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Practice Notebook: Getting In Sync, Eriksson Easing Back In, Bergeron's Line Regaining Chemistry

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTON, MA - A little after noon on Wednesday morning, at the Bruins' practice rink Ristuccia Arena, Loui Eriksson went to battle in the corner behind Tuukka Rask.

The B's were in the midst of five-on-five battling drills at one end of the ice. Eriksson was joined by Patrice Bergeron and Jordan Caron for the shift, which consisted of constant forechecking and pressure along the boards.

Just when it looked as if the puck would be cleared out of the zone, the trio didn't give up. It ended with Bergeron keeping it in the zone and the burying it from the slot. Stick taps broke out from the group.

It gave a glimpse at the compete level the Bruins are currently looking for consistently in their game. Right now, they've picked up just three points in their past five games, with their only win coming in the shootout over Anaheim.

When the team isn't getting the results, there's often a need to try and pinpoint specific reasons or players going through "slumps." Do line changes need to happen? What will spark the group? Are players coming back from injury like Eriksson, Carl Soderberg and Gregory Campbell at 100 percent?

For now, Head Coach Claude Julien is looking for every one of his players to turn it around, not one specific line, or specific player.

"I think sometimes it’s a challenge mentally," Julien said following the team's high-intensity skate on Wednesday. "You look at the mistakes that are made and you know it’s not a characteristic of your hockey club to make those kind of mistakes and you kind of, as a coach, you wonder why is that happening."

"Is there a little bit of a mental lapse? Are we still having a little bit of a hangover from finishing late? I don’t want to find excuses, I want to find solutions. But you ask those kind of questions and you say, right now, I think if we can start making better decisions and if we make better decisions that will make players be better as well, then we’re going to get ourselves back on track."

"So I think a lot of focus is on that; making sure that we’re ready to react to situations the way we should react, not in the way of just instinct and doing something different – then you’re throwing somebody else off."

"That’s been the case in a lot of our mistakes right now - it just takes one guy not to do the job right and somebody else hesitates or takes a risk and then your whole line kind of falls apart or that whole shift becomes a dangerous shift."

No Change-Ups Necessary

'Would you mix up line combinations, if their game doesn't pick up?' a reporter asked Julien following the team's Wednesday practice.

"Well I think you guys will see that when I make those moves," said the B's bench boss, who opted not to go into greater depth about whether he was close to making line changes or not.

"I just feel that it’s something that I need to deal with and when I make those changes you guys will see it."

Really, though, when you look at the B's lines, Tuesday night's game (No. 14 of the 82-game season) marked the first time that the lineup had looked as Julien, GM Peter Chiarelli and staff had envisioned it.

There's variables in the mix, with Loui Eriksson just returning from missing five games due to his concussion, Carl Soderberg coming off of his ankle injury that caused him to miss the first six games of the season, and Gregory Campbell trying to work towards the level he wants to be at, following an offseason of recovery for his broken leg.

But alternate captain Chris Kelly wasn't buying that as a reason for the B's not clicking right now.

"There’s injuries for every team and we have a group here that’s been together for a while now for the most part," said Kelly.

"Yeah, chemistry is great to have but I think the effort needs to be the first thing. When you’re working, you’re working. But if you’re not working smart, then it’s kind of counterproductive and I think a lot of the time that seems to be the case."

Eriksson Eases Back In, Bergeron's Line Regaining Chemistry

Tuesday against the Stars marked Eriksson's first game back in the lineup after recovering from his concussion. He played 20:17 of ice time and recorded three shots on goal. He, along with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand created some of the best chances in close on Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen. The trio combined for 13 shots.

"Yeah I felt good the first period; we got some good shifts in the beginning. It was just nice to get on the ice again and play a real game," said Eriksson. "It’s a little bit different than practicing all the time so it was nice to be able to play."

"I thought we found each other pretty good sometimes and sometimes we were a little bit off, so that’s something that we need to clean up," the winger added, of the chemistry back with Bergeron and Marchand.

"To just play a little bit more consistent and make those plays all the time."

"We were moving our feet well and Loui helped us a lot creating some of those chances," added Bergeron. "So it’s about obviously – keep doing that – the things that got us those chances, and like I said, finding ways to put it in."

Bergeron has been the constant on that line, but it has had some swapping to begin the season. Reilly Smith saw time on the line with Eriksson, after Marchand had a slower start to 2013-14. Then Smith-Bergeron-Marchand formed the trio with Eriksson out due to concussion, and Marchand playing his off wing.

"Yeah, here’s been a lot of changes," Bergeron agreed. "Bottom line is you still have to find ways to do the job."

"So it seems now that hopefully it’s going to stay like that and we can do great things for the team and obviously that’s what we need to do; it's helping our teammates out and going out there and creating some more chemistry together and just play."

"It’s about working as a unit and the worst thing we can do is to get frustrated and get discouraged," said Bergeron.

"And the season is about working your way out of it as quick as possible."

With the B's at 12 healthy forwards and their line combinations finally back to what was clicking during the preseason and at the start of 2013-14, the hope is that with some consistency - and a raised compete level - it's only a matter of time until they get back on track.

"Now it’s about finding a way out of it and creating some results," said Bergeron. "So it’s just everyone doing their job and things will work itself out."

Practice Lines

White: Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla

Gold: Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Loui Eriksson, Jordan Caron

Grey: Carl Soderberg-Chris Kelly-Reilly Smith

Merlot: Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton

D: Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg, Matt Bartkowski, Adam McQuaid, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug

G: Tuukka Rask, Chad Johnson

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