Bruins work to improve power play

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Bruins work to improve power play

WILMINGTON, Mass. Its no big surprise the Bruins spent much of Friday mornings 30-minute practice at Ristuccia Arena working on their power play.

The Bruins are 2-for-17 in their last seven games on the man advantage and really fell short in their 1-0 shutout loss to the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night, when they failed on four occasions.

So the entire practice amounted to PP 101 for the Bruins players, and Julien continued flirting with different combos that could potentially spark the special teams unit.

One less-than-perfect circumstance at practice: Zdeno Chara was given a maintenance day on Friday. So the Bs were without their biggest power-play weapon while working on refinements, and all phases of the unit were addressed. Sloppy entries, chaotic formations in the offensive zone and a lacking work ethic have all been issues for the Black and Gold over the last couple of weeks, and are right in lockstep with the rest of the offensive struggles for Boston.

Theyre still 13th in the NHL with an 18 percent success rate this year, but theres clearly some work to do.

Were really fighting with the execution, said coach Claude Julien. I just find that what should be an easy pass is turning into a tough pass. In the New Jersey game we had a power play in the final minute of the period and I know the ice wasnt great but those D-to-D passes were going over sticks and out of the zone.

Simple passes werent there, so execution is certainly one of those things. We talk about wanting good net-front presence and shots to get through, but the biggest thing thats sticking out to me is execution. Youve got to execute those good, simple passes and make the plays under pressure.

David Krejci, Joe Corvo and Tyler Seguin all had only one power-play point in 13 games during the month of February, so there are individuals that can clearly step it up on the man advantage. The Bruins are keenly aware.

We just need to get crisper passes and work at getting our confidence back up on the PP, said Johnny Boychuk, who has actually been off the power play for the last few months.

The Bruins will be back to work getting the power play untracked with weekend games against each of the New York teams beginning at home against the Islanders on Saturday afternoon.

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

As expected, Marcus Smart will get the start for the Boston Celtics tonight against the Orlando Magic in place of the injured Isaiah Thomas. 

Thomas, who leads the Celtics (12-9) in scoring (26.0) and assists (6.2) this season, suffered a right groin injury in Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston on Monday.

Head coach Brad Stevens explained his decision a few minutes ago.

“He’s started a lot of games here in the past as a point guard,” Stevens told reporters. “He’s basically our sixth starter. It wasn’t one that I had to think a ton about.”

Starting Smart also allows second-year guard Terry Rozier to continue in his role coming off the bench. 

Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, Smart’s production has been consistent. 

In the five games he has started this season, he has averaged 10.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. 

His numbers off the bench are almost identical with Smart averaging 9.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists as a reserve. 

Stevens also mentioned that Amir Johnson would be back in the starting lineup in place of Jonas Jerebko. Earlier in the day, Stevens told reporters the decision to start Jerebko on Monday was strictly because of the matchup with Houston. 

“We have to be able to be flexible in doing that,” Stevens said. “Houston plays four guards. We didn’t feel like we could defend them unless we switch one through four. I thought he (Jerebko) did a pretty good job. This (Orlando) team is different than Houston other than both are super-hot.”

Orlando (10-12) has won four of its last five games in part because of its size, strength and versatility along the frontline which includes Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic who now comes off the bench. 

And while the Celtics have benefited heavily from the play of their guards, obviously that plan will be amended tonight with Thomas out. 

“He (Thomas) generates a lot in the open offense what we call flow, spread offense,” Stevens said. “So some of those type of things you may not generate at the same rate. But certainly there are other ways that we’ll look to play when he’s not in the game normally, or when we’re trying to play through bigs in the post. You have different ways to play within all your schemes. Hopefully we can play to each other’s strengths and go from there.”