Zoning in on the power play
WILMINGTON - Before yesterday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena, both of the Bruins’ power-play units worked on their setups. When the practice kicked off, they continued to hone their execution in the offensive zone.
After all, their recent man-advantage performance has deemed further practice to be a requirement.
“It just hasn’t been happening,’’ said Dennis Seidenberg, who’s been manning the point alongside Joe Corvo on one unit. “We’ve had good looks. But it seems like after one good chance, we lose pressure, we lose the puck, and the puck goes down. What we’re trying to accomplish is just get more movement on the power play and better looks. More people and jumping on rebounds.’’
Entering last night’s games, the Bruins were 13th in the league with a pedestrian success rate of 18 percent on the power play, after going 0 for 3 in Thursday’s 4-3 overtime win over New Jersey and 0 for 4 in Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Ottawa. Against the Senators, coach Claude Julien was especially irked that during a six-on-four, late-game power play, the Bruins ran around in the offensive zone and never set up for a possible tying strike.
So with a few expletives thrown in for emphasis, Julien watched over a practice yesterday almost solely dedicated to the power play. Seidenberg and Corvo worked the point, while David Krejci, Tyler Seguin, and Milan Lucic operated down low on one unit. On another, Johnny Boychuk and Brian Rolston were at the blue line, while Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Benoit Pouliot were the forwards. Zdeno Chara, usually on the point, was given the day off.
“We’re really fighting with the execution,’’ Julien said. “What should be an easy pass ends up being a tough pass. In the first period, there’s a minute left and the ice isn’t that great. But those D-to-D passes were going over sticks and out of the zone. Simple passes weren’t there. Execution’s certainly one of those things. We want good net-front presence. We want shots to get through. But the biggest thing right now sticking out to me is our execution.’’
Andrew Ference didn’t practice and is day to day because of a lower-body injury suffered in Thursday’s game. In the second period, Ference absorbed a wicked hit from Alexei Ponikarovsky, which could have resulted in the injury.
Julien didn’t rule out Ference for today’s matinee against the Islanders. If Ference can’t play, Mike Mottau will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch against New Jersey.
Ference was slowed by groin and knee injuries in recent seasons.
Boychuk, who suffered a concussion last Saturday, participated in his first full practice with the team, and afterward said he felt fine and is continuing to progress.
Boychuk didn’t take any hits during practice, and with back-to-back games against the Islanders and Rangers, Boychuk might not return to the lineup until Tuesday against Toronto. Boychuk could then practice on Monday and take some hits.
“It would be nice to maybe go and get a little bit of contact before playing to see how it would feel to get hit,’’ he said. “Just see how you’d react and your body would react.’’
Julien indicated Boychuk wouldn’t necessarily need one more full practice before playing.
“He’s had some good skates lately,’’ Julien said. “Right now, it’s waiting to hear from our doctors whether he’s cleared all the protocol he has to go through. If he does, we’ll be ready to put him back in at some point.’’
Trying to fit in
In his two games following his trade from the Islanders, Rolston has skated on two lines. He is trying to acclimate to a new system and the ramped-up intensity.
On Tuesday, Rolston centered Pouliot and Jordan Caron on the third line. On Thursday, Rolston was the left wing alongside Bergeron and Marchand. In the third period, Julien gave Chris Kelly several shifts in Rolston’s place.
At times, Rolston has appeared a step out of position. It may be a result of the action Rolston missed because of a concussion and the reduced ice time he’d been given by Islanders coach Jack Capuano.
“He was smart enough in keeping his shifts short,’’ Julien said. “At the end, I threw out Kelly a few times. I think he’ll only get better with time. His ice time was limited. He probably doesn’t have his full wind for the long haul. We also know that when he’s in top shape, he can certainly skate. That’s one of his strengths. I anticipate him getting better.’’
Work pays off
When the Bruins were at full health, Julien had a six-forward rotation on the penalty kill: Bergeron and Marchand, Kelly and Rich Peverley, and Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell. After each successful kill, Julien’s preference was to roll out his power line of Krejci, Lucic, and Nathan Horton. With Peverley out because of a knee sprain, Krejci has had to kill penalties. Playing shorthanded may be helping Krejci stay within the game instead of being detached on the bench for two-minute stretches. “With David, the way he’s playing, when you play that well, you’ve got to give him more ice,’’ Julien said . . . Corvo will be seeking a bounce-back game against the Islanders. He was benched for a stretch in the second and third periods against the Devils after being on the ice for two opposing goals. “It’s not the first time he’s had a tough outing,’’ Julien said. “But he’s been able to bounce back.’’ . . . Tuukka Rask should start against the Islanders. Tim Thomas would then play against the Rangers.