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For line, work in progress

Krejci trio trying, just not scoring

DAVID KREJCI No goals in 9 games DAVID KREJCI No goals in 9 games
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / November 29, 2011
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WILMINGTON - The Jets were changing lines. The puck was bouncing toward the Winnipeg goal. All of a sudden, Bruins Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton found themselves scurrying for a three-on-one rush against Zach Bogosian in the second period of Saturday night’s 4-2 win over the Jets.

Naturally, given how all three forwards have been without their collective net-tracking GPS devices, the line - Horton fumbled an exchange from Krejci, then couldn’t get a good shot on goal - flubbed the opportunity.

“The puck was rolling the whole time,’’ Krejci said. “I finally settled it down. If he would have had it on his tape, I think it would have been an easy goal. But I put the pass a little bit closer to his body. It was tougher for him.’’

Krejci hasn’t scored in the last nine games. Lucic has gone eight straight without a goal. Horton is without a goal in the last four games.

If circumstances were different, all those zeros would be troubling the coaching staff. But there are three reasons why worry isn’t settling in. The Bruins have gone 12 straight games without a regulation loss. The other threesomes - Chris Kelly scored two of the Bruins’ four goals against Winnipeg - are picking up the slack.

Most important, the Krechmates are producing chances.

As early as the start of 2011-12, Krejci and Co. didn’t resemble top-flight forwards. They weren’t heavy on the puck. They didn’t forecheck consistently. They spent too much time at the wrong end of the ice. They were liabilities in all three zones.

Such shortcomings haven’t saddled their game lately. Horton landed five shots on Jhonas Enroth in last Wednesday’s 4-3 shootout win over the Sabres. Horton also scored in the shootout Friday against Detroit. Lucic stabilized his reputation as one of the league’s toughest fighters when he delivered a beatdown to the Sabres’ Paul Gaustad.

Against the Jets, Horton and Lucic combined for five of the club’s 10 missed shots. No finish, but they had their opportunities.

“If they were playing badly, spending most of their time in our own end, or being lazy and not having anything happening, it would be a different situation,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “But I think they’re getting their chances. Look at Horton the other night. If he had it on his stick, he would have an open net. It slipped off his stick. A lot of good things are happening. Right now, whether it’s a little snakebitten or lacking a little bit of confidence in that area, I like their work ethic. With time, I’m sure it’s going to turn around.’’

For most of last Friday’s game against the Red Wings, Detroit coach Mike Babcock rolled out his No. 1 line of Todd Bertuzzi, Pavel Datsyuk, and Johan Franzen against Krejci’s trio. Babcock tried to match Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericssonagainst Krejci’s line as well. It showed that despite the line’s dip in production, opposing coaches continue to consider it a scoring threat.

“We’ve seen him catch fire and he keeps producing and producing,’’ Julien said of Krejci (3-7-10 in 19 games). “The one thing David wants to get better at, and we’d like to see him do the same, is consistency. Streaky can be good when you’re on a good streak. Consistency is even better. That’s something I know he’d like to be better at. That’s something he’s got to keep working on.’’

Chara producing

After going without a point in the season’s first six games, Zdeno Chara has been contributing regularly on the scoresheet. During the unbeaten streak, Chara has been a point-per-game player (3-9-12). Three of Chara’s four goals this year have been on the power play, where he’s been serving more as a triggerman.

“Z’s in a position now where we’re setting him up for a lot of shots,’’ Julien said. “He’s taking those and putting himself in a position where he’s got to shoot. That’s gotten better and that’s certainly helped.’’

On the power play, Chara has been marking the right point alongside Dennis Seidenberg. The Bruins have not used him as a net-front man on the man-advantage this year. Chara had some down-low shifts during last season’s postseason when the power play was scuffling.

Ference stays off ice

Defenseman Andrew Ference didn’t practice yesterday. Julien termed it a maintenance day. Ference went through an off-ice workout instead. He will practice today, said Julien . . . The Bruins enter tomorrow’s game against Toronto at the Air Canada Centre one point behind the division-leading Maple Leafs. They will host Toronto at TD Garden Saturday. “Right now, we’re playing yo-yo with these guys,’’ Julien said. “One game we’re ahead of them. The next game we’re behind them. This is an opportunity here in these next two games, if we want to spread that gap a little bit, it’s up to us to go in and do the job.’’ . . . Julien, having gone through two in-season sackings (New Jersey and Montreal), understands what Bruce Boudreau and Paul Maurice went through yesterday. Boudreau was replaced by Dale Hunter with the Capitals. Kirk Muller took over Maurice’s job in Carolina. “It’s not a fun thing for those guys,’’ Julien said. “It’s a tough job. When you see the situation, sometimes you understand it’s probably the easiest thing to do. But not necessarily the main reason for the issues. Those two are just like anybody else. They have families. They have responsibilities. Sometimes they’re easy targets. You feel for them. The one thing I know is they’re both pretty good coaches. I don’t doubt we’ll see them back in the league soon.’’ . . . Prospects Dougie Hamilton (No. 9 overall in 2011) and Ryan Spooner (No. 45 in 2010) were named to Team Canada’s selection camp roster for the 2012 World Junior Championship. The selection camp starts Dec. 10. If they make the final roster, it would be the first time either player would participate in the tournament.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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