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Healthy Seguin is asked to take a seat

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / February 10, 2011

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The high-end components of Tyler Seguin’s game have not changed. The rookie, who turned 19 on Jan. 31, is the Bruins’ most explosive skater. Seguin’s release and shot rival those of Michael Ryder and Nathan Horton, and when the puck is on Seguin’s stick, he doesn’t slow down.

But of late, lapses in smarts, competitiveness, and blue-collar play have rendered the forward’s offensive firepower irrelevant. So last night, Seguin found himself in the press box as a healthy scratch against Montreal.

Zach Hamill, recalled last Thursday, centered Ryder and Blake Wheeler for the second straight game. Jordan Caron, brought up from Providence Monday, skated on the fourth line with fellow grinders Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton.

“We have to sit somebody out,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “I know who he is and I know where he’s drafted. I know all that stuff. Right now, we brought up Caron, who we feel is a good fit on that fourth line. Hamill is here, too. There’s a guy who’s a third-year pro and he needs to have a look, too. Right now, that’s the choice we’ve made.’’

The Bruins have been cautious and conservative with Seguin. Julien has always been quick to note Seguin’s age when the rookie has been slow to adapt to the NHL’s speed, savvy, and rigor. Julien has noted how Seguin has improved and how the organization continues to expect that he will develop into a star.

But Seguin has failed to earn his coach’s trust with his recent play. In each of his last four games, Seguin played less than 10 minutes, the first time that’s happened this season. On Feb. 1, while fellow first-round pick and boyhood friend Jeff Skinner showed a fiery streak for Carolina in 19:34 of all-over-the-puck ice time against the Bruins, Seguin logged only 6:37 in Boston’s 3-2 win at the RBC Center.

On Jan. 24 and 26, the first two games that Marc Savard missed because of his latest concussion, the coaching staff put Seguin at center on the third line between Wheeler and Ryder. But after two games of 0-0—0 play, Seguin shifted to right wing, Wheeler moved to center, and Ryder slid to left wing against Carolina.

For two games, Seguin played right wing on the third line. In last Thursday’s 6-3 win over Dallas, Seguin scored the fifth goal on a shot that Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen should have stopped. Seguin skated on the fourth line against San Jose Saturday.

“I had four shots and a goal against Dallas, but I definitely want to elevate my game,’’ Seguin said. “I think I need to. It’s all about consistency now heading toward the playoffs. I think I still have it in me and that’s still the plan for me. Whether it’s five minutes or 10 minutes a night, I need to take advantage of it all.’’

Right now, Seguin doesn’t look comfortable in a top-nine position, and doesn’t have the grit for the fourth line. Because he’s just 19, he is not eligible to play in Providence. Spending the season in junior could have left Seguin further entangled in the bad habits he’s trying to break now.

Seguin (8-9—17 in 51 games) may have run into the physical and mental wall that can strike rookies more than halfway into their first pro season. But the opponents will become nastier and the games far surlier the rest of the season.

“There’s a lot on his plate right now,’’ Julien said. “I think that’s what people have to understand.

“I know he’s lost a bit of his edge. There’s times he’s lost the puck, when he’s a guy that should be able to hold onto it. There’s parts of his game that have slipped a little bit.

“But that doesn’t change the outlook of what we think of him. I think it’s a phase of what he’s going through this year. It’s a lot different at this level than what he’s been used to.

“It’s never a bad thing to watch. Never a bad thing, sometimes, to get a rest this time of year. This is his first time going through this kind of schedule.’’

Interest in Phillips The Bruins are kicking the tires on Ottawa’s Chris Phillips, according to a league source. The 32-year-old stay-at-home defenseman, the first overall pick in the 1996 draft, will be an unrestricted free agent at year’s end.

Phillips was at his best several years ago when he was paired with Anton Volchenkov on Ottawa’s shutdown tandem. This season, Phillips has zero goals and four assists in 54 games while averaging 21:22 of ice time, with a minus-26 rating.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, formerly the assistant GM in Ottawa, would know best whether Phillips’s career is shot or he’s just suffering from playing on a subpar squad. Phillips is also familiar with ex-Ottawa teammate Zdeno Chara.

Phillips carries an annual cap hit of $3.5 million, which means the Bruins could bring him on without sending salary back to Ottawa. The Bruins’ 2011 first-round pick could be in play.

McQuaid emerges Adam McQuaid, promoted to the second defensive pairing alongside Dennis Seidenberg, played a season-high 19:34, and gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead at 9:48 of the second. After McQuaid’s point shot was blocked, the defenseman followed the play, stepped into the high slot, took a feed from Horton, and buried the puck for his first goal of the season. McQuaid was his usual surly self, too, tagging Max Pacioretty repeatedly in the game’s final minute. “My game still builds on making the simple plays,’’ said McQuaid. “But at the same time, you can definitely play too simple. If I see something, I’m trying to make the play.’’ . . . Johnny Boychuk, dropped to the third pairing, played only 15:13. He could be on the bubble if the coaches decide that Mark Stuart, a healthy scratch in the last seven games, is due for ice time tomorrow against Detroit . . . The No. 1 line of Horton, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci combined for three goals and eight assists. “We knew we had to be a threat every time we were on the ice,’’ Lucic said. “That’s what we talked about as a line [on Tuesday]. We want to be that threat. We want to get in there, play with that emotion, and be guys that the coach counts on. It’s definitely great that we had the game that we did. But we definitely have to build on it and keep pushing to get more.’’ . . . Hamill had a highlight helper on Ryder’s first goal. Hamill broke toward the net and sent a backhand diagonal dish to his right wing. “He made some good plays and that’s what his game is all about,’’ Julien said. “He’s always been known as a great playmaker. He showed some of that tonight.’’

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