Peverley hopes to step up game as pressure builds

Peverley hopes to step up game as pressure builds
March 18, 2013, 7:15 pm
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WINNIPEG – The 21-year-old Ryan Spooner is expected to be in the lineup for the Bruins when they drop the puck against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night. The Bruins prospect should finally get enough ice time to make an offensive play or two rather than the paltry 5:29 of ice time he got in his NHL debut against the Montreal Canadiens last month.

But it’s more than likely that Spooner centers the third line between experienced winger Jay Pandolfo and fellow youngster Jordan Caron, and Rich Peverley will get bumped up into the mix as top line center between Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. It would certainly give the Bruins grizzled experience and superior face-off ability at the center spot on the top two forward lines, and could be just the thing to finally spark an offensive explosion from Peverley.

The 30-year-old Peverley is off to a slow start this season with four goals and a team-worst minus-9 rating in 27 games for the Bruins, and conceded that the struggles have been on his mind.

“Maybe [there is pressure] for other guys to step up, but I’ve expected that out of myself for this whole year,” said Peverley. “So maybe it can put a little more pressure on me, and I can come through and score a few more goals.

“It would be great. Hopefully [with Lucic and Horton] I’d get a few more offensive chances and spend a little more time [in the offensive zone.] We’ll see what happens.”

Peverley memorably filled in for Nathan Horton on Boston’s top line in each of the last two seasons – including the final four games of the Stanley Cup Finals – so he’s already developed chemistry with Milan Lucic. He also looked comfortable centering the big bodies of Lucic and Horton in the final few minutes of Sunday afternoon’s game after David Krejci went down with the knee injury.

The shifty forward won’t alter his game too much with bookend power forwards on either side of him, but there is clearly a little bit of a different feeling at the controls of that line.

“It doesn’t change too much. You’re playing with high-end skill players, so maybe you try to make a few more [offensive] plays,” said Peverley. “Down low it’s pretty similar because [Pandolfo] and [Caron] have done a good job of holding onto the puck, and that’s helped my game too. I thought we had some good chances that way.”

Claude Julien hadn’t decided on his line combinations in the minutes following practice Monday afternoon at the MTS IcePlex in Winnipeg, but didn’t want to point at the pressure being on just a handful of players. Instead the Bruins coach wanted a team approach to absorb the injury absences of 20-goal scorers in Chris Kelly and Krejci.

Julien made reference to the Ottawa Senators, who have stayed in playoff position all season long despite losing Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Milan Michalek to injury for long periods of time.

He wants to see the same out of his own Black and Gold tribe.

“It’s a collective team thing,” said Julien. “It’s up to everybody to pick up the slack. When you look at Ottawa, that’s what they’ve done as a group. You’ve just got to play hard. We know the goals aren’t going to come at a premium when you’ve got goal scorers out of your lineup, but at the same time you’ve got to get together, work hard and certain guys have to chip in so we can get through it.”

Still, now would be an opportune time for Peverley to finally step up and carry the Bruins offensively for a few games until a trade, a quick emergence for Spooner or a return to good health can return Boston back to the first half form.