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Wheeler to get shot on top line

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / May 14, 2010

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WILMINGTON — Patrice Bergeron and Blake Wheeler combined for zero shots in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Flyers in Game 6. Yesterday, in what could have been the Bruins’ final practice of 2009-10 at Ristuccia Arena, Bergeron and Wheeler found themselves on the same line, with their coach believing that somehow, they could provide each other with the offensive kick in the pants they need.

“Just a change,’’ Claude Julien said of taking defensive-minded Daniel Paille off the No. 1 line and replacing him with Wheeler. “Just changing our lines around. Trying to find something to spark certain people. You see that happen quite often. Just felt it was time for a change.’’

One of the best scoring chances of Game 6 came in the third period when Michael Ryder took a shift with Bergeron and Mark Recchi. Ryder, displaying patience with the puck, waited for Bergeron to spring free in front. But after taking Ryder’s pass, Bergeron snapped a shot that caromed off the right post, allowing the Flyers to hold onto their 2-0 lead.

“It was a roll-through,’’ Bergeron recalled. “I gave it to Rydes and just went to the net. Rex was right there, so someone went to Rex instead of picking me. Rydes made a great play. I hit the post. It was wide open. An inch to the left, it would have went in. We made the play on that one. We’ll shake it off and be ready for [tonight].’’

But instead of giving Ryder another look yesterday, Julien opted for Wheeler, whose last goal came in Game 3 when, from the slot, he got a piece of a wide-left Matt Hunwick shot and tipped it past Brian Boucher. Wheeler had been skating on the No. 3 line with Ryder and Vladimir Sobotka for the last three games.

Bergeron and Wheeler have not seen much even-strength time together this season. At times, they were on the No. 1 power-play unit with Recchi.

“I definitely have a familiarity with them,’’ Wheeler said of Bergeron and Recchi. “I’m more than capable of knowing what they can do out there. It’s just doing the same thing, not trying to do too much to satisfy them. Just have to play your game, hopefully get good chemistry going, get some good shifts. Those guys are playing really well right now. I’m just excited for the opportunity to play with them and hopefully make some stuff happen.’’

Marchand in mix
Brad Marchand, a healthy scratch for the entire postseason, was the fourth forward on the No. 3 line yesterday with Paille, Sobotka, and Ryder. Marchand has more offensive awareness and a better shot than Paille.

But during the playoffs, Paille has averaged 2:28 of shorthanded ice time per game, two seconds fewer than Steve Begin, who’s logged the most time on the penalty kill among Bruins forwards. The Flyers have scored on 21 percent of their power plays during the playoffs. Danny Briere scored the winning goal on Wednesday during four-on-three play.

Julien declined to answer when asked whether Marchand would dress tonight.

Open for business
The Wachovia Center will open its doors at 5:30 p.m. today, allowing Flyers fans to watch Game 7 on the scoreboard for free. The Canadiens did the same at the Bell Centre for their Game 7 against the Penguins Tuesday. To no one’s surprise, the Bell Centre was filled for the Canadiens’ 5-2 win at Mellon Arena . . . Late in the second period of Game 6, while trying to deliver a hit along the wall, Flyer Blair Betts appeared to suffer a shoulder injury when he ran into the boards. General manager Paul Holmgren said in a statement that Betts is expected to play tonight. Betts has most recently been centering Andreas Nodl and Darroll Powe on the fourth line . . . Adam McQuaid (leg) practiced yesterday but is not expected to play tonight . . . Game 6 earned a 10.3 rating on NESN. It was the network’s third-highest-rated Bruins game, trailing only last year’s Game 7 loss to Carolina (14.2) and the 2004 Game 7 loss to Montreal (11.7).

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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