PITTSBURGH – The game plan has changed a little bit for the Bruins this week with Chris Kelly out of the lineup for perhaps the rest of the regular season.
Instead of rolling three offensively viable offensive lines and a fourth line that brings energy and occasional offense, the Bruins are finding themselves increasingly dependent on their top six forwards to produce. That was the case on Sunday afternoon when Tyler Seguin was at the head of the class at both ends of the ice, and both Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were dragging a bit in Boston’s 2-1 loss to the Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center.
That becomes even more the case if David Krejci is out for any extended period of time with a right knee injury after taking a Johnny Boychuk slap shot flush off the knee cap – and Rich Peverley slides up to top line center. But it was clear Boston’s third line of Peverley, Jay Pandolfo and Jordan Caron wasn’t going to be an offensive factor with only one shot on net.
So now Peverley has four goals in 27 games, and both Caron and Pandolfo have gone goalless in a combined 12 games this season for the Bruins.
But Claude Julien admitted following Sunday afternoon’s loss that the third line’s new focus now is simply keeping opposing team’s off the board when they’re on the ice. Any offense from the trio would be nice, but won’t be expected until/unless Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli makes a move or two to bring in some forward reserves.
“When you put a line like that together the one thing you don’t want to have happen is for them to get scored on,” said Julien. “That’s what is happening right now. They’re out there and they’re not being a liability -- and spending a little time in the offensive zone.
“You’ve got the other lines that are scoring for us [right now]. So if they’re not a liability right now then I can live with that.”
With Krejci out of the mix temporarily if not for an extended period of time with the knee issue, the may also opt to dip into their AHL ranks for a playmaking forward like Ryan Spooner that could spark an offensively undermanned hockey club. That would give Julien the option of sliding a Krejci-like Spooner into the top pivot spot between Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, or leave Peverley there if he’s looking for a veteran player perhaps a little more ready to shoulder the responsibility.
Spooner was named the No. 1 star on Sunday afternoon after scoring a goal for the P-Bruins in a 3-1 victory over the Manchester Monarchs, and has 45 points (12 goals, 33 assists) in 50 games for Providence this season.