Julien ready to try, try again
Ryder-Savard get another shot
CHICAGO - In theory, Michael Ryder should be the bread to Marc Savard’s butter.
Savard is the pass-first center who can thread pucks through skates and sticks, placing them flat on a wingman’s blade. Ryder is the triggerman with the team’s best release, able to scoop up passes and rifle them off his stick in one sweeping motion before a goaltender can flash a glove or pad.
But for some reason, the two have never been able to sustain long-term chemistry in the two seasons Ryder has been a Bruin.
“I wouldn’t put too much into that,’’ said coach Claude Julien following yesterday’s session at Johnny’s Icehouse, the Blackhawks’ practice rink. “I think last year, we had the luxury of moving quick. We had lots of different options.’’
Two summers ago, with a right wing spot to be vacated by Glen Murray (the Bruins would buy out the veteran forward), general manager Peter Chiarelli signed Ryder to a three-year, $12 million contract. The plan was for Ryder to ride shotgun with Savard and convert those feeds into goals. But even during the preseason, Savard and Ryder didn’t click like the Bruins thought they would. However, Ryder found a center in David Krejci. Phil Kessel became Savard’s go-to right wing.
But now, with the Bruins failing to turn scoring chances into goals (three scores in the last two games), Savard and Ryder will find themselves together tonight against Chicago, with Marco Sturm serving as their left wing. Considering their previous output, Ryder and Sturm can be considered the Bruins’ purest goal scorers, and Julien is stacking Savard’s line in hopes of producing some offense.
“It doesn’t mean that the other lines can’t [produce],’’ said Julien. “We should be able to rely on Krejci and [Blake] Wheeler and those kinds of guys. [Patrice] Bergeron and [Mark] Recchi. Those guys can still produce. I like the way our fourth line played the last game. If they can give us that again, that will certainly help our team to hopefully score some more goals. Having said that, we’re playing a team [tonight] that’s the stingiest in the league. Certainly the challenge is there.’’
The Blackhawks have allowed a league-low two goals per game. On Wednesday, Cristobal Huet blanked the Blues, 3-0. In the previous game, Antti Niemi earned the shutout in a 4-0 victory over Tampa Bay.
It’s a good bet that Bergeron, Recchi, and Daniel Paille, who practiced together yesterday, will be matched against Chicago’s top offensive duo of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. So with their focus being defense first, it will be even more necessary for Savard and Co. to find some instant chemistry and apply pressure on the Chicago goal.
“When you’re playing with other people, you always need to learn their tendencies and what they like to do on the ice,’’ said Ryder. “Sometimes it might take a little longer in practice to get used to each other. I think we did have success when we were together. We had chances. I think we were creating things.’’
Yesterday, the lefthanded-shooting Wozniewski skated on the left side of the second pairing, with Andrew Ference switching to the right side. Matt Hunwick, a healthy scratch in three of the last four games, will be back in uniform, said Julien. Hunwick would probably be paired with Johnny Boychuk. During power-play drills, Hunwick and Boychuk took shifts in Wideman’s spot on the No. 2 unit.
“They bring different elements to the game,’’ Julien said of Wozniewski and McQuaid. “You’ve got to look into [Wozniewski’s] experience. He’s also from this area, which should be a little motivation. At the same time, we’ve got another guy that when we lose Stuart, McQuaid is a pretty tough individual as well. He gives you that physical presence.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.