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Bruins rookies going through growing pains

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / February 15, 2011

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On Sunday, when the Bruins faced off against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, there were six first-year NHLers on the Black and Gold roster. Brad Marchand was on the second line. Tyler Seguin, a healthy scratch the two previous games, was centering the third line. Jordan Caron, recalled from Providence last Monday, skated on the fourth line. Adam McQuaid was on the third pairing. Zach Hamill and Steven Kampfer were healthy scratches.

Since Sunday’s 4-2 setback, their second in a row to the skilled Wings, the Bruins have trimmed their rookie ranks by two. After the loss, Hamill was returned to Providence. Yesterday, Caron followed.

The NHL stretch run, especially for a team aiming to make postseason noise, is no place for boys.

Historically, general manager Peter Chiarelli has preferred having several rookies on his rosters. Johnny Boychuk was a rookie last year. Two years ago, Blake Wheeler, Matt Hunwick, and Byron Bitz contributed to the club’s first-place regular-season run. In 2007-08, Milan Lucic and David Krejci played go-to roles, while Petteri Nokelainen and Vladimir Sobotka were important complementary components. Chiarelli’s theory is that young players have energy and enthusiasm that can be contagious.

There must be a balance, however, between youth and experience.

Consider the peaks-and-valleys plays by Marchand and Seguin Sunday. Marchand is in the thick of the Calder Trophy sprint as the league’s best rookie. In the first period, Marchand drove to the net on the power play and tapped in a Michael Ryder dish to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead.

But earlier in the first, with the Bruins holding a 1-0 lead, Marchand made an ill-advised backhand pass in the defensive zone. Todd Bertuzzi picked off the pass and beat Tim Thomas for the equalizer.

The Bruins had swiped an early lead because of Seguin’s hunger around the net. On his first shift back since sitting in the TD Garden press box for two games, Seguin connected for his ninth goal. He did so by doing some dirty work — the coaching staff had been concerned about his lack of competitiveness in the black-and-blue areas — near the net and beating Ruslan Salei to a loose puck in front.

But in the second, Seguin was on the ice for Detroit’s game-winning goal. Kris Draper slipped behind Seguin, gained a step at the blue line, and took a pass from Patrick Eaves while zooming past the rookie. Draper lifted the puck over Thomas to give the Wings a 3-2 edge.

“I was going down the wall,’’ Seguin said. “Drapes, I don’t know if he came off the bench or something. But he sneaked behind all of us, then went in and scored. Me and [Dennis Seidenberg] talked about it. We both could have taken him, but he went in and scored.’’

For now, Marchand and Seguin, along with McQuaid and Kampfer, will be asked to continue playing their games. Marchand has locked down his position alongside Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi on the team’s most consistent line. Hamill’s assignment means that, if perhaps only temporarily, Seguin will remain between Wheeler and Ryder as the No. 3 center.

McQuaid has edged past Mark Stuart on the depth chart as a bottom-pairing defenseman. If Kampfer can rebound from his Sunday sitdown, he could be back with Zdeno Chara.

Help, however, should be on the way before the Feb. 28 trade deadline. With Pittsburgh shorthanded following injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Washington off its points-producing pace of last season, the Bruins could challenge Philadelphia, the East’s top club, with additions at center and defense. Coach Claude Julien knows what he’s getting from Bergeron and Gregory Campbell every game. But he can’t say the same about Seguin and Krejci, who’ve been as inconsistent as they’ve been skilled.

On the back end, Detroit’s sublime puck-moving defensemen showed the Bruins how quickly they can ignite the attack. Prior to Draper’s goal, Nicklas Lidstrom kicked off the sequence with a tape-to-tape pass from the defensive zone to an in-stride Darren Helm in center ice. On Detroit’s fourth goal, with Krejci and Nathan Horton closing fast, Brian Rafalski chipped a puck off the wall from deep in the right corner. Then with another chip, Henrik Zetterberg shuttled the puck forward to Johan Franzen. Seconds later, Bertuzzi scored.

The Bruins have assets. After placing Marc Savard on long-term injured reserve, they have cap space to add a $4 million player. They have two first-round picks, including Toronto’s, which could be a top-five selection. The Bruins could kick the tires on older players such as Tomas Kaberle and Jason Arnott. Or they could look at younger players — possibly John-Michael Liles — who would have steeper prices but deliver greater impacts.

Daniel Paille is eligible to play tonight against Toronto. Paille finished serving his four-game suspension for his blindside hit on Raymond Sawada. Paille will skate on the fourth line with Campbell and Shawn Thornton . . . Yesterday, less than a month after starting his comeback Jan. 22 with a morning skate before the Bruins’ 6-2 win over Colorado, Peter Forsberg called it quits. He appeared in two games . . . Phil Kessel hasn’t scored a goal in his last 14 games. He never has scored against his former club.

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

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