|Tim Thomas is expected to get the start Saturday night against the Kings. (Paul sakuma/Associated Press)|
Julien: Time to tune up for playoffs
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - The math doesn’t validate it yet, but the Bruins will be in the playoffs when the postseason begins next month. Coach Claude Julien sounded comfortable in saying that Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours after his club played sluggishly, ineffectively, and far less than championship form in a 2-1 loss to the Sharks in San Jose.
With nine games remaining in the regular season, noted Julien, he’d like to see his club establish a “rhythm.’’ For a club that clearly missed a beat or two Thursday night, managing only a season-low 17 shots, Julien hit upon the perfect word.
“We never caught up to the pace of the game,’’ he said. “The [Sharks] came out hard and we were sluggish . . . we just weren’t good enough.’’
Such has been the case too often for the Bruins over the last nine weeks, a run of 33 games in which the defending Stanley Cup champs have gone 14-17-2. The loss in San Jose again provided a familiar snapshot of their recent mediocre ways. They gave up the first goal - for the eighth time in the last 10 games - and once again never worked with a lead. In those 33 games, they’ve posted 00:00 in lead time 16 times. Julien is well aware it’s that kind of arrhythmia that could prove fatal for a team hoping to be the first club to repeat as Cup champs since the Red Wings in 1997 and ’98.
“No way are we going to win hockey games on this trip if we don’t have everyone going,’’ said Julien.
In Los Angeles Saturday night to face the Kings, the Bruins are likely to ice the same lineup as they did against the Sharks. Injured winger Rich Peverley, sidelined since wrenching his knee Feb. 15, might return to action against the Kings or the next night in Anaheim. Julien was coy about predicting a return date for Peverely, but he again made it sound as if his reappearance was imminent.
For his part, Peverley, among the last to get off the ice at the Toyota Center, said he’s no longer in pain or in need of adding strength or range of motion to the knee. His return now, he said, is more about game readiness and sharpness. Julien might figure the best way for the 29-year-old forward to reestablish his game might simply be to get in the game.
“It’s just getting the feel of my feet underneath me,’’ said Peverley, when asked where he needs to make progress. “It’s timing, moving my feet, battling for the puck and lifting the stick. Those are things you can’t mimic if you’re just skating on your own, so working out with the guys has been good.’’
During the 35-minute workout, Peverley skated as a fourth on the Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jordan Caron trio. If he returns, it looks like he’ll bump Caron, leaving Julien to decide whether to scratch Caron, Benoit Pouliot or Brian Rolston, the latter two of whom have flanked Chris Kelly.
Still going strong
Captain Zdeno Chara will play career game No. 1,000 Saturday night, which after practice had Julien kidding that the Trencin Tower of Power might be able to post another 1,000 games before he hangs up his elongated blades.
“He’s not near the end of his career,’’ said Julien. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see him head for another 1,000.’’
Chara will be feted on home ice when the Bruins return to play the Lightning at the Garden Tuesday night. Team spokesperson Matt Chmura would not divulge details of the ceremony, offering only that Chara’s achievement would be recognized in a pregame ceremony.
Chara, who turned 35 last Sunday, said he has received a number of well-wishes via text and e-mails.
“I don’t know how to really describe it,’’ said Chara. “Guys always talk about how hard it is to reach 1,000 games . . . and when you are playing 7, 8, 10 years, you realize, ‘Oh, my God, I’m not even halfway there!’ ’’
The last Bruin to reach the grand plateau was winger Glen Murray, who received a silver stick from the club (as did Don Sweeney). Teammates chipped in to buy Murray a watch and surfboard.
Kings are sizzling
The Kings, ranked 28th in goals, have won eight of 10 games. Springfield born-and-raised Dean Lombardi, the Kings GM, made the bold trade for Blue Jackets center Jeff Carter at the trade deadline, helping the Kings to kick-start their dormant offense. They have scored four goals or more in six of their last 10 . . . Tim Thomas is expected to be the starter in Los Angeles. If the Bruins lose again, it would not be surprising to see Julien bring back his No. 1 starter in Anaheim.