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Getting Ready for the Road

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
4:33 p.m.

"A change will do you good" is the way the song goes and the Bruins are hoping that notion rings true for them, as well.

With the B's first tow road games of 2009-10 coming up, head coach Claude Julien has tweaked his top two lines.

"Everybody seems to think so," said Julien of the idea that bonding time on the road might be good for the Bruins. "It's not a bad thing, but we shouldn't use that as a reason for us not having the success we wanted at home.

"It might take a little pressure off, but more than that hopefully we'll have the focus we need to be successful and find the identity of our hockey team that we like so much."

As far as the line changes go, with Michael Ryder on the top line with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic on the David Krejci combination, Julien hopes that both trios will find more offensive success.

"It's never a bad thing -- just a little tweak," said Julien. "We'll see if that will help...shake things up a bit.

"Maybe it will spark something, but I don't think [the change] is reflected [of anything] besides trying to get the best four line combinations."

Julien explained his motives.

"It's something different...I think Lucic has had real good success with Krejci before, they've worked well together when he's been on that line in the past," he said. "And with Michael...when you look back at the last game [when he] was a decent player.

"[You see that] when he works hard he creates chances and when he works hard he is strong on the puck.

"And with Sturmie [Marco Sturm] with speed and with Savvy you hope that somehow something can come out of [it]," said Julien.

Boston will practice one more time, 10:00 a.m. in Wilmington on Thursday, before heading to Dallas for Friday's tilt with the Stars.

12:21 p.m.
Not too many players have left the ice. The B's coaching staff are working with a bunch of the players individually and in groups.

12:12 p.m.
The team is stretching -- we should be getting quotes and video, soon.

12:08 p.m.
The Bruins are still practicing, but I see here that during the post-game scrums, Mark Recchi was asked about possibly switching up the lines.

"You better ask coach that that’s not my decision," he said. "If he calls your number you get out there and you try the best you can, and I think our guys are working hard we just have to find ways to get better."

Like many of the players, Recchi pointed to the upcoming road swing as a respite of sorts.

"We have an opportunity to go on the road for a couple games, hopefully relax a little bit and get this thing going in the right direction."

12:03 p.m.
Battle drills.

11:40 a.m.
There's plenty of hitting and action this morning, but there is also a lot of instruction. Line rushes are also the order of the day as Coach Julien tries out some new combos.

No matter what the combo, however, I feel sorry for the lines that have to go against Begin, Bitz and Thornton, who are really "Rudy-ing" it up this morning and playing as if every shift is a game shift.

Thankfully nobody is playing Vince Vaughn's Rudy role and getting upset with the grinders.

Kudos, boys.

11:30 p.m.
Shootout practice: Not a great morning for the shooters. But Bergeron put a snapshot through Rask. Thomas was bested by a Chara wrister. Both elicited hoots from the other players.

11:25 a.m.
I forgot to mention that Dennis Wideman is not skating.

10:47 a.m.
Marc Savard is the first player out on the ice for the regular session.

10:28 a.m.
The B's will be late getting on the ice.  They should be on between now and 11:30.

9:47  a.m.
The goalie session is being facilitated by Byron Bitz, Matt Hunwick and Johnny Boychuk. The three skaters are putting the keepers through their paces as Essensa and Coach Houda preside over the workout.

Over the last few years that Thomas seems to play better when he is slightly angry -- he looks annoyed and impatient this morning (and is taunting the shooters -- "You heard me," he just said), so I'll put that in the "good" category.

On the other hand, when he is going well, Rask usually looks like someone should check for a pulse. And today, between drills, Tuukka looks like he is a computer  in "stand by." When the drills start up, robogoalie shakes himself out of his slumber and is spot on.

Again, we'll put that in the "good" category.

9:36 a.m.

Tim Thomas just hit the ice with Tuukka Rask and Bob Essensa.

9:25 a.m.
Postgame, Blake Wheeler slumped in his locker stall on Monday afternoon, and stared into space.

The B's had dropped to 2-3-0 to start the year and even though the big forward had tipped a puck out of midair for a goal, Wheeler, like many of his teammates, looked bewildered.

"What the heck is going on," said the look and it was very uncomfortable to see.

If I had thought about it, I might have reminded Wheels that the club had started out 2-1-2 (or essentially 2-3) at the beginning of last season, a season that saw the Bruins take the regular season Eastern Conference title before they sweeped their arch rival Montreal Canadiens in the first round.

I might have mentioned that last season the Bruins also had the benefit of a much lighter preseason, a team bonding trip to Vermont and a week on the road.

But it's not necessarily a good idea to be talking about the bright side in a losing locker room, so I stuck with asking questions. And to his credit, when I asked Blake about the club, he snapped out of his funk -- immediately -- and gave some honest answers to several hard queries.

"Yeah, I think it’s one of those things where everyone realizes that things that worked for us in the past, things that we were comfortable doing and being successful at aren’t necessarily working for us right now," said the former Golden Gopher. "So it’s a matter of simplifying our game, something we talked about before the game.

"You got to practice what you preach I guess, that means top to bottom you have to do it.  That just means sometimes doing it the ugly way.

"Everyone is guilty of it at times, trying to do too much because everyone has great intentions in here.  Everyone wants to do the right thing, wants to turn this thing around and I think sometimes it’s just a matter of trying to do too much and I think that’s maybe what we are guilty of right now," he said.

Wheels admitted that the B's are a little bewildered that defense, usually the club's bread and butter, is not bailing them out.

"It’s one thing getting beat two to one, one to nothing," said Wheeler.  "But we pride ourselves on defense and we are giving up quite a few goals here.

"It’s not the goalies fault at all, Tuukka [Rask] and Timmy [Thomas] have kept us in a lot of games.  They’ve done an outstanding job and we have kind of come out flat so it’s all about buying into our system.

"We talk about it ad nausea before games, during games, and it’s there sometimes and when we do it well we look great.  When we do it poorly the puck ends up in our nets and we look for answers again.  I think to a man, everyone has been kind of going through the mental ups-and-downs, and I think that is what is hurting us the most right now," he said.

Wheeler said he hoped that the intensity that the team has shown late in games, can be there off the hop going forward.

"It’s strange," said Wheeler of why the team plays looser, late. "It’s a different feeling being tied or up.

"We thrived on sticking the nail in the coffin on teams and that’s kind of been our M.O...[and] I think when we’ve been getting down a couple goals we feel, 'Well alright we can’t screw up anymore so let’s just [play].' I think it loosens up almost a little bit.

"That’s not a good thing.

"But I think it definitely is showing our character that we are coming back from deficits the last couple games. We came back from two goals tonight and three the other night but if you keep putting yourself in a two/three goal hole eventually you are going to run out of answers."

The search for answers begins again today.
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