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Corvo is off his game

Defenseman has struggled lately

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / January 18, 2012
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TAMPA - The role of puck-moving defenseman requires touch, vision, and hockey sense. Such players also need to play with swagger to trigger the offense.

Of all those attributes, Joe Corvo is currently lacking the latter.

For most of the season, Corvo had been on the second defensive pairing, usually skating alongside former Carolina teammate Dennis Seidenberg. But partly because of his recent jumpiness with the puck, Corvo has been dropped to the third pairing. Adam McQuaid has been bumped up to become Seidenberg’s primary partner.

“He still moves it well,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “But every once in a while, you see those turnovers. I think it’s kind of creeping into his mind right now. We’ve got to get him to be confident and keep the game a little more simple for the time being.’’

Corvo didn’t show much last night. In the third, Tim Thomas couldn’t give Corvo a clean outlet pass. After reaching for the puck, Corvo turned it over to Nate Thompson. Seconds later, the Lightning made it a 3-2 game. Corvo played only 12:39, his second-lightest workload of the season.

In Monday’s 3-2 shootout win over Florida, Corvo was given only 15:39 of ice time, least of any Boston defenseman. He was on the ice for both Florida goals - a Jason Garrison point shot that skimmed off traffic, and a Shawn Matthias breakaway that came at the conclusion of a Bruins power play. Offensively, Corvo landed only one shot on Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen.

Corvo wasn’t sharp against Carolina, either. In the Bruins’ 4-2 loss Saturday, he lost a puck battle in the defensive zone to Tim Brent. Seconds later, Justin Faulk scored the tying goal.

Corvo hasn’t recorded a point in five straight games. His only two goals this year came on Dec. 10 in a 5-3 win over Columbus.

“You can’t force it,’’ Corvo said. “You play with the minutes that you’re dealt and try to make the best of it.’’

In 43 games, Corvo has scored two goals and 15 assists while averaging 18:35 of ice time per outing. In comparison, he logged 24:46 per game last season in Carolina, second-most on the club behind Joni Pitkanen (25:01). In 82 games, Corvo recorded 11 goals and 29 assists.

The Bruins never planned to ride Corvo that hard when they acquired him from the Hurricanes for a fourth-round pick. But lately, he has been neither crisp with the puck nor thorough without it.

Because his game has slipped, it has been tough for him to earn the coaching staff’s trust. To regain his rhythm and skate regular shifts, Corvo must reduce the anxiety in his game.

“Some guys will make a few mistakes, keep those things in the backs of their minds, and carry those with them for the game,’’ Julien said. “Sometimes it’s worse than others.

“We’ve seen everybody go through that. I know that when Seids struggles, it’s the same thing with him. I don’t think Joe’s any different than a lot of other guys.’’

Switch to stay sharp

Since early November, the Bruins’ defensive pairings had been set in stone. Zdeno Chara was with Johnny Boychuk. Seidenberg and Corvo skated together. McQuaid and Andrew Ference were the third pairing.

But Monday against the Panthers, the Bruins tweaked those pairings. While Chara and Boychuk remained together, McQuaid and Corvo switched pairs.

“This is something that’s no different than moving forwards around,’’ Julien said. “Which, if we were healthy, I think we’d be doing right now.

“People have gotten used to seeing those lines together and pairings together for so long that every time there’s a change, they seem to think it’s for a major reason. It’s nothing more than moving guys around a bit.’’

Additional changes could take place. In the playoffs, Chara and Seidenberg could be reunited. If that happens, it underscores the club’s need to land a left-shot defenseman for depth purposes.

“We got a little potpourri [Monday],’’ Ference said. “I think that’s a good thing. We’ve talked about going into the playoffs last year. That was one of our advantages. Guys were used to playing with each other. We weren’t locked into the same guy for the entire year.

“We don’t really talk about it a lot. But I think most guys like it. It keeps you sharp. During the game, you’re switching sides and playing with different guys. I think it’s a good thing unless you start having breakdowns.’’

Peverley out again

Rich Peverley missed his second straight game last night because of personal reasons. The Bruins expect Peverley to be available tomorrow when they conclude their four-game road trip in New Jersey . . . Brad Marchand will complete his five-game suspension for clipping Sami Salo tomorrow. Assuming good health, the Bruins will have two extra forwards once Peverley and Marchand are back. The fight for the 13th spot remains between Zach Hamill and Jordan Caron . . . Steven Kampfer was the healthy scratch last night. Kampfer hasn’t dressed since Dec. 14 . . . The Bruins were 0 for 3 on the power play. They recorded six shots . . . Tampa’s Pierre-Cedric Labrie was credited with a game-high five thumps in 3:35 of ice time. Bang for the buck.

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

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