Saturday night.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com.

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