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Kaberle still searching for the power switch

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / April 7, 2011

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The playoffs are just about here, and 22 games into his Spoked-B employment, Tomas Kaberle is still working out the kinks. Kaberle, Boston’s key acquisition leading up to the Feb. 28 trading deadline, essentially is being deprogrammed from his career-long stay in Toronto, where the style he played wasn’t as scripted and defense-oriented that it is here in the Hub under coach Claude Julien.

“I mean, he’s been with an organization that played a different type of game,’’ said Julien, prior to the Bruins’ 3-2 victory over the Islanders last night at the Garden, “especially in the [defensive] zone — a lot of man-to-man, stuff like that — where we play more zone.’’

Kaberle has one goal and eight assists in his Boston tenure. When he was acquired from the Leafs, no one thought the now 33-year-old would be a point-making machine. Overall, though, he has been substantially less than advertised, especially on the power play, where his velvety hands were expected to provide a much-needed offensive boost. But the power play has been all but dormant since his arrival, and it’s that element of his game that will have to improve if the Bruins have hopes of a long postseason run.

“When you only have one power play per game,’’ said Julien, first acknowledging Kaberle’s key role on the man-advantage, “it’s pretty hard to evolve into a better power-play unit. But hopefully we get a few more shots at it these coming games and in practice.’’

Despite its spotty record, the power play unit, by Julien’s eye, is showing more confidence.

“Including [Kaberle],’’ said Julien, his squad with weekend matches against Ottawa [Saturday] and New Jersey [Sunday] remaining on the regular-season schedule. “He’s a guy that sees the ice well and then sees the openings.’’

Beyond the obvious need to score more, the Boston power play needs to move more, and be quicker with its puck-moving decisions. Many power-play units have trouble scoring from out far, or even getting shots on net from the point men. But many units do a better job of moving the puck around the PK box, and making cross-slot passes that lead to shot opportunities or back-door attempts. Too often, the Bruins end their power play with managing but one or two shots on net, and it’s far too common that the shots haven’t really tested the opposition netminder.

For the record, the Bruins have not scored a power-play goal in five straight games, going 0 for 12. In the first of those games, vs. Chicago, they didn’t get a single PP opportunity. They then went 0 for 5 vs. the Leafs, and 0 for 1 vs. the Thrashers and Rangers.

Headed into last night’s action, the Bruins had been on the power play 255 times. Of the 30 teams in the NHL, only the Senators (253) and the Devils (231) had worked with fewer opportunities.

In Kaberle’s 22 games, the Bruins are 6 for 60 (10 percent) on the man-advantage. Come playoff time, that’s not a number that promises to take them very far in their quest to win their first Cup since 1972. They’ll either get better or they’ll get gone.

Boston’s struggles on the power play continued in the first period when they were awarded a two-man advantage at 7:03 and could muster but two shots on ex-Boston University goalie Rick DiPietro. The Bruins were 0 for 5 on the power play last night.

Seguin sits again As expected, rookie center/wing Tyler Seguin did not suit up. It was yet another indication that Seguin, picked second overall in last June’s draft, likely will be out of uniform when the playoffs begin next week.

Seguin early last month was a DND/coach’s decision for three of five games, but returned to full-time duty March 15 and went 1-0—1 over the next 11 games, never playing more than 16:32 in a game (March 19 vs. Toronto). In Monday night’s mind-numbing 5-3 loss to the Rangers, Seguin saw only 8:03 total ice time — his lowest since logging 6:16 at Vancouver Feb. 26.

In 72 games, Seguin is 11-11—22 and a minus-3.

Not a direct swap, but with Seguin out, Julien brought Shawn Thornton back into the lineup. Thornton had been sidelined since suffering a 40-stitch gash above his right eye last Tuesday when he fell on a skateblade.

Thornton connected in the first period, with 0.1 seconds remaining, for his 10th goal of the season.

Tank is full Tim Thomas turned back 30 of 32 shots and improved to 34-11-9. The Tank likely will play only one of the two remaining games, which would leave him with a maximum of 35 wins. Two years ago, when he won the Vezina, he finished 36-11-7. He is among the leading candidates to win the Vezina for a second time . . . Julien tinkered with his defensive pairings, opening with Kaberle and Dennis Seidenberg in one tandem, Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid in another. He later put Ference with Seidenberg and Kaberle with McQuaid. Perhaps Shane Hnidy will get another 60-minute serving over the weekend . . . Michael Grabner led all shooters with six shots on net, including two for goals. One was a shorthander, his sixth of the season, leading the way for rookies . . . Gregory Campbell’s goal, the game-winner (good for No. 1 star), came with the sides each with a man in the penalty box. It was the first four-on-four goal the Bruins have scored this season . . . Michael Ryder finished low man on the totem pole for ice time (10:48). Seidenberg topped the charts with 25:24 . . . Rich Peverley was Boston’s best at the faceoff dot, winning 7 of 9 drops.

Signing on Free agent Carter Camper and draft picks Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner signed amateur tryout agreements with Providence (AHL).

The 21-year-old Camper, never drafted, recently wrapped up a sensational college career at Miami University, where he piled up 69 goals and 183 points in 156 games. The favorite son of Rocky River, Ohio, finished as the No. 2 scorer in RedHawk history and his 183 points led the NCAA over the past four seasons.

Knight, a right winger selected 32d overall in 2010, recently finished his third season with the London Knights (OHL). He went 25-45—70 this season, finishing with career totals of 76-81—157 in 198 games. He is from Battle Creek, Mich., home of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.

Spooner, drafted 45th overall in 2010 and considered one of the franchise’s prime prospects, rolled up 35 goals and 81 points in 64 games with Peterborough and Kingston of the OHL.

All three kids could make their pro debuts Friday night in Providence when the WannaBs face Portland.

Kampfer sent down Defenseman Steven Kampfer was assigned to the Providence Bruins last night, although he will be in attendance at this afternoon’s Cuts for a Cause event at 2:30 p.m at Ned Devine’s in Faneuil Hall. Kampfer has appeared in 38 games with the Bruins and has five goals and 10 points. The Baby B’s wrap up their season this weekend with games vs. Portland, Saturday at Springfield, and Sunday vs. Manchester . . . Annual end-of-season awards had Thornton collecting the Eddie Shore Award, presented by the Gallery Gods, for his exceptional hustle and determination. Thomas copped the Elizabeth Dufresne Trophy for his outstanding performance this season on home ice. Ference picked up the John Bucyk Award for his charitable off-ice contributions.

Globe correspondent Barb Matson contributed; Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com.

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