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It's turned ice cold here

Perhaps a couple of new warm bodies would help

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / February 3, 2012
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Nothing, not even their own nondescript, watered-down, and oft-listless play of late, will keep the Bruins from making the playoffs. They banked a lot of gold bullion over the course of 10 weeks, beginning at the start of December, and even their recent .500 ways will be enough to buy them one of eight playoff seeds in the East.

But this is by no means a playoff-ready team, one that would be expected to do much if the postseason began today. The Bruins’ midwinter funk reached 4-4-1 in last night’s 3-0 loss on Garden ice, and the list of good things to say about their performance pretty much matches their goal total.

“We’re going through the motions,’’ said their coach, Claude Julien, whose postgame remarks continue to hit the mark with the accuracy of those long-ago Brett Hull slappers. “Right now, we are playing like a team that should be at the bottom of the standings and not the top of the standings. That’s the reality of it.’’

Now, those are words you won’t hear either in the Bible or on good-times-nothing-but-good-times NESN. Julien wasn’t heated, or seemingly the least bit agitated, but he had his club figured.

“Right now,’’ he said, “we are going through a slump.’’

Exhibit A is the string of nine games now in which the Bruins have failed to have a lead after two periods. Here it is, including last night’s 0-2 vs. Carolina: 2-3 (Senators); 3-3 (Capitals); 3-4 (Flyers); 2-2 (Rangers); 0-1 (Devils); 2-2 (Lightning); 2-2 (Panthers); and 1-1 (Hurricanes).

In fact, they have not carried a lead into the third period since holding a 1-0 edge over the Canadiens on Jan. 12. If nothing else, they’ll always have Montreal.

“We were just really bad,’’ said captain Zdeno Chara, his Bruins now outscored, 31-27, in those nine games. “We didn’t play well. A really bad night for us.’’

The malaise was slightly different last night in that the Bruins rolled up an impressive 22-8 shot lead in the first 20 minutes, all of which translated into a 1-0 deficit (goal by Eric Staal). Their opening periods have been flat and flatter during their slump, but this one had a little pop. No goals, but at least some threats.

However, rather than build from there, use those shots as an emotional springboard, they again fell flat in the second (outshot, 14-5), when the Hurricanes built their lead to 2-0.

“A good number of shots, but not enough traffic to the net,’’ said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, musing over the first period. “You see those 22 shots, but goalies stop those. Before the second, we were saying, ‘Stay focused, we know what we have to do.’ But we fell apart and we couldn’t pick it up.’’

There are now just over three weeks remaining before the Feb. 27 trading deadline. The Bruins will play 11 times before then, and for some of them, it could mean 11 chances to avoid the prospect of playing for another team after the 27th.

The slump no doubt has added to general manager Peter Chiarelli’s desire to add depth, both up front and along the back line. He can do that, with a mix of draft picks and prospects, and still maintain the core group that won the Stanley Cup last June.

What these next three-plus weeks could decide is whether Chiarelli wants to pare any of the current roster. And though that’s always possible, it’s not all that likely. He could wheel guys such as Joe Corvo (0-4-4 in his last 18 games) or Benoit Pouliot (last goal Jan. 10), but those are precisely the kind of depth guys that nonplayoff teams yield before the trade deadline.

Maybe one or both would fit better with a different club, benefit from a change of scenery, but that’s not much more than a dart-to-dartboard calculation.

It’s more likely that Chiarelli keeps the group together and tries to add a guy like, say, Jaro Spacek, who had the second assist on Staal’s goal last night. Or maybe he could make a play for ex-Bruin Hal Gill, currently employed by the Good Ship Hab to Nowhere.

As one NHL scout noted last night, “Chara and Gill paired on the same PK unit? Now that’s a scary thought.’’

Pal Hal will be an unrestricted free agent July 1, and given his long run here on Causeway Street, his time to adjust to the city would be the length of time it takes to walk from the Garden to Pizzeria Regina.

All that is clear at the moment is the fact that, unless something changes soon, Chiarelli will have to make a move. Last year, just prior to the deadline, he pulled off deals for Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley (now the top-line right wing with Nathan Horton sidelined), and Tomas Kaberle.

Those deals proved to be the little extra something that got them over their 39-year Cupless hump, although it was mostly Tim Thomas’s handiwork in net that got the job done.

At the moment, the main purpose of a trade wouldn’t be so much the potential fortune to be had in June, but the bump necessary to get out of the midwinter funk.

“It’s more of an attitude thing right now,’’ offered Julien. “It’s about getting some urgency in our game. And we’ve got guys in the dressing room that can make that happen.’’

Now is the time to show it, or one or two of them might have to prove they can do it somewhere else.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.

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